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Auto review: Cadillac XTS luxury sedan has elegant lines, comfortable ride

By Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press –

The stylish, technically advanced and roomy 2013 Cadillac XTS Platinum AWD luxury sedan is trying to roll a tricky 7-10 split by simultaneously appealing to the brand’s longtime customers and attracting new buyers looking for a large luxury sedan.

The 202-inch-long XTS straddles the line between midsize sport sedans like the Audi A6 or BMW 5-series and large luxury sedans such as the Audi A8 and BMW 7-series.

(PHOTO: The 2013 Cadillac XTS is less expensive than its luxury-sedan competitors from BMW, Audi and Lexus.)

XTS prices start at $44,075 for a front-wheel drive model. All XTS models come with a 304-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 and six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive models start at $50,915.

I tested a loaded XTS Platinum AWD that stickered at $60,385. All prices exclude destination charges. I logged about 1,100 miles on a route that stretched from a snaky Appalachian Mountains road in Georgia to interstate highways and cities.

I enjoyed it thoroughly. The XTS’s handling is less involving than midsize sport sedans like the A6, 5-series, and Lexus GS, but trumps them with room, comfort and advanced features.

The XTS has considerably more passenger and luggage room than any midsize sport sedan. Its accommodations are in the same ballpark as large luxury sedans like the A8, 7-series, Lexus LS, and Mercedes S-class, but the XTS costs far less than those cars.

For instance, the 202-inch long XTS is 8.1 inches longer than the A6, and just 0.2-inch shorter than the A8.

This poses a bit of a quandary: Are buyers of large luxury sedans interested in a bargain? If so, Cadillac could benefit from some defections. If they’re buying bragging rights as much as they are features and comfort, the XTS’s lower price could work against it.

The XTS’s most direct competitor in size and price is the Lincoln MKS sedan. The XTS’s exterior design, with long horizontal lines and a lower roof, give the Cadillac a more elegant profile than the chunkier Lincoln. The MKS offers more interior and trunk space than the XTS. The XTS’s handling is nimbler than the heavier MKS.

While the XTS is not a sport sedan — its 60/40 weight distribution becomes apparent in hard cornering — it’s quick and maneuverable. The automatic suspension quickly and seamlessly adapts to rough road surfaces for a smooth, comfortable ride. The steering has good on-center feel and responds quickly and predictably.

The radar-based forward-collision alert is unobtrusive and effective. The lane-departure warning could use variable settings. It went off too often for my taste in highway driving. I turned it off about an hour into an 800-mile trip. The blind-spot alert works well.

All those safety systems — and front and rear object detection when parking — alert the driver of potential trouble primarily by shaking the seat cushions, via a haptic system, the same technology that vibrates your cell phone.

For instance, if you’re in danger of backing into something, the rear of the cushion pulses. Different parts of the cushion move depending on where the threat is.

The system is very intuitive and less distracting than the audible alerts many vehicles use.

A similar haptic system provides excellent feedback from controls in the center stack and touch screen. There are no physical buttons to push for volume, temperature, fan speed, etc. but when you touch the icon, the surface of the panel vibrates to let you know you found the right spot.

This system also proved intuitive and easy to master. It’s superior to the feedback-impoverished MyFord and MyLincoln Touch systems that have come in for so much criticism.

Cadillac calls the system CUE, which is short for Cadillac User Experience. CUE also includes excellent voice recognition for hands-free phone calls, programming destinations into the nav system and more. The combination of haptic feedback, excellent voice recognition and steering wheel controls is the best, simplest and easiest to master among leading luxury brands.

The XTS I tested had a roomy and luxurious interior. Leather covered virtually every surface, while black wood, restrained brightwork and a suede-like headliner provided visual accents.

Front and rear passenger room are excellent, as is the space in the 18-cubic-foot trunk. The glovebox location of the single-disc CD player is inconvenient for the driver.

The XTS AWD’s EPA fuel economy rating of 17 m.p.g. in the city, 26 on the highway and 20 combined trails the most fuel-efficient big sedans — the AWD MKS, the diesel Mercedes E350 Bluetec 4Matic, and the 2013 Audi A8 3.0T Quattro. It also trails the smaller sport sedans.

However, the Cadillac runs on regular gasoline, while its foreign competitors require more expensive premium. That means it should cost less to fuel than the A8 3.0T. The Cadillac’s EPA rating beats the AWD BMW 750i xDrive and Lexus LS 460.

The XTS may be a ‘tweener in terms of size and price, but it’s a winner when it comes to features, comfort and value.

———

2013 CADILLAC XTS AWD PLATINUM

All-wheel drive five-passenger full-size luxury sedan

Price as tested: $60,385 (excluding destination charge)

Rating: Three out of four stars

Reasons to buy: Features, comfort, passenger and luggage room, value

Shortcomings: Handling, location of CD player, lane-departure alert not adjustable

More Details: Cadillac XTS at a glance

Vehicle type: Front- or all-wheel drive five-passenger luxury sedan

Power: 304-horsepower 3.6-liter V6

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Price range: $44,075-$60,385 (excluding options and destination charges)

Price as tested: $60,385 (excluding destination charge)

Safety equipment: Antilock brakes; stability control; brake assist; curtain air bags; front-seat side air bags; front knee air bags; high-intensity headlights; twilight-sensing lights; one-year OnStar service; adaptive forward lights; front and rear parking assist; rearview backup camera; collision, lane-departure, blind-spot alerts; theft deterrent system

Specifications as tested:

Engine: 3.6-liter direct-injection DOHC variable timing 24-valve V6.

Power: 304 horsepower at 6,800 r.p.m.; 264 pound-feet of torque at 5,200 r.p.m.

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

EPA fuel economy rating: 17 m.p.g. city/26 highway/20 combined. Regular fuel.

Dimensions:

Wheelbase: 111.7 inches

Length: 202.0 inches

Width: 72.9 inches

Height: 59.4 inches

Curb weight: 4,215 pounds

Where assembled: Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

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