2014 Cadillac XTS Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Hot Vsport model added to line of full-size luxury cars.
The Cadillac XTS sedan was a new model for 2013, continuing to bring the marque up to the times with sexy shapes replacing cars with designs from the '90s such as the STS and DTS. The styling is bold, consistent with recent Cadillac direction, but not edgy. The Cadillac XTS is roomy and refined, with high-quality interior materials as one expects from Cadillac, and high-tech features such as a configurable electronic TFT (thin-film transistor) instrument cluster.
The basic structure of the Cadillac XTS was originally developed by Opel (that's a good thing) and is also used for the Buick LaCrosse. The base engine is GM's well-liked 3.6-liter V6, mated to a smooth and proven 6-speed automatic transmission. However, new for 2014 is the XTS Vsport, a twin-turbo version of that V6, making 410 silky horsepower with standard all-wheel drive.
We got nine sweet days in the car, and loved the seat time except for some electronic things. Not only the powertrain, but the ride and handling matches that of any European car, and it wasn't too long ago that you could never have said that. The looks, as well. BMWs seem to have lost their distinction, but not this Cadillac. Price-wise, it slots beneath comparable models from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Lexus, and even Hyundai, making it a compelling value.
The standard 3.6-liter V6 delivers 305 horsepower and 264 pound-feet of torque at a high 5200 rpm. The Vsport engine is a fast and wonderfully silky twin-turbo V6 making 410 horsepower and 369 pound-feet at a low 1900 rpm, for only a couple miles per gallon less than the EPA-estimated 17/28 in the base model. However, the Vsport requires Premium gasoline because of the engine's higher compression ratio.
The 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters is seamless and obedient. The ride and handling in the base front-wheel-drive XTS is stable and composed. The Vsport gets all-wheel drive and a beefed-up and tuned suspension, and it corners with stability until it's pushed really hard.
Cadillac XTS comes standard with CUE, an acronym for Cadillac User Experience. The system features a large touchscreen and uses proximity sensors and voice recognition to control phone, audio and navigation functions. Like similar systems on other cars, we can't find anyone except the manufacturer who says it's easy. In addition to our nine days in the car, there was an event where 25 Northwest journalists drove the same XTS for about 30 minutes each, and we didn't hear any raving, not that they had time to mess with CUE.
New features for 2014 include standard electric power steering on front-wheel-drive models, available automatic parking assist also on FWD, Intellibeam headlamps that dim automatically, a rear seat entertainment system, front passenger memory seat, and opaque sunroof sunshade.
Cadillac XTS comes standard with a 3.6-liter engine, 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is available. XTS comes in four trim levels, with all-wheel drive available. The XTS Vsport, with a 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6, 6-speed, and all-wheel drive, comes in two trim levels.
Cadillac XTS ($44,600) comes standard with leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, CUE touchscreen interface with Bluetooth phone capability and USB ports, Bose audio with CD player and HD radio, 60/40 split folding rear seats, keyless remote entry/ignition, analog instrument cluster, wood interior trim, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel with wood trim, rear parking sensors, HID headlamps, magnetic ride control, 19-inch wheels, and Brembo brakes.
XTS Luxury ($49,510) and XTS Luxury AWD ($51,315) add a dual integrated exhaust, rearview camera, front parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, illuminated exterior door handles, cargo net, memory functions, heated steering wheel, wood shift lever, heated/ventilated front seats, adjustable front-seat thigh bolster, heated rear seats, additional wood interior trim and interior ambient lighting. Options include a sunroof, compact spare tire ($350), navigation with voice recognition ($795). The Driver Awareness Package ($890) includes a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning and forward collision alert.
XTS Premium ($54,455) and XTS Premium AWD ($56,260) comes with the Driver Awareness Package, a reconfigurable digital instrument cluster, head-up display, three-zone climate control, a 110-volt power outlet and an upgraded Bose Surround system with CD player and navigation. Options include 20-inch wheels, a sunroof ($1,450), rear sunshades ($250) and a Driver Assist Package, which bundles active safety features including adaptive cruise control, front and rear automatic braking and automatic collision preparation.
XTS Platinum ($61,750) and XTS Platinum AWD ($63,555) get a unique grille and 20-inch wheels, sunroof, rear sunshades, upgraded leather upholstery, leather-covered dash and doors, microfiber suede headliner, premium floor mats, unique wood trim, and the Driver Assist Package.
The XTS Vsport comes in Premium ($62,095) and Platinum ($69,095) trim levels.
Safety features on all models include brake assist, stability and traction control, front-seat knee airbags and rear thorax air bags. The optional Driver Awareness Package and Driver Assist Package add safety features that can help a driver avoid or reduce the severity of a crash. The optional rearview camera can help the driver spot a child behind the car when backing up. Optional all-wheel drive can improve handling stability in slippery conditions.
The Cadillac XTS is really a beautiful car, with its elegant wedge shape and crisp lines that race from front to rear. It's distinctly Cadillac, but softer than other Caddies, for example the slightly smaller CTS. It comes across as more sleek, with fewer creases and angles. The headlamps stretch back a bit more, and the grille is more refined and less edgy.
The rear end is tidy and lifted, with signature Cadillac vertical taillamps that aren't too busy. All models above the base trim have a dual exhaust integrated into the clean rear fascia.
Still, the XTS has plenty of bling, with tons of chrome in the grille and around the windows, doors and deck lid. Paired with its Cadillac badge, the face of the XTS is unmistakable as a Cadillac in a rearview mirror.
Because the Cadillac XTS was a new model in 2013, there aren't many changes in 2014, however the interior gets some additions to options: memory for the front passenger seat, a rear seat entertainment system, an opaque shade for the sunroof; automatic parking assist that parks for you, and Intellibeam headlamps that dim and brighten automatically (Adaptive Forward Lighting). Cadillac invented this in 1952, only then they called it the Autronic Eye, a teardrop-shaped thing the size of a fist that rode on the dashboard like a little backwards mirror. More than 60 years later, Intellibeam works better than Autronic Eye, but not much.
On the freeway, our Intellibeam was nice when it was right, but much of the time it was on low-beam when it should have been high. It got confused a lot (we are wary of those things called intelligent). So you can't relax and forget about it. You have to stay attentive and override it, or you'll be on low beams when high is safer. Is half the time is better than none? We found it too slow to switch to high beams when more light was needed. We preferred to switch the system off.
More important, what has come a long way in six decades is the quality of the headlamps' beam. The high-intensity headlamps on our XTS Vsport Premium provided a broad and bright beam on the dark winding Oregon freeway through a forest full of deer. Once on this freeway we even saw an elk. You wouldn't want to hit one at 70 mph, not even in a Cadillac.
Our XTS was equipped with the Driver Assist Package, including adaptive cruise control, automatic collision preparation, and front and rear automatic braking. Automatic braking is another one you need to watch out for.
Speaking of watch out, our Cadillac buzzed us through the seat a lot, reminding us to watch out; left side for something on the left, right side for the right. In the old days, when they talked about driving by the seat of your pants, this is not what they meant. In the XTS, the Safety Alert Seat tells you when you should watch out changing lanes, or shouldn't back up any farther, or shouldn't drive forward any farther. During our days in the car, we probably got buzzed 50 times. Once, it was useful, when we parking with the nose against a curb; the other 49 times were false alarms. But even when we liked it telling us when the tires were about to contact the curb, other times it didn't warn us, and the tires did contact the curb. So such warnings are only useful if they're consistent, and accurate. Mercifully, you can turn it off.
The XTS is the biggest Cadillac, with a superb 40 inches of rear legroom, about 4 more inches than the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class sedan, and 2 more inches than the Audi A6. The trunk is massive, with 18 cubic feet, more than the larger BMW 7 Series, Mercedes S-Class sedan, and Audi A8. The rear seats also split 60/40, making room for even more cargo. No need to borrow a pickup truck for moving.
The interior materials are of a high quality, as should be expected of a $65,000 car. The supple front bucket seats make each occupant feel like they're in their own space, with good cubbies and armrests. Because of longish seat cushions, short people (under 5-foot, 5-inches) might find that their legs don't bend over the edge, but then, it's a common problem, as big luxury cars aren't designed for small people. The seatbacks are fairly wide, but bolstering is good enough that you don't slide around.
On base and Luxury models, an analog instrument cluster with electronic driver information center sits in front of the driver. On Premium and Platinum trims, a re-configurable TFT (thin-film transistor) display comes standard. The full-color display allows the driver to select from a variety of layouts that show various driver functions and other information. It is both novel and useful, but those who prefer a good old-fashioned needle are relegated to the lower trims. We loved the head-up display on our Premium, both adjustable for height and programmable for specific information.
At the heart of the XTS cabin is the CUE system with its 8-inch touchscreen. While past Cadillac models were fraught with an overwhelming number of buttons on the center stack, CUE cuts down the number of controls to a handful. CUE operates phone and audio options, and uses voice recognition on models equipped with navigation. Some features worked for us, some were too confusing so we gave up, rather than risk running off the road from the distraction of the mental puzzle requiring our eyes, concentration and hands.
CUE's home menu is configurable. It uses proximity sensing; when your hand is nearby, it automatically brings up menu options related to the current function on the screen. If you don't want those options, too bad. There's always a way to get what you want, the issue is learning that way, let alone liking it.
We also got some seat time in an XTS Platinum with navigation and voice activation. Unlike so many, CUE does a good job with voice recognition; it can correctly identify difficult names from an address book, although it will most likely butcher the pronunciation when repeating it back to you.
There are CUE curiosities. The climate control uses physical buttons for temperature and fan, but to change the vent mode, you have to go into the CUE menu. And fingerprints stick more to the glossy screen than other touch screens; the screen also glares more, which might be why the opaque sunroof screen was added to the 2014 model, and why the XTS comes with a microfiber cleaning cloth.
Cadillac XTS comes standard with a normally aspirated 3.6-liter V6 making 305 horsepower. Fuel mileage for the XTS is an EPA-estimated 17/28 mpg City/Highway.
We found it stable and composed when driven gently, even on canyon roads when in Sport mode. Standard Magnetic Ride Control manages the weight of the 4,006-pound XTS masterfully, and provides firm yet comfortable support, with very little if any body roll around corners. The cabin is quiet, with wind and road noise scarcely detectable. Steering is responsive, with a satisfying feel that isn't too light or weighty. The front-wheel drive has a new electric power steering system, while the all-wheel drive uses hydraulic.
The big front Brembo brakes were solid and confidence-inspiring. In fact, the faster Vsport uses the same brakes.
Cadillac XTS Vsport features a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V6 strengthened and upgraded to handle its 410 horsepower. Yet it gets an EPA rating of 19 mpg Combined city and highway. It's fantastic. It blows away any need for a V8. It doesn't rumble like a V8, that's what dinosaurs do, such as the 6.2-liter V8 that's in the Cadillac CTS-V. The V6 in the XTS Vsport sounds like silk, while zooming to a quarter-mile time of 13.6 seconds. Using all of its 369 foot-pounds of torque every inch of the way, as maximum torque is available from 1900 to 5600 rpm.
We had one fantastic 140-mile round-trip run in the Vsport, over a remote and fast two-lane with two great sets of rolling curves. Our seat time was memorable, for the silky yet eye-popping acceleration, and the smooth ride. And our appreciation of the head-up display at dusk, when the road needed our full concentration.
The Vsport's 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters worked seamlessly and obediently. The suspension is beefed up and tuned, and all-wheel drive is added, so that improves the cornering a lot. It's a large car, however, and the chassis is challenged on bumpy curves when driven like a sports sedan. Like an Audi, the XTS is built on front-wheel drive architecture, so it's never going to feel like a BMW.
The shapely Cadillac XTS holds its own and then some against its luxury competitors, namely BMW, Mercedes and Audi. Go for the Vsport and get an incredible engine to go with the car's smooth 6-speed automatic transmission and steady ride. Big rear legroom and cargo space, with optional rear seat entertainment, make it a superb family road trip car.
Cadillac XTS ($44,600); Luxury ($49,510), Luxury AWD ($51,315); Premium ($54,455), Premium AWD ($56,260); Platinum ($61,750), Platinum AWD ($63,555), Vsport Premium ($62,095), Vsport Platinum ($69,095).
Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.
Options As Tested
Driver Assist Package ($2395), including adaptive cruise control, automatic collision preparation, front and rear automatic braking.
Cadillac XTS Vsport Premium ($62,095).
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