Once billed as “the Standard of the World”, Cadillac stood for years as the leading premium luxury car of the Americas.
Yes, there were the Lincoln Marks and even the Chrysler Imperial, but the Cadillac said it all without a word being spoken.
We all know Cadillac fell off the track starting in the 1970s with occasional flashes of brilliance such as the STS, but basically, the brand withered as GM got smothered in bloated leadership and badge engineering.
That started to turn around with the CTS, followed last year by the ATS sports sedans which all North America’s true professional auto writers picked as their car of the year.
One part of the Caddy puzzle was missing and that was a flagship model.
The de Ville and then the DTS were loaded with luxury but, nonetheless, lagged increasingly behind the Germans and the Japanese.
That has changed with the 2013 XTS full-size sedan with CTS-DNA influenced styling and amenities plus leading edge technology throughout.
The XTS is available in front- and all-wheel-drive. In the AWD version, there is an electronic limited slip differential that allows for what is being called “torque vectoring.” What it does is shift torque back and forth across the rear axle to send power to the wheel with the most grip, ensuring a more planted feeling especially in corners.
Front drive is only available on the entry-level model with FWD/AWD drive available on the other three (Luxury Collection, Premium Collection and Platinum Collection).
Tested here is the Premium AWD model that starts at $59,000. With $3,055 in options, notably $1,295 for the White Diamond Tricoat paint and $1,660 for the roof length power sunroof/sun shade, the tab was $63,670 including a $1,595 shipping fee.
Power is GM’s ubiquitous 3.6-litre quad cam direct injection V6 producing 304 hp and 264 lb/ft of torque. Fuel consumption is rated at 12.1/7.7/9.9 L/100 km city/highway/combined for the FWD and 12.5/7.7/10.3 for the AWD.
This is the first topline Cadillac not to come with a V8. The outgoing DTS used the aging 4.6-litre Northstar that put out 292 hp and 288 lb/ft of torque. So while it gives up 24 lb/ft of torque the V6 has more power and, crucially, better fuel economy aided by the electronic six-speed automatic in the XTS compared to the four-speed in the DTS.
Suspension is four-wheel independent with a “HiPer Strut” MacPherson-based system at the front and H-Arm rear with self-levelling shocks.
GM’s Magnetic Ride Control is standard on all trim levels and it electronically senses the ride and road conditions to automatically adjust damping every five milliseconds.
Braking is by discs at all four corners with the fronts equipped with Brembo calipers to give more positive stopping power to the XTS that weighs in at two tons. These discs have auto dry technology that ever so lightly applies the brakes when necessary to burn off excess moisture.
The trunk is so big I would have needed an extra flash or two to illuminate it because it goes back so far for no less than 509 litres or 18.0 cu ft.
Towing is restricted to 454 kg (1,000 lb).
Driving the XTS Premium AWD was restricted because of a spring ice/snow storm in my area, so I just left the car in the garage for three of the seven days I had it.
However when I did venture out, I could not feel the AWD working although I’m sure it was going overtime.
On the highway, it was very stable as you would expect, but when I took back roads that had the remains of last year’s gravel, the ABS and traction control plus the stability control would slow the XTS in spots where there was just mud and then have to switch on patches of gravel.
At times the XTS wanted to steer to the right because that’s where the AWD sensed the most traction was, while the stability control wanted to go straight. I was never in danger of losing traction, but it was intriguing to actually feel both systems are work.
The Premium and Platinum are both equipped with GM’s Safety Alert Seat that gives you a little rumble in the seat cushion when cameras/sensors on the XTS detect a problem.
One example is when you cross a lane, the cameras see the dotted or solid line and give you a pulsing nudge. This can be turned off by a switch on the centre instrument stack. The seat also does its thing with blind spot alert and rear cross traffic alert.
Even in my garage with a wall on the right and a car on the left, the seat, in concert with a very large and vivid depiction on the main gauge cluster driver info screen, let me know exactly how close I was to obstacles.
Also part of this impressive system is adaptive cruise control that uses radar to let the drive set a desired distance ahead. If a vehicle inside that range is going slower, the XTS will slow or, if necessary come to a stop.
Another part of this is Forward Collision Control that senses when a crash may be imminent and alerts the driver with a droning rumble to the seat and massive red alert on the main instrument screen.
This screen is like that on a laptop and can be configured by the driver to present a wealth of information through four differed modes – Enhanced (fuel, range, temp, tire pressures, etc.), Balanced (normal speedo, tach, fuel level temp), Simple (speed, range, tire pressure) and Performance.
This is just part of the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) that blends entertainment, connectivity and communications into one system.
It allows pairing with up to 10 smartphones; listening to text messages and responding while driving and storing up to 60 pre-sets such as phone numbers, points of interest and radio favourites.
Along with the ATS, this is the car Cadillac has needed for long time.
It provides a true North American full-size luxury car that finally comes up to quality levels of its offshore competitors.
Cadillac XTS Premium AWD 2013
Body Style: Full-size five-passenger luxury sedan
Drive Method: All-wheel drive
Engine: 3.6-litre DOHC V6 (304 hp, 264 lb/ft of torque).
Cargo: 509 litres (18.0 cu ft)
Tow Rating: 454 kg (1,000 lb)
Fuel Economy: 12.5/7.7/10.3 city/highway/combined
Price: $59,000; as tested, $63,670 including $1,595 shipping fee
Web Site: www.cadillac.gm.ca