The replacement for the "Big Daddy" spot in the Caddy lineupWhile I do like the new direction Cadillac is taking with its vehicles, I can't help but comment on the fact that the years when names such as "Brougham", "d'Elegance", "Seville", and "Eldorado" were around are truly missed.
Quite unlike its rival, the Lincoln Town Car, the Cadillac DTS (formerly the De Ville) was quietly phased out after the 2011 model year. Good riddance, because with a FWD drivetrain and a prehistoric V8, the car was, for the most part, absolute rubbish. While I’m a purist who truly appreciates small, manual cars (preferably with some boost), my guilty pleasure is large land yachts. I absolutely adore vehicles like the Jaguar XJ, the BMW 7-series, and even the Porsche Panamera. Though not quite in that league, I was pleased to welcome the DTS’ replacement, the 2013 Cadillac XTS, into my garage for the week.
While I do like the new direction Cadillac is taking with its vehicles, I can’t help but comment on the fact that the years when names such as “Brougham”, “d’Elegance”, “Seville”, and “Eldorado” were around are truly missed. If I wasn’t an avid car buff, I wouldn’t know (nor would I care) about the differences between ATS, CTS, and XTS. Personal vendettas against the current nomenclature aside, this car is something that can be best described by the word “pleasant”. Cadillac claims that it’s not their flagship sedan, nor is it a direct replacement for the DTS. In fact, it slots in right between where the STS and DTS previously resided in their lineup. After I tweeted a picture of the XTS, a social media fan remarked that the car “needs more V8 and RWD”. I love the all-wheel-drive in this car (especially in this cold December month), but I can’t help but agree that a big Caddy just isn’t “right” without a V8.
All XTS’ are powered by GM’s 3.6L V6 and put out 304-horsepower and 264 lb-ft of torque. Sure, it sounds like a lot, but when trying to get the XTS off the line, performance from the engine can’t be given any adjective superior to ‘adequate’. It definitely feels more substantial to me than Old Faithful (the famous Northstar V8), but this XTS isn’t quick by any means. Then again, is that really what this car is all about? After a recent visit to New York City, I have been smitten with the last Lincoln Town Car. After driving around in the new Big Daddy of Cadillacs, I had all but forgotten about the Town Car. It feels great to drive. While the Sport Mode and the paddle shifters are a friendly welcome, I found myself just letting the 6-speed automatic do its thing. Cadillac does need to up its ante though; every single one of the XTS’ competitors (even the lesser Chrysler 300) now has more gears.
Where the XTS does shine is in the the interior department. Cadillacs of the past were known to have wonderfully soft seats and suspension akin to that of the Titanic; this is a whole new animal. The cockpit is an incredibly pleasing place to be for commutes, whether long or short. My XTS4 Premium Collection (attainable right around the $60,000 mark) came equipped exactly as I would want it to be, equipped with neat features such as heated (and cooled in the front) leather seats, an Ultraview sunroof, a 14-speaker Bose sound system, and not one, but three USB input ports. The XTS also premieres the new “CUE” multimedia interface (short for Cadillac User Experience). Featuring things like haptic feedback and a ridiculous amount of settings, I came away truly unimpressed by the system.
My main issue with CUE is the amount of time it takes between inputting a command and the system responding. What I experienced multiple times is that I would input a command (such as selecting a media source), wait a few seconds, assume it didn’t read my touch, then push the button again. However, the system would already have detected my input and do the command twice; in this case skipping through two media sources. The system is incredibly slow to use. There is an upside though; the digital gauge cluster (à la Jaguar XJ) allows me to browse through my iPod playlists with ease using the 4-way toggle controls on the steering wheel. While gimmicky, the selectable themes in the instrument cluster are a neat amount of fun for any technophile.
An interesting piece of technology is the lane departure warning system, as well as the collision warning system; which warn you of impending doom by a harsh vibration in the driver’s seat cushion. I personally found this an absolute nuisance and turned it off the second I felt it. A colleague on the Double Clutch team experienced it for himself when he decided to veer out of his lane without indicating, and immediately exclaimed “this damn car is molesting me!” The only collision warning system that I find more agitating is the one in the outgoing Acura MDX; that one yanks on your seatbelt if it thinks you’re doing something you shouldn’t be. Too much intrusion!!!
The Cadillac XTS sails through traffic. The Magnetic Ride Control, which in my opinion is probably one of the coolest features available on any General Motors product, makes for a brilliant ride. It’s not as soft as its predecessors, and dare I say, it’s almost sporty? Don’t overestimate what I’m saying though; it’s an impeccably comfortable ride and makes for a joyful experience. I read a test drive review in another magazine a while ago where a fellow auto writer described the XTS as “feeling as though it shrinks when driven hard”. That writer couldn’t have been more correct; when going wide-open on a curvy road, it’s easily forgettable how large (202″) the big Caddy really is. Expecting far worse, I averaged 11.0L/100km in combined driving over the course of roughly 600km.
Purists won’t like this car. There’s no getting around that fact. However, I couldn’t help but notice during my week with the XTS that it gets a ridiculous amount of looks. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s a classy-looking, large black vehicle. Perhaps it’s the LEDs in the head/taillights that seem to light up the entire vicinity around the XTS. Perhaps it’s the neatly lit-up door handles. I don’t know what it is, but there’s definitely something about this car that attracts a bit of attention. Keeping in mind that the last few products from GM I’ve driven (Volt, Malibu Eco, Spark, Verano) have left me underwhelmed, I’ll say that this XTS is certainly a commendable effort, and a big step in the direction that the new GM is headed in.