Cadillac has been going through resurgence as a luxury brand. With the brand’s latest products, customers are actually getting some good looking and competent products with the panache of a historic American brand.
The company’s all-new full-sized sedan, the XTS, was designed as a domestic alternative to mid-sized German luxury cars such as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, and Audi A6.
There has always been somewhat of a disconnect in the Cadillac line-up. Their big front-wheel-drive DTS and STS sedans sold well but did not really fall into the high tech cutting edge image that the company wanted to portray. The XTS now looks to rectify this image issue and then some.
Gone is the snoozer STS and old DTS styling in favour of a much more attractive design language in line with the rest of the Cadillac family.
The front end looks good with modern sharp, chiseled edges that you expect from Cadillac’s latest language. To my eyes, the back it looks a little less attractive, almost ungainly with a rear overhang that is perhaps a bit too long.
However, your mileage may vary. The result of the stretch is a hugely raked rear window and a slightly awkward short trunk lid.
The payoff, strangely enough, is not so much in rear legroom but a gargantuan 18 cubic feet of trunk space.
New platform with available all-wheel-drive
The XTS is still based on a front wheel drive platform, which it shares with the Buick Lacrosse and Chevrolet Impala.
Cadillac’s engineers have taken a layered approach to the driving experience, placing particular importance to design a stiff new structure using new and established technologies.
The XTS’ structure is infused with strategically placed, ultra-high-strength steel for strength and crash protection.
My test vehicle was an XTS4 Vsport, with the “4” on the badge denoting the optional all-wheel-drive system.
This Haldex-based full-time all-wheel-drive system with an electronic limited slip rear differential is optional for all-weather traction, all year round.
For the most part, the system is completely transparent. That is to say that the all-wheel-drive XTS4 feels very much like the front-wheel-drive version, safe and secure, but not particularly sporty.
Twin Turbo Power
The standard XTS comes with a 3.6L V6 engine rated at 306 horsepower and 264 lb-ft of torque. It’s no slouch of an engine. However, just like the styling, the performance, ride and handling has also been tuned to be a lot more edgy in Vsport trim.
The Vsport’s power is courtesy of a direct-injection 3.6L V6 engine from the CTS but now fitted with forced induction. This boosts power to a solid 410 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, making the Vsport’s engine one of the most power dense six-cylinder engines in the segment.
The secret formula? Well perhaps “proven” is a better descriptor these days versus “secret”. Cadillac’s engineers added a pair of smaller turbochargers and an intercooler to help vastly eliminate a turbo engine’s biggest nemesis, turbo lag.
Peak torque is sustained over a broad range, 1,900 to 5,600 rpms, and there is always a confident feeling of power when accelerating or passing traffic on the highway.
This rocket of a six-cylinder is mated with GM’s smooth shifting 6-speed automatic gearbox. My only criticism is that in this price and category, you would expect another extra gear or two much like the XTS’ competitors.
The gearbox could also shift a bit quicker, given the bar that has now been set by BMW’s excellent 8-speed ZF automatic transmission.
The powerful twin turbocharged engine scoots the XTS4 V Sport from 0-100 km/hr in just over 5.5 seconds. Not bad a bad time at all considering the 4,000+ pounds of Cadillac that needs to be motivated.
Ride and drive technology
When it comes to luxury brands, buyers expect the latest in technology and Cadillac doesn’t disappoint.
The XTS VSport comes with not only a more powerful engine but also with GM’s excellent Magnetic Ride Control.
The magnetorheological shocks are filled with a polymer liquid with many small magnetic particles suspended in it. Send an electrical charge through the liquid and the position of the particles in the liquid and its viscosity changes immediately.
The viscosity of the polymer liquid can be changed to an almost solid state, similar to plastic or rubber in composition, which results in a softer or harder ride. Each of the four dampeners is adjusted individually and independently even when it seems that all of them are doing the same thing.
The result is that the big Cadillac glides over rough roads despite the big 20-inch wheels and low profile tires. If anything, I thought that with the XTS Vsport’s powerful V6, the ride could be stiffer for sportier handling when the road bends.
It is not to say that the XTS4 Vsport doesn’t willingly respond on winding roads. Quite the contrary, despite its size, there is some pleasant weight to the steering and minimal body roll. This Caddy will hold its own on a curvy road, but smaller luxury cars will still be more fun.
Other ride technology goodies include General Motors’ HiPer strut anti-torque steer front suspension, and large Brembo brakes.
Modern luxury standards also call for the latest in driver safety technology and the XTS is loaded to the gills with forward-collision warning, blind-spot warning, cross-traffic alert, and attention monitoring. The Cadillac will even vibrate the seat to warn you of impending “threats”.
Before you even get into the XTS’ interior, the car entertains you upon approach. Unlock the car after dark and you’ll be greeted by Cadillac’s cool LED-infused door handles. Even the HID Xenon headlamps have been outfitted with fibre optic LED light pipes that gradually brighten.
Open the door and the CUE infotainment centre stack and gauge cluster screens welcome you with a coordinated show in the form an animation.
This specific greeting pattern is something that GM’s engineers carefully choreographed. Christos Roustemis, Cadillac interior designer, explained that each phase of the process was design to highlight every important area outside and inside of the vehicle.
The inspiration was a theatre stage, where different areas get lit up by the production crew, then fade down.
This pantomime may seem slightly gimmicky, but the reality is that the luxury segment is a battlefield for LED lighting and new designs and technologies have to be employed to impress customers tired of conventional bulbs.
My Platinum trim level XTS was fitted with all of the luxury interior accoutrements that you would expect. A microfibre headliner, premium wood trim, surround-sound premium audio, ambient lighting, heated and ventilated seats, side and rear window shades, rear seat climate controls, a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. You name it, it probably has it.
Sporting the latest interpretation of Cadillac’s Art and Science design theme, the interior was not only very pretty, but also very distinctive.
A stunning 12.3-inch reconfigurable instrument cluster presents itself to the driver upon entry, featuring vibrant graphic displays showcased among four driver-selectable themes, ranging from minimal to extensive information.
As with other Cadillac models, XTS is fitted with the company’s CUE (Cadillac User Experience) infotainment system.
The system integrates car settings, GPS satellite navigation, and is also designed to pair entertainment and information from up to 10 Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices, USB sticks, SD cards, and MP3 players.
At the heart of CUE is a vibrant 8-inch LCD multi-touch screen with proximity sensing and haptic feedback. CUE is designed to resemble a smartphone and therefore the system recognizes the same “swipe”, “pinch”, or “spread” gestures common to most smartphones or tablets.
While this all sounds great in practice, the CUE’s interface still needs to be quicker. Sometimes the haptic feedback is delayed, taking away from the high tech experience.
It’s not the worse I’ve seen, but it feels like it is a one processor generation behind from being a solid and clever system. Fortunately Cadillac is aware of these issues and each subsequent generation of CUE seems to be better and better.
The XTS brings some dynamic advancements to Cadillac and is another layer in building a world class foundation for the brand.
The car offers Lexus-like levels of luxury and isolation from the outside world, but with a uniquely American twist.
The handsome interior is packed with a high level of technology and safety features that buyers in this segment expect, as well as appropriate amount of high-quality soft touch leather surfaces.
If you value a sporty driving experience over physical size, or if you’re a current Mercedes-Benz, BMW, or Audi owner, the Cadillac may still not be your cup of tea.
But if brand loyalty is less your style and you’re seeking a distinctive large luxury sedan with a knockout interior, the XTS is worth a close look.