Mountain Wheels: Cadillac’s XTS is the brand’s new face of big
April 6, 2013
The future is now and those old days of super-gigantic Cadillacs are gone, my friends – well, I guess you can still go buy an Escalade for the foreseeable future. But if you’re looking for a traditional Caddy sedan the size of a swimming pool, it ain’t gonna happen.
So are limo companies, high rollers and swag masters going to be happy with the new XTS, which is built on the Malibu platform? It’s a visceral shock, especially when you consider the recently departed DTS, but it’s not a Cimarron, either.
XTS is still a garage-filling, amply-backseat-endowed, enormous-trunked Cadillac through and through, with all the comfort, electronics and pretty details you’d expect. New owners even get a free iPad to help sync everything with the XTS’s onboard CUE navigation and entertainment system. How big is it, exactly? Some 202 inches overall, with 40 inches of rear legroom and an 18-cubic-foot trunk, good for loads and loads of golf clubs. Of course.
Looks are heavy on the church-steeple angles – that’s a given on all of the brand’s output – but the XTS has a slightly more constrained design, with Jaguar-worthy proportions.
The snowplow nose is ominous, but the ATS-styled headlamps that bleed up and onto the top of the hood, plus the long tapered trunk and some attractive, open-spoke 20-inch wheels, all give it a more gracious and older-demographic-friendly feel.
New for Cadillac is a Jaguar-styled fully digital instrument display, which is customizable to your tachometer/mileage/digital speedometer desires. The display complements the CUE’s touchscreen – which still takes plenty of getting used to, but maybe playing with the iPad at home will train you to use those icons and apps more easily.
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Under the hood, the Northstar V8 days are also gone, though a variant of the direct-injected 3.6-liter V6 shared by other models comes as standard, with 304 horsepower. It’s not screaming power, but even with optional all-wheel drive, it got the car rolling – and will get you about 26 mpg on the highway. Small shifter paddles behind the leathery steering wheel allow you to grapple more power (or arrest your downhill speeds) via the six-speed automatic.
XTS enjoys a comfortable compromise with its longer wheelbase and more ample haunches: The adjustable magnetic ride control is stiff enough for moderately sporty poise, but relaxed and smooth enough for the realistic people-hauling it’s going to be doing.
Is it going to be enough raw real estate for drivers used to more commodious surroundings? I think so, though you’ll have to feel out the cabin for yourself.
The new Cadillac gets high marks for cabin comfort and style, especially with the sensually pleasing, yellowy tan Soleil Keissel leather package. You get rich, luxurious seating that’s quite sporty but retains a comfy-over-the-long-haul feel, plus leather on the doors, transmission channel and even some highlights on a hand-stitched dash.
My car’s color scheme was offset by equal parts black, plus a flourish of wood grain and some aluminum-styled highlights, even a wood top to the shift knob.
Extra-large B-pillars can make for some visibility issues when looking over your shoulder to the rear; luckily, the car emphasizes safety with its optional driver-assist package, including the butt-buzzing proximity, pre-crash, lane-depature or rear cross-traffic warnings.
The XTS can even stomp the brakes for you, while moving forward or backward, if a car or pedestrian comes into the vehicle’s path.
I also appreciated such touches as a powerful Bose speaker system complete with shoulder-level speakers built into the seats – haven’t seen that since the Infiniti M56 – and a rudimentary but helpful display to help you mind the speed limit or warn you of vehicles just a little too close ahead.
Whether Cadillac’s traditional big-car audience buys into the concept remains to be seen, but it’s a striking vehicle in the meantime.