2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium Collection review: On a mission

2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium

2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium Collection

The 2013 Cadillac XTS has a message and a mission: Cadillac can’t be Cadillac without a big sedan. That’s where its roots and heritage are, and that’s where the XTS is and will be.

Recently Cadillac’s modern offerings have been limited to the mid-sized Cadillac CTS and coupe, wagon and high-performance CTS-V sedan, CTS-V coupe and CTS-V wagon variants thereof, the Cadillac SRX crossover and the huge Cadillac Escalade SUVs.  Its big cars, the STS/SLS and DTS (nee Seville and Deville respectively) had been dated and Cadillac knew it, GM’s premier division dropping the DTS last year, the STS having fell from the lineup after the 2010 model year.

2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium Collection profile

The 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium Collection in profile shows its distinctive almost-fastback styling that also reduces the size of the opening to its large trunk. (click to enlarge image)

Now comes the 2013 Cadillac XTS. The new XTS is Cadillac’s flagship sedan, not only roomy but loaded with technical features, from suspension and drivetrain to the standard equipment CUE infotainment system.

Placing the 2013 in the class spectrum is a little more difficult than usual, however. It’s sized more like a full-size BMW 7-Series or Audi A8 but priced more like a 5-Series or A6.

At 202-inches long, the new XTS is actually longer than the big Audi and Bimmer. The overall length of the Caddy is 220 inches while the Audi A8 measures in at 117.8 inches and the BMW 7-Series at 120.9. On the other hand, wheelbases are 117.8 inches for the Audi, 120.9 for the BMW 7-series but only 111.7 for the XTS.

2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium Collection interior

The 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium Collection interior is distinctive and classy without relying on gimmicks. (click to enlarge image)

However, a telling measurement of interior space is rear legroom, and despite the shorter wheelbase—typically a predictor of interior room—the Cadillac trumps the two Germans, with 40.0 inches versus 38.7 inches for both the Audi and BMW.

The Cadillac is priced more like the BMW 5-Series and Audi A6, with the base Audi priced lower than the $44,995 XTS base “standard” model and the BMW higher. But instead of a turbocharged 2.0-liter four, the Cadillac starts with a 3.6-liter V-6. On the other hand, that’s the only engine offered in the Cadillac, while the Audi and BMW have options. Yet on yet another hand, the Cadillac is a new model now with certainly more is to come.

Of course, while size matters, competing with the established luxury brands, it’s quality that’s the key. And that’s how the Cadillac XTS will be judged: whether it has sufficient quality and content to compete. In that way, odd enough to say, it’s like Hyundai taking on Toyota and Honda, matching quality against quality but with a lower price. It’s a strange world we live in, Master Jack.

2013 Cadillac XTS instrument panel

One of the three instrument panel configurations resettable on the 2013 Cadillac XTS. (click on image to enlarge)

Cadillac is putting some of its technology out where it can be seen. The XTS has a 12.3-inch“reconfigurable instrument cluster.” That’s a full-color representation of an analog instrument panel, with speedometer and tachometer and other gauges presented in several layouts, depending on the driver’s preferences and capacity and desire for information.

Then there’s CUE, the division’s acronym for Cadillac User Experience. This standard system is focused around a standard eight-inch screen in the center stack. It doesn’t have a toggle or knob or other controller, as with Audi’s MMI or BMW’s iDrive, relying primarily on touchscreen controls. The buttons and controls, however, are “haptic”, which is a fancy word meaning that the user gets tactile feedback—there’s a tiny pulse, or click—when a button on the screen is pushed.

The screen also has proximity sensors. A wave of the hand near the screen is all that’s required to bring the main screen back. The “wave” element is good because it means one less need for accuracy in touch…because there is no touch. CUE works well, well enough that it seems almost unremarkable, the old “so good he makes it look easy” cliché.

2013 Cadillac XTS. CUE screen

The screen for CUE system in the 2013 Cadillac XTS has large easy-to-read and touch “buttons” with haptic feedback. (click to enlarge image)

CUE’s voice recognition for audio and navigation functioned well, the latter particularly impressive for finding a destination by name while we were driving. Our only complaint was that the voice lady took too long in re-explaining every time we just wanted to go ahead and do something, or worse, giving us a lecture on how the system works if she thinks we made too many mistakes. But we think she was toying with us one time when she refused to understand “Sixties on Six” for radio tuning.

In addition to the screen, the Cadillac XTS has other touch surfaces including a slide audio volume control and a “button” to open the glove box on piano black surfaces of the centerstack.

Beyond the gizmos, the interior is all leather and stitching and soft touch except where it needs to be hard. It’s simply classy and attractive without being gimmicky or overdone. Kudos to the Cadillac interior design team.