By on November 16, 2011

Throughout its history, Cadillac has fed the press some glorious concept cars dripping with opulence, snazzy features and WTF styling. This works when production cars live up to the concept’s hype, but a history of histrionics is less helpful when you’re launching a car that somehow defies hype  altogether [Ed: see AutoWeek’s headline: “Cadillac aims its flagship XTS at imports and traditional buyers”].  Don’t get it wrong, the XTS is not intended as a true flagship for the brand (GM’s release calls it “the newest addition to the lineup” and “the most technologically advanced production car in the brand’s history”), but at the launch at the LA Auto Show the XTS’s FWD proportions, slab sides and generally predictable exterior dominated the first impressions. Put simply, the midsized sedan exudes none of the presence that makes the CTS-V coupe exciting, possibly due to the fact that it has what may be Cadillac’s shortest hood ever. No wonder GM CEO Dan Akerson warned us that the XTS “wouldn’t blow the doors off” the competition.

Inside, however, we found perhaps the best interior Cadillac has fashioned in decades. Cadillac spent a great deal of time telling the assembled press masses that this Caddy is different, this Cadillac is world class and this Cadillac will be at the top of the luxury food chain. And yet the competitive comparisons are all against the mid-line sedans from Europe. Which is really no surprise, considering the XTS is still motivated by the same 300HP V6 we see in other GM products, mated to the same 6-speed FWD transmission and AWD. New to the midsized party are Magnetic Ride Control shocks and and an eLSD in the rear which promises to improve handling when the going gets twisty. Not that anyone will take the XTS to the track mind you. Blue hairs will however love the new full-stop radar cruise control and the “virtual bumper” which will stop you automagically when you try to run over Joey on his trike. The new Cadillac infotainment system also appears to be a winner combining Apple-like multi-touch gestures with Android-like haptic feedback. All in all, it’s a strange beats, this XTS.

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48 Comments on “Cadillac XTS Debuts, Doesn’t “Blow The Doors Off”...”

  • avatar

    Seems to fit the role it was set – not a flagship, be more competitive than the DTS and STS models which improves efficiency reducing two cars to one. Akerson seemed to be honest, if too honest maybe on describing this car.

    Lets see if a Ciel is in the future, that or something similar would be a true flagship.

    The ATS is the much more important car for Cadillac, just like the A4 and 3 series are very important for Audi and BMW from a volume and brand perception point.

  • avatar

    I see a lot of Lincoln MKS in that rear 3/4 view.

    I like the car’s overall look, but it’s much too Buick-like to strike anyone as a Cadillac at first glance. Still, pleasant enough.

  • avatar

    Looks good – inside and out…though the rear overhang, in profile anyway, is a little odd-looking.

  • avatar

    My note to Ed on the “designed to appeal to everyone” AutoWeek headline: “Any irony here?”

    His reply: “Not a shred.”

    I’ve sampled GM’s eLSD a couple of times, and unless you’re on an unpaved road its impact is minimal.

  • avatar

    Seems like an interim step, but a step up from the “bad old days” DTS and the highly uninspired STS. I guess the real story will be, “And now for our next trick……”

    The sophisticated electronics in cars of this ilk (and maybe GM a bit in particular)are scary to me, scary in their perceived by me questionable long term reliabity. I hope this Caddy won’t be ripe for an electro-meltdown the micro-second the warranty expires.

  • avatar

    I hate it.

    /no one cares

  • avatar

    The best thing about this car is that the interior looks up to snuff. That’s the best thing because it’s one more clue that GM might really finally be Getting It, and it bodes well for the Real Cadillacs to come.

    This thing is totally an interim step, a nicer, less embarrassing DTS. This isn’t what Dan the Man wants for Cadillac, not at all, but it’ll keep the dealers content and give the West Palm Beach crowd one more round while they get the real deal going.

  • avatar

    We’re seeing the consequences of GM killing the new Cadillac V8 during the meltdown and bankruptcy. There may be the new four and four the new six but as long as BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar and Lexus offer V8s, Cadillac is going to need a V8, or at least the equivalent power involving hybrid assist or multiple turbos.

    The interior of the XTS, which seems to be bowling over all the journos at the LA show, continues to reflect Bob Lutz’s influence. Starting with the new Malibu (well, actually with the Saturn Aura), GM started seriously improving interior design and quality. Actually, I think the American companies in general, or at least Ford & GM have been driving this overall trend in the industry.

    You spend 100% of your driving time inside the car and in Detroit they finally got it that if you make that experience a more pleasant one, you will have better customer loyalty. Look at all the online slagging off of cars for having hard plastic interiors.

    I bet a lot of industry folks are paying attention to VW’s ‘Americanized’ cheapified interiors. If they succeed in growing market share here based on that decontented stratedgy, perhaps that’ll influence Detroit to follow suit, but right now, the interior design teams in Warren and Dearborn are doing very good work.

    • 0 avatar

      The good interior and back-seat room may be enough for the XTS to become the new livery-business standard. Whether similar to a Buick or an Avalon, it still has more curbside presence than an MKT.

    • 0 avatar

      I would also argue that the interior teams in Auburn Hills are doing a great job as well. Lots of very tasetful, refined interiors (in contrast to the show-car glitzy interior of the forthcoming Escape) in the refreshed product. In particular, the Grand Cherokee in all trim levels (but especially the Overlan Summit) is pretty impressive inside.

      • 0 avatar

        I came this close to leasing a Grand Cherokee this week and I have to agree that the interior was superb and one of the best things about the vehicle. I also drove a new 300 Limited that had a first-rate interior. We drove an A4 whose interior caused my sister to describe as being “an expensive Volkswagen”.

        Look, the new XTS isn’t aimed at enthusiasts. As a car aimed at people who want to feel pampered, it hits a home run. And, to address the whole V8 question, has anybody noticed that the new 528i comes with a four? I love V8s as much as anyone and while going from the Northstar in my current STS to the V6 in our next car (a CTS Sportwagon) will be a loss, I won’t miss the premium fuel requirement or the thirst-inducing nature of NYC traffic. As Dylan said, “the times, they are a-changin\'”.

        Oh and one last time on TTAC, while an STS with the V6 is uninspired, the Northstar version with the magnetic ride control is whole different animal and we are going to miss that car. It’s a hoot shifted manually on back roads. We have this one twisty road we regularly drive that rises about 500 feet over one half mile that is a whole lot of fun in the STS.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    “. . . at the launch at the LA Auto Show the XTS’s FWD proportions, slab sides and generally predictable exterior dominated the first impressions. Put simply, the midsized sedan exudes none of the presence that makes the CTS-V coupe exciting.”

    I didn’t know that the TTAC crew (or Alex, at least) is at the LA auto show. Looking forward to your pics of cars and the requisite booth babe summary.

  • avatar

    Pardon my French, but it looks like an Avalon with ass-cancer.

    I say this out of love. I’m a huge fan of Cadillacs, which is why it pains me to see this kind of bloodless, cynical badge-job sullying the brand that gave us the CTS, the Fleetwood, and the Eldorado. Even an Escalade has more Cadillac heritage than this overinflated Lacrosse.

    I know the interior is nice. I don’t care. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a Buick that got lost on its way to the showroom.

    • 0 avatar

      David, what do you think of the Ciel?

      • 0 avatar

        The Ciel is so beautiful it hurts. I went to Pebble Beach and was devastated to have arrived too late to see the car.

        The problem is that the time has passed for such cars (from Cadillac, at least). Two generations ago, Cadillac was an alternative to Rolls Royce. Today, the Ciel’s price would be too high for a car whose family name is shared with Cimarrons and Cateras.

        And that leaves us in a bizarre position: the pinnacle of the automotive world is occupied by Germans who are wearing the Crown jewels. Packard, Marmon, Pierce-Arrow, the first Eldorado Brougham…. mere memories, while this XTS pretends to the throne.

        Of course, *I* would buy a Ciel. Do you suppose GM would accept payment in vital organs?

      • 0 avatar

        The first thing I said when I saw the Ciel photos was “THAT’S a Cadillac.” It’s very close to just right, close enough. As for its prospects, I think they could be bright: I think really good products would un-damage the brand in a hurry, just as good products have gone a long way toward un-damaging brands like Ford and Chevrolet (and to go back somewhat further, Audi) in the last few years.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    It doesn’t look large enough to slot above the CTS.

    • 0 avatar

      It could complement the CTS, in the same way that the Lexus ES and IS do. Or did, before Lexus softened the IS up.

      In that sense, all it needs to do is be a bit more relaxed-fit, inside and out.

      I’d be interested to know if the XTS has the chassis improvements from the 9-5. Not that I ever drove the car (Saab never made a reappearance in Canada) but I recall reviews praising it over the LaCrosse.

      • 0 avatar
        Austin Greene

        Turpin had a new Saab dealership for a while this year in Ottawa.

        I even had a new 9-5 pass me one night on the Queensway.

        At first I didn’t recognize what it was until I caught the Saab emblem and Turpin label on the trunk. I’ve only ever seen it the one time.

  • avatar

    Looks like this car has the typical GM sedan backseat: knees in the air, butt on the floor. Hopefully it’s just the pictures.

    • 0 avatar

      I couldn’t believe it when I got in the back seat of a then-new STS in 1992 and the seat cushion was almost floor height. Seems to be the trend now, to allow makers of dumb cars to claim good headroom while incorporating the sloping roof look that is spreading like herpes.

  • avatar

    From the rear and rear 3/4s it looks like a high-end French ‘hatchback saloon’ as in “what happened to the trunk?”…not sure that’s gonna appeal to traditional Deville/DTS buyers.

    From the side, it’s an Art & Science A6, from the front an edgy LaCross. Sad to say, this is not going to garner many conquest sales and may be too modern/generic for Cadillac traditionalists.

    With Buick offering pretty competent near-luxury Euro designs, GM’s going to have to open up the purse strings and UP ITS GAME in a major way with Cadillac to compete in the premium league.

    Its sad bordering on pathetic to see GM and Ford struggle so much to reclaim legitimacy with Cadillac and Lincoln. Two historic brands neglected for far too long, done in by decades of badge engineering and over-agressive beancounting.

  • avatar

    Ah, the ever ellusive Cadillac “flagship.” This is basically going to be a fleet vehicle anyway right? I’m waiting for the ATS, next gen CTS, and Ciel-inspired sedan. Can we get a mid-engined sports car too? That couldn’t hurt.

    • 0 avatar

      The Panther lived so long because the fleets learned that GM and FWD weren’t compatible with being driven by non-owners. My experience with a 100,000 mile DTS points to things being no better now than they were when Cadillac forfeited the fleet market in the ’80s.

    • 0 avatar

      This isn’t the “flagship”. It’s a stop gap measure. The real “flagship” is coming.

      I’m not really interested in either. What I want to see, drive and if it lives up to hype, own is the ATS and ATS-V.

  • avatar

    Will GM give this car the Landau top/roof option to appeal to certain demographics/tastes?

  • avatar

    Harsh crowd here. I do see a bit of LaCrosse in the front end, but that’s only because I’m looking for it. This looks sharper. There is plenty of differentiation here for the majority of people to conclude it’s no simple rebadge. I love the extension of the D pillar into the rear end, reminds me somewhat of the Sixteen concept and I think the rear of the vehicle looks imposing in a proper Cadillac way. The interior, if it’s as good as it seems, may be the biggest selling point in this genre.

  • avatar

    I think of this as an aging southern “boomer” car. For some time now, Cadillac has been focused more on BMW than Lexus, and its products have been a bit harder edged than most 60+ year olds want to bear.

    The XTS looks like it was built for people in my parents’ age group in my part of the world. It’ll sell well, and probably didn’t cost that much to design.

    IMHO, my mid-30’s eyes tell me it looks pretty decent with the glaring exception of that rear overhang.. but then again, I don’t care about having a trunk you can throw a body in, either.

  • avatar
    Mr. Spacely

    Yikes. What a disappointment. This isn’t a Caddy; this is just a Buick with different trim.

    I actually walked past my neighbor’s DTS today and thought, “Well, it sure is silly to make a FWD luxury car, but how many FWD cars have V8s? At least this one’s interesting.”

    There’s nothing interesting with the XTS.

    Oh, well. At least they’re banging out cool CTSes.

  • avatar

    The interior is gorgeous and the detailing excellent; imagining this car with RWD proportions is painful.

    Makes me look forward to the ATS though, which should have similar styling but with the right shape.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    The MKS EcoBoost rapes the face off this piece of junk.

    Er, I mean, “In this competitive marketplace, Cadillac may struggle to match the on-road vigor provided by the twin-turbocharged competition.”

  • avatar

    A 202″ long vehicle is midsize?

    This is remarkably similar in size to the Holden Caprice – 2″ shorter and narrower, inch taller than the Holden, but the remarkable thing is the Cadillac has over 7″ shorter wheelbase. It is ~50lb lighter, the rwd Holden splits the weight of the fwd and awd XTS.

    An updated Zeta platform car should have been the way to go IMO

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly! Cadillac makes a big deal out of the XTS having more rear-seat legroom than cars like the BMW 5 Series, but it should … it’s five inches longer in length, too!

  • avatar

    I’m sure this will do a good job of retaining the DTS’s traditional clientele of well-healed geezers and the anything-with-a-Mark-of-Excellence crowd. Maybe the livery market will take to it. But the lack of a V8 and the transverse front drive platform kill any shot this car has at conquest sales.

    And that’s been a Cadillac problem since 1985. Premium car, pedestrian platform. I don’t personally have a problem with front drive, but at least go the Audi route with a longitudinal engine and solve the inherent front overhang problem. This V6 is almost as powerful as the Northstar and probably more reliable; and a far cry from the HT4100. Without a V8, though, the car’s automatically down on prestige to almost every competitor.

    Ackerson’s fat mouth has already lowered expectations. The GM fans are already parroting the “It’s not intended to be a flagship” company line. The car’s a mistake. If it was called “Buick Electra 225,” it’d be fine. A “traditional” car for “traditional” buyers, fleets and China. They could make just as much money on it and improve Buick’s standing as a luxury brand (instead, they moved downmarket with the frumpy, redundant Verano).

    The STS was imperfect, but it was the right formula. The XTS has a great-looking interior, class-competitive tech and styling that’s appealing from certain angles, but the overall package is a step in the wrong direction. It’s essentially a modernized DTS, which is the last thing Cadillac needs if they want to be taken seriously as a BMW/Mercedes competitor.

  • avatar
    Sgt Beavis

    There is nothing really wrong with this car, but I would MUCH rather have a LaCrosse GS.

  • avatar

    I’m not loving it. A Cadillac should look long, low and elegant. This car looks high, hunched and fussy. I hate to be a hater, but … NO. How about bucking the trend of high cowls, high beltlines, high EVERYTHING?

  • avatar

    I like the fact that, rear side window aside, it’s virtually identical to the study they showed.

    The interior is gorgeous, but that piece of leather covering the shifter (which probably seemed like a good idea to the designer at the time) bears a rather unfortunate resemblance to a used condom.

  • avatar

    CTS in front, Malibu from the side, Lucerne from rear quarter, and blah from the rear. gadgetry aside, only massive rebates, dealer incentives, private offers, coupons for breathing, and lowball leases are in this ride’s future as GM marketing knows nothing else. the XTS is DOA.

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