The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

February 13, 2013

Cadillac XTS dumps the stodgy look

By Len Ingrassia
CNHI News Service

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Cadillac has a new car ready for the American consumer looking for a luxury sedan with some attitude. The new XTS replaces the dated DTS and STS models. Good news.

Just as BMW maintains its signature twin-kidney front end across the lineup so too does Cadillac with its stately front grille. In other words, you know it is a Cadillac up front.

All semblances of stodgy Cadillac styling and performance is now gone and this is where things get interesting. Like a first date, impressions are across the board and it can easily be a love or hate relationship.

In a week of test-driving the XTS AWD Premium Edition, I found myself mumbling repeatedly about the performance of its graphic interface. It seems that Cadillac engineers brought out a technologically advanced car without complete testing.

The XTS falls into a parenthesis in the evolution of GM’s flagship luxury car. Industry reports rumor a 2015 launch for a Caddy sedan that will compete effectively with the 7 Series BMW and Mercedes- Benz S Class. Out with the old and in with the interim car.

In the post bankruptcy era of GM, the new XTS is molded around a Chevy Malibu platform with accompaniments from Buick LaCrosse and other siblings.

To be fair, the XTS has plenty of good things going for it. A Magnetic Ride Control with rear air springs delivers an exceptionally quiet ride by making electronic millisecond changes in ride quality. In performance testing, its 304 horsepower engine propels the roomy sedan from zero to 60 miles per hour in 7.4 seconds. Its large front Brembo brakes slow the car with ease.

A graphics display called CUE -- Cadillac User Experience -- displays navigation, audio, climate and Pandora with an abundance of other apps for user interaction. The 8-inch screen comes to life with controls across the screen. While it may look easy to change a channel, control climate or adjust volume, my experience was less than impressive.

For a time during test week, it seemed the graphic user curve was improving only to result in more missed stations and climate problems, and more mumblings. Overly sensitive touch adjustments need some tweaking.

Voice activated navigation was also a disappointment as it is in most cars. A request for travel to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor returned ‘Panera Bread’ while another for Baltimore Zoo location replied with ‘chicken’. Food for thought, I guess.   

Some of the gadgets were effective though and the driver seat nudge from left to right side signaling lane departures or sensing nearby collision objects was a welcome addition as were blind spot indicators on outside mirrors.

Next to the center-based CUE screen is another graphic based instrument cluster that adjusts to fit your mood between simple gauge display of speed, engine vitals and tachometer to a performance mode, an enhanced view or separate pods of information. Lots of fun to mix and match.   

The new XTS is a start on what could become a world-class sedan to compete with European cruisers. Keep on tweaking GM.

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Len Ingrassia is an automotive columnist for CNHI News Service. Contact him at editor@ptd.net).

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Stats:

2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium Collection

Engine: 3.6-liter V6

EPA mileage per gallon of fuel: 17 city, 26 highway, 20 combined

Base price: $55,810

Model as tested: $56,730

Assembled: Oshawa, Ontario Canada. U.S./Canadian parts content, 62 percent. Country of origin for engine and transmission, U.S.

Crash test ratings: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named the Cadillac XTS a Top Safety Pick. It earned ratings of ‘Good” (highest) for front and side impact, rear-end crash protection and rollover protection. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the XTS a five star overall rating (out of a possible five), five-stars for frontal and side crash and four stars for rollover protection

Warranty: 4-year/50,000 mile basic; 6-year/70,000 mile powertrain; 4-year/50,000 maintenance