By on January 29, 2013

As car enthusiasts, we’re obligated to despise the Cadillac XTS. A decade ago the marque seemed on the path to glory with exclusive rear-wheel-drive platforms. Now we get this front-driver that shares its architecture not only with a Buick but also with a mere Chevy. Such backsliding mustn’t be condoned, much less rewarded. Unfortunately for me, a Mercedes-Benz E550 had muddied the waters.

Even after seeing the XTS all over metro Detroit (they’re thick on the ground in these parts) for months, I remain of two minds about its exterior appearance. We’ve got a tall, blunt nose; a high beltline; and a long tail topped by a short deck owing to C-pillars that just won’t quit. With such odd proportions, the XTS isn’t beautiful by any conventions I’m aware of. Yet I’m intrigued, and find the car oddly attractive despite an inescapable feeling that I should not. In comparison, the oh-so-three-box E-Class is…boring.

Inside, the XTS is more inarguably attractive, with two-tone upholstery, thick chrome trim, contrasting stitching, and vivid liquid-crystal displays providing tasteful visual interest. Anything that looks like it could be luxuriously padded is. GM’s interior designers clearly sweated every last detail. Check out the area where the instrument panel meets the door. Four different levels come together perfectly.

The manufacturing engineers must have shit a brick. (Maybe they’re still shitting it.) Though also highly detailed, the E550’s interior is less artful and more reserved. At the same time, the XTS’s cabin retains enough “art and science” flavor that it lacks the warm, cosseting atmosphere of a late-model Jaguar or current Infiniti.

The reconfigurable LCD instruments in the XTS are at once beautiful, highly informative, and functionally unnecessary. The contents at the center of each circle can be customized. Yet, when supplemented with the comprehensive head-up display (HUD), there’s little need for the instruments’ primary functions. The CUE infotainment interface is less successful. While I experienced none of the crashes reported by others, and was generally less frustrated by the system, I often wished that the home button (an actual button on the center stack) and the back button (a virtual button on some screens, but not others) were present at the top left of every screen. To my great surprise, the Chevrolet Malibu I drove the following week had the buttons I wanted, where I wanted them. For this and other reasons, the less comprehensive, less powerful system was much easier to use. The CUE folks need to talk to the MyLink folks.

I first sat in an XTS at last year’s NAIAS, and its seats were the most comfortable I’d experienced in recent memory. Because the tested car wasn’t a prototype, or because it was the next-highest trim level rather than the highest, or because I hadn’t been toting a heavy bag around Cobo for hours, its seats weren’t as comfortable. They’re still more comfortable than most, “most” including the E-Class, but less cushy and form-fitting than I recall from the show. Forward visibility is much better than in the related LaCrosse, thanks to thinner (if still far from thin) pillars and an instrument panel that seems less massive. But better than awful isn’t necessarily good. The XTS doesn’t approach the conventionally packaged Mercedes in this area.

GM expanded its “Epsilon” midsize vehicle architecture as far as sound engineering principles would allow for the XTS. Consequently, the cabin of the XTS seems somewhat narrow for a 59.5-inch-tall, 202-inch-long sedan. Three adults can fit in back, but they’ll be rubbing shoulders. Length, on the other hand, can be extended quite easily. Perhaps to compensate for merely adequate shoulder room, GM endowed the XTS with an abundance of legroom. Unfortunately, as is too often the case in luxury cars, not enough room was left beneath the front seat for feet. I had to scooch mine back a few inches, in the process lifting my legs off an otherwise sufficiently high seat cushion. Note to seat engineers: if the second row passengers cannot fit their feet beneath the first row, you’ve essentially sacrificed at least four inches of rear leg room.

Interior storage is better than in many current luxury sedans. Not one but two “superzoom” cameras can fit inside the center console. At 18.0 cubic feet, the trunk of the XTS is among the largest in any car (though that in the Lincoln MKS holds another cube). Just be sure to use the cargo net for groceries, or you’ll have to climb halfway in to retrieve items that have slid forward.

Last week I found little point to 402-horsepower in a luxury-oriented sedan, and suggested that the E350’s 302-horsepower V6 was a better fit. So the 304-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 in the XTS should serve plenty well? Close, but not quite. Thanks to a combination of too little low-end torque and overly tall gearing, the powertrain in the 4,215-pound (with AWD) XTS cannot deliver the effortless thrust off the line American luxury sedan buyers often desire, even expect. The 3.6 does come alive at 4,500 rpm, but even if you use the paddles to hold first gear this doesn’t happen until 30 mph. The paddles also must be employed for speedy corner exits. Left to its own devices, the automatic transmission often hesitates to fill pedal-issued orders for moar rpm. (Oddly, the transmission was much more responsive in the Chevrolet Malibu 2.0T I drove the following week.) Granted, the engine and transmission in the XTS are far from awful, and many luxury sedan drivers could be completely satisfied with their performance. But anyone asking for much more than adequate will find them wanting. They are the weakest parts of the car.

Perhaps they redeem themselves with excellent fuel economy? The EPA rates the XTS with all-wheel-drive at 17 mpg city, 26 highway. The trip computer reported 17.5 in suburban driving, pretty close to the estimate, but only 22.7 on a 75 mph run to the airport. At this speed in sixth the engine is spinning only 2,000 rpm, but with an eight-speed automatic it would be spinning even more slowly. An Audi A7 on the same route managed nearly 30. Judging from its 19/29 EPA ratings, an E350 would similarly out-eco the XTS. Only compared to the 18/26 Lincoln MKS do the Cadillac’s numbers seem competitive.

Given the platform employed, it might seem silly to have dinged the XTS for powertrain responsiveness at corner exits. After all, this is the DTS successor, and anyone desirous of a largish Cadillac that handles should wait for the next CTS, right? Well, the chassis engineers didn’t get the memo. They fitted the XTS with a HiPer Strut front suspension to minimize torque steer and maximize front tire grip, Magnetic Ride Control dampers to control body motions, rear air springs to keep the car level, an active rear differential (with the Haldex AWD system) to help the rear end around, and Brembo front brakes. Not just this loaded XTS. Every XTS. Of course, applying complicated technology to a basically flawed chassis fails to hit the mark more often than not (e.g. the Lincoln MKS and more than a few previous Cadillacs). But in the XTS the technology has been tuned to work in concert and deliver. When hurried, the XTS feels more balanced and composed than the Mercedes and far less clumsy than its Taurus-based archrival. Blip the throttle while turning, and my-oh-my there’s even some oversteer. The non-defeatable stability control system will kick in before things get out of hand, but it has a reasonably high threshold. This chassis could handle far more power. Perhaps a turbocharged V6 to match that in the MKS is on the way?

You might have noticed that one key system wasn’t mentioned in the above list of chassis enhancements. The steering in the XTS is overly light and nearly as numb as the tiller in the Benz. Many luxury buyers do want light steering, but the suspension doesn’t seem to have been tuned with the silent majority in mind. Instead, this feel-free steering might, at least in part, be a by-product of the HiPer Strut front suspension. Reducing the scrub radius has definite benefits, but steering feel isn’t among them. (The much simpler, much cheaper Malibu 2.0T scores another surprising win in this area.)

The XTS rides more firmly than a traditional Cadillac, but those who prefer well-damped control to cushy float will find it comfortable. Especially at low speeds the sport-suspended E550 has a thumpier ride. Unless the somewhat unrefined V6 is being prodded towards its power peak, the optional 245/40VR20 Bridgestone Potenza RE97 all-season tires are the largest contributor to the small amount of noise that survives the trip into the cabin.

The big Cadillac starts at $44,995. The tested XTS Premium with AWD ($2,225), adaptive cruise control ($2,395), 20-inch wheels ($500), and red tintcoat paint ($995)—but notably without the sunroof($1,450) or rear sunshade ($250)—lists for $60,620. Drop the paint and add the missing options, and the sticker checks in at $61,325. Clearly, Cadillac isn’t overly focused on the crosstown competition, as a similarly loaded up Lincoln MKS lists for $8,860 less. Adjust for the Cadillac’s additional features using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, and the gap is still a touch over $6,000. Compared to a Lexus GS, the XTS is $2,165 less before adjusting for feature differences, and about $3,200 less afterwards. And the Mercedes-Benz E-Class? It doesn’t make sense to compare the E550, since the E350 can keep up with the Cadillac. But even the V6-powered E-Class costs $9,000 more before adjusting for feature differences, and a cool ten grand more afterwards.

In the end, we’re as confused as the car is. The Cadillac that shares a platform with lesser GM offerings handles well enough that absent steering feel is missed. With a proper rear-wheel-drive basis, the E-Class should be the better behaved, more satisfying car to drive, but it isn’t. The E550’s V8 power could be put to better use in the nose-heavy Cadillac. So we’re left wanting that as well. Similarly, GM’s designers were given some insane hard points to work with, yet managed an intriguing, up-to-date, expensive-looking car…while on the other side of the studio their colleagues modeled a C-Class with Cadillac facias. In these and a few other areas (shoulder room, CUE), the XTS team came so close to transforming a sow’s ear into a silk purse that we’re left perceiving the glass as one-tenth empty. We don’t despise it. We even admire it. But we’re not quite at peace with it.

All cars mentioned in this review were provided by their manufacturers with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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95 Comments on “Review: 2013 Cadillac XTS (Take Two)...”

  • avatar

    A friend still works for the General, and brought one of these to lunch recently. I must not have a critics eye, as I was very impressed from the vantage of the passenger. Then I drove it. My last long term drive in a Cadillac was my wife’s STS. While the interior of this new car is outstanding, the driving dynamic reminds me of when they were trying to convince the old-line buyers that 4100 meant plenty of grunt for a Sedan deVille. Now, I am the old line and I know why it didn’t work. The Northstar had legions of unhappy people, but my experience with it was faultless. Why did they abandon it? I have to assume this car would benefit from the extra low-end. But what do I know?

    • 0 avatar

      The head bolts on the Northstars would often pull out of the block compromising the seal. It’s a fairly labor intensive repair, threaded inserts need to be installed into the block. It seems that it took GM about 10 model years to eliminate the problem, leaving a lot of owners with expensive repair bills. Some dealers charge up to $5000 to have this done.

      Other than that problem, they were nice motors and I agree the Northstar would be a better fit in this car. I can only guess, but I they probably figured that the 3.6 and Northstar have the same peak HP on paper, so why not just use the corporate V6 already designed for this car rather than the Caddy only mill.

      Of course we know the difference when we put the pedal down. The 4.6L Northstar delivers significantly more low end torque, but would get around the same fuel economy as the V6.

    • 0 avatar

      I find myself looking at these as sharp looking cars. I am fond of the DTS though also. I had the same engine in early Acadia and sold it wishing I had a V8. The engine was nice until you loaded up with passengers. A ‘high end” luxo car should have a high end motor. That v6 is nice but the trans was slow and it is high revver.

      Then again I am a V8 man. I see these as super nice used cars very soon at $20K in Florida (same thing with current DTS).

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t worry ‘olddavid’…your eyes are fine, the reviewer is the one who’s blind.

    • 0 avatar

      2000 and later Northstars were fairly solid (nowhere near the older ones, especially ’97-’99) and come the model year 2004 and later they fixed the head bolt problem by replacing the head bolts with longer ones.

      The correct reason they abandoned it simply because of CAFE standards.

  • avatar

    I have to say that for Cadillac, car like this makes a heck of a lot more sense than a 3-series fighter. Unless luxury car buyers (especially Cadillac’s) suddenly put a much higher priority for sublime handling, balance and suchlike, like they do in Europe, then this car is what Cadillac is all about, what its customers expect his/her Cadillac to be like. What seem to be lacking is that feeling of spaciousness that came with extra width, and strong low end torque for that feeling of effortless acceleration. They should retune the engine for more low end torque, sacrificing top end if need be. Who cares if the engine is a screamer? This is a Cadillac!

  • avatar

    One of my uncles (who has an MKS Ecoboost) and I were talking about this last night. The XTS is a strikingly beautiful car which you absolutely notice as it approaches you – looking futuristic.

    I’m not completely satisfied by the rear. Approaching it, I always think it’s a CTS, but as I get closer I realize it’s too big to be a CTS and recognize it’s an XTS. Why not give it a more distinctive tail lamp like the S550 has?

    I love the interior and I suggested he go check it out since he’s gonna need a new car when his MKS goes back off lease this year.

    I personally feel that the XTS has the best interior quality of ANY American made car – even better than the SRT Chrysler and the MKS. Problem is, they always CHEAP OUT where it matters:

    #1 Why isn’t the driver’s waterfall cushion POWERED?
    #2 Why aren’t the headrests POWERED?

    Unfortunately, the lack of an OPTIONAL V8 is an EPIC FAIL (same with the MKS). People with this kind of money are willing to buy even if fuel economy isn’t that great. The engine whines as you takeoff from 0-60 (about 7 seconds) making it not feel like a complete product. 300HP just isn’t enough. If only it could have the early, effortless torque of a 5.7-L Hemi.

    And then there’s that obvious question: will there be an XTS-V and how powerful will it be?

    • 0 avatar

      dude, your uncle should check out an Audi A6 3.0T. It’s got #1 and #2 covered. Plus beautiful car to drive.

      • 0 avatar

        My uncle complains about a number of things after having the MKS since 2008.

        #1 The trunk is narrow – especially compared to my cars.
        #2 The rear seat doesn’t fold down – like my SRT8
        #3 The mirrors don’t auto tilt down in reverse.
        #4 The car’s lack of MORE POWER.

        I am trying to convince both he and my other uncle to get Dodge Charger SRT8 or Chrysler 300 SRT8 but they are Ford/Lincoln loyalists for the past umpteen years.

        I showed them the AUDI A7 which address the trunk issues and is well powered but they refuse to buy non-American.

      • 0 avatar

        Might as well just get them Escalades and be done with it.

  • avatar

    This car is a poster child for the bag of confusion and irrelevance called Cadillac. The only crack-influenced Cadillac styling that looked acceptable to me was the last STS. While barely distinct from the ATS and CTS, this XTS is the automotive equivalent of a nice person with too many piercings, tattoos, and painted-on eyebrows. (Will they have a Joan Crawford edition?) Look at the terrible space-efficiency of that trunk. Rear seat cushion is too small and low. Video game controls to wade through-yecch; who asked for that? Huge tires that are sure to cost $500 each to replace and compromises the ride. And GM wants me to buy it for more money? Hahahahah.

    • 0 avatar

      Really? Is that why Cadillac is doing so well as of late? “Crack-influenced styling!?” The only person her under the influence of any drug is apparently you because the new Cadillacs are some classy-looking vehicles, particularly the XTS.

      Sounds to me like you just don’t like Caddy’s. That’s your right, though the way you seek to justify your dislike with what amounts to little more than a tantrum is a little strange.

  • avatar

    “The contents at the center of each circle can be customized. Yet, when supplemented with the comprehensive head-up display (HUD), there’s little need for the instruments’ primary functions.”

    I had an invitation to tour the cockpit of a brand-new 737 years ago while being fueled at Lexington after flying around storms all evening and not being able to land at Cincinnati. The cockpit was all “glass”, but he had me look out through the windshield to “infinity” and I then saw the heads-up display. I was very impressed. The pilot said there was more information out there right in front of him than all the screens on the dash!

    One of the most amazing flights I had the pleasure to enjoy!

    402 hp? Why? 300 hp in my Impala. Why, indeed?

    The General must be in a horsepower race and I don’t like it, because the economic advantages to their products is making them unattractive to me with my lousy commute. It’s very expensive.

    The thing is, I REALLY like this Caddy and I’ll have to check one out next month at our auto show!

    Like it or not, the General does some things right…

  • avatar

    If they could just make the exterior as nice as the interior this car would be a hit. Unfortunately I am not digging the exterior awkwardness. I think the 5th generation seville (98-04) was the nicest modern Cadillac aesthetically. I still cant figure out the direction Cadillac is going.

    • 0 avatar

      I had one of those, a 2002 STS. The low beltline, low dash and Northstar thrust felt like you were flying, and not driving. Imagine the visibility of a 90s Civic.

      I very much like the XTS, and when the student loands are paid off, it’s top of the list. Unfortunately it’s up against the 300 Luxury Series.

    • 0 avatar

      I immediately thought of the bustleback seville too. At least it doesn’t have tack on straps and a wheel showing through the trunk.

  • avatar

    “Check out the area where the instrument panel meets the door. Four different levels come together perfectly.”

    Wha? I saw the picture before I read the text, and all I saw was a whole bunch of different materials meeting each other, with varying degrees of success. The leather of the dashboard meets the door at one angle, the wood at a different angle (and with a larger gap), and it looks like you could store your baloney sandwich in the gap between the black rubber/chrome/brown plastic on the dash and the brown plastic on the door.

    But I guess that makes sense if the idea is to make the door shut and not hit the dashboard without having to adjust it.

    • 0 avatar

      The wood coming together is the only issue for me there. The dash wood looks like an unfinished edge. At least curve or bevel it or something. It’s like the corner of a wall where the baseboards didn’t come together properly.

      And now I notice the stitching on the dash is a little crooked there near that corner.

  • avatar

    Another well written, well thought out review from Mr. Karesh. Thanks.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Fail. Real luxury cars have rear wheel drive.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    I can’t despise a car I have never seen. In Asia there is zero of these on the roads. Same for Europe.

  • avatar

    I agree with you Michael about the proportions – something about this car looks like interesting and quirky… in a good way.

    The problem… it simply looks like a top-tier mid-sized sedan rather than a true luxury sedan. I can see this as the new Impala or even as a LaCrosse replacement, but not as a Cadillac.

    The Cadi. brand seemed to have such great focus as of late, finding its own distinctive style and place in the market. ATS is a smash hit from a performance perspective, and CTS seems to be making steady improvements with each generation.

    A RWD XTS positioned above a CTS would be the finishing touch on Cadillac’s transformation. But instead GM fell back on its old platform-sharing addiction and deviated from Cadillac’s path to success.

    The XTS isn’t a bad car… it just doesn’t enhance the Cadillac brand.

  • avatar

    I see them here, and I DO notice them because of the LED’s on the front which are always on. And I think “oh new ATS, oh wait – too big, XTS.”

    But then as it passes I get a look at those huge C-pillars, and the awkward fits-nothing tail lamps, and I think fail.

    I see this car for what it really is, a stop-gap for their large car entry while they prepare something RWD based around the Ciel concept. And $60 grand? I’m sorry, no, not for 60 grand. This car’s styling, combined with new-type model name, and the hit-then-miss Cadillac success over the past few years cannot carry $60k.

  • avatar

    Buick alternative to shuttle old fat people with bad knees distances in Florida that can’t be traversed by golf cart…

    …except Buick is a GM brand. So they’re competing with themselves.

    You need your head examined if you choose this over any German car. Maybe a Camry Lexus or Avalon, but those are far cheaper.

    • 0 avatar
      GS 455

      Someday if you’re fortunate you will be old and may have bad knees. This type of hateful comment should not be allowed on TTAC.

      • 0 avatar

        Hateful? I live a few minutes north of Ocala, which is the beginning of the entire Florida retirement community stretching down to the Villages.

        There are dealerships full of reasonably used German sports cars sold to fat old people with bad knees who couldn’t get in and out of them–and traded for a variety of CUVs, minivans, and tall Buick/Caddy sedans that make egress with one to two knee arthroplasties (and maybe a hip, too) easier.

        Like it or not, being fat with bad knees is a demographic and this car fits it perfectly–and something local buffets and car dealerships cater to. They even put faux vinyl rooftops on everything from a Camry to a Caddy.

        Come down to the piece of hell known as God’s waiting room, Florida and see for yourself…

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll take a Lexus GS350 F Sport or an Audi A7 over this car in a heartbeat.

      Not a big Benz fan and the 5 series leaves me a bit cold.

      • 0 avatar

        The A7 costs more than this car, but the A6 3.0T doesn’t. After almost a year with a 2012 A6, I’d go for the Lexus GS350. This car wouldn’t even enter the conversation. For under $40K, it might make sense to someone with a grudge against Toyota as an ES350 alternative. As long as they don’t care about resale value, dependability, performance, economy, or styling anyway. This car could have had livery potential, but the completely non-premium looks and deep trunk combined with another GM mail-slot trunk-lid won’t appeal to livery sales teams or drivers.

    • 0 avatar

      A) Who do you think drives Camry’s, Avalon’s and Lexus ES’s?
      B)The Avalon and Lexus ES compete against each other so should be allowed to co-exist using your bone headed logic
      C)Why would I want an over priced unreliable German car over a more reliable, less expensive American, Korean or Asian alternative?
      D) Have some respect for your elders.

    • 0 avatar
      GS 455

      My work involves caring for the elderly and I would never refer to them as “fat old people”. That is derogatory and disrespectful. Come to think of it, an FJ 60 Land Cruiser would make egress easier for people with knee arthroplasties.

      • 0 avatar

        Would you prefer morbidly obese elderly Americans? Central Florida is one giant buffet and outlet mall, with the occasional golf course. Come down here and you’ll get to witness those in their twilight years literally eating themselves to death.

        You’ll also see exactly what kind of car is easiest for four 250 plus pound morbidly obese elderly Americans to get in and out of because that kind of weight destroys whatever cartilage you have left in your joints.

        Avalon, Camry, Buick, FWD Caddy, and minivan (preferrably Honda for some reason) tend to be the usual suspects going 55 mph down the middle and left lanes of I-75. And thus the XTS feels right at home here.

    • 0 avatar

      Geezers are the ones driving Camrys, Lexus ESes, and Avalons, last I checked…

      • 0 avatar

        I live on coast south of ocala near tampa. The beginning of the snow bird beach belt that runs all the way down to Naples. Faves for my geezers are towncars, gran marquis, pale gold buicks like centuries and lesabres, buick rendezvous, Devilles, and minivans and some SUV trucklettes like CRVs.

        Sad to see the boats go away bec you KNEW to watch out for the octogenarian with the US NAVY hat in that gorgeous twin tone Lincoln Towncar. They are harder to spot on minivans.

        I met one the other day at the car wash and I complimented him on his car (2 tone white and gold TC). he was all of 80 or 85.

        Caddy does have an option. it is indeed a short wheelbase Escalade RWD which is very popular here.

        Interesting to watch him pull out into traffic.

      • 0 avatar

        Florida geezers are their own subspecies…

  • avatar

    Hopefully there’s a new engine waiting in the wings. Cadillac needs something in between the 3.6 and the supercharged 6.2 V8. Pretty big gap there. I’m guessing it won’t be a V8, which is a shame for the Cadillac brand, but a turbo’d 3.6 would at least allow them to match Ford, and it would probably show up in an Impala some day and a few years after that I could possibly purchase a nice used one.

  • avatar

    This will be a great deal in a few years when the depreciation stick has beaten 50+% out of it. Of course when you see how cheap a DTS is now you know its the same story.

    I can’t comprehend spending the money for one new but used they make a lot of sense if you want a big old sedan.

  • avatar

    sounds like that darn Malibu is the buy!

  • avatar

    Great review as always Mr. Karesh. Seems like the kind of car I’d like. Distinctive and interesting inside and out (much better than ANY German). Great handling. Don’t care much about low end torque, the cars I drive and like usually don’t have any, but they compensate by their handling. Seems to be the case here.

  • avatar
    Volts On Fire

    Being “thick on the ground” in a place like Detroit isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for any product, except maybe a handgun. This is especially true for a purported “luxury” vehicle.

    The XTS is popular there? Great! Nice job, GM – your new fancy Cadillac is right up there on the aspirational scale with meth addicts, abject-yet-also-self-induced poverty and union thugs.

    • 0 avatar

      Wow take one part of a sentence and base your reply on the whole review. Anything about the car itself?
      I would assume it is popular in Detroit because of employee incentives. It isn`t going to be widely seen since it has only been out for what 6 months and will sell probably less than 40K a year. If I went to Marysville Ohio I would expect to see a disproportionate number of Honda Accords – what to guess why?

    • 0 avatar

      “Volts on Fire”:

      Yet another post that ignores the topic at hand to take gratuitous swipes at unions? Really?

      Don’t you get tired of typing them? I guess not, since you admitted in another thread that you know full well your handle is misleading yet use it anyway for propaganda purposes.

      Read more and post less. Or, if that’s beyond your ability, just post less.

  • avatar

    While I am not a fan of the FWD architecture of this car, I think the drivetrain is where it is a real let down. Any luxury car, much less a Cadillac, should have effortless acceleration. I’m not talking about raw 0-60 numbers, but the car should be able to merge itself into traffic without drama or fuss. This was what the Northstar excelled at. No, most buyers never used the engines full performance potential, but I would imagine that even septuagenarians appreciated the quiet, smooth nature of the engine, and the fact they could keep their foot light and still make a right turn into traffic safely. My grandmother’s 02 ES300 is no bahn stormer, but it keeps up with traffic in a dignified, quiet, smooth, and yes, effortless manner. Same thing with my mom’s towncar. While the 3.6 can have some power depending on the application, most of my encounters with the engine have not left me feeling that it had the refinement or low end grunt of the big bore (3.5-3.7 liter) V-6’s of Toyota, Honda, Ford, or even now Hyundai or Chrysler.

    BTW, speaking of Chrysler, where’s the love and comparisons to the 300? While it doesn’t offer as many features as the Caddy, the Chrysler has around a $10k advantage on truedelta even after adjusting for the Cadillacs extra features.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s the features, and the level of the interior materials. I considered mentioning the Chrysler 300 and the Hyundai Genesis, but both are really the next class down. And I’d just driven the E550 :)

    • 0 avatar

      Once again we can partially thank this sort of nonsense on the government and Cafe. They want us to be driving around in under powered smaller vehicles that perform well on the EPA cycle. The 3.6 XTS FWD is rated 18/28 wheres the old DTS could only muster 15/23 with the socially irresponsible Northstar V8. Just wait until the 55 MPG mandate comes into effect. Can you say 3 cylinder gulf cart?

      • 0 avatar

        Preach brother Ponchoman, preach!

        18/28 vs 15/23 wow such improvement. Gee suck-ifing the cars is really paying off isn’t it?

      • 0 avatar

        Amen. I don’t lust for a Jag or a BMW or a Merc with a turbo 4. A nice strong V6 is OK for a midlevel luxo car ( i prefer straight six but oh well ) but america is the land of the V8.

        when you real world drive heavy cars or trucks with small motors you get darn close to the MPG of a bigger motor.

        the difference today seems to be in the transmissions. My 1992 towncar got 26 mpg on the hwy all day long. Not sure what my brother’s DTS gets but i guess 16mpg in traffic and 23 or so like you posted.

      • 0 avatar

        I had a 2000 Taurus (Vulcan) who to my amazement consistently delivered 20/27 on a 65/35 city/hwy mix… hard or soft driving didn’t matter. Now the Vulcan isn’t exactly a major source of torque, horsepower, or fun, but if its essentially besting the GM omg-its-amazing 3.6, somethings wrong with the whole put the medium size engine in the heavy car thing.

        For the record:

        My 3800 does about 19/31+ on the 50/50 city/hwy split (computer says 26.x avg pretty consistently). I’m not sure what the tested conditions were, but assuming they were similar to 50/50 the so called ‘Caddy’ while 500lb heavier, has another 33 lb-ft and almost 100HP more power, and still delivers less mileage.


        2008 Pontiac Grand Prix 205hp @ 5200 rpm, 230 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
        2013 Cadillac XTS 304hp @ 6800 rpm, 264 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm

        2008 Pontiac Grand Prix V6 Curb weight, 3,458 lb
        2013 Cadillac XTS Curb weight, FWD: 3,995 lb, AWD: 4,180 lb

        sources: wikipedia

  • avatar

    I sat in a Platinum XTS at the local auto show here a couple weeks back, and it was one of my favorite cars of the show (I’m 32, BTW). I love the exterior styling, to me, it has presence and is immediately identifiable as a Cadillac. It’s big. Huge trunk, fin tail lights. Then when I sat inside, I thought–as Michael originally did–it had the most comfortable seats of any car I sat in, and the interior quality was the best of any American car I’ve ever been in and at least on par with anything else on the market. Of course I didn’t get a chance to mess with CUE which could ruin it all, but it should serve the traditional Cadillac buyer well. I think most enthusiasts have it all wrong on this car.

  • avatar

    I got to sit in one of these at NAIAS last week. My overall impression was that it was a nice car, but felt nothing like a Cadillac. Sure, the detailing was nice, and the materials seemed to be of good quality, but the car just didn’t strike me as a proper big Caddy. Perhaps the worst thing of all was that while I was sitting inside it, I was listening as several people walked passed it. EVERY ONE OF THEM said. “This is a Cadillac? This ain’t no Cadillac!!! What were they thinking???”

    As much as it pains me to say this, the Lexus LS 460 is what a modern Cadillac should be.

    Oh, and FWIW, the Lincoln MKZ was a heck of a nice car in person, but the sliding roof will take some getting used to…

    • 0 avatar

      “I was sitting inside it, I was listening as several people walked passed it. EVERY ONE OF THEM said. “This is a Cadillac? This ain’t no Cadillac!!! What were they thinking???””


  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I saw one last week at the auto show and yet again “in the wild” yesterday. Much more distinctive in person.

    That said, the E series or A6 are more attractive to me.

    And with appropriate engineering prowess, most people couldn’t tell if it was FWD, AWD or RWD. On a luxury car, it shouldn’t/doesn’t matter.

  • avatar

    It seems that many people complain about the responsiveness of the CUE system. How did you find that?

    • 0 avatar

      I played with it in both the ATS and XTS. I never missed a touch, however there is a half second between touching the screen and the little “bump” that signals the touch has registered. The user needs to become accustomed to entering commands in a certain rhythm. Like a metronome, or how a doctor moves his stethoscope to different locations on your chest after 3 beats. You can’t just mash your hand into the panel. You touch, it bumps, you touch, it bumps. After a while it isn’t any slower, just more deliberate. Luckily the steering wheel contains most of the same functions in hard buttons.

    • 0 avatar

      I had no issues with responsiveness, but maybe I didn’t demand as much from the system as other people do. My main problems involved figuring out what I had to push to get where I wanted, and then the number of taps often needed to get to the next place I wanted to go.

      • 0 avatar

        Well, you’re young. In time you’ll learn exactly what to push to get where you want and how many taps it takes. Then you’ll reach the age where you don’t care.

  • avatar

    The XTS is a really neat car. It gives a nod to traditional Cadillac customers while embracing the ultramodern. I’m in my twenties and I can see myself driving this. My only quibble with the styling is that Cadillac should not have used the corporate GM door-handle-shape, which I have seen on the Sonic, Cruze, Malibu, Verano, Regal, LaCrosse and Impala (2014). A Cadillac deserves something…more.

  • avatar

    Lack of RWD and V8 takes away from the point of this car entirely. Its a flagship Caddy, and for the first time in awhile I’d say I’d rather have an MKS.

    XTS looks awkward too…

  • avatar

    The XTS looks best in black, which somewhat mitigates its odd proportions. Not a bad-looking car, but by no means a $60k one.

    Comparing the XTS to the E-class is pointless, though. The only time a Mercedes driver will sit in one of these is when they get picked up from the airport in one.

  • avatar

    Rather than a comparison to an E550, I’d like to know how you think it stacks up to FWD Cadillacs of the past.

    Would a DTS with an interior makeover really get killed by the XTS?

  • avatar

    Maybe it’s just me, but that exterior red is not matched to a dijon mustard color and two shades of black interior. The screaming heebie-jeebies. Yuck.

    Then there’s the bordello grade dash with no-cost extra bling. Bad taste, well made, too many buttons that have nothing to do with driving. Just the ticket for geriatrics with limited cognitive abilies.

    No mistaking this interior for anything but American design. Sublety, wherefore art thou. Bad taste, c’mon down. It’s a Caddy all right.

  • avatar

    I want to like it, I really do. This article sums up my feelings.

    I want to see a Cadillac that my sensible side agrees with. I remember when the Northstar came out. My father and I went to test drive a STS. I was about 13 years old and I had never been in a car that seemed that nice. The feel of the leather, the softness of the ride, everything seemed ideal to me. Then he dropped the hammer. I had never been in a car capable of moving that fast. It seemed violent, but still smooth and refined. It wasn’t a Mustang or a Corvette, this was a big comfortable car and to me it seemed like it was a rocket ship.

    Prior to that drive, I had known what a Cadillac looked like but I didn’t know what it was. From that point on, Cadillacs became the only cars I cared about. I forged an emotional attachment; one that I still have.

    When I graduated college I was able to buy a late model Eldorado. I’ll always remember my Grandfather’s expression when I showed it to him. Cadillac was the “you made it car” of his generation. Even though it was used, he seemed proud to see his young grandson driving it. That only strengthened my emotional attachment.

    When the Eldorodo’s headgasket developed a the leak of death, I picked up a two year old 5th gen Seville. I am still driving the car today. I have driven a lot of cars that are better in various areas. My parents had a nice LS430 that rode smoother, quieter, had zero problems, better leather, and it moved like hell. They even have an E60 550i that I have spent a lot of time in. The driving dynamics or that car make my Cadillac seem old and sluggish; and still it gets better mileage.

    Even though I know that there are better cars out there, I chase that memory of test driving that early STS. I can use a new car and I have considered every performance sedan under the sun. But no matter what, I have my heart set on another Cadillac.

    The problem is, I know that it would be foolish for me to buy one. I have driven the new ATS, CTS, and XTS. Every car is nice, but none of them are nice for the money. ATS is fun to drive, but as usual GM used shit leather and the interior has clear Chevy influence. The CTS used the same leather and while it handles better than my current Cadillac, the Chevy engine isn’t a replacement for the Northstar. My thoughts on the XTS are exactly the same as the author’s.

    I’ll continue to drive my 5th gen Seville because everything in their lineup would be a poor use of my money. I’m ALMOST willing to blindly purchase a Cadillac. How do they expect to stay competitive when they can’t even sell me on these things?

  • avatar

    “As car enthusiasts, we’re obligated to despise the Cadillac XTS.”

    No not really. I will decide what I despise, thanks. I know you were being tongue-in-cheek, but is that a good way to start a review?

    Disclaimer: I’m a GM fan (or fanboi, as PCH101 described me once), so you can take my opinions with as big a grain of salt as you like. Actually, I’m a fan of other cars too, but that’s not germane here.

    I’ve seen a few of these on the road, they have a presence all their own. I’ll be going to the local car show this week to check these out, even though there’s a snowball’s chance in Hell I’d ever purchase one. I’d be much more likely to go for a CTS (or ATS) before one of these, but they still pique my interest.

    Thanks for the otherwise good review Michael, it must be tough for folks who CAN pull the lever on something like this. So many choices…

  • avatar

    For those curious, here were the December 2012 sales numbers for the XTS and its competition:

    BMW 5-Series: 8,385
    Merc E-Class: 6,984
    Cadillac XTS: 2,939
    Lexus GS: 2,796
    Audi A6: 1,875
    Lincoln MKS: 1,350
    Audi A7: 926
    Infiniti M: 849
    Jaguar XJ: 389
    Volvo S80: 207
    Acura RL: 18

    • 0 avatar

      Jaguar XJ is not a car for this class. It should be Jaguar XF.

      The most surprising about those numbers are Audi.
      Audis are usually at the same level as BMW and MB.

    • 0 avatar

      No surprise here, the BMW is beautifully crafted, has good to very good performance, solid as a vault and can be had for a good price/lease rate. While the styling might be considered bland by some the 5er is tasteful and says “I am confident in my choice, I don’t need your attention.” The E-Class, much the same. Nice to see the XTS doing well in this segment just wish it were rear wheel drive. Oddly the driven wheels probably do not matter to 90% of the buyers.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s a problem -to me- that the LARGEST Cadillac you can buy competes with the MID-SIZE offerings from it’s European competition. This indicates they do not have a full line-up currently.

  • avatar

    “Yet I’m intrigued, and find the car oddly attractive despite an inescapable feeling that I should not.” That kind of is the definition of beauty.

    The review seems to boil down to – if you could take various bits from cars costing $9000.00 more you could build a better car. Tough audience.

    I think you love it but feel guilty and ashamed. – Let it go – let it wash over you – feel the art – -touch the science.

  • avatar

    I give the general points on an interior that seems to be well thought out and free or HARD plastic touch points. As for CUE, I am an IT manager and have never had problems with any of these cyber-tainment systems, (other than the MySync that froze on me.)some are better than others but I see what manufacturers are trying to do. Give me a plus sized CTS and lets call it a day.

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