2013 Cadillac XTS: Like a smartphone on wheels


The 2013 Cadillac XTS. (Photo courtesy of Cadillac)
Warren Brown
Columnist August 31, 2012

Consider it car as sanctuary: the 2013 Cadillac XTS Premium full-size sedan with all-wheel drive.

The XTS is different from the cars as refuge that it replaces — the softly sprung, lumbering Cadillac DTS and STS sedans.

Warren Brown is a columnist who writes about autos for The Washington Post. View Archive

Sanctuary allows you to stay in touch with the world while pondering your place in it.

Refuge invites the fantasy of total escape, which can be a bad thing — especially on the road, where the world has dangerously nasty ways of intervening.

Sanctuary allows you to examine options, of which there are many in the XTS Premium, beginning with the reconfigurable gauge cluster (a.k.a. dashboard instrument panel) behind the steering wheel.

Here, the dashboard is a 12-inch electronic screen, reconfigurable via a small pinwheel atop the steering wheel. You can dial up a “simple” screen displaying basic information such as vehicle speed and mileage. You can ask for a more “balanced” screen, giving you basic information and other notes on the car’s performance. You can call up a “performance” screen displaying all of the information (e.g., engine rotations per minute) that self-avowed driving enthusiasts deem vital but which others of us regard as unnecessary.

Also, perhaps in deference to senior Cadillac owners trading in a DTS or STS for the all-new XTS, there is an “enhanced” screen, essentially an electronically magnified reading of the “simple” screen that is much easier on the eyes.

When inside the XTS, you are always be in touch with the world — unless you choose to shut it out.

The car is a motorized Android or iPhone, operable in the way you’d operate such phones via swiping, scrolling, pinching or zooming with fingers. Access to all things infotainment, all things Internet and telecommunications is granted through manipulation of an eight-inch screen that is part of Cadillac’s “CUE” (customer user experience) system.

General Motors, Cadillac’s parent company, is taking a risk here. All the advanced electronics might be too much for Cadillac’s traditional buyers — seniors who have the money and life-achievement justification to reward themselves with a premium luxury automobile. And it might not be enough to pull in the younger buyers all vehicle manufacturers are seeking.

My take is that it is a risk worth taking.

The reconfigurable gauge cluster works perfectly, allowing the driver to entertain Walter Mitty racetrack fantasies if he or she chooses.

Nowadays, many people, young and old, find it difficult to get through a day without an Android or iPhone, an iPad or other tablet, or a laptop. An automotive communications screen that works in the manner of those devices seems like the next logical step.

The easiest knock against the 2013 Cadillac XTS, available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive and offered in four trim levels (base, Luxury, Premium and Platinum) is that, for all its electronic and cosmetic diversity, it comes with only one engine. It is a gasoline-direct-injection V-6 that delivers a maximum 301 horsepower and 264 foot-pounds of torque.

Critics say that a V-8 engine or a larger, more powerful V-6 is needed. I am not among those critics. In fact, I am baffled by the complaint.

How much power is enough power in a land of legally enforceable speed limits in a world in need of fuel conservation and cleaner air?

Offering only a V-6 in the Cadillac XTS seems a reasonable compromise to me. It is a beautiful car that moves much faster than the most liberal speed law allows. It handles quite well, presents some of the most advanced automotive technology, and does it all while delivering 17 miles per gallon in the city and 26 miles per gallon on the highway using regular gasoline.

I appreciate that, as much as I appreciate the XTS as a product of deep and careful thought — the kind of thinking afforded by sanctuary.

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