By on October 13, 2011

Though we haven’t even seen a production version yet, Cadillac’s forthcoming XTS has already lived a full, controversy-laden life. Initially suggested as a replacement for the DTS/STS, the Cadillac faithful quickly recoiled at the idea of a luxury “flagship” based on a stretched version of the Epsilon II midsized platform that underpins the Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Malibu. But with the Cadillac Ciel Concept showing the way forward for a “true” Caddy flagship which will eventually become the brand’s standard-bearer, the XTS’s role has been somewhat redefined. Expectations for the XTS were walked back by GM CEO Dan Akerson, who famously said that it was

not going to blow the doors off, but will be very competitive

And this week the enigma that is the XTS only deepened, as Cadillac announced two bits of seemingly contradictory information about it: first, that it would spearhead a new high-tech interface (see video above) and second, that it would mark GM’s return to the livery car business.

Cadillac’s CUE system will debut on both the XTS, ATS and 2013 SRX, all of which debut next year. You can find out more about it by watching the video above, but according to a GM presser, the system will offer several industry “firsts” including

Proximity Sensing: As the user’s hand approaches the LCD screen, command icons appear. Icons can be customized and arranged by consumers to improve ease of use.

Haptic Feedback: Buttons on the fully capacitive faceplate pulse when pressed to acknowledge the driver’s commands and helps keep the driver’s eyes on the road.

Multi-Touch Hand Gestures: interactive motions (tap, flick, swipe and spread) popularized by smartphones and tablets allow tasks on the LCD screen, such as scrolling lists, zooming maps and searching favorites to be easily accomplished.

12.3 in. LCD reconfigurable gauge cluster (on select models) offers four selectable displays – Simple, Enhanced, Balanced and Performance – that can mix traditional vehicle data such as a speedometer and fuel gauge with navigation, entertainment and 3D vehicle image.

Natural Speech Recognition lets consumers speak logically with fewer specific commands to recall stored media or input navigation destinations. CUE’s text-to-speech feature will also allow consumers to receive text messages by system voice and to send recorded text messages in return.

Linux operating system, “open” software platform and ARM 11 3-core processor, each operating at 400 million of instructions (mips) per second. This hardware setup offers 3.5 times more processing power than current infotainment systems, and allow developers to write applications to CUE that be downloaded by consumers.

Though not unique to the XTS, GM is using the forthcoming model to highlight the system, and has released pictures of the production interior. Which makes a certain amount of sense, considering that Cadillac has long considered the XTS an “inside-out” design, focusing on luxurious appointments rather than dynamic performance or bold exterior looks. And that emphasis continues, as XTS marketing manager Patrick Nally tells Automotive News [sub]

A lot of people will not consider Cadillac that buy Mercedes or BMW… We will really impress people vis-a-vis the back seats of those cars.

Now, you might think that quote, with its import-conquering swagger, might be emphasizing how well Nally expects the XTS to do on the retail market… but it’s not. Quite the contrary, as it turns out. Here’s the full passage:

Speaking of the XTS, Nally said “the black car business is important to us.”

“A lot of people will not consider Cadillac that buy Mercedes or BMW,” he said. “They do not put us on their shopping list. There is an opportunity to get the right people in the vehicle who would not otherwise” be sitting in a Cadillac.

Nally said the appointments in the livery model will be nearly identical to the high-quality appointments in the retail version of the XT

In other words, the XTS is going to conquer the consumer market, by replacing the now-extinct Town Car as the livery car of choice… and given that its main competition will be a version of the Lincoln MKT, it might just have an opportunity on its hands. Assuming, of course, that private consumers are going to want to buy a vehicle that they mainly know from livery fleets. Fleet-sales-as-marketing is a ploy we hear fairly regularly, but thus far there’s not a lot of evidence that it works especially well. Particularly in the luxury space, where exclusivity is an important factor. But I suppose that this is what Cadillac meant when it said the XTS would replace the DTS and STS… it’s not a true exclusive flagship, but an everyday luxury car with a cosseting interior.

Automotive News [sub] says that “the chopping and stretching” of the ATS will “be handled by approved coachbuilders,” and it’s likely already underway. In fact, earlier this week when I was at Milford Proving Grounds, I not only saw several camo’d XTS prototypes testing, but also what appeared to be a long-wheelbase mule with a stretched Buick LaCrosse body. Whether it was a stretched XTS mule or a China-bound LaCrosse long-wheelbase model wasn’t clear, but it seems safe to say that the Epsilon II platform is going to spawn some form of LWB sedan. And, with expectations for the XTS already blunted by its humble underpinnings and Akerson’s seeming diss, a stolid, interior-centric, fleet-oriented model seems to be a logical approach for the XTS. Too bad that orientation is a bit at odds with Cadillac’s dynamically-driven “Red Blooded Luxury” branding approach.

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29 Comments on “Cadillac XTS: The High-Tech… Livery Car?...”

  • avatar
    Brian E

    Why isn’t the livery car market being handled by a Zeta-based Park Avenue?

    • 0 avatar

      That is an excellent question. The answer is probably because the sales/profit projections don’t justify allocating development resources for a car like that at a time when GM is scrambling to get out the revamps of its bread-and-butter products that should have been done a couple of years ago. So, they’ll cover that niche with the XTS and cross their fingers that it doesn’t hurt Cadillac’s emerging new image too badly in the meanwhile.

    • 0 avatar

      Because it would make us too happy and GM would lose all street cred with the cool kids.

  • avatar

    Ug. Can we please stop (you too, GM) even giving lip service to the idea that the XTS might ever be some sort of Cadillac “flagship”? It’s not. It’s nothing more or less than a vastly improved successor to the DTS, meant (as far as I can tell) mainly to give those buyers another round or two before Cadillac goes all RWD all the time. It’s not going to steal any S-class buyers (at least not any under 70), and it’s not going to make Lexus reps cry. If, in a few years, it gets a few lux buyers to go “hmm, maybe Cadillac’s interiors are nicer than I thought” and go to their dealer to see the supposedly-coming-someday real flagship, then maybe this convoluted fleet-car-facilitating-conquest-sales idea of theirs might be seen to have had some merit. But I’ll be really surprised if I can see its effect on GM’s bottom line without a microscope.

  • avatar

    Looks like GM’s strategy is going into a market Ford abandoned. First the compact truck market, then the livery business. It might not be something that car enthusiast look forward too, but the market is there. Car rental agencies need a ‘luxury’ car, and liveries need cars too. Plus cities need cars for mayoral duties, funeral agencies for transporting bereaved to funerals, etc. There are also certain folks that are into traditional luxury and comfort, and not so much into attacking twisty mountain roads or autocross course or taking their cars to the track. This cars have a large market waiting for it.

    • 0 avatar

      Probably not a bad strategy. Instead of investing millions on Nurburgring-based development, take an existing architecture, make it comfortable to ride in and no embarrassing to be seen in and put a Cadillac crest on it at (relatively) minimal development cost. You may sell some retail but if the bread & butter goal is livery service this could be a good replacement for the now extinct Town Car.

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        “Instead of investing millions on Nurburgring-based development, take an existing architecture, make it comfortable to ride in and no embarrassing to be seen in and put a Cadillac crest on it at (relatively) minimal development cost.”

        What architecture does GM have that could be developed at minimal cost? Keep in mind that everything old is now owned by Liquidation Motors Corp and if they haven’t sold it already GM would have to buy it back. In fact, I highly doubt they could buy it back without a huge lawsuit getting filed trying to reopen the bankruptcy.

      • 0 avatar

        That might work in the short term, but in the long term in long term people will realize that the Cadillac XTS is just a pimped Malibu, and either buy a loaded Malibu for much less money, or get a luxury car that isn’t just a loaded, rebadged version of a much cheaper car.

        The features and comfort that can be had in cars in the $20K range are really pushing what it takes to be a true luxury car.

      • 0 avatar

        They have the Epsilon II that they’re using for this car, which was developed from the Saturn Aura/Pontiac G6/Chevrolet Malibu. It isn’t an Autobahn burner, but it doesn’t need to be. The people who will be driving this thing for the most part will be either legacy Cadillac buyers who don’t care much about handling or limo companies whose biggest concerns are fitting enough people in the back and having a nice comfortable ride to get the bride to church at a nice, sedate speed.

        As long as it serves these purposes the origins of the platform is somewhat irrelevant to either market.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      Ford didn’t “abandon” it any more than GM would with a modern Cadillac. Any livery version of a Cadillac that GM puts out is going to cost just as much as the Lincoln MK-something that they are now selling in livery form.

      I am starting to see that Lincoln livery vehicle on the streets and it is nothing to get upset about. Mildly ugly but not enough to matter. I’ve seen them parked in front of high-end hotels and the hotel workers aren’t making a stink about it – pull up in a Camry and they will valet it ASAP.

  • avatar

    I still don’t know why the XTS wasn’t just a new Park Avenue.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    XTS, what a business man’s airport shuttle should be.

  • avatar

    A true cadillac shouldn’t have a three letter name. It shouldn’t be below a V8. It should not have a console shifter and first and foremost, IT SHOULD NOT GO AROUND THE NURBURGRING!

  • avatar

    Make light of the “black car” business all you want, but it’s alive and important. Just ask Audi. Recently, I witnessed a meeting of no fewer than a dozen chauffeurs at the LAX cell phone lot all driving Audi A8s. Lots of S-Class “black cars” in LA too.

  • avatar

    Completely off-topic. Since when did Robert farago write And since when did the Washington Times quote him in the opinion pages.

    • 0 avatar

      Robert launched TTAG not long after he left TTAC. I’m not sure if RF is a genius or just lucky or both. TTAC rode the decline of the domestic automakers, GM’s “deathwatch” and the bailout debate into some pretty impressive traffic stats. It looks like the ATF/DOJ “Fast and Furious” gunwalking scandal may work similarly for TTAG.

  • avatar

    How does a unibody platform work with the traditional BoF stretch limo guys? I would think that it’s a rare coach house that can do it up right without screwing it up and that means expensive.

    There’s a reason the Panther’s ruled.

  • avatar

    I just watched that video. Love that configurable instrument panel. It should be available in more cars, and I’m sure it will be in the future. Though given the XTS’ target market, I think they ought to include a strip speedometer version for those old-timers who prefer those.

  • avatar

    I’m glad to see the new Cadillac’s will be getting a comprehensive, SYNC-like upgrade. My mom’s STS has a ridiculously difficult system to use.

    I don’t see these being used as limos though.

    The DTS? YES
    An Escalade? Yes

    I’ve never seen an STS used as a limo in NYC and I seriously doubt it makes any sense at all to use a car like this as one.

  • avatar

    i have been driving a brand new dts because of work for years. I like it. I like the simple controls alot. I do understand the need for hi-po electronics, but frankly, electronics do not make the car more comfortable, or better to drive. the dts is supremely comfortable, even for four or five people. the v8 is smooth and easy. different from german and japanese cars. I hope a smaller v8 is continued. the caddy northstar is a pleasure.

    I like the configurable dashboard, but i really dont wanna talk to my car, unless i am trying to convince it to start when it doesn’t want to.

    • 0 avatar

      Well said sir. The heavy V8 over FWD also make superb traction in the winter.

    • 0 avatar

      Hahaha! I can imagine this scenario:

      (car won’t start)
      You: Oh come on! Please! I can’t be late to work again today! Would you just start, please? I promise I’ll give you a wax after work today! And fill you up with high octane gas!

      car: (vrooom!}

      Well, maybe someday…

  • avatar

    I don’t want any of that touch screen or voice activated silliness in my car, not even a little bit, but I know there are folks who do. I’m trying to figure out the tone of this story which somehow seems to be suggesting it is WRONG to offer up to date features on a car, to make it appealing to retail customers, and also market it to livery buyers. If Ford had been doing that the past several years, there would be a 2012 Town Car.

    • 0 avatar

      The tone of course is trying to make it look like Cadillac is yet again trying to cater to livery and rental businesses unlike the super amazing can do no wrong Mecredes and Bimmers. Funny thing is that in Europe/Germany all you see are Mercedes, Bimmers and Audi cars in this very same role all over the rental lots, airports etc. But it’s just not cool here in America. The technology references are simply belittling this car as a simple DTS/Town Car replacement that the older folks would simply not want which in some cases is very true. I would suggest that everybody wait until this car in unveiled before deeming it a failure out of the box.

    • 0 avatar

      IMO, touch screens should be banned from cars. This one has haptic feedback (read: costs more) just to overcome one of touch screen’s inherent inferiorities to knobs/buttons. Icons that don’t show up until you move your hand toward them are worse than a static display because you have to move your hand, then look for the icon while traditional systems can be operated purely by touch–not only because of tactile feedback, but because everything will always be in the same place.

      The only advantage of touch screens is that they offer flexibility where std buttons won’t do, like selecting locations on a map. I could see using pinch/stretch & ‘point & click’ functions for a touch screen map, but it has no business being used for stereo, climate, or any other functions in a car.

  • avatar

    Hmm those icons sure do look a lot like the ones in the Pioneer Z series of aftermarket HU’s. Plus that whole “swipeability” thing also. Frankly, I can’t stand OEM radios & of the new cars I have purchased, they have been banished by the 3rd day or so. I would imagine that GM would charge some 10 grand for that hi-tech screen.

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