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2013 Cadillac XTS

2013 Cadillac XTS. (05/20/12)
2013 Cadillac XTS. (05/20/12) Wieck

Cadillac is shaking up its product line in a big way and the XTS sedan literally plays the biggest part in General Motors’ premium division.

For the 2013 model year, the XTS becomes the flagship of Cadillac’s passenger-car fleet, replacing both the front-wheel-drive DTS and the rear-wheel-drive STS. At the opposite end, the equally new ATS assumes the foothold role as the brand’s smallest and least-expensive portal (the mid-range CTS stands pat).

As with the DTS, the XTS (which is arriving at dealerships now) is front-wheel-drive. It’s a platform that will also be used in the 2014 Chevrolet Impala. As big as it is, the XTS is more than 5.5 inches shorter and about two inches narrower than the DTS and is also four inches shorter between the front and rear wheels. But don’t let the shrinkage fool you as the revised proportions, including a shorter hood and a higher roofline, mean greater interior room. According to Cadillac’s tape measure, there’s more rear-seat and trunk space than a BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and an Audi A6.

Visually, the XTS comes across as much leaner and tauter than its predecessor, although its chiseled nose and tail and a high beltline are common to the Cadillac fleet. Overall, the XTS’s elegant, original design clearly distinguishes it from its European counterparts.

The interior is similarly well tailored, although the busy dash/control panel remains a step or two behind Audi and BMW’s for simplicity. Up-level versions receive the full wood trim treatment that traditional Cadillac buyers seem to expect and appreciate.

The technical focus, however, is on a programmable interface for the vehicle controls and communications systems. Called “Cue,” which is standard on all models, it has an eight-inch screen and voice recognition, plus various menu icons that you manipulate, smart-phone-style, by pinching, expanding and swiping your fingers. As well, climate, audio and navigation controls turn on and off by merely positioning your fingers in their vicinity. According to Cadillac, up to 10 Bluetooth devices — portable phones, etc. — can be paired with Cue.

In addition, the optional electronically generated gauge cluster (graphic representations replace actual gauges) can be customized to show as much or as little information as you require.

If all this techno-cleverness (an Apple iPad with a training screen comes with every XTS) feels overwhelming, a dedicated customer-assistance center can be accessed through GM’s OnStar concierge and mobile help desk.

On the other hand, no XTS pilot will be overwhelmed by the powertrain. For now, the sole choice is a 304-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 that operates through a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift controls. All-wheel-drive can be added to the three trim levels — Luxury, Premium and Platinum — above the base XTS.

There are no plans for a V8 option, but a plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid is reportedly in the pipeline. Estimated fuel consumption is 17 mpg city and 28 highway (17/27 for AWD models).

Like most vehicles in its class, the XTS has a laundry list of safety electronics and warnings. The “Driver Awareness Package” includes lane-departure warning that alerts if an unintended lane change is imminent. As well, forward collision alert warns of a too-rapid closing speed to the vehicle in front, while blind-spot alert signals when vehicles in adjacent lanes are about to overtake. Wrapping things up is cross-traffic alert that warns when vehicles are approaching from either side when you’re backing up.

A Driver Assist Package adds adaptive cruise control that maintains a safe distance from slower vehicles ahead. If necessary, the XTS will actually use the brakes to slow itself down.

Since the XTS is a Cadillac, there are almost unlimited comfort and convenience items, many of which are standard in the $45,000 (including destination costs) base car.

At the far end of the spectrum, a loaded-up Platinum will set you back nearly $15,000 more at $59,100. Those prices are actually reasonable considering the car’s cutting-edge looks and content and the fact that other premium automakers charge as much or more for their higher-end models.