2013 Cadillac XTS review:

2013 Cadillac XTS

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2013 Cadillac XTS
The Pandora interface lets you give songs the thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Josh Miller/CNET

CUE has a full-featured Bluetooth phone interface, complete with voice command over a paired phone's contact list. It also offers an interface for the OnStar telematics service, making some services available from icons on the screen. OnStar in the XTS comes with the full suite of services, such as stolen-car recovery and accident response. The XTS gets integration with the OnStar app, making it possible to, for example, remotely unlock the doors.

Keep it smooth
All of these high-end tech features support the XTS' prime mission as a luxury cruiser. Although Cadillac touts the car's adaptive magnetic ride suspension, which sees use in such performance vehicles as the CTS-V, the XTS is not a sports car. That adaptive suspension, which lacks driver-selectable settings, feels tuned for comfort, for soaking up potholes and other bruising bumps in the road, rather than keeping the car flat in a fast corner.

The XTS rides down the road like a mattress full of kittens, and adding to that luxury feel is an electric power-steering unit so boosted that it only takes a single finger to pull the wheel all the way around. The seats feature heating and cooling, although there's no massage feature, as in some other luxury vehicles. The rear seat bench also feels very comfortable, and has its own climate control.

2013 Cadillac XTS
The XTS is definitely more of a luxury cruiser than a premium sports car. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

The 3.6-liter V-6 under the hood uses direct injection, helping it produce its peak 304 horsepower. However, torque is only 264 pound-feet, which becomes noticeable when accelerating. When I floored the gas pedal on a freeway entrance, the XTS did not suddenly turn into a rocket, but did make reasonable time up to 60 mph. It was fast enough for easy freeway merging, but not a car I would use to race trains to railroad crossings.

The engine is backed up by a six-speed automatic, a fairly sophisticated transmission but one that has been in use for over five years. From GM's Hydra-Matic series of transmissions, it did its job quietly in support of the XTS' luxury character. Appropriately, there is no sport mode on this transmission, but Cadillac does include a manual mode, with paddle shifters for convenience. This manual mode is best used for engine braking down a hill rather than by wannabe Nascar drivers.

The engine and transmission combination leads to an EPA fuel economy rating of 17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway for this all-wheel-drive-equipped car. A few more gears in the transmission might get it higher. In my testing, which involved a lot more city driving than usual, the XTS only turned in 16.5 mpg, incessant red lights and heavy traffic taking their toll.

2013 Cadillac XTS
The HUD shows a variety of information, such as vehicle speed and the current track playing on the stereo. Josh Miller/CNET

In that traffic, I would have preferred the XTS to drive itself, which it can almost do. Radar, sensors, and cameras give it a good set of driver assistance features, from collision warning to blind-spot monitoring. However, the XTS has a very unique way of alerting drivers to potential problems. It actually patted me on the butt with some actuators in the driver seat.

For example, if its forward radar thought I was about to ram the car in front, I got a nice, full pat on the rear. If I crossed a lane line without signaling and the car believed I had drifted over, it patted me on the side I had drifted on. I know many people will find this behavior way too intrusive, but I found it very effective. Other cars I have tested might warn about lane drift by slightly shivering the steering wheel or sounding a tone, both of which are easy to miss.

There was no missing the XTS' pats, and it was easy to get used to them. If I found myself really craving a massage feature on the seats, then driving recklessly might just make this warning feature an adequate substitute.

With its excellent noise insulation, the XTS proved a comfortable car to cruise around city streets or road trip down the highway in. Living in a temperate climate, I could easily pass on the all-wheel-drive option, but those in northern areas might feel more comfortable with front and back tires digging in. Engine power is adequate and fuel economy, at least in the EPA tests, rates very well for a big, luxury-class sedan.

There is a possible discrepancy in how the CUE system and LCD instrument cluster seem more likely to appeal to a younger demographic, while the comfortable cruiser nature of the car should attract an older set. That said, the 2013 Cadillac XTS features some pretty advanced tech in the cabin, while the driveline tech is at least ahead of the curve.

Tech specs
Model 2013 Cadillac XTS
Trim Premium
Power train Direct-injection 3.6-liter V-6, 6-speed automatic transmission
EPA fuel economy 17 mpg city/26 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 16.5 mpg
Navigation Standard flash memory-based with traffic
Bluetooth phone support Standard, with contact list integration
Digital audio sources Pandora, Bluetooth streaming, iPod integration, USB drive, satellite radio, HD Radio
Audio system Bose 14-speaker system
Driver aids Collision warning, adaptive cruise control, HUD, blind-spot detection, lane departure warning, rearview camera
Base price $56,370
Price as tested $57,725

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