2013 Cadillac XTS Review

2013 Cadillac XTS - Cadillac debuts all-new five-passenger sedan


 As the 2011 model year faded into the sunset, so too did a couple of Cadillac's recent forays. Mid-size STS (Seville Touring Sedan) and full-size DTS (DeVille Touring Sedan) offerings never caught buyer's fancy as well as the iconic full-size Cadillac Escalade sport utility. At times, both sedans seemed overshadowed by Cadillac's own mid-size CTS lineup. Helping hasten STS and DTS demise was increased competition from upstart Asian luxury grades (Lexus, Infiniti) and the constant drum beat from Germany (Mercedes-Benz, BMW).

A recent trend of General Motors' iconic luxury division is the use of tri-lettered naming schemes. While DeVille morphed into DTS in 2006 and Seville became STS about the same time, two newly introduced 2013 Cadillac sedans adopt tri-letter coding: the five-passenger XTS and compact ATS. Got to admit I'm a bit old school, but a solid-sounding, vowel-inclusive, word-type moniker seems to create easier image recognition than a somewhat silly string of consonants; but I digress.

For the time being, the all-new XTS serves as the flagship sedan for Cadillac largely because it's the largest four-door in the showroom; but Cadillac continues evolving, so stay tuned.

At 202 inches long, XTS is at the larger end of the mid-size spectrum, measuring 10 inches longer than Cadillac's CTS sedan. Other General Motor products sharing this long wheelbase, Epsilon II platform are the Buick LaCrosse and upcoming, next-generation, 2014 Chevrolet Impala.

As with the CTS and all-new ATS, XTS includes a short front overhang with a larger chunk extending past rear wheels. All boast the family's 'artfully angular and edgy' design immediately recognizable as Cadillac, although XTS offers a slightly smoothed-over version. In back, long, narrow, vertically-arranged tail lights (about one-foot in height) flank the short, high deck lid. The outward edge of the trunk's flat top forms an arrowhead, with an integrated brake light display. It's the Bee's Knees. In front, Cadillac's colorful wreath crest logo rests inside horizontal bars between vertical headlight housing. A narrow, rear "C" pillar also gives accent to chrome-framed side windows. Delighting weekend warriors is a sizable, 18.0 cubic-inch trunk easily digesting luggage and all-important golf clubs. Dual exhausts come standard.

Four available trims include Base, Luxury, Premium and top-shelf Platinum. Front-wheel drive comes standard while all-wheel-drive is available in all but Base modes (starting at $44,075). Our Premium, all-wheel-drive tester checked in at $55,810 with a bottom line of $60,620 after factoring $2,395 driver assist package, $500 upgraded 20-inch wheels, $995 red tint coat and $920 destination charge.

Under the hood, a direct injected, 304 horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 serves as the sole 2013-model-year powertrain, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Unlike many occupying this segment, regular, 87-octane fuel (rather than the pricier premium grade) fills the 20-gallon tank. In 2014, XTS adds a twin turbo V-6 option bellowing out 410 horses. Fuel economy was respectable for our all-wheel-drive tester at 17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. Borrowing a nifty concept recently implemented by domestic rival Ford, XTS features a cap less fuel tank. After opening the circular, passenger-side fuel door, the gas nozzle simply breaks a self-sealing barrier during the fueling process and closes tight upon withdrawal.

A digitally animated, very colorful and easily interpreted 12-inch wide instrument panel features three full-circle gauges in Premium and Platinum trims. A single unibrow extends along the top. A rectangular, toggle-like switch on the steering wheel's right-side spoke is used to select any of the three gauges. All three run through a menu of info-nuggets inside the center speedometer, right side fuel/temperature or left side tachometer, with a nudge up or down of the same rectangular switch.

When engaging the standard push start/stop dashboard button, the IP display morphs into artwork of the Cadillac wreath logo. The soft-spoken dashboard consists of soft-touch materials extending to doors. Our color scheme included a brown dash with light tan accents reaching doors and seats. Stitching along the brown dash includes contrasting tan schemes. Brushed aluminum accents also are present. Front bucket seat comfort rates first class and comes in various levels of cow hide. During a three-hour excursion to south-central Wisconsin, back fatigue was non-existent. In back, XTS's longer dimensions make this the vehicle of choice when three travelers need pampering if compared to the all-new but smaller sized Cadillac ATS.

Cadillac's new, first-generation 'CUE' (Cadillac User Experience) in-dash info-system comes standard, although Premium and Platinum trims add a welcome advanced navigation variant. CUE is GM's answer to Ford Motor Company's "My Ford Touch," a second-generation effort of the Blue Oval's 'Sync' system.

An eight-inch top center screen with rear camera feed combines audio and ventilation displays through the touch-sensitive tablet below with old-school knobs out of sight and out of touch. Those with iPad experience should notice a symbiotic rhyme and reason. Others may need extra study time for acclimation. Sound and station frequency changes also show up momentarily inside the instrument panel and within the easily interpreted heads up windshield display projection above the four-spoke steering wheel horizon. Plug-in portable electronic ports are found behind the retractable CUE face and inside the arm rest. Two 12-volt plug ins are also available.

The electronic parking brake button is left of the four-spoke, power tilt and telescoping steering column. A trunk release button is conveniently located on the door. Far along to the extreme right, the glove boxes' smooth outline opens downward via an electronic, not mechanical command button found to the right of the CUE screen.

Braking takes hold once the pedal gets tapped gently or innocently. Body sway during spirited, tight turns remains admirably minimal. Magnetic ride control with rear air springs provides a smooth, luxury ride rather than a harsher, ground-hugging experience. Drivers enjoy good command of the road thanks in part to folding rear seat headrests keeping rear-view mirror perception unencumbered.

Many in this segment offer adaptive cruise control and other electronically-based alerts, but XTS takes signaling to a new domain with a safety alert driver's seat that vibrate on the cushion's left or right side to signify an issue. This feature (standard in Premium and Platinum) took my cushy behind by surprise during testing before realizing the cause and effect. Since it works in tandem with the overall park assist system, expect a pulsating, mini massage when pulling into tight parking spots.

The all-new XTS isn't wanting for worthy competitors ranging from the Lexus GS to the Audi A6 or Mercedes-Benz E-Class. While priced competitively with comparably-equipped, mostly rear-drive German rivals, XTS may not persuade devoted European clients to switch especially if horsepower is prioritized, but former DTS or STS owners should welcome the interior, large trunk and overall experience.

As with many General Motors offerings, in-vehicle OnStar telematics subscription is complementary for one year. With the push on a circular button near the inside mirror, occupants are seconds away from a real-person concierge (no pre-programed computer tutorial) providing answers to many queries. The system combines satellite, cellular phone and GPS technology and includes a 'directions and connections' plan. Just wish "CUE' was as seamless.

At a Glance

2013 Cadillac XTS

Price as tested: $60,620

Wheelbase: 111.7 inches

Length: 202 inches

Width: 72.9 inches

Engine: 3.6-liter V-6

Horsepower: 304

Curb weight: 4,215 pounds

City/Highway economy: 17 mpg city/ 26 mpg highway

Powertrain warranty: Six years/70,000-mile transferable limited warranty

Assembly: Oshawa, Ontario Canada

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.