Cadillac XTS


Debut: 2012
Maker: General Motors
Predecessor: DeVille / DTS



 Published on 12 Apr 2012 All rights reserved. 

Until the early 1960s Cadillac was still regarded as the standard of luxury cars. Since then its fortune fell like a roller coaster. By the time I started watching cars in the mid-1980s, Cadillac was the symbol of outdated looking, low-tech and poorly finished American dinosaurs. Still, it had a complete lineup of luxury cars – Cimarron, Seville, DeVille / Fleetwood, Brougham, Eldorado and Allante – and a self-respect that it could rival anything from BMW 3-Series to Mercedes S-class and SL (it couldn't, of course). Consistently losing market share and money, it started getting realistic in the new millennium. Models that did not sell well were given a second chance (SeVille became rear-drive STS; Allante was reborn as XLR) and then killed off. Old-school DeVille / DTS went to grave together with its equally old buyers. Rationalization was the number one job when GM ran into bankruptcy. Suddenly, Cadillac found only CTS is left in its showrooms!

Just before its bankruptcy, GM planned to replace both DTS and STS with a single large car called XTS. Survival-mode thinking means the car is not going to be an ambitious project. It would be built on the low-cost, mid-size, front-wheel-drive Epsilon II platform that underpins Opel Insignia. To pretend to be a big car, its wheelbase would be stretched to the maximum 2837 mm like Buick LaCrosse (another derivative of this platform). That is still not big enough though, so it would lengthen the trunk further to realize a Cadillac-worthwhile body length of 5.1 meters. The same realistic thinking also called for the use of off-the-shelf parts, including engine, transmission and suspension – hardly sounds "the standard of the world". Unfortunately, the development program was disrupted for a year during the bankruptcy, so the production XTS is just arriving the market in June 2012.


The first glance at the car immediately reveals its cheap underpinnings. Its short bonnet and cab-forward profile are unmistakably the signs of a front-wheel-drive, transverse-engined platform. That doesn't sound amusing for a car whose price matches or exceeds that of Mercedes E-class, Audi A6 or BMW 5-Series. But more problematic is aesthetic. With a short bonnet and an unnaturally long tail, its proportion is weird. The combination of a high waist line, non-existent shoulders and a tall (1510 mm) roof leads to a perception of narrowness and overweight, thus amplifies its poor dynamics even further. The proportion is so wrong that any nice details and heavy use of chromes cannot compensate. 

The XTS tips the scale at 1815 kg in FWD form or 1910 kg with Haldex 4WD system. Those numbers exceed the class average by 100 and 200 kg respectively. It certainly needs a more powerful engine. Unfortunately, since the demise of Northstar GM no longer has any V8s suitable for luxury car applications – the pushrod small-blocks generate too much NVH, so they are left to SUVs and performance cars – as a result, the XTS has to settle with the familiar 3.6-liter direct-injected V6. Practically the same engine powering the smaller CTS but turned to mount transversely, the all-alloy DVVT V6 produces 304 horsepower, accompanied with a slightly peaky 264 lbft of torque. It is every bit competitive against the likes of Toyota's or Honda's V6s, but when compare with the higher tech, better engineered BMW, Audi and Mercedes six-cylinder engines (let alone V8s), it is apparently short of torque and refinement. Likewise, GM's 6-speed automatic is not as seamless and responsive as its rivals' 7 or 8-speed units. In addition to the heavier body, you need to wind the engine hard to get a decent turn of speed. Using the manual mode's paddle shift might help a little, but that goes against the intent of driving a big luxury car.


Considering its platform basis and its heft, the XTS handles and rides better than imagined. This is partly due to the use of OPC-engineered HiPer struts instead of the usual MacPherson struts for the front suspension, which largely eliminates torque steer. Even more contribution is made by the advanced magnetorheological adaptive dampers (or "Magnetic Ride Control") fitted to the car. It results in a smooth yet controlled ride, which is not only million miles better than Buick LaCrosse' but also a match for its best rivals. A quick, 2.6 turns lock-to-lock steering ratio and old-school hydraulic servo return honest feel and good response. The Brembo front brakes do a good job to stop the car, too. That said, the XTS does feel nose-heavy in tight corners, where it arrives terminal understeer early. There is no way to deceive the law of physics.

The Haldex AWD option shows no discernible difference in this respect, although its rear differential has torque vectoring function (note: it's a Haldex Gen IV system like the XWD on late Saab 9-3). As always, the Haldex system sends torque to rear axle only when the front wheels slip, therefore the torque vectoring's ability to correct understeer does not happen when the car is within limit of adhesion. As Cadillac admitted, the superiority of AWD model can be found in slippery conditions only.

Cadillac is very proud of its interior. In the top-spec Platinum trim, all surfaces are covered with expensive materials like leather, wood and alloy. Soft-touch plastic takes a less significant role than the cases on its German rivals, so in terms of material richness this cabin is unrivalled. Nevertheless, the interior design is a little dull to look at. It also lacks a unified theme, which means it looks as if a summation of quality parts instead of a masterpiece sculpture.


Cabin room is huge. Thanks to the FF layout, the XTS uses its wheelbase very efficiently to benefit cabin space. Rear passengers should enjoy considerably more legroom here than on its German rivals – actually, even more than a standard-wheelbase 7-Series. The only downside is there is no space for feet under the front seats.

Apart from interior, an infotainment system called CUE (Cadillac User Experience) is supposed to be another highlight of the car. It uses an 8-inch capacitive touch screen in place of virtually all buttons in the cabin to control air-con, audio, radio, sat-nav, phone and OnStar telematics. You access it like using iPad, i.e. by pressing, tapping and sweeping, or alternatively by voice commands (though the recognition is not always correct), so it seems to be easier to use than i-Drive, MMI and COMAND. It costs less to build, too, as it uses only an industrial standardized touch screen instead of any bespoke hardware. Unfortunately, this approach is far too radical to the traditional customers of Cadillac, who are probably too old to get comfortable with new technologies. They will hate the need to press the screen several times just to adjust the air-con or switch to another radio station. Moreover, the icons are too small for old eyes, and the users have to distract vision from the road to the screen. German manufacturers have already learned from past mistakes and added physical buttons for such frequently used functions. Sadly, Cadillac failed to learn from them.

All these big and small problems mean the XTS is not going to turnaround Cadillac as its maker hoped. The market has plenty of luxury cars that offer stronger performance, rear-drive dynamics and stylish looks. Some are even cheaper. The Cadillac's strengths are rather limited in comparison. I don't see many people would forgo the establishment and turn to the Cadillac.
Verdict: 
 Published on 26 Aug 2013
All rights reserved. 
XTS Vsport twin-turbo V6


Since the introduction of small-block V8, General Motors had been renowned for offering V8 engine options on just about every model it built. Ridiculously, today the firm no longer offers any V8s for its large cars, blame to the cost cutting and bankruptcy taking place in the past few years. Most telling is the mismatch of Cadillac XTS and a naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6. It is an underpowered, strange and disgraceful combination. Now GM is in a much better shape, but seeing the market trend of downsizing engines it decided to skip the V8 route and develop a twin-turbo version of the V6 instead. By the way, this also saves a great deal of money.

Hidden under the ugly plastic cover is the compact intercooler, which connects to two small turbos through short pipes and a single electronic throttle. Turbo lag is minimized further by closely coupling the turbos to the exhaust manifolds. Like the naturally aspirated version, it is fed by direct injection and continuous variable valve timing. The latter utilizes large valve overlapping to generate scavenging effect, spooling up the turbos more quickly. With a max. boost pressure of 0.8 bar, the engine produces an additional 100 horsepower and 100 pound-foot of torque (now 410 hp and 369 lbft), far more powerful than the turbo six engines that its German rivals employ. Even though the car weighs as much as 2 tons, it can sprint from rest to 60 mph in just over 5 seconds. No one can complain for lack of performance anymore.

Nevertheless, the rest of the resultant XTS Vsport is nowhere as hot as its name suggested. Its 6-speed automatic transmission (carried over from the regular car) is not enthusiastic enough. Its suspension, steering and brakes are also carried over from the NA model, no wonder it feels too soft and bulky for a car with such straight line performance. The 4-wheel-drive system and HiPer strut front suspensions fail to mask the torque steer completely if you are hurry in corners. As a result, it shall be seen as an XTS with added punch rather than a sports saloon. Yes, the extra power has answered one of our main criticisms of the XTS, but the ugly look and annoying CUE control remain. Moreover, its price has elevated to an uncomfortable level. I wonder how many American people, even the patriotic ones, would choose this car over Mercedes, BMW, Audi or Lexus.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
XTS 3.6
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5130 / 1852 / 1510 mm
2837 mm
V6, 60-degree
3564 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
-
DI
304 hp
264 lbft
6-speed automatic
F: HiPer strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
245/40R20
1815 kg
136 mph (limited)
6.8 (c) / 6.9* / 6.6*
17.9* / 16.9*
XTS 3.6 AWD
2012
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5130 / 1852 / 1510 mm
2837 mm
V6, 60-degree
3564 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
-
DI
304 hp
264 lbft
6-speed automatic
F: HiPer strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
245/40R20
1910 kg
136 mph (limited)
6.8 (c) / 7.2*
18.6*
XTS Vsport AWD
2013
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5130 / 1852 / 1510 mm
2837 mm
V6, 60-degree
3564 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
Twin-turbo
DI
410 hp
369 lbft
6-speed automatic
F: HiPer strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
245/40R20
2010 kg
136 mph (limited)
5.2*
12.4*




Performance tested by: *C&D





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