Having been overtaken by the established European and upstart Japanese luxury brands in terms of sales and prestige, Cadillac is in the midst of yet another makeover as it attempts to reclaim some of its past glory.
In the past few months, General Motors' luxury division has announced that it is moving its headquarters to New York from Detroit, renaming every model in the lineup and developing a new full-size rear-drive flagship model. Until the CT6 arrives, as the newcomer is to be called, the XTS remains the flagship of the Cadillac brand.
It first appeared as a 2013 model, replacing both the DTS and STS. It got a new engine and Vsport trim level for 2014 and for 2015 it gains a built-in WiFi hot spot utilizing the OnStar 4G LTEsystem, minor interior changes and some new colours.
The XTS comes in a “base” model with three optional “Collections.” Pricing starts around $50,000 and climbs through $53,600 for the Luxury edition, $58,000 for the Premium and $66,700 for the Platinum.
At the various steps up that trim ladder it gains automatic parking assist, a fully-digital instrument cluster, three-zone automatic climate control, sunroof, adaptive cruise control and 22-way power-adjustable front seats with heat, ventilation and massage
But it doesn’t stop there. My test vehicle was the Platinum edition – with the $8,000 Vsport equipment group and $1,300 “crystal red tintcoat” paint.
The red paint was attractive, but the Vsport addition is what got my attention – a 410-horsepower twin-turbo V-6 engine instead of the standard 304-horsepower normally aspirated V-6 in the other models. The VSport also brings a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system.
That combination enables this 2,000 kilo luxury car to rocket to 100-km/h from rest in barely more than five seconds and eclipse the quarter mile in 13.6 seconds. Those numbers will mean little to the average Cadillac buyer, but to enthusiasts they mean this big boat is a rocket ship – which is in direct contrast to the rest of the car.
Designed to please existing Cadillac clientele, the XTS is big, relatively soft and laden with luxury and technology. Unlike the ATS and CTS which have been specifically developed to appeal to a younger, European-biased buyer, the XTS emphasizes comfort, luxury and space.
Visually there is no doubt this is a Cadillac. The style is instantly recognizable with sharp creases , big wheels and a prominent new logo in the middle of the big grille.
The interior is suitably posh and fashionable for a $77,000 vehicle. The front seats are big and uber-comfy. Rear seat room is more abundant than in most competitors and the trunk is huge. Fit, finish and material quality are right up there with the competition.
The driver faces a 31-cm wide reconfigurable screen that serves as the instrument panel. The ultra-crisp display simulates analog gauges and can be altered to show a variety of readouts as can the HUD (Heads Up Display) that allows drivers to keep their eyes closer to the job at hand.
I was not as enamored with the big fully capacitive touch screen in the centre stack that showcases Cadillac’s CUE (Cadillac User Experience) system. Displacing most of the buttons and knobs used elsewhere, it is like an iPad or other touch screen devices – operating by touch with proximity sensing, haptic feedback and gesture recognition. Or you can talk to it.
The system is standard on the XTS and while it cleans up the instrument panel, I found it unnecessarily complex and question the need to cycle through screens to adjust the HVAC or audio systems.
Smooth and quiet
On the road, the big Caddy is smooth and extremely quiet, befitting a luxury car and carrying on a Cadillac tradition, thanks to careful attention to insulation and isolation, including an active noise-cancellation system
The twin-turbo engine provides effortless power, more than the V-8s of the past. It can also be fairly thrifty if it's driven in a laid-back fashion. I did not, and as a result of sampling that wonderful engine on more than one occasion, I averaged only 14.4 litres/100 km of mixed city and highway driving.
The ride is Cadillac-smooth over almost all surfaces. Body motion and roll are minimal thanks to what Cadillac calls Magnetic Ride Control. Developed by Delphi for GM, the technology has found its way into a variety of high performance vehicles from other manufacturers, including some Ferraris and the recently introduced Shelby GT350.
The alignment of small magnetic particles within the fluid of each shock absorber is altered by an electric current. This changes the viscosity, becoming thinner when a softer reaction is required and thicker when more control is needed. Changes to each individual shock and corner or the car, occur as often as every 10 milliseconds!
That ability, along with that of the Haldex all-wheel-drive system and an electronic limited-slip differential gives this Cadillac a great combination of ride, handling and all-season enjoyment.
As Cadillac claws its way back to inclusion on the shopping list of a new group of luxury car buyers it has not forgotten those who helped establish the brand.
Model: 2015 Cadillac XTS "Platinum Collection" AWD
Price: $74,370 base, $77,565 as tested including freight
Engine: 3.6-litre twin-turbocharged V-6 engine, 410-horsepower, 369 lb-ft of torque,
Transmission/Drivetrain: six-speed automatic, full-time AWD
Fuel Consumption – (NRCan city/highway): 13.2 / 8.3 city/highway
Length: 5,131 mm
Width: 1,852 mm
Wheelbase: 2,837 mm