2016 Cadillac XTS Rental Review

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth
2016 cadillac xts rental review

Stress and nervous tension are now serious social problems in all parts of the Galaxy, and it is in order that this situation should not be in any way exacerbated that the following facts will now be revealed in advance.

Douglas Adams, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

The Cadillac XTS is a good car.

Those who wish to know why I feel this to be true, or to shout angrily at me in the comments, may feel free to click the “Read More” button now.

It’s no secret to any Friends of Bark (whom shall now be referred to as FOB) that, when it comes to picking rental cars, I dig the Chevy Impala. It’s powerful enough to break the front tires loose in just about any situation, and large enough to legally carry three to four adult colleagues (or illegally transport six adults across the border into Canada, but I don’t recommend doing that).

However, the Impala’s stablemate, the Buick LaCrosse, has always felt just a bit … meh. Perhaps there’s no rationale for me to prefer the Impala over the LaCrosse (other than sticker price), but I just feel like the Impala has more presence; more testosterone. The exhaust note of the Impala alone is reason enough for me to stroll past the Buick parked in the Emerald Aisle on my way to throw my bags into my (rental car agency) homie’s Impala.

But when I saw a National employee returning a brand-new 2016 Cadillac XTS to the lot, still dripping water and soap droplets from the car wash, I viewed is as my opportunity to complete my experience of driving the General’s Epsilon II triumvirate.

The XTS is refreshed for 2016, featuring a new grille, wireless charging, and Surround Vision, which Cadillac describes as “a four-camera system that displays a bird’s eye view of the XTS to assist when maneuvering in and out of tight spots.” I describe it as “a system that makes deafening noises that scare the shit out of you while you’re parking.” I hope there’s a way to turn it off; I didn’t discover one.

The biggest update to the XTS for the new model year is Apple’s marvelous CarPlay. I’ve always enjoyed using CarPlay in the Impala and LaCrosse because it simply works the way that it’s supposed to. Well, at least it does in the Impala and the LaCrosse. With the XTS, however, CarPlay has the misfortune of being paired with CUE, which meant that it caused my phone to freeze up with frustrating regularity, failed to display my Spotify playlists, and often went silent when giving instructions. Oh, CUE. You’re still awful.

My particular XTS rental was of the front-wheel-drive “Luxury” trim variety, which is above “Standard” but below “Premium” and “Platinum,” and stickers for $51,240 in Crystal White Tricoat paint. All XTS models come with front Brembo calipers and Magnetic Ride Control, and it was in the performance of these two components that the XTS began to show why it just might be worth the price premium over its fellow GM triplets.

The XTS is still remarkably quick for a car of its considerable girth, with enough power to spin the front wheels at launch in any weather condition. It was more than enough to gain the attention of Dunwoody’s finest when I combined the power from the GM 3.6-liter V-6 with the XTS’ responsive suspension and strong stopping power. I had a squad car following me for about five turns until he finally gave up and moved along, giving me a surprised glance as he passed by. I don’t think the officer was expecting to see a thirty-something behind the wheel of Caddy’s luxobarge.

But behind the wheel isn’t a bad place to be. In fact, it can be downright nice. The Luxury trim means a standard heating steering wheel, as well as heated and cooled seats. The wheel has electric telescoping and height adjustment, although I didn’t like the tilt of the wheel — felt too much like driving a school bus. The support from the seats is more than adequate, even for spirited driving. My 5-foot-9-inch, 170 pound frame fits well in every car, so I tossed the keys to two different colleagues this week to get their opinions.

First up was Michelle, a 5-foot-nothing, 95-pound former Pac-12 cheerleader in her early 30s, who borrowed the XTS to go shopping at the mall. “I didn’t think I’d really like it,” she told me after taking it for a spin. “But it’s actually a nice car. It’s faster than I need it to be, and the trunk was huge!”

Next was Mo, a 6-foot, 240-pound former Marine who daily drives an Impala. “It’s really nice to drive. I like how it handles, but I don’t think I’d want to drive something that big.” When I told him that it was essentially the same size as his Impala, he was surprised. “It feels and drives bigger than that.”

Both of them were correct. The XTS is a really nice car to drive, but it does feel surprisingly big on the roads. I couldn’t find a mirror position that I liked, and the blind spots were fairly massive on the driver’s side. The lack of a standard sunroof in a $50,000 car is bizarre and it makes the cabin feel dark and much smaller than it is. But the rear seat!

Oh, the rear seat is glorious. It’s big enough to fit three adults comfortably, and will even warm their rumps as standard (one colleague remarked, “Warm asses aren’t just for adults anymore!”). There’s no road trip too long and no linebackers too big for this bench seat. One could happily throw a black hat to a friend and cruise in luxury in the back; only a bottle of Grey Poupon would be needed to make it perfect.

This Cadillac is a car stuck between generations. Intended to be a one-generation, large-car bridge to the CT6, it still seems to be the most Cadillac-ish car that GM offers for sale in 2016. Cadillac might want a younger demographic and a sportier image, but the XTS isn’t a bad car for what Cadillac’s image actually is. When the XTS dies by the 2019 model year, the over 20,000 annual XTS buyers (it outsold the CTS in 2015, as well as competitors from Audi and Lexus) might be stuck without a suitable replacement. Good luck convincing a lifelong Caddy man to buy a Buick. Where are they going to go? Acura? Audi? Hyundai? Lexus? Toyota? As long as there are bluehairs in Florida, there should be a big, front-wheel-drive Cadillac.

The XTS isn’t going to win many comparo tests with the new E-Class, nor is it going to give many journos cause to celebrate it. Doesn’t matter. The XTS fits a niche for GM, and it does it correctly. Sure, the price is steep, but the demographic that’s buying it wouldn’t want it to be any cheaper, lest it lose some of its panache at the club. Could it use a V-8? Sure. Does it need one? No, I don’t believe it does. The naturally-aspirated V6 provides 306 horsepower and 252 lbs-ft of torque, which is more oomph than any of this car’s target audience needs and more than most of its competitors.

As I said to kick this thing off, the XTS is a good car. It’s not great. It’s not terrible. And in this world of “Sucks or Rocks,” that doesn’t make for a much of a Hot Automotive Take that internet readers like so much. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist. So before I dropped it off, I took the XTS to the most XTS-ish place I could think of: the original “Dwarf House” Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Atlanta.

Atlanta is all about Low and Slow. Sure, there’s the exotic car scene up in Buckhead, but the city as a whole prefers the days of the Brougham. This XTS has much of that old, great Cadillac DNA. When I drove it up to the Dwarf House, I got more attention than I could have imagined. The patrons nodded their appreciation at the styling cues that differentiate the XTS from the LaCrosse — the fin-shaped taillights, the polished rims — and one or two asked if they could hop in the photo with the car. To them, this, and not the ATS-V or SRX, is a Cadillac.

I think they’re right.

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2 of 164 comments
  • Wodehouse Wodehouse on Jan 27, 2016

    That wimpy V-Sport style grille and terrible instrument panel (in both standard and reconfigurable versions) are unforgivable. It's an oddball of a car that I, otherwise, love. Tons more style and presence than the Acura RLX and Kia K9. It's the only Cadillac sedan that has its own look now that the ATS, CTS, and CT6 have the generic, 13.7 shades of grey, middle management sedan look. Volvo's new S80 is now the one I'd choose in this segment, though.

  • Jerseydevil200 Jerseydevil200 on Jan 29, 2016

    Been driving one for work. I agree, its a really nice car. Pros: Really comfortable long distance cruiser. Power seats are awesome, its very easy to find many comfortable driving positions. I especially like the power headrest. It actually fits me. While its not a sports sedan, it is quick, responsive and pleasant to drive. Feels alot like the BMW 5 series, only bigger. Soaks up bumps like crazy, very quiet and peaceful cabin. Excellent Bose sound system. The CUE system is a little weird, but took way less time to figure then Excel, so I'm good. Back seat is really comfortable. I've been it as well, You can fall asleep. Trunk is huge. Cons: Not a really attractive design. KInda bulbous and looks like its dancing on its toes. -The tilt and telescoping steering wheel does not move down far enough. -the dash lights could dim further, its a little glarey at night, especially the backlit controls on the steering wheel. -The transmission hunts occasionally. Not a big deal, but it can be unnerving. So I am pleased. Been very reliable. It will be replaced soon with a new one, I'm looking forward to it. Would I buy one for myself? If I needed a cruiser, considering the competition, I would definitely consider it. One year old used, these cars depreciate like crazy, probably a good deal.

  • Bader Hi I want the driver side lights including the bazl and signal
  • Theflyersfan One positive: doesn't appear to have a sunroof. So you won't need to keep paper towels in the car.But there's a serious question to ask this seller - he has less than 40,000 miles on some major engine work, and the transmission and clutch work and mods are less than 2 months old...why are you selling? That's some serious money in upgrades and repairs, knowing that the odds of getting it back at the time of sale is going to be close to nil. This applies to most cars and it needs to be broadcasted - these kinds of upgrades and mods are really just for the current owner. At the time of sale, a lot of buyers will hit pause or just won't pay for the work you've done. Something just doesn't sit well with me and this car. It could be a snowbelt beast and help save the manuals and all that, but a six year old VW with over 100,000 miles normally equals gremlins and electrical issues too numerous to list. Plus rust in New England. I like it, but I'd have to look for a crack pipe somewhere if the seller thinks he's selling at that price.
  • 2ACL I can't help feeling that baby is a gross misnomer for a vehicle which the owner's use necessitated a (manual!) transmission rebuild at 80,000 miles. An expensive lesson in diminishing returns I wouldn't recommend to anyone I know.
  • El scotto Rumbling through my pantry and looking for the box of sheets of aluminum foil. More alt right comments than actual comments on international trade policy. Also a great deal of ignorance about the global oil industry. I'm a geophysicist and I pay attention such things. Best of all we got to watch Tassos go FULL BOT on us.
  • El scotto No one and I mean no one on here is a UAW member or a salaried employee of the Big 3. Then again if someone identified themselves on here they would pilloried every time they posted.The comments on here are like listening to the overgrown children who call into sports radio shows.