Cadillac might be one of the oldest car brands in the world, if not the oldest car brand in the US. But that hasn’t stopped the company from innovating, pushing the envelop, and continuously trying to set the benchmark. However, Cadillac now more than ever probably faces the most competition in its 100+ year history, and is looking to capture more of the luxury market by introducing sedans such as the Cadillac XTS, a wonderfully, if not excessively equipped 4 door people mover.
Aesthetically, there is not a vast departure between the ATS, CTS, and XTS. They all have been afforded sharp sloping lines, and smiling grills that leave a little something to be desired. But aesthetics are largely subjective, and despite Cadillac’s traditionally boxy cut, it’s one that is iconic of the brand. That all said, this didn’t stop me from capturing what I’d deem aggressive looking photos of the 4-door Sedan. Nevertheless, the XTS suffers from a similar fate to that of soap opera stars; the camera makes it look heavier than its actual 4,006 curb weight (comparatively speaking the BMW M5 and Audi A7 weigh more yet look much lighter in photos). That all said, the XTS is the biggest of the aforementioned Caddy models, though one might not be any wiser while sitting behind the wheel of this fully equipped sedan.
Now, keep in mind that the XTS isn’t designed for racing or traversing the most tenacious of terrain. It’s a sedan that should be prefaced with words like luxury, comfort, and perhaps even boat. Two ride types are available, each with their own characteristics. Much like the Ranger Rover Evoque, the XTS sports a magnetically adjustable suspension, called Magnetic Ride Control, which can also be found in Chevy’s Corvette. Instead of accessing this feature using a traditional knob like control, it’s activated when the car is shifted into sport mode, which is the last notch in the gate. Activated, the XTS is transformed from a somewhat boat like ride, to a more nimble beast that is capable of slinging itself through corners with more agility, as well as stability, thanks in part to the 304hp V6 engine. Needless to say, there is no technology that can negate a vehicle’s curb weight, but this comes damn close. When off, or in regular drive mode, the Cadillac XTS exudes less vibration through its entire body and steering column, and moves a bit more sluggishly, though tolerably through turns and curves. Steering is also loosened, and the paddle shifters are made inoperable.
The above in mind, the XTS is an everyday driver. But you didn’t need me to tell you that. My point, though, is that it is an exceptionally comfortable car. The supple leather seats, which are both very supportive and soft, offer built-in air conditioning that is something like sitting within close proximity of an open fridge. Mind you they also radiate heat, though in my SoCal climate they were hardly necessary. I stand at just about 6′ 2″ and with the front seat in a reasonably far back position – thanks to the full adjustable steering column – I was still able to sit in the rear with great comfort. That said, the XTS is a true 5-seater, provided of course you don’t lay down the rear seat’s arm rest and poke a set of skis through.
This model of Cadillac, which mind you was fully loaded minus the panorama roof, includes a variety of tech goodies that will have even the most iPhone affluent pressing buttons for days – if you’re reading between the lines that is both good and bad. Although a traditional instrument cluster is available, this version (Platinum) of the XTS boats a 12-inch display as well as a HUD.
The 12-inch LCD screen can be adjusted in accordance to one’s driving temperament. A total of four different layouts are available: simple, balanced, performance, and enhanced. I stuck with performance for most of my driving as I have an affinity for watching the tachometer rev up and down next to the speedometer – it’s a more sports car oriented setup. The balanced option also served well, as it can display a variety of infotainment info, and can be modded to show tire pressure, a small version of the map, nav turns, and a variety of other info. It’s all relatively well laid out. Furthering that is a HUD like display that appears in the windshield. I spent time with a comparable version in a 2012 Buick LaCrosse, though this one can be modified to show the tachometer, as well as upcoming turns and your iPhone’s song of choice. However, selecting the information can be a struggle, as the steering wheel controls aren’t very responsive, if not somewhat cryptic in their layout. And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
The center stack has been outfitted with a myriad of touch sensitive controls – there is even a hidden, motorized cubby that opens with a swipe. They’re so painfully slow, it’s as if someone rubbed numbing cream all over them. Turning up the car’s audio system was probably the most aggravating of the bunch, though the other controls for temperature and such aren’t much more tolerable. Unfortunately, this is just a preface for Cadillac’s CUE, or Cadillac User Experience.
Caddy has gone to great length to try and make the CUE a some what analogous experience to that of a smartphone or iOS device. Sadly it falls short, very very short. From a layout perspective it’s not horrible. You’ll be forced to cycle through each audio input to select one, which alone is a distracting experience while driving (some features aren’t available while the car is in motion). Unlike most cars there is not a dedicated audio source button on the steering wheel, which further compounds the aforementioned dilemma
Caddy has managed to secure support for the iPod on your iPhone, and Pandora. Spotify works, which is what I tested the vehicle with 85% of the time during my driving, though it had trouble displaying the correct track info on the screen. Pandora worked well, though some of the functionality is limited and much like BMW’s infotainment system, the app is no longer accessible on the iPhone when it’s running on the car. The CUE is supported by what logically seems to be a very slow and antiquated processor. Pinch to zoom is available, yet happens a half of second too late to be usable, and had me fumbling through the maps, something that is anything but safe or road worthy. I should note that many functions can be completed using spoken commands, such as making a phone call, along with a variety of other commands.
Despite the CUE’s major short comings, it didn’t impeded upon the 14 speaker Bose system. A set of mini-speakers are embedded next to the front seat’s head rest, and while their audio performance was moot in my book, the system all together sounds fantastic. With some additional tweaking, such as the center point of the audio, as well as bass and treble, I was very pleased with its audio performance, if not impressed.
Bluetooth calls sounded crisp and clear, and callers never complained of feedback or road noise, which can be attributed to the Cadlillac’s XTS’ ultra quiet cabin, though some of that is negated when the car is in sport mode. However, making a call from my iPhone 5 was infuriatingly difficult. Now, to be fair, some of the issues might have been the result of using a relatively nascent device. Nevertheless, the CUE was able to download only part of my phonebook, wouldn’t initialize a call from the car’s speakerphone unless the person was in my phonebook, and answered calls on the the iPhone 5’s speaker. Again, this might be related to the iPhone 5. But for comparison’s sake, I am currently testing a Mazda CX-5, a significantly cheaper vehicle, and I have not had any similar hiccups.
As with anything in life, it’s much easier to criticize the short comings of something It’s a myopic approach and rarely reaps a positive outcome. However, Cadillac has been road showing the CUE for a few years now, and by all account has seriously over promised and under delivered. The touch controls that accompany the system aren’t much better, and truly only serve as a blight on the Cadillac XTS’ solid ride, comfy interior, and all together craftsmanship.
I’ve heard a few writers complain that the car boasts significant under-steer, which is hardly justifiable since this is not a performance vehicle and nor should be treated as one. But perhaps they’re confused, because after all it does sport Brembo brakes (pedal feel was adequate but not amazing), a 304HP V6 engine, a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters, 19-inch wheels, all wheel drive (rear wheel is available too), and a driver’s seat that vibrates your gluteus maximus in accordance with your blind spot.
Bottom Line: The 2012 Cadillac XTS is America’s new luxury 4-door sedan, that’s only disservice is its infotainment system, CUE.
Pros: A two ton sedan that handles well through twists and turns despite its 4,006 curb weight. The interior is sumptious, its trunk space massive, and actually has a a comfortable and very useable back seat.
Cons: The infotainment system, CUE, overshadows much of the XTS’ other tech, such as the 12-inch instrument cluster (which is technically part of it). Furthering that frustration is the poorly developed and slow to respond touch controls found in the center stack.
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