published Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Test Drive: Full-size Cadillac XTS worthy of Agent 007

The new Cadillac XTS has a high waistline and interesting chrome embellishments.
Staff photo by Mark Kennedy
The new Cadillac XTS has a high waistline and interesting chrome embellishments. Staff photo by Mark Kennedy

FAST FACTS

Model: Cadillac XTS Premium Collection

Exterior color: Raven Black

Interior color: Jet Black

Engine: 3.6 liter, six-cylinder

Horsepower: 304

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 28 mpg highway, 17 mpg city

Dealer: Integrity

If cars were movie characters, the new Cadillac XTS would be James Bond — smart, sinewy and sophisticated.

And like 007, the XTS looks sharp in a black tuxedo.

Enter this week's test car, a Raven Black XTS from Integrity Cadillac. The brand's newest full-size luxury car feels like it could have been designed by Bond's trusty gadget guy, Q.

Any car that vibrates your behind when you accidentally cross the center line gets a thumbs-up from me. But more about that later.

If you've been watching the Olympics this week you've likely seen spots for the forthcoming Cadillac ATS, a smaller sedan, which is shown carving up some insanely twisty roads from Monaco to Patagonia.

The new XTS, on the other hand, is the Cadillac flagship, the top-of-the-line cruiser for discerning buyers, said Dwight Morgan, general sales manager at Integrity Cadillac. It's bigger but no less athletic than the ATS, which has yet to arrive at the dealership.

STYLING AND COMFORT

In profile, the XTS looks a little like a stretched Buick LaCrosse, which is a good thing because the LaCrosse is drop-dead gorgeous.

The Caddy, however, announces itself with the brand's familiar wreath and crest emblem anchoring the design of an oversized grill. The swept-back headlamp treatment and the sheer girth of the front fascia are typical of modern Cadillac design. The vertical, finlike taillights are a nod to Cadillac's past and will resonate with mature drivers.

I knew I was in luxury land when sales consultant Bridget Sanders pointed out that the word Cadillac is engraved on the XTS's Brembo brake calipers. The 17-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels are so elegant they look like they were cast by a jewelry maker.

Inside, the XTS tries to capture some Apple magic with a center stack built for the tablet-computer generation. (Fittingly, every new XTS comes with a complimentary iPad.) Switches and dials have been replaced with touch-screen images that pinch, scroll and expand like apps on an iPad.

Even the CD player — an increasingly obsolete feature in the age of iPods and satellite radio — has been hidden away in the glove compartment so as not to clutter the purposely simple dash.

The touch-screen system is the brain stem of the new CUE — for Cadillac User Experience — media interface that controls many of the sound, climate and active safety functions.

On the safety side, the car can be set so the driver's seat vibrates when you inadvertently cross the center line. Or, if you prefer, an audio alarm can be activated instead. The ubiquitous backup camera is souped up with a 360-degree hazard alarm that radiates around the XTS like a force field.

It may take you a week or two of driving to discover all of the Caddy's creature comforts, including built-in seat extenders and head's-up displays that project speed readings onto the windshield.

DRIVING EXPERIENCE

Driving purists may be surprised to discover the new Caddy flagship is a front-wheel drive sedan with a six-cylinder engine. You should know that the 306-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 is sneaky quick, thanks to the magic of direct injection.

In a test drive on Highway 153, the XTS charged from 20 miles per hour to, well, let's say the speed limit, in the bat of an eye. For those who want more traction, all-wheel-drive variants are available.

The XTS also is a showcase for Cadillac's new Magnetic Ride Control, which is being billed by the company as the "world's fastest-reacting suspension." We didn't push it to the limits, but the ride was solid quiet, as you would expect from a car in this class. The automatic, six-speed transmission is seamlessly smooth.

BOTTOM LINE

The XTS competes with the big boys, where much is expected and little expense is spared. Our test car stickered for $56,653 and has respectable fuel economy numbers, included a healthy 28 miles per gallon on the highway.

Assembled in Canada, the XTS has a North American pedigree and delivers solid value when measured against its Asian and European import competitors.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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