2013 Cadillac XTS First Drive

With the 2013 Cadillac XTS, American Luxury Gets Technical

What It Is
The 2013 Cadillac XTS is a technologically advanced, premium luxury sedan.
Best Thing
Cadillac's investment in R&D shows, plenty of handy tech applications to go with the classic plush cruiser.
Worst Thing
Sufficient power and handling, but not as motivating to drive as some of the competition.
Snap Judgment
Laden with new and useful technology, and featuring a beautifully crafted cabin, the XTS may be the automaker's best example yet of elegant luxury.


The 2013 Cadillac XTS is so quiet and smooth that you won't notice you're going 65 mph in a 45 -- unfortunately, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department might. It could be that they just wanted to get a better look at the fine craftsmanship and opulent, roomy interior; they might have wanted to verify rumors of abundant legroom in the rear; or take a sneak peek at CUE, Caddy's new iPad-like infotainment system; but most of their comments centered around locating the registration. To his credit, my driving partner, an East Coaster and the recipient of the malicious infraction, was an exceptionally good sport about the whole business. Then again, this was a mythical morning: with a little elevation in the famed canyons of Malibu, we were sailing above a morning fog rolling in from the Pacific. Up here the unrelenting California sunshine rained down freely, and we were driving what may be Cadillac's best -- certainly most advanced -- interpretation of American luxury yet.

The Cadillac XTS takes on a tall order: replace two outgoing sedans of great measure; deliver on a promise of luxury the automaker has spent a century building; and attract new customers without alienating loyalists. Thankfully, it appears Caddy has done its homework. Rather than deliver a garish, bloated sedan that shies away from the latest industry trends, Cadillac seems to have taken the reins, and is pushing forth to show competitors America can still build a great car, one that may even furrow the brows of the competition. With the XTS, Cadillac looks to reassert itself as a relevant player in the luxury market. The XTS is priced accessibly: $44,995 will get you in the door to the Standard trim that comes with no shortage of goodies. Get in to a mid-50s price tag, and then you're really getting a loaded, feature-laden, spacious and tech-heavy car. We set out early on a gloriously traffic-free Sunday morning to see what Caddy's looker was made of.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

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Walkaround

It seems every Cadillac of the past decade has begged notice, and the XTS is not excluded. A large grille signals a brazen confidence; the body bears the width and girth, the length and frame that signal an assuredness, a feeling that if you were to get in an accident, this might not be a bad car to be in. From every angle this car is big and commanding. Large wheels, either standard 19-inch or available 20s are in agreement with the XTS' stature. Vertical head and tail lights offer a familiar and classic Cadillac aesthetic.

Sitting Down

Immediately a few things are clear. The commanding presence of the exterior continues, and is probably surpassed, inside. Sitting down the firm seats covered in soft and stitched leather impress. Real wood trim and finely crafted surfaces make for a harmonious and cohesive cabin. Head room and leg room are ample. You can customize the instrument panel by selecting four different screens, something relatively simple, but nonetheless monumental in advancing interior design. People like variety; Cadillac makes this possible, and keeps things interesting. The center stack is modern and fresh, and is highlighted by the Cadillac User Experience, or CUE, for short. CUE cleverly takes the innate iPad-like tablet usability and applies this to infotainment. You can connect to your favorite Pandora radio stations, you can select "favorites" which allow you to quickly access people you frequently call, favorite music, anything you need to access often and quickly. With an easy to use touchscreen interface with large icons you can tap, CUE is pleasingly easy to use.

And no matter where you're sitting, you can really get a comfortable seating position, and there is an acute awareness that you are in a spacious cabin. Cadillac says the XTS will give you a few more inches of leg room than a BMW 5 Series, and is on par with a 7 Series. Sitting in back, even the tallest passengers will be comfortable. The interior exudes craftsmanship and a solid build; American cars often lag behind German and Japanese competitors in this regard, but sitting in the back of the XTS, it's easy to be convinced that this car can hold its own.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

Driving

My first experience in the XTS was sitting in the back of the plush cruiser on the way to a tasty dinner, which was followed by a possibly tastier dessert, liquid-nitrogen ice-cream. Combining heaping scoops of peanut butter, Nutella, and heavy cream, liquid nitrogen (-320 degrees says the resident expert) is then poured over the sweet and creamy mixture, which freezes instantly on contact. While "liquid-nitrogen" sounds like the force behind a weapon for "Mr. Freeze," the promise of peanut butter and Nutella in a familiar and delicious form (ice-cream) overrides any hesitance in a hurry. But back to being chauffeured in the XTS. As we were heading to this dinner, I couldn't help but feel that the backseat was the optimal place to be in this car. This was Saturday night, before we spent Sunday driving.

Powering the XTS is a 3.6-liter V-6 that on happy days will produce 304-hp. The XTS weighs in at about 4000 pounds, which is relatively light for a large luxury sedan, but it's still a lot of weight. A few things are clear though: while the 3.6-liter V-6 offers plenty of pick up when called on, the XTS doesn't hunker down and fly the way the Audi A6 and Audi A7 do with a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6. It also doesn't feel as nimble and easy to maneuver, although the Haldex all-wheel drive version we drove provided notable grip. To be fair, most XTS models with competitive features will be priced below the A6 and A7. But thanks to magnetic ride control, rough roads meet their maker.

Where the XTS leaves an impression is in the technology; not daunting, confusing technology, but rather a host of applications that will make you a better, safer driver. It has what are now more basic things like adaptive cruise control, and blind spot warning, but it also has a lane departure warning that is spatially organized: if you're sliding into the left lane, the car seat will vibrate on the left side. This rewards poorer drivers with a free massage, but is actually pretty neat and effective technology. There's also a full-color head-up display that not only reflects a digital speedometer on to your windshield, but just below that is a digital read-out of the speed-limit, which constantly changes based on the limits of the roads you're driving on. Gold.

Summary

With so many excellent cars in the large luxury sedan market these days, the pressure is on for Cadillac to deliver more than just a plush cruiser. The 2013 Cadillac XTS builds on the automaker's reputation for expansive American luxury, with a host of relevant and functional technology that really help the XTS stand out from the vague haze of good luxury cars. A sports car this is not; but if you're looking to get around town in comfort and style, the XTS is a pretty nice way to do it. The cabin features an abundance of space, the surfaces are covered in fine leather and stitching, real wood, and everything feels modern and cohesive.

We're anxious to get behind the wheel again where we can really gauge road noise, tinker around with CUE, and see what daily driving in a 2013 Cadillac XTS is like. Driving on a windy two-lane canyon road is undoubtedly fun, but what kind of mileage will we average in our commute? What kind of reactions will we get when we spend more time with the XTS in car conscious Los Angeles? Will the valet put the XTS in front with the high-dollar German cars, or will it be tucked out of sight?

Basic Specs

3.6-liter V-6 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel-drive (all-wheel drive available), 304-hp, $44,995, 17 mpg city/28 mpg hwy

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