Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams left moviegoers with one of the most memorable cinematic idioms of our time: “If you build it, he will come!” And in the world of consumer leverage, “he” represents the millions of new car buyers looking for a vehicle that astutely fits their needs, yet it may not be currently available. Well, now we can insert another idiom fitting for the current moment: “This is not your father’s Cadillac!”
Cadillac, who once played in the field of large luxury sedans with the STS and DTS, has returned to the game with a player that rivals the Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series. Yet its size and endless array of amenities and technology also lets it scrimmage with bigger boys like the Lexus LS. Known mostly for SUVs and crossovers as opposed to large, luxurious sedans this past decade, Cadillac put the emphasis on its CTS brand, which catapulted the company’s design strategy into the future with sharp, angular lines and edgy, technological interiors.
Not only is the 2013 XTS full-size sedan the first all-new vehicle launch for Cadillac since the SRX in 2009, it also adds another recruit to their product roster. At the time of inception, I wonder if their product planners were listening to Sam Cooke as he gracefully sang, “It’s been a long time coming, but a change is going to come.”
According to VP of Marketing Don Butler, innovation is Cadillac’s hallmark and their mission is to represent the standard of the world. I concur with the majority of this statement as I had the chance to drive the XTS recently in the hills of Mulholland Drive and on the Pacific Coast Highway. One of the sedan’s top innovations is CUE (Cadillac User Experience), which debuts on the 2013 XTS. The touchscreen multimedia interface incorporates OnStar with automatic crash response, navigation, weather reports, audio, Bluetooth, climate control and my favorite, Pandora Internet Radio. After syncing an iPhone 4 through Bluetooth I was able to listen to Pandora stations while operating it through CUE’s touch controls.
The CD changer is old school and found in the glove box. The weather button is detailed and precise and lists temperature hourly, daily or by each 36-hour period just as your Weather Channel phone application does. Voice command is another added benefit, and if you have a passenger in their seat then you can use the Nav system while the car is in motion, but otherwise it’s not functional. CUE is very intelligent but has a specific learning curve and new owners, whether younger or older, will need operational instructions on how to use it properly just as Apple does with its free in-store workshops for new users. And speaking of Apple, every XTS purchase comes with an iPad complete with the CUE app that enables shoppers to “test drive” the system.
Built off the same platform as the Buick LaCrosse, the XTS utilizes a 3.6-liter direct injection six cylinder engine with 304-horsepower. Currently no V8 will be offered and it’s highly unlikely that Cadillac will explore a V-Series edition. At first I was skeptical of the smaller motor but it proved worthy on the roads. Plus, its 6-speed automatic transmission allows the driver to manipulate power through its tap-up/tap-down shifters. Just put the gearshift lever in manual—which automatically engages sport mode—in order to use the steering mounted paddles. When downshifting in sport mode before a complete stop, power transfer is abrupt and not as smooth as it could be. A bit of software tuning should fix that.
The XTS is either FWD or AWD with an eLSD (electronic Limited Slip Differential) to send traction to the wheel(s) that need it most. It’s not a full-time AWD drive system like Audi’s Quattro. Innovation comes back into play with standard front Brembo brakes, rear air springs, Magnetic Ride Control (assesses changing road conditions), Intelligent Brake Assist, StabiliTrak and Rear Park Assist. Bose, a perennial leader in home and car audio, offers two systems for the XTS: the optional 14-speaker Bose Studio Surround sound system or the standard eight-speaker system. I particularly enjoyed the driver and passenger speakers that sit atop each of the leather seats for a true surround sound experience.
There are four distinct XTS models offered including the $44,995 XTS Standard; the $49,610 Luxury Collection; the $54,505 Premium Collection; and the $59,080 Platinum Collection, which is the top-of-the-line model. Platinum gives you specific 20” rims, UltraView Sunroof, rear window shades and unique woods.
More technology is offered by way of the Driver Awareness Package inclusive of a Safety Alert Seat which vibrates when the vehicle steers out of its lane, when other objects come close to the XTS’ exterior and much more. Cameras and radar sensors work together to provide this safety service. The vibration is surprising at first but you get used to it. Another favorite feature is collision mitigation braking, which will help stop the vehicle if the driver doesn’t brake hard enough. From 20 mph it will stop the XTS and from higher speeds it will brake, but not completely.
The interior is absolutely the XTS’ strongest characteristic. Cadillac interior designer Christine Park was on hand to explain how the theme was manifested. The focus was a multi-contoured cabin with varying materials to create the elegant theme. Leather, brushed aluminum and woods commingle to form a sexy and inviting interior.
The future is also presented by way of the cartoon caricature digital gauges. Jaguar and Land Rover use a similar set-up. But is the state-of-the-art technology a bit too much for the demographic Cadillac is going after with this vehicle? Maybe, maybe not. I’m sure the graphics will get much better whereas they mimic analog gauges or to the point where they feel or look real. One cool feature is the ability to change the settings to either of four varying displays. For example, the performance setting shows an enlarged tachometer.
The new XTS is luxurious, simple and balanced. It fills a void in the Cadillac staple and allows them to attract shoppers looking for large luxury. It will continue to improve and exceed expectations. For now, it’s an advanced start.
Haute Auto curator Kimatni Rawlins is the founder of Automotive Rhythms Communications, LLC (AR), a multi-national lifestyle firm that blends evaluations of the latest cars, trucks, SUVs, and bikes around music, fashion, travel and technology. Consisting of Internet, print, radio, network TV, online video and event properties, AR is a multi-media and marketing gateway for receiving real time data and information on new rides, car shows, vehicle technology, green energy projects, customization, motorsports, celebrity profiles and auto lifestyle experiences. www.automotiverhythms.com @ARtvKimatni