2013 Cadillac XTS Review
Cadillac flagship saloon launched in Dubai and it’s a technical marvel
By Shahzad Sheikh
The Middle East is the second market after the US to get the all-new Cadillac XTS, which was launched here in Dubai yesterday, due to go on sale in October, and we’ve driven it.
What is it?
This is the new flagship saloon for GM’s luxury marque and defines a numbers of innovations for the brand in the Middle East including drivers aids that alert you through the seat, Magna-ride suspension in a luxury car and an entirely new touch sensitive infotainment and control panel system that is the first to use iPad and iPhone-style capacitive touch technology in a car. Not only that, but it trumps other touch systems by simulating haptic feedback – but more on that in a bit.
In terms of size XTS slots into the gap that existed between DTS and STS models and replaces those cars. It’s aimed squarely at German cars such as the BMW 7-series. The current CTS sits just below this as a 5-series rival with the forthcoming new ATS being the entry-level 3-series challenger, and launching at the end of the year.
In the States the XTS is available in various guises with the option of front or all-wheel drive, but we will initially get only one fully-loaded edition, based on ‘Platinum’ spec, with the torque going to all four-wheels through a Haldex 4WD system with electronic LSD (limited slip differential) and a six-speed torque-converter auto with sequential shift available through paddles.
It is powered by Caddy’s 3.6-litre V6 putting out 304bhp and 264lb ft of torque (there’s no V8 available). It gets to 100kph in about 6.7 seconds with a top speed of about 210kph. There are big Brembo brakes to pull the 1896kg to rest, standard 20-inch polished alloy wheels and it rides on that clever Magnetic suspension that underpins most Ferraris these days. All of this is yours for a not unreasonable AED270k ($74k) – cheaper than all its German rivals.
Softened edges, world class interior
There is no question that XTS is nowhere near as dramatic and exciting to look at as the CTS, but the signature sharp creases and rakish lines of Caddy’s current design language have deliberately been softened to appeal to a wider audience for the larger car which, if the BMW sale’s trends are to be followed, would become the major seller for the luxury brand.
Having said that this car, based on the Super Epsilon II platform which it will share with the forthcoming Chevrolet Impala, is a striking and handsome beast with a great deal of presence and charm, and there’s certainly more personality than some of the luxury barges it’s aimed at. The V-shaped styling cues are certainly more prominent on the rear, and the trademark vertical lighting remains. The c-pillar is quite thick which impacts visibility a little, but the front and rear three-quarters views are the best.
Inside the GM guys promise that everything that looks like leather, wood and metal, is actually just that. And the quality has taken a massive leap upmarket that’s for sure, with a very appealing cabin, keeping the V-motif but to a lesser extent than the CTS.
The seating position is a little more cosy than I would have expected from a big barge, in fact with a lower dashboard cowl and flatter fascia, combined with a narrower cabin than you might think (the BMW 7 is exactly 50mm wider) it feels like a smaller car from behind the wheel, which is no bad thing.
Rear space is good, the boot is massive, and the front seats are supportive and eyebrow-raisingly intimate – hey?
Technical tour de force
Here’s where it all starts to get genius. Let’s start with that seat then. A lot of cars these days come with blind spot sensors, lane departure warning systems, and obstacle sensors front and rear. Most of these alerts come in the form of warning lights, beeps or, in the case of when the car is wandering out of a lane, a little tug or shimmy of the steering wheel.
In the XTS though (and going forward these systems will be deployed in the entire Caddy range) it’s all about seat-of-the-pants feel – quite literally. Yep, this thing has various vibrators in the seat to alert the driver to all of the above, this has the advantage of not annoying your passengers with warning chimes and not diluting the steering feel with simulated feedback. There may also be other advantages, but all depends on how kinky you wanna get – if you see one of these on the highway constantly wandering over the lane markings… well let’s just say the driver will be enjoying the car.
And then we move to the new CUE system, featuring a highly customizable capacitive eight-inch touch-screen in the centre of the dash which responds to your touch in the same way the iPad screen does, so you can slide, press-hold-and-move, pinch etc.
It controls all the cars functions, including entertainment system, climate and navigation, and you can configure it exactly the way you want. It all links up with your phone – there’s even a storage compartment in the dash to hold or recharge your phone, and it all works alongside a set of touch buttons immediately below the screen.
The problem with these kind of touch systems is that you don’t get any feel or feedback, not here though, as you get simulated mechanical feel (even on the touch screen) at your finger tip. It’s actually very impressive and works well.
There’s a lot more to explore with this system as well as the full 12.3 inch reconfigurable instrument panel, and we’ll be borrowing the car back again just to play with these systems – stand by for more.
Does it have enough horsepower though?
Ah, but that’s what some of you really want to know isn’t it. Although regardless of what we say, most people will still claim ‘not enough bower’ when they drive this – we know you power-hungry freaks.
In fact it has more than sufficient motive force. There’s isn’t the thrust and grunty aural accompaniment of a V8, which you will miss considering that this is an American luxury car, the engine noise is more of a drone, and the performance delivery is more even and linear, but this car is no slouch.
The gearbox is perhaps a bit behind the times featuring ‘only’ six-speeds, and this car is deserving of a cleverer transmission, but you do have the option of shifting the transmission lever into manual and using the steering-wheel mounted paddle shifts with an improvement in the throttle-response, but there’s little benefit unless you’re really in hurry, and admittedly the overall character of the car is of a cool cruiser.
Does it float, does it wallow, does it even turn?
With the mage-ride and rear air suspension it smoothes surfaces into submission and glides along serenely, apart from when those huge low-profile tyres encounter ruts and rumble strips and that’s the only time things get a little noisy. It’s more bump-thump noise than discomfort though.
What is astonishing however, is the body-control. There is no unnecessary pitching and swaying even through corners and roundabouts. And then we move to the handling which is aided by the tight suspension and AWD. Throw it in hard and you get that traditional 4WD understeer, but power out of a corner and it actually tends towards overtseer, play with the throttle mid-bend and there’s surprisingly good response in the attitude of the car.
All told, whilst not exactly a sports saloon, it’s dynamically better than you would expect, and again manages to feel like a much smaller car, containing and disguising its bulk very well indeed.
Fully-loaded means fully-loaded
But let’s be honest, you’re not going to be chucking this car about, and really the biggest selling point of the XTS will be its comfort, accommodation and all the toys and standard equipment – of which there are plenty you’ll be delighted to hear.
10 airbags, cruise control (adaptive to be introduced later), driver’s aids including collision alerts, lane-skeeping, rear camera, rear cross-traffic alert, full-colour heads-up display, parking assist and of course the usual ABS and traction/stability systems.
There’s that fascinating CUE system, plus Bose 14-speaker ICE with Bluetooth audio streaming, power everything, follow-you-home lights, 10-way power adjustable front seats, heated/cooled seats, steering-wheel mounted remotes, sunshades, auto wipers and lights which are also adaptive and more.
Why all the emphasis on technology? Actually it’s all part of an attempt to return to the glory days of Cadillac. The marque’s leviathan cruisers of the 1950s featured the sort of kits (power locks, windows, steering etc…) which didn’t appear in most other cars till the 70s or even 80s. So Caddy trying to second-guess the future tech of cars, is only true to the brand heritage – makes you wonder if they’ll be first to the market with the fully autonomous car.
Frankly all the kit on this car for the money that’s being asked, is its biggest selling point, and might just managed to get past what will be the biggest criticism levelled at it – a lack of a V8 engine. Not that that is a valid criticism, as for most drivers the V6 will be more than adequate, and it boils down more to a perception of lack of power, rather than owners actually suffering from it.
Look past that, and this is a desirable new entrant to the luxury car segment that ticks most of the boxes buyers demand.
2013 Cadillac XTS
Price: AED270k ($74k)
Engine: 3.6-litre V6, 304bhp @ 6800rpm, 264b ft @ 5200rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 6.7s, 210kph
Transmission: Six-speed auto, All-wheel drive