The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2013 Cadillac XTS Review By Carey Russ

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 Cadilla XTS


2013 Cadillac XTS

American expectations for a luxury car are not what they once were. The extra-large, softly-suspended, V8-powered insulating cocoon on wheels -- exemplified most recently in the Cadillac line by the late DTS, and DeVille and Fleetwood before it -- is gone. Today's luxury car buyer is more likely than his or her parents and grandparents to be influenced by European and Asian ideas concerning luxury cars, meaning smaller on the outside while still spacious within, having useable power coupled with reasonable fuel economy, and with all of the latest electronic gadgetry and connectivity in addition to the traditional luxury accoutrements.

In Cadillac terms, the new 2013 XTS.

Built on the long-wheelbase version of GM's Epsilon platform and featuring a direct-injected 304-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 driving the front or all wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, the XTS slots above the CTS in the Cadillac lineup. Ten inches longer than the CTS, only fractionally wider, and surprisingly on a wheelbase about two inches shorter, the XTS has considerably more interior and trunk volume than the CTS -- enough to move it into the EPA "large car" category.

Striking styling makes it instantly recognizable, and inside is the debut of Cadillac's CUE (Cadillac User Experience) state-of-the-art control and infotainment system. Standard magnetic ride control gives all trim levels a ride quality and handling that compare well to any luxury car from anywhere in the world, and further emphasizes the difference from your late great-uncle's DeVille. All of the safety equipment expected in a top-line car today is there, including adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert -- and the debut of the Safety Alert Seat, which gently vibrates to alert the driver of a potential hazard.

The standard XTS provides the base for the ever-fancier "collections" (a new word for trim levels) of Luxury, Premium, and Platinum. My test car for the past week was a Premium model with a lovely "Crystal Red Tintcoat" paint scheme its only option. Options not required -- everything needed for comfort, safety, and performance was included.

I was a bit skeptical at first, but grew to like the CUE interface. Ditto on the driving experience -- when trolling through traffic or sedately driving on the highway, it was as comfortable and quiet as expected, but felt a bit soft. Not "Grandma's Fleetwood" soft, mind you, just not quite as focused as a good German competitor. I wicked it up a bit when I came to a favorite twisty road -- not a good thing at all in the old Fleetwood -- and the XTS came right into focus, sharply. Target, Ingolstadt? Could be…

APPEARANCE: Looks can be deceptive. When I first examined the XTS, it didn't look very big. And, compared to a DeVille or Fleetwood, it isn't -- which makes it much more maneuverable in tight parking and on the road. Exterior styling is an interesting combination of angular sides and accents and an aerodynamically flowing profile, with a raked front, short hood, long, near-fastback greenhouse, and short rear deck. Close attention to detail shows how far Cadillac has come -- where once door trim didn't quite ever line up, here it's as precise as on any German rival, and the trim pieces at the front and rear of the side windows are one-piece, more expensive to produce but much better looking and appropriate. Familiar Cadillac styling themes include the bold eggcrate grille, in chrome of course, vertical headlights (HID with LED running lights) and taillights (LED), and copious use of chrome trim, even around the headlights and front foglamps, not to mention the door handles. The rear center stop light (CHMSL) is cleverly dual-purposed as a spoiler, and a close look at the taillights shows… vestigial tail fins? Yes!

COMFORT: The XTS's interior doesn't violate any laws of physics. Cadillac's designers merely got the maximum amount of interior into a modestly-sized exterior package. As outside, interior style is tastefully extroverted, not flashy, with premium materials and excellent fit and finish. At Luxury level and above, both front seats and the outboard rear positions are heated, with the fronts also cooled, and the full steering wheel rim is heated. Comfort level is high, even in the rear. Cadillac would like to make inroads to the livery trade (limo service), where rear comfort and space are paramount, and if not to stretch-limo standards, there is a remarkable amount of leg and head room in the rear. Not to mention 18 cubic feet of trunk space. Foursome and clubs? No problem!

All that's expected in a contemporary luxury sedan is included -- power everything, pushbutton start/stop, a high-quality audio system with all formats, even SD card and internet streaming radio via Bluetooth®, LED lighting, and far too much more to list. The centerpiece of the XTS's interior is the dashboard. Think glass cockpit, as in aircraft. CUE it up…both the main instrument display and center stack interface are configurable screens, controlled via buttons on the steering wheel and/or proximity- and touch-sensitive areas on the stack and stack screen. Stack controls give audible and tactile feedback in the form of a light click, much like the newest smartphones and tablets. Unlike so many of those, the XTS interface is mostly simple and self-explanatory. Cadillac had some of the earliest head-up displays, nearly twenty years ago, and then abandoned them. Head-up is back and better than ever, bright, user-configurable and non-distracting.

SAFETY: All of the expected airbags and harnesses and other passive safety features are standard in all XTS models. Premium and Platinum collections have the Driver Awareness Package standard, with lane departure warning, forward collision alert, side blind zone alert, and rear cross-traffic alert -- and the most interesting Safety Alert Seat, which vibrates the appropriate side bolster of the driver's seat when a potential hazard is detected. Need to stop, quickly? The front brakes are Brembos, as used in the CTS-V. They work.

RIDE AND HANDLING: A rigid unibody structure with strategic use of ultra-high strength steel ensures excellent road manners as well as safety. Also credit Cadillac's use of Magnetic Ride Control magneto-rheological real-time controlled damping. New to Italian exotics, this was first used by Cadillac almost two decades ago, and has undergone continual refinement. It uses computer-controlled magnetic fields to vary the viscosity of the fluid in the shock dampers to effortlessly combine comfort and control. Driven gently, the XTS seems a bit soft and unfocused. Driven more assertively, it comes into focus and becomes a true driver's car. This is also good for non-sport oriented drivers as it means better control when evading a possible accident -- and an accident you don't have is always better than one not avoided. The Haldex-based all-wheel drive system is transparent in operation and ensures that the power gets to the wheels that can use it in all conditions, wet or dry.

PERFORMANCE: With its 304 horsepower and 264 lb-ft of torque developed at rather high revolutions -- 6800 and 5200 rpm, respectively -- the XTS's 3.6-liter V6 would seem, on paper, to need hard use in order to extract useful power. On paper… In the real world, think "reserve" or, in audiophile parlance, "overhead". Direct fuel injection and continuously-variable cam phasing are among the engine technologies that enable it to produce plenty of motivation at everyday, real-world speeds -- and to do that on unleaded regular. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and quickly in D. It's programmed to enhance fuel economy, so it chooses higher gears and keeps the revs low most of the time. This can diminish performance on a steep grade, but in that or a similar situation just shift the lever into manual and use the paddles behind the steering wheel spokes. The engine likes to rev -- but horsepower equals air plus fuel and too much fun will make for a thirsty engine. It's worth it. EPA estimates are 17 mpg city, 26 highway. I saw 15 to 17 around town and on backroads, with a little highway driving upping that to 18. More highway would have meant better mileage but this is a car that is happy to take the scenic route.

CONCLUSIONS: The new 2013 Cadillac XTS balances space, style, comfort, and technology to create a fine contemporary luxury sedan.

2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium

Base Price			$ 55,810
Price As Tested		$ 57,725
Engine Type			DOHC 24-valve aluminum alloy V6 with
				 direct fuel injection and continuously-
				 variable cam phasing
Engine Size			3.6 liters / 217 cu. in.
Horsepower			304 @ 6800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			264 @ 5200 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		111.7 in. / 202.0 in.
Curb Weight			4215 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		13.9
Fuel Capacity			20 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87-octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P245/45 R19 98V Goodyear RS-A
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc all around, ABS,
Suspension, front/rear		independent strut/ 
				  linked H-Arm
				 Magnetic Ride Control shocks
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				  all-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		17 / 26 / 18
0 to 60 mph				est 6.7 sec

Crystal Red Tintcoat			$ 995
Destination Charge			$ 920