Last year's arrival of the XTS marked Cadillac's return to the full-size sedan arena. Cadillac dealers will tell you that this model arrived none too soon, as the company withdrew both the STS and DTS sedans from production over a year ago.
This left only one car in the lineup for dealers to sell: the CTS. It was the popularity of Cadillac’s crossover and sport utility vehicles that kept the lights on at many Cadillac dealerships during this period.
However, the days of sedan scarcity are now a distant memory at Cadillac. In addition to the XTS, Cadillac recently introduced an ATS compact sports sedan while the updated CTS is ready to make its debut.
All of which brings us back to the flagship of the lineup: the XTS. My initial exposure to the car last year suggested that the XTS is probably the best large Cadillac sedan ever. Is that good enough for the premium luxury market? Cadillac has made an impressive comeback over the last ten years, but has it “arrived?”
A week with the XTS, equipped with all-wheel drive and the Platinum trim level of equipment, suggests that Cadillac has staked out a unique position in the marketplace with this model. Based on size, the XTS is the equal of many premium European and Japanese luxury sedans that can cost at least $27,000 more, based on entry trim levels.
With a starting price of only $44,075, the XTS offers front-seat passengers more than 45 inches of leg room, an extravagant number guaranteed to please NBA stars, while also giving rear-seat passengers 40 inches of leg room. Head room up front exceeds 40 inches while passengers will find nearly 38 inches in the back.
These numbers make the car competitive with every European luxury sedan my wife Paula and I have reviewed recently. Note that in two cases these imports started in the $80,000 range and quickly worked their way slightly past $100,000 after options were added. In another case, the price sticker fell just $400 short of $100,000.
Cadillac clearly has a tremendous price advantage in the XTS. Add in a beautifully crafted interior, and it’s easy to conclude that this car is a winner. Cadillac sells many more XTSs than Mercedes is selling comparably sized S-Class sedans or BMW is moving 7-Series premium luxury cars. But the XTS falls substantially short of the sales totals of these German companies’ comparably priced E-Class and 5-Series vehicles.
There is a reason for this. As good as the XTS is, it still trails some others in the field when issues of ride and handling are considered. The ride in the XTS is firm and a little unsettled on some rough patches of pavement in the Hartford area in a way that other luxury cars are not.
Handling is quite good, but not as sharp as in some competitors. Still, the XTS’s shortfalls in these categories are not as large the discrepancy in pricing suggests.
In short, an XTS buyer can take pride in their purchase. The car has the size, comfort and a carefully crafted interior that would put it in the league of many much more expensive alternatives. The 3.6-liter V-6 engine has enough muscle to reach 60 miles per hour in 7.4 seconds, all-wheel drive is an option – front-wheel drive is standard – and the trunk boasts 18 cubic feet of capacity, a number that takes us back to the large cars that our fathers drove. Luxury car buyers who need size, but who also want value, will find the XTS highly attractive.
This is my second exposure to the 2013 Cadillac XTS and I still don’t have a clue about CUE. CUE is the Cadillac User Experience, a center panel, full-color touch screen that provides access to climate control, audio, navigation and communications functions. The screen even features haptic feedback, which means that when you successfully activate a function, the screen gives you the feeling you get when you click a mechanical switch. It serves as confirmation that the system has picked up your command.
Unfortunately, CUE is distracting, as many of these systems tend to be. The saving grace is that it also comes with a verbal command system that works far better than comparable efforts found in many competitors. I found it easier to tune the radio by pushing the steering-wheel-mounted voice command button, waiting for the beep and then telling the system to tune to the station I wanted to hear. In other cars, my verbal commands are more often than not misunderstood or completely ignored. I’m not sure which is more frustrating, so I give the CUE system high grades in this category. Still, the system is overly complex. Cadillac says if you can work an iPad, CUE will be second nature. I respond: I don’t work my iPad while driving.
It would be a shame if the CUE system detracts from the car, which is otherwise very good. The interior is luxurious, the car is quick and the ride and handling are stable on the highway.
Safety features include an optional driver’s seat that vibrates to warn of obstacles around you while parking, or if you drift over the line on the highway without using your signal. It definitely grabs your attention better than the amber warning lights or soft beeps other automakers use. This feature can be turned off if the vibrations bother you.
The view to the rear is poor, but the backup camera, standard on our Platinum edition model, works very well. I suspect this feature will eventually work its way into every car, regardless of price.
Finally, the XTS features very good fuel economy. The car my husband Jim and I had last year went 27 miles per gallon, though this use included a lot of highway driving. We averaged 25 miles per gallon this time, again in a week of use that included a bit more highway driving than usual. This is better than most comparably sized luxury competitors, and as an added bonus, the XTS does this on regular gasoline.
Jim MacPherson is the host of "The Car Doctor" show airing Sundays at noon on WTIC-AM. Paula MacPherson is his wife and new-car review partner. Send comments, questions, suggestions in care of Special Publications, Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115, or email firstname.lastname@example.org