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October 23, 2013

News & Features

Auto review: Cadillac adds youthful zip with XTS

The Miami Herald

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The Cadillac XTS mileage is rated at 17 mpg city, 28 highway. (General Motors)

So Cadillac disposes of the Grandpa-like STS and DTS and arrives with a smart, more youthful and athletic idea: the XTS.

Sized somewhere in between the two it replaces, the 2013 XTS is Caddy's new flagship. And it's stirring lots of fans with its edgy lines and superb interior. But it's frustrating some, too, with its intuitive yet quirky Cadillac User Experience, or CUE, infotainment system which controls audio, climate, navigation and phone settings.

So here's a thought: Be patient, invest some time familiarizing yourself with CUE and you just may get to like it.

2013 Cadillac XTS
  • Base price, excluding destination charge: $44,075
  • Price as tested: $64,305

XTS is the first to employ CUE and it's no surprise that it confounds so many. Oh, those who breeze through their smartphones and tablets will probably be OK, with its touch spots and finger swiping.

The lovely, 8-inch screen contains the touch-tone icons that control the climate, audio, navigation and phone. But, dang, I still find them less responsive than the good ol' knobs or dials.

The clever, modern volume bar probably was the most frustrating. A tap is supposed to move it a notch, or you can slide your finger to zoom high or low. Sorry, it just didn't work for me. It either didn't adjust, or it adjusted too much or too little. In short, it was a constant aggravation.

CUE's touch screen fared only slightly better. Feedback is slow, and sometimes I wondered if it knew I was even there.

Navigation similarly was daunting, sometimes alerting that an option is not available. And it's so sensitive that it sometimes responds before you've even touched a button just from the warmth of an approaching finger.

Yet there are those who have grown fond of the CUE, so it could just take some time and patience — perhaps lots of patience.

Know that Cadillac is not the only maker offering this newfangled system. I like the others just as little.

But let's talk about what you'll love in the XTS4. First, it's stunning. It looks refined and upscale, yet it has a raw, muscular look with angular lines and smart-looking headlamps.

It is longer than most of its competition, but shorter than the DTS it replaces. It doesn't feel big when you drive it. Standard are 19-inch wheels, but you can get 20-inch polished alloys, too.

On the road the XTS is poised, quiet and comfortable, with a standard magnetic ride control that engineers say makes 1,000 dampening adjustments per second. Mind-boggling. Go for the upgraded XTS4 for an all-wheel-drive performance that offers optimum grip in rain and snow.

It has an electronically controlled limited slip differential and torque vectoring for improved traction.

The hydraulic steering system is precise and responsive, too. So combined with the suspension, this is a car that drives less than the STS/DTS it replaces and more like the sporty CTS.

Acceleration is not dazzling, but it is adequate. The lone engine choice is a 3.6-liter, direct-injected V-6 engine. It gets 304 horsepower and delivers 265 pound-feet of torque. That's not bad — zero to 60 is rated at 6.9 seconds. But a turbo or a V-8 would help the punch for sure. Maybe next year?

The V-6 is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that is smooth-shifting and accurate in its shift decisions.

Mileage is EPA-rated at 17 mpg city, 28 highway; the all-wheel-drive XTS4 is just a tad less at 17 city, 26 highway.

Step into the cockpit and be amazed at the luxury and refinement, featuring exquisite leather-trimmed seats and wheel, Alcantara headliner and wood trim. Ambient lighting along the doors adds an elegant feel.

Seats are comfortable and supportive, and headroom and legroom are ample in the front as well as the rear.

The trunk space is listed at 18 cubic feet, which is more than adequate, though it is a tad narrow and may take some creative loading to get everything in there.

A head-up display goes one step above with its color presentation. And it includes navigation directions and speed limit.

As expected, the XTS4 is well-equipped with safety features, like ABS, stability and traction control, front and rear air bags plus side curtain and front knee bags. General Motors' OnStar also is standard, and features roadside assistance, automatic crash notification and stolen vehicle help.

Then there are optional safety features: blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning.

The XTS offers four trims and the base is wonderfully loaded, with 19-inch wheels, xenon headlights, adaptive suspension, rear-parking sensors and 10-way power seats with lumbar controls.

A Luxury Collection package adds ambient lighting, rear-view camera and some other goodies. The Premium Collection gets the head-up display, navigation and 14-speaker Bose sound. And the XTS4 Platinum dazzles with 20-inch wheels, exterior and interior design touches, sunroof and power rear shade.

With its dramatic styling, all-wheel-drive grip and handling, the XTS4 is bound to be a crowd pleaser. And its multimedia system is opening the door to a whole new high-tech world.

Question is, are Cadillac buyers ready to walk through that door?

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