Cadillac XTS spells the future of American luxury

We often speak of automakers reinventing themselves. For Cadillac, that rebirth of the brand began with the introduction of the CTS sport sedan for the 2003 model year. Until then, the notion of a Cadillac was one of a Boca Raton fixture, but the CTS changed all that, essentially carrying the standard for “New Cadillac” on its own, with some help from the SRX crossover. The CTS was in dire need of backup if Cadillac were serious about selling the idea of a newer, hipper Caddy.

Enter the XTS, a full-size replacement for the DTS and STS.Where the STS was a performer of sorts, and the DTS put comfort at a premium, the XTS captures the best of both, with a heap of cutting-edge technology. It’s easy to capture a younger buyer with a fun rear-wheel drive sports car like the ATS, which is on its way; it’s far more difficult to deliver that new image of luxury in the vehicle class that is most synonymous with “Old Cadillac.” This American luxury brand has somehow pulled it off by creating a full-size sedan that is surely the new hip.

First exterior impressions:This is a large sedan. Its visual presence is highlighted by the massive waterfall grille and elegant High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps.A lot of design tricks have been played to hide the XTS’s visible girth, such as an aggressively sloping rear window that lands at an extremely short trunk lid. In spite of that, the trunk is still large enough that a Wise Guy or Mafioso would approve.

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While the exterior had the effect of a plus-sized CTS, the cabin of the XTS revealed Cadillac’s honest commitment to the future of luxury. Clean lines, which feature ambient lighting at night and flow to a dynamic center stack, which draws attention to the eight-inch center touchscreen. That screen is the centerpiece of the Cadillac User Experience, or CUE. This system allows for easy smartphone integration and operation of many of the vehicle’s systems, including audio and climate controls and the navigation system.

Cadillac started work on the system that would become CUE after the success of the first-generation iPhone. The aesthetic and operation of CUE is similar to that of an iPad. The icons on the home screen can be moved by holding down on a menu item and dragging it across the screen.

Below the touch screen, basic climate and audio controls have been replaced with a touch-capacitive panel. What is touch capacitive, you ask? It is basically another panel that is touch-sensitive, though without video feedback on the screen above it. To raise or lower volume, simply slide your finger to the left or the right on the volume bar. The entire center panel below the navigation screen rises to reveal a hidden compartment for sunglasses or whatever else you can think to store.

Another impressive feature is the available digital instrument panel. Speedometer, tachometer, and trip computer are now found on a digital screen, configurable to the driver’s tastes. In the standard layout, the center of each dial can be customized using a toggle on the steering wheel. In this configuration, a portion of the navigation screen can be placed in the center speedometer.The screen also provides a plethora of dynamic readouts for phone and audio controls.There is even a warning screen if the driver leaves the turn signal on too long.

Perhaps the most surprising interior feature is the Safety Alert Seat, which actually rumbles your derriere, depending on what hazard you may be experiencing. Sensors detect cars in your blind spot or if you are veering out of the lane. The XTS vibrates the side of the seat on which such an event is occurring. Up front, a camera takes 12 photos a second and runs it through image mapping software to detect if the driver in front of you slams on the brakes. In such an event, the system rumbles both sides of the seat, as well as displays a prompt in the available Heads-Up Display, or HUD. Unlike previous systems, this HUD is in color and provides readouts for audio, phone, and navigation functions. When the navigation system is engaged, it displays directions on the HUD, so the driver’s eyes are not taken off the road.

It may seem unthinkable for a full-size Cadillac not to offer aV8, but the 304 horsepower, 3.6-literV6 does the trick. Power is not overwhelming, but it will allow you to overtake others on the road and make that on ramp-to-highway leap of faith with a little less praying.There are rumors that an even largerV8, rear-wheel-drive Cadillac is being developed to compete with the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.The 17 mpg city, and 26 highway are not stellar fuel economy numbers, but with a curb weight of 4,180 for our all-wheel-drive model, it is to be expected.

The XTS drives on magnetic ride control, which may seem rough if you are coming into this car from a Seville, but the responsive handling is the feature that could win over an Audi A6 driver. This is important because Cadillac says it benchmarked the A6 when developing the XTS. Our AWD Premium Collection model carried a sticker price of $57,260, including a list of options that were worth the price of admission. Base MSRP is $44,995, which puts it in line with cars like the A6 and Lexus GS.

Both of those cars trade mostly on technology, with performance as a supporting role.That is why it was necessary to cover so much tech here.The most noticeable part of driving an XTS is all of the new technology, but also how unobtrusive it is. For the younger buyer, tech is a higher priority than performance, and with that as the goal, the XTS excels.