What's it like to lose the flagship sedan from your luxury lineup, without a ready replacement waiting in the wings? Just ask Cadillac, which has had to weather article after blog post bemoaning the fact that the premium brand doesn't have a full-size four-door capable of taking on the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the BMW 7 Series. The chatter only increased after the all-new 2013 Cadillac XTS was brought in to pull double duty for the departed STS and DTS sedans. Clearly, this large car wasn't intended to match up against Europe's best - Cadillac said as much when it was introduced - but there remained doubters that the Detroit-based automaker would follow-up the XTS with a true class-competitive, world-beating sedan, and so the new Cadillac family member continued to take a beating in the press.
We were given the chance to spend some time behind the wheel of the 2013 Cadillac XTS, and rather than comparing it to Euro-hardware costing twice as much we kept our minds clear and attempted to evaluate the sedan based on what it is, instead of what it was never intended to be.
The 2013 Cadillac XTS - unlike the CTS and ATS - clearly shares its platform with another premium product from General Motors, the Buick LaCrosse. From a styling perspective, however, the XTS is very clearly a Cadillac, maintaining only a passing resemblance to its Buick progenitor in profile and in its rear flanks. The rest of the car - especially its headlight shape and broad grille - are pulled from a reinterpretation of the familiar design language used across the automaker's lineup.
Inside, Cadillac fans will find an even greater number of brand-specific features. First and foremost is the Cadillac CUE system, which is built around a large center-mounted touchscreen that provides access to all of the vehicle's key systems. Sitting underneath the screen are a number of other capacitive touch controls melded into the dashboard itself, set off with angled chrome bars. While we were impressed with the CUE touchscreen - especially the ability to go up one menu level by making a gesture at the LCD panel without even making contact - the 'buttons' underneath were harder to get used to and had us frequently and mistakenly touching the chrome instead of the obsidian surface that served as the actual controls. We also found ourselves wondering how well the system would work with our fingers bundled up in bulky winter gloves.
In addition, the Cadillac XTS comes with an instrument cluster that is heavily dependent on LCD graphics, although managing the various displays is easy enough to accomplish in comparison to systems such as MyLincoln Touch. The leather thrones up front were comfortable and supportive, and the seating position gave us a good view of the road ahead and was tall enough to avoid the pillbox feel so common in modern sedans.
A common complaint about the Cadillac DTS - the front-wheel drive sedan that the XTS in many ways replaces - was suspension tuning that saw it floating a few inches off of the road like the disconnected land yachts of yore. The new 2013 XTS is certainly comfortable when it comes to its ride, but thanks to the inclusion of magnetically-controlled shock absorbers the car handles much better than would be expected for a non-performance sedan. No one is going to be throwing this Cadillac hard into the corners and confidently expecting a triumphant exit, but the XTS doesn't give up when flung about on narrow rural roads. The weight of the vehicle's sizable chassis makes itself known without pushing the car past its tipping point, which means that its hard to get the sedan out of shape unless you are specifically trying to trip it up.
The 3.6-liter V-6 engine that comes with all trim levels of the 2013 Cadillac XTS is similarly balanced. 304 horsepower and 264 lb-ft of torque are adequate, but not overwhelming numbers associated with such a large car, and that's exactly what a comfort-oriented automobile needs: a engine that can get the sedan out of its own way without introducing troublesome torque-steer or wheel spin off of the line. The XTS will accelerate confidently from cruising speed to passing velocity, and that's well within the mission profile of the slice of the premium segment that it competes in. The version of the XTS that we drove featured all-wheel drive, but the extra weight and complexity of the feature didn't noticeably impact its performance.
An Acura Fighter?
The 2013 Cadillac XTS might not be an important building block in returning the luxury automaker to its former status as the 'standard of the world' in quite the same way that the all-new Cadillac ATS is - but that's ok. The XTS is really there to scoop up as many 'legacy' Cadillac buyers as possible and keep them happy and content despite the departure of their beloved STS and DTS cruisers. At the same time, the XTS helps Cadillac fight the good fight against tepid but technology-stuffed offerings from the likes of Acura and Lincoln. As a multi-role fighter, the Cadillac XTS displays a versatility that should see it score more than enough customers from each of these groups of premium car shoppers.