The new Cadillac XTS represents an interesting move for the storied carmaker. While in other areas they are showing off their performance-oriented side, with the XTS they’ve put in a 3.6 Liter normally aspirated V-6 and either front or all-wheel-drive. The only really sporty things about the 2013 Cadillac XTS are a technologically advanced suspension setup and fact that Brembo made the front brakes. What the XTS is instead is a quality-built American luxury sedan that traditional Cadillac buyers will likely be satisfied with. It’s a somewhat refreshing product compared to some of the more forgettable Cadillacs of the past, like the STS, but is that enough to make it a car worth buying?
The 2013 XTS could best be described as stately, and those given the Platinum Collection treatment like our test car will feature a few more subtle details that make the XTS just a bit more of a standout from the big sedan crowd. Added to the Platinum Collection are a special grille design, unique 20-inch wheels, and illuminated front sill plates. The Platinum Collection is the fully loaded version of the XTS, and carries over styling features from the cheaper Luxury and Premium Collections as well, such as illuminating door handles. Our XTS also had the optional Black Diamond Tricoat paint, which we would describe as an old-school metallic paint that glitters in the sun. Neat when clean, but really dirty when just a little dirty.
Cadillac is still trying to shift its image a bit. The XTS is a replacement for both the STS and DTS sedans aimed to fit above the centerpiece CTS, and while it is much more exciting to look at than both the STS and DTS, it just doesn’t look exciting enough for a car that could cost more than $60,000. Granted, its appearance isn’t any less inspiring than some of its rivals from across the pond, but Cadillac’s stylists could have been a lot bolder. But while the XTS does lose some of the hard edges found on recent Cadillacs, the dignified exterior does play nicely into the target demographic.
The interior is probably where the XTS shines the most, both in terms of finish and functionality. The Platinum Collection features a leather-wrapped steering wheel, front dash, door trim top pad and center console with microfiber sueded headliner, as well as premium wood trim on the steering wheel, console, center stack, instrument panel and door panels. Seating trim can be had with one of two layouts of leather with perforated detailing.
The XTS offers the first look at the next generation of interior design for Cadillac, with inspiration found in the fashion and home furnishings industries. “As automotive designers we can draw parallels, especially from luxury fashion, in the way materials like leather are selected and treated,” said Erin Crossley, a design manager who helped style the XTS’s interior. “We applied small details, such as stitching touches, from fashion to deliver a refined interior with finishes that a customer can appreciate for its attention to detail.”
Even more impressive is just how roomy the XTS is. It has 40 inches of rear legroom, more than the 5-Series, E-Class and A6, and the cavernous trunk has 18 cubic feet of space, more than the 7-Series, S-Class and A8L.
Technology is another part of the experience that Cadillac is boasting about, and for good reason. Aside from the fact that 2013 XTS buyers get a free iPad with their new car, there are other nifty bits on the interior as well, including the “Cadillac User Experience”, or CUE, that is also featured on this year’s ATS. This customizable touch screen interface system cleans up the dash by combining most of the buttons and switches into one 8-inch screen. It’s also both iPhone-friendly and even kind of fun to use.
An exclusive for the XTS is a 12.3-inch reconfigurable instrument cluster. This interesting feature includes four driver-selectable themes, ranging from minimal to extensive information. The XTS also has an impressive level of high-tech safety gizmos, such a “Safety Alert Seat” that vibrates either the left or right side of the driver’s seat cushion depending on where the threatening object is, “Automatic Collision Preparation” systems on the front and rear brakes to stop the car if you does not react quickly enough, and a “Lane Departure Warning” that will keep you from getting distracted and wandering out of your lane and into an insurance claim. The latter can thankfully be turned off, but we found the “Safety Alert Seat” quite helpful when backing up next to a van or SUV. The first zap in your seat does scare the heck out of you, but it doesn’t take long to appreciate the fact that just such a zap could save your life one day.
Cadillac’s attention to detail inside the 2013 XTS is obvious. There are subtle elements like the finish of the wood and not-so-subtle elements like the somewhat glaring instrument cluster, but overall it is a quality space that has a premium look and feel to it. It’s well done and a major improvement over the STS and DTS sedans.
Powering the heavy XTS is a direct-injected 3.6 liter V-6 with integrated cylinder heads/exhaust manifolds mated to a Hydra-Matic six-speed automatic with the compulsory paddle shifters. The V-6 is rated at 304 horsepower and 264 lb/ft of torque. The Platinum Collection test car was equipped with all-wheel-drive and the electronic limited-slip differential that splits torque between the rear wheels. We could always use more power, especially with the all-wheel-drive set-up, but the V-6 did the job nicely. New for 2014, Cadillac will offer a twin-turbo V-6 that puts our 410 hp, a great upgrade that we certainly look forward to.
Front suspension on the XTS is by something called HiPer Strut, a design based on MacPherson struts that features dual-path top mountings that separate the transfer of spring and damper loads to the body structure. Complementing the suspension is Magnetic Ride Control, a system that analyzes the road every millisecond and can change damper settings in just five milliseconds. This system also replaces conventional mechanical-valve shocks with electronically controlled shocks filled with a magneto-magnetic charge. The iron particles align to provide damping resistance almost instantly. While it’s all very complicated stuff, our seat-of-the-pants impression during our test was that it really works. We purposely tried to upset the chassis by putting it into awkward situations and every time it responded by firming up the suspension and bringing sanity to the situation. And to haul this big, 4,000-plus pound sedan down from cruising speed, front Brembo brakes are standard.
The 2013 Cadillac XTS is a good example of the winds of change in the large American luxury car market. There is no V-8, no rear-drive. It’s not even all that big, especially compared to some of the boats that Cadillac has made in the past. Against other models in the company’s current lineup, it’s not quite as big of a departure, but it does have enough sport and technology to satisfy most modern motorists while still retaining the finish and look that we all expect from a Cadillac. With its sizable interior and wheelbase, the XTS may just lure away a few buyers from other brands, but it will no doubt be a car that loyal Cadillac buyers can willingly accept.
2013 Cadillac XTS Platinum AWD
Base Price: $60,385
Options: Driver Assist Package, $2395; Black Diamond Tricoat, $995