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2013 Cadillac XTS4 Platinum Road Test

The 2013 Cadillac XTS4 Platinum is reminiscent of the big, comfortable, wing-tipped models of years past

What It Is
A big, comfortable, American luxury sedan.
Best Thing
The settled ride gives hope that Cadillac hasn't forgotten its roots.
Worst Thing
CUE lags during certain tasks, but Cadillac says a fix is already in the works.
Snap Judgment
If you're a Cadillac enthusiast and yearn for a modern interpretation of models from decades ago, the XTS is your answer.


When you think of large, luxury, American sedans, more likely than not, a Cadillac vehicle comes to mind first. Back in the day, it was tough to look anywhere without seeing these luxury-liners sauntering up and down city streets. Today, Cadillac has to deal with fickle gas prices, and if the now-defunct DTS and STS were any indication, apparently, the world was done with large luxury sedans. That was, until, Cadillac rolled the XTS out in concept form at the 2010 North American International Auto Show. It didn't enter production until the middle of last year, but by the end of 2012, Cadillac had managed to sell just over 15,000 units.

Just where, exactly, the Cadillac XTS will fit in remains to be seen though. The XTS is a large, luxury sedan but it's not exclusive enough to command a six-figure price tag like that which hangs off of the Audi A8, BMW 750, and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Nevertheless, the Cadillac XTS is still exclusive in its own right, but is better suited against the Audi A6 and the all-new 2014 Acura RLX. We spent a week with the 2013 Cadillac XTS4 Platinum and after seven days, we had an answer to that question. Check out our verdict and how we arrived at it below.

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What We Drove

To get the full-on American luxury experience, or better yet, figure out just what that was, the 2013 Cadillac XTS arrived in our garage dressed in the highest trim offered by General Motors' marquee luxury brand (Platinum). The "4" at the end of this particular XTS' moniker signifies that this large Cadillac comes equipped with all-wheel drive. A direct-injected 3.6-liter V-6 engine, rated at 304 horsepower and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, is tasked with pulling the two-ton Caddy around. Notable standard features include Brembo brakes up front, dual exhaust, and 20-inch aluminum wheels. Other standard features include Cadillac User Experience (CUE), leather seats, perforated leather trim on the dashboard and inserts on the doors, a heads-up display, and a reconfigurable instrument cluster. The only optional features included on our 2013 Cadillac XTS4 Platinum tester were a black diamond exterior tri-coat ($995) and the Driver Assist Package ($2,395), which includes adaptive cruise control, automatic front and rear braking, automatic collision prevention, and adaptive cruise control. The base price of our 2013 Cadillac XTS4 Platinum would set you back $60,385 but with both options accounted for, the final asking price goes up to a cool $64,695.

In the event that you do get into an accident, Cadillac lined the XTS with driver, passenger, frontal, knee, and head curtain airbags. Other standard safety features include child locks on the rear doors, adaptive forward lighting, and a back-up camera. Speaking of child locks, the 2013 Cadillac XTS features LATCH points at the base of the back seat and are very easy to get at thanks to a wide ingress. The 2013 Cadillac XTS earned five stars, the highest number a vehicle can earn, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tested it. After the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested it, the XTS earned the honor of being called a Top Safety Pick for the 2013 model year.

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The Commute

Sitting down, the 2013 Cadillac XTS feels inviting with leather slathered on the seats and dashboard. As a staff, we were impressed as a whole by materials present upon seeing the interior for the first time. The center stack is easy on the eyes, with minimal physical buttons, as most of the interior's controls are activated through GM's slick-looking CUE infotainment system. However, the allure of the system's interface quickly wears off once you need to adjust the volume or temperature. To change the volume, you have to drag your finger across a silver bar that sits above the few redundant climate control buttons already in CUE. In theory, this is a cutting-edge feature not seen in a vehicle before--think iPhone-like swiping gestures--but then you actually try to adjust the volume and nothing happens. If something does happen, it's delayed, or the sound is only adjusted slightly, or everything goes quiet because you swiped your finger so many time out of frustration waiting for it to do something. It should be noted though, that Cadillac is already aware of this lag seen in certain commands performed by CUE and is already in the process of working the kinks out.

When CUE did work, it was riveting, due in part to the large screen that housed a map or other various media functions. The picture was razor sharp no matter which function CUE was performing, and all of the features are easy to interact with. Another big hit with the staff was CUE's ability to swipe from screen to screen. CUE's ease of interaction when scrolling through media commands paired nicely with the Bose surround sound system that featured 14 speakers. All of this tech made it easier for the miles to slip away during a long road trip or when stuck on Interstate 405 in Los Angeles. When you did have a chance to get up to speed, the 3.6-liter V-6 engine turned the meandering pace into a brisk hustle. Coming down from said hustle was done quickly with a simple push of the brake pedal. The Brembo front brakes bit down evenly and built pressure up the longer you stood on it, all while keeping the big Cadillac under your thumb.

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The Grocery Run

No matter the time of year, most parking lots in Southern California mirror last-minute Christmas shopping anywhere else in the country. Even still, despite its robust size, the XTS feels light on its feet and is easy to steer through the narrow spaces. You don't need your Commercial Driver's License to park the XTS, either. Just point the steering wheel where you want to go and you're there. You have a few options when it comes to storing various goods in the XTS too. Pop the trunk, and you're granted 18 cubic-feet of space, but the opening is rather narrow for a Cadillac. Nevertheless, we still managed to squeeze 14 grocery bags into the trunk and a child's stroller, as well.

The Weekend Fun

The 2013 Cadillac XTS comes into its own when cruising on the freeway. Everything about the XTS screams "highway cruiser" with its big, plush seats and CUE system making a good pair. Both the driver and front passenger seats are heated and cooled and, depending on where you're headed, are crucial features on a long road trip. Even on the most aggressive road surfaces, the XTS delivered one of the softest rides we've ever experienced due in part to the magnetic ride control. This system evaluates the road in front of you every millisecond and makes adjustments to the suspension as it sees fit.

CUE and its features, in spite of the holdups when attempting to execute certain commands on occasion, makes any amount of mileage tick away with ease. Switching back and forth between Bluetooth audio and Sirius XM radio was performed in a seamless manner. The system vibrates when you select an icon on CUE; this "haptic feedback" as it's known was a big hit with staff editors. However, going from one radio station to another took painfully long and was one spot where we noticed CUE would lag a bit. Besides CUE, another feature that really caught our staff's attention was the XTS's lane departure warning system. When you stray from your lane, usually a system like this will chirp at you and some lights will start blinking. The XTS' lane departure warning system takes a different approach; instead of seizure-inducing flashing lights, the base of the driver's chair vibrates letting you know that corrective action is needed and you've wandered from your lane. It even vibrates the correct side; left if you're drifting left, and right if you're heading to starboard.

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Summary

The 2013 Cadillac XTS is a class-leader in a segment populated by the likes of the Audi A6 and Acura RLX. The interior features materials fitting of any vehicle purporting to be a luxury flagship. The materials used inside the XTS show that Cadillac tried to make it feel luxurious and that doesn't go unnoticed. Not to mention CUE and the configurable instrument cluster are cutting-edge and aesthetically pleasing. While CUE did lag before performing certain commands, like switching stations on XM, Cadillac is already working on a fix. From a handling standpoint, steering was incredibly sharp and on point for a vehicle that's a shade under 17 feet long and six-feet wide.

Cadillac has enjoyed a strong run as of late releasing products like the ATS, XTS, and the revised CTS, which recently debuted at the 2013 New York International Auto Show. There have been spy shots of the next generation Escalade floating around, too, so expect Cadillac to sport a completely updated lineup in the coming year. The new CTS will slot above the XTS when it debuts, but for now, the XTS is a capable and very comfortable big sedan, and as a temporary flagship, it does just fine.

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Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $60,385
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 17 mpg
EPA Highway: 26 mpg
EPA Combined: 20 mpg
Cargo Space: 15 grocery bags with stroller, 20+ without Child Seat Fitment, Second Row: Excellent
Estimated Combined Range: 380 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Below Average

Notebook Quotes

"CUE and the digital instruments make me feel like I was driving the future. I've never seen a sweeping opening display like the one that was in the XTS." - Jacob Brown, Associate Editor
"I could spend a lot of time in this car and not feel any worse for wear. It's quiet, cruises smoothly, steers sharply for a big front-drive-based car, and is just one big ball of comfy."- Keith Buglewicz, News Director
"It should take me 6-10 seconds to change from one audio source to another, or from one high-numbered station (ESPN) to a lowered one (30's). The delay was ridiculous."- Jason Davis, Associate Editor, Photographer

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