The Cadillac XTS is the former flagship, that title now being bestowed upon the uber-Cadillac CT6 introduced for 2016.
The Cadillac XTS remains handsome and well-mannered, even the V-Sport model, with its 410-horsepower twin-turbo V6 with all-wheel drive. This is the only XTS we’d buy. The others models work best in fleet service.
The XTS is a five-seat sedan that’s almost the size of a short-wheelbase BMW 7 Series or Audi S8. Rivals include the Lincoln Continental, Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6. The XTS beats them in features and interior space.
The athletic XTS has a softly arched roofline and a smooth profile. It uses a smooth and predictable 3.6-liter V6 making 305 horsepower that gets an EPA-rated 22 Combined city and highway miles per gallon with front-wheel drive and its 6-speed automatic.
The XTS gets very good ratings in crash testing, all 5s with a 4 in rollover. It hasn’t done the small-overlap test yet, the simulated hitting of a telephone pole or the corner of something; that’s the one most cars have been failing.
Cadillac XTS ($45,295) is available in Luxury ($49,295), Premium ($55,795), and Platinum ($64,595) trim levels; Luxury and Premium are available with all-wheel drive ($2000). Cadillac XTS V-Sport comes in Premium Luxury ($63,770) and Platinum ($72,320) versions. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Safety features include rearview camera and optional forward-collision warnings, lane-departure warnings, blind-spot monitors, surround-view cameras, adaptive cruise control with automatic emergency braking, and Safety Alert Seat, which vibrates when the car thinks you need to be warned about something. Automatic Parking Assist can steer the car into a parking space for you.
The Cadillac design theme called Art & Science has softened over its 15 years, evolving into the lovely lines of the XTS. Taut panels and curved surfaces are balanced to embrace the bulk, without showing it. It is distinctly a Cadillac, in the universe of softly sculpted luxury sedans. It faintly resembles a Buick LaCrosse and Chevy Impala, mostly in the profile and softly arched roofline.
The design is pared down inside, the cabin is wonderfully clubby. The instrument panel and trim are simple, the textures smartly chosen, the tones tasteful, the materials opulent, at least some of them. We like the way the beveled metallic trim snuggles wood and leather. It’s a feat of fit and finish.
The XTS is more than spacious, headroom and legroom everywhere. The front seats are widely adjustable and very good, but the driver’s seat could use a bit more support, although we’ve spent hours there without complaint. High mounting of the front seats gives excellent visibility.
The back seat is about perfect, maybe because it has to be, if it’s going to be much of an airport limo. The headliner is carved for more headroom.
Active noise cancellation keeps the cabin so quiet you can’t hear the engine.
The car is ruled by CUE, the Cadillac User Experience system, no buttons, no gauges (at least not real ones), all 8.0-inch touchscreen. Fully capacitive, responds to gestures, like a tablet computer. It’s good at voice command and touch-and-swipe toggling between features, although it’s too easy to touch/swipe the wrong thing. Swipe controls don’t always inspire confidence or deliver the desired execution. The CUE controls are fussy and the system lags too much.
The 3.6-liter V6 is perfectly serviceable. It starts very smoothly and idles quietly. It accelerates to sixty in a reasonably quick 6.8 seconds and keeps on going to 136 miles per hour before being limited electronically. But with less torque than some rivals, it can feel labored when pulling away from a stoplight with five occupants.
The V-Sport has deep thrust, with its twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6 making 410 hp and 369 pound-feet of torque, available over an impressive range from 1900 rpm to 5600 rpm.
The XTS has taut dynamics with an absorbent ride that’s relatively firm. It’s well composed and well isolated, riding on magnetic dampers and air springs.
The steering response is exceptionally crisp, almost nimble. With the deft damping of MagneRide, the magnetic shocks, it doesn’t feel like it weighs two tons. It loads and unloads in corners with confidence, stays flat, rarely flustered. Cornering was the same with the 19-inch and 20-inch wheels.
The 6-speed automatic is smooth and predictable, but rivals have eight speeds. The standard Brembo brakes are so strong they dive the nose of the XTS, on front dampers just soft enough to allow a comfortable ride.
The XTS V-Sport is a worthy Cadillac hot rod for our time. It’s beautiful in black, or titanium. Its twin-turbocharged V6 makes 410 horsepower. The V8 is dead, long live the V8. As for the Luxury, Premium Luxury and Platinum XTS models, we think they deserve a better fate than fleet. The 3.6-liter V6 is a sweet smooth motor.
Sam Moses contributed to this report, with driving impressions by The Car Connection staff.