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Published: 10/24/2012 - by Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor
At first we thought GM's President Mark Reuss and his minions had lost their minds. Like, big-time crazy. Like, book these bozos rooms at the funny farm 'cause they've lost it, man.
Now, after spending two weeks driving this 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Platinum, we know it's true. Reuss and company are nuts. But in a good way.
Last year Cadillac retired the DTS and the STS, two large sedans popular with people who are, well...retired. Average age of DTS owners was 73, while the STS got the younger crowd at 68.
Those two large sedans are being replaced by one. This one, the 2013 Cadillac XTS.
Huh? Battle the 5 Series? Take on the E-Class? Sounds like crazy talk. The XTS shares its front-wheel-drive platform and its drivetrain with the 2013 Buick LaCrosse, for heaven's sake. How can it possibly measure up to those now-iconic German sport sedans?
Well, the crazy part is that it does. Reuss and his gang of merry misfits have actually pulled off this miracle and the XTS, while not perfect, is ready to redefine the large Cadillac sedan.
No More Boatin'
The best way to appeal to a broad range of luxury buyers is with a car that rides smoothly, yet handles competently. In the case of the XTS, it attempts to do this with a standard set of two-mode magnetorheological dampers that can be set to either Tour or Sport.
Despite those dampers, which allow for instantaneous adjustment, our 2013 Cadillac XTS Platinum isn't as plush as we expected. Oh sure, it'll be supple enough for most, soaking up big hits adequately and giving a jittery-free highway cruise despite its massive 20-inch wheels and tires. Its ride is very comfortable, even in Sport. But the Tour setting (the softer of the two suspension modes) does not transform the XTS into the pillowy-soft magic carpet ride. This is a good thing, but traditional buyers will be left searching for a third, even softer setting.
Its agility is another pleasant surprise. The XTS moves for such a big boy. Its suspension does allow for lots of body roll, especially in back-and-forth transitions, and its steering is nearly devoid of feel, but it has plenty of grip and is kinda fun to toss around. At an extreme limit it's all understeer, which is to be expected, but a light lift of the throttle tucks the nose in smartly and gets the big sedan back on your chosen line.
At the test track, the XTS's 63.9 mph slalom run and its 0.80g skid pad mark are impressive for a 4,280-pound luxury sedan of its size.
The Cad's all-wheel-drive system is offered on all but the entry-level XTS. It's a system designed to improve all-weather capability rather than increase the car's handling limits. We drove our red AWD XTS test vehicle hard to expose any handling advantages the system might offer, and its presence went undetected.
Gone V8, Gone
You can have any engine you want in the new 2013 Cadillac XTS, as long as it's a direct-injected 3.6-liter V6. The Northstar V8 is in permanent cool-down mode.
Maybe the lack of a V8 won't matter, since the XTS's six makes 304 horsepower at 6,800 rpm versus the old 4.6-liter Northstar V8's 292 hp. This six is a bit timid below 3,500 rpm, but rev it hard and it delivers good power and the kind of sporty rasp that could almost tingle the hairs on an enthusiast's neck. Prod the throttle gently and it's perfectly hushed.
The six-speed automatic transmission provides ultra-lush yet surprisingly quick shifts. It also has paddle shifters, and the XTS does match revs when you use them to downshift. That is good. Too bad you need to move the console shift lever to "M" before the paddle shifters are active.
Whether cruising around town, scurrying up a freeway on-ramp or making a pass on a two-lane road, this drivetrain has guts. But it won't blow your hat off. It also won't keep up with a BMW 528i or Audi A6 3.0T in a drag race. Sixty mph arrives in 7.3 seconds (7.0 seconds with a 1-foot rollout as on a drag strip), with the quarter-mile done in 15.5 seconds @ 89.9 mph.
The front-wheel-drive XTS is rated at 17 mpg city/28 mpg highway. The EPA rates the heavier all-wheel-drive XTS at 17 city/26 highway/20 mpg combined. We averaged 18.0.
Its brakes, however, are unimpressive, despite 13.6-inch rotors clamped by four-piston fixed Brembo calipers up front. It wasn't so much the longish 123 feet it takes to stop from 60 mph, but more the spongy, long-travel pedal. Even around town, the XTS just never has that extension-of-your-foot feel to its brake pedal.
My Kingdom for a Volume Knob
The XTS's high-tech touchscreen CUE infotainment system (Cadillac User Experience) is both a marvel and, at times, a pain in the ass.
Here's how it went with the editors: Most were initially put off by the complexity/options/number of icons on the large 8-inch screen. After some familiarization, the cool factor of the haptic feedback, proximity sensing (which wakes up the screen) and being able to touch, swipe, pinch and expand icons as on a smartphone or tablet took over.
But after a couple weeks with the car we came to like it less. We were especially longing for a volume knob, as it's difficult to find the volume touchpads on the faceplate quickly. You can also adjust volume by sliding your finger left or right, but that usually either did next-to-nothing or cranked the volume too far up. The buttons on the steering wheel aren't much better, illogically separated by the large "Select" button.
While certain aspects of CUE are very cool, the eyes-away-from-the-road factor is bothersome.
Space To Spare
Although it's roughly the same width as the 5, A6 and E and only a couple inches taller, in the Cadillac tradition, the XTS is much longer than its European rivals. The XTS stretches over 202 inches from nose to tail, while none of the Germans is longer than 194 inches. Heck, it's even a couple inches longer than a BMW 7 Series.
Strangely, the XTS rides on a much shorter wheelbase than any of the Germans. Its setup is a unique mix of imposing exterior size and innovative interior packaging.
Interior space is not a problem. The XTS is simply cavernous. In the backseat there's enough head-, knee and foot room for anyone this side of an NBA forward. Not to mention the handiness of an 18-cubic-foot trunk.
Few will be concerned about the lack of a front bench seat option for six-passenger cruising, and the front bucket seats are covered in high-quality leather and look pleasantly overstuffed. They're on the firm side, however, and offer all-day support with zero numb-butt.
As for the purple stitching throughout our test car? We dig it. It's subtle.
Overall it's rich and properly quiet inside the 2013 Cadillac XTS. All the materials feel as they should, and there's enough leather and suede surfaces to keep even an Audi owner happy. However, we did notice a couple of rattles coming from the dash area, which was disappointing.
A base front-drive XTS starts at just $44,995 with destination, and our top-shelf all-wheel-drive Platinum tester was $62,300. That puts this loaded Cad in the high value category.
Sure, those Germans still perform better than the XTS, but you get a lot for your money here. A lot of space. A lot of features. Plenty of performance. And a lot of looks. This thing turns heads on the street. And not just heads topped with gray. Everyone looks at this car. Every kid. Every dad. Every granddad.
Honestly, Cadillac, give this thing a softer Tour suspension setting, make a couple of minor tweaks to CUE and the 2013 Cadillac XTS will appeal to young and old alike. Maybe even that guy with the big 'ol white Deville.
Like we said, crazy.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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