Cadillac is introducing a new full-size sedan for 2013. The 2013 Cadillac XTS fills a hole left in the Cadillac lineup since production of the STS and DTS ended a couple of years ago. In their place is the 2013 Cadillac XTS, a roomy cruiser that shows off the latest technology, upgraded interior materials and a refined Cadillac design.
Exterior styling on the Cadillac XTS is bold, but softer than on other models we've seen from the brand in the past few years. Also notable is the use of premium interior materials, such as leather upholstery as standard equipment, as well as a fully configurable electronic TFT (thin-film transistor) instrument cluster in front of the driver.
The Cadillac XTS is the first model to use CUE, an acronym for Cadillac User Experience. The system features a large touchscreen and uses proximity sensors, haptic feedback and voice recognition to control phone, audio and navigation functions. CUE comes standard on all XTS models, but navigation costs extra on the two lower trim levels. To sweeten the deal, Cadillac is including an iPad with all new XTS purchases, pre-loaded with an app that helps owners learn how to use the CUE system.
Underneath the new wrappings are decidedly familiar components. Namely, General Motors' Premium Epsilon platform, originally developed by Opel and used in several variations on GM vehicles worldwide, including the current Buick LaCrosse. The 2013 Cadillac XTS is powered by GM's much-used 3.6-liter, naturally aspirated V6 engine found on other Cadillac and Chevrolet models. Same goes for the 6-speed automatic transmission.
The new Cadillac XTS is longer than the old STS, shorter than the DTS, though the XTS rides on a much shorter wheelbase (111.7 inches). The XTS is slightly wider than the STS but 2 inches narrower than the DTS. The front seats in the new XTS are slightly roomier than those in the STS and DTS.
The 3.6-liter V6 in the new XTS delivers 304 horsepower at 6800 rpm, 264 pound-feet of torque at 5200 rpm. That's similar to the output of the old STS V6 model. Fuel economy in the Cadillac XTS is an EPA-estimated 17/28 miles per gallon City/Highway. The XTS is much more efficient on the highway than the old STS and DTS models, which were rated 15/23 mpg.
The new Cadillac XTS offers European-inspired ride and handling, quality materials, and plenty of standard features. And it retails for much less than comparable models from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Lexus, and Hyundai, making it a compelling value.
While it retains styling cues that are distinctly Cadillac, the new Cadillac XTS exterior is softer and more refined than other models in the lineup. Sleeker lines are favored over razor-sharp creases and angles. Headlamps appear more stretched back than on the smaller Cadillac CTS. And the shape of the front grille gives the XTS an expression that's more agreeable than angry.
In back, the rear is crisp and tidy, keeping the signature Cadillac vertical tail lamps without looking too busy. All models above the base trim have a dual exhaust integrated into the rear fascia for an even cleaner look.
But one could never dismiss the XTS as demure. It still sports plenty of bling, like polished chrome trim around windows, doors and deck lid that glisten in the sun. Not to mention the expansive chromed grille. Paired with its Cadillac badge, the face of the XTS is unmistakable as a Cadillac in a rearview mirror.
Like other Cadillac interiors, materials on the XTS are high-quality and luxurious. Front seats make driver and passenger feel like each is in her own compartment, flanked by cubbies and an armrest at one hand, and a center console with high sides on the other.
Leather seating surfaces are soft and supple, although we found the seats somewhat uncomfortable for those smaller in stature. A long seat cushion prevents the knees from fully bending on anyone shorter than 5-feet, 5 inches, and the wide seatbacks are best suited to football players or lumberjacks. Those who are tall or who require plenty of space will have no problem fitting in a Cadillac XTS.
On base and Luxury models, an analog instrument cluster with electronic driver information center sits in front of the driver. On Premium and Platinum trims, a re-configurable TFT (thin-film transistor) display comes standard. The full-color display allows the driver to select from a variety of layouts that show various driver functions and other information. It is both novel and useful, but those who prefer a good old-fashioned needle are relegated to the lower trims.
At the heart of the XTS cabin is the CUE system with its 8-inch touchscreen. While past Cadillac models were fraught with an overwhelming number of buttons on the center stack, CUE drastically cuts down the number of controls to just a handful. CUE operates phone and audio options, and uses voice recognition on models equipped with navigation.
CUE's home menu is configurable so you can access your favorite functions easily. It also uses proximity sensing, which saves extra steps and keeps your attention better focused on the road. When driving, CUE will display full-screen maps or audio information, but when your hand is nearby, it automatically brings up menu options related to the current function on the screen.
We were pleasantly surprised by our XTS Platinum with navigation and voice activation. Voice recognition systems can be painfully inaccurate (just ask anyone with the latest iPhone), but CUE's is no short of impressive. It understands natural voice commands, meaning you don't need to use pre-canned terms to get it to do something. Even better, it can correctly identify difficult names from an address book, although it will most likely butcher the pronunciation when repeating it back to you.
While CUE is mostly user friendly, there are still a few oddities. One of these is that the XTS uses physical buttons for both fan speed and temperature on the center stack for the climate control system. However, if you want to change vent mode, you have to go in to the CUE menu. Another thing that annoyed us was the barrage of fingerprints that appeared on the screen after just a few minutes of use. To make matters worse, we caught a lot of glare due to the screen's glossy finish and its angle, which reflected the sunlight coming in from the translucent sunroof cover. When combined with the fingerprints, we found the touchscreen difficult to read. The XTS does come with a microfiber cleaning cloth, but it's not an elegant solution. Save those for your sunglasses.
The XTS provides plenty of interior space. Rear seats have up to 40 inches of legroom, as long as the driver and front passenger don't mind their seats being all the way forward. The trunk offers a roomy 18 cubic-feet of cargo space, which beats out the BMW 5 Series and the Audi A8. Rear seats also split 60/40, making it possible to carry plenty of luggage and other gear.
The chassis of the Cadillac XTS is incredibly stable and composed, even around twisty canyon corners. Standard Magnetic Ride Control manages the weight of the 4,006-pound XTS masterfully, and provides firm yet comfortable support, with very little if any body roll around corners. The cabin was quiet, with wind and road noise scarcely detectable. Huge Brembo brakes were solid and confidence-inspiring.
We found steering to be responsive, with a satisfying, connected feel that wasn't too light or two weighty. This first-generation XTS uses hydraulic steering, though Cadillac product specialists told us an all-new electric steering system is currently in development.
Handling is most rewarding in Sport mode, which, to our chagrin, can only be accessed by shifting the gearbox into Manual and using the buttons on the back of the steering wheel to change gears. While in Drive, the XTS remains in normal Comfort mode.
Acceleration-wise, the XTS seemed to lack oomph, even in Sport mode. Caddy's 3.6-liter V6 engine isn't wimpy, but peak horsepower and torque kick in pretty high on the tach, and we suspect attempts at maximizing fuel economy have stripped the XTS of its full performance potential.
Fuel economy for the Cadillac XTS is an EPA-estimated 17/28 mpg City/Highway.
The transmission also kept us wanting. Third gear was just too tall, but second was just too low, making us feel like Goldilocks through many uphill climbs and steep switchbacks. We were also surprised that, with competitors using 7- and 8-speed transmissions, GM is still using its aging 6-speed automatic on an all-new sedan. If Cadillac engineers could address these powertrain issues, the XTS could catapult to the top of its class.
All-new, the 2013 Cadillac XTS is a great choice for long road trips and freeway cruising with plenty of technology, legroom and cargo space.
Laura Burstein filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from after her test drive of the XTS in Los Angeles.