New Car Review: 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium

Black 2013 Cadillac XTS on curve above city at dusk
The 2013 Cadillac XTS.
Cadillac made its name with big cars. Coupes and Sedan DeVilles...but to read the majority of motoring press this year, you'd think the only thing they had to talk about was the new, small ATS.

Don't get me wrong, the ATS is a remarkable car (we've just driven it and a review is coming very soon), but there are two stories to be told...and the XTS is the other.

If you believe most of what's out there to read, the XTS falls short somehow, because it's not able to directly challenge BMW 7-series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class the way the ATS is breathing right down the neck of the revered 3-series.

But that's not failure. That's leaving room for one more Cadillac at the top of the range. Something priced north of $75,000. The XTS' mission is to significantly advance Cadillac's position in large American luxury cars. Don't forget, it replaces the late, (largely) unlamented DTS, a car that was hard to find outside of rental fleets and retirement communities.

To say that the XTS is better than the DTS is an understatement. For a front-wheel drive car based on a Buick platform, it's frankly amazing. We had the all-wheel drive Premium model for a week...which included magnetic ride control, 19-inch wheels, four wheel anti-lock disc brakes (Brembos up front) and a HiPer Strut front suspension...all standard. At 202 inches, it's absolutely a big car...but it moves with a silken grace that would have been unthinkable in a big Cadillac until now.

The base price of $55,810 (base front-wheel drives start at $44,075 ...$2,605 less than the old DTS) gets you a 304-horsepower V6 with a six-speed automatic transmission, an efficient powertrain that delivers an EPA estimated 17 city/26 highway.

2013 Cadillac XTS interior, black with wood accents, CUE touchscreen and reconfigurable gauge cluster
The 2013 Cadillac XTS interior.
Inside, as you can see above, the bad old days of GM plastics has vanished. You're surrounded by soft-touch leather, real wood and piano black. Here, the standard equipment list brings a full complement of airbags, a heads-up display, a reconfigurable gauge cluster (you pick which information goes where on either side of the speedometer), three-zone climate control, ambient lighting, heated rear seats and heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and a Bose audio system controlled the CUE (Cadillac User Experience)...the big screen in the middle of the dash.

And that's the only problem. Regular TireKicker readers know I'm not a technophobe (in fact, I'm an early adopter)...but they also know that our position here is that too much tech can get in the way of the experience at best and be a distraction at worst. And CUE is just a bit too hip for the room. You control nav, climate and audio functions on what essentially amounts to a sideways iPad...your finger activating icons under a glass screen. To help you keep your eyes on the road, Cadillac engineers put haptic feedback into CUE...there's a pulse or vibration under your finger to acknowledge that you made a selection. Trouble is, you don't know what selection of the 8 icons on the screen unless you're looking at it. It'll vibrate the same no matter what icon you've mistakenly hit. And we ended up triggering events without actually touching the screen...when our hands were as much as four or five inches away.

It didn't fail...never seized up the way most of the MyFordTouch systems we've experienced have...it just required more attention away from the business of driving than a simple set of buttons and knobs would. And CUE is standard. You can't simply opt for the basic system. This is it. We're told by other automotive journalists that judicious use of CUE's voice-activated features solves a lot of those issues. We'll try that next time around.

Back to our tester...only one option on this already-loaded car...a $1,450 Ultraview sunroof. With $920 destination charge, the bottom line came to $58,160.

In black, it's a stunner. We had more compliments on the looks of this car than any we've had in a long time. It looks like a big Cadillac. It feels like a modern interpretation of what the Sedan DeVille might have been if it had stayed in tune with the times until now. Ignore the lukewarm press and drive one. It's one of the best American cars available today.

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