Driver's Seat: Cadillac XTS is for those who like big

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2014 Cadillac XTS AWD: The 'X' must be for "Xtra special."

Price: $71,015 (including $995 for the fancy red paint).

Marketer's pitch: "You don't start it. You unleash it."

Conventional wisdom: Edmunds.com likes its "spacious interior with quality materials; impressive number of high-tech features"; but not the "narrow trunk; tech overload could turn off traditional buyers."

Reality: XTS marks the spot ... for Cadillac.

Up to speed: Last week, we took the Lexus LS460 across the state and found comfort, speed, agility and high visibility to be standard. How does the top-of-the-line Cadillac compare?

Grand entrance: The first thing one notices about the XTS is just how darn big it is. I swapped a different car for the XTS while on a family excursion in the greater New York area. When Mrs. Passenger Seat approached the red XTS in the parking lot for the first time, she was taken aback by its size. Unlike the more sedate Lexus LS460, you will get noticed in this thing. Especially if you drop an extra grand on the red paint.

Have a seat: You'll like it. The big seats allow driver and passenger to wallow in complete comfort and luxury. Legroom in the back is not quite in Lexus LS460 territory, but that model is designed for tall executives to get chauffeured around. Still, a middle passenger is not scrunched by the outer occupants, reported Sturgis Kid 3.0, despite the all-wheel drive's hump. Rear headroom is a little snug but not tight.

On the go: The 3.6-liter twin turbo V-6 sure is fast. It might not quite be Boss Mustang fast, but pretty close. As usual, GM has the exhaust note tuned just right so flooring it sounds fun.

Handling: The XTS keeps its composure when going all-out. Some cars get unstable very quickly when the accelerator is flattened, but not this one. And on the curves, it does not feel like a big car at all.

Look out behind: Unfortunately, the rear window makes riding around busy city streets really difficult. I had a chance to try it out in Washington on a Saturday night. The flat rear window and fat rear pillar made changing lanes feel like an exercise in faith.

And yet, the big XTS doesn't feel too cumbersome in tight spots. The Sturgis family narrow driveway can be a challenge, but the XTS was never a problem, even in reverse.

Handsome inside: Luxurious leather, a nice soft plush ceiling and touches of wood throughout make this the, well, Cadillac of Cadillacs. Big wide vents harken back to Cadillacs of old, but they fit in here. The center pod is reminiscent of the outside of the car.

Plenty of space: That flat rear window does add to the trunk space, which is cavernous, and I never thought it was narrow. And there's lots of storage space inside the vehicle as well. There's a hiding space inside the dash, as well as room inside the armrest.

Top-of-the-line touch screen: The ultra-high-tech media center senses hands getting close and it offers more menus when they do. On the down side, pointing out different items on the screen also can start different functions that you may or may not want to start, and getting back to where you were can be difficult. But I've always liked the CUE, and I'm the first to complain about confusing gizmology.

The XTS has plenty of places to plug in, as expected in this level of vehicle.

There's no CD player. They're so retro.

High-tech display: The dashboard shows how designers can use technology wisely. A graphical representation of a dial speedometer sits in the center with a gauge on either side. Scroll left or right to highlight the gauge, then up and down to change the info displayed. It cleverly informs the driver in an efficient way.

Cheeky: Tired of all the beeping warnings for your car? Cadillac offers vibrating seat cushions to tell you when the car is getting into a bad situation. And the buzzes come in from the left or the right depending on the direction of the problem. I find it head and shoulders above beeps and whatnot.

Fuel economy: 20.5 mpg in a lot of long-distance and in-traffic driving. Feed the XTS premium, please.

Where it's built: Oshawa, Ontario. (I had a Lumina sedan from here that went 175,000 miles.)

How it's built: It's not on the Consumer Reports recommended list, but the CTS V6 is. CR doesn't like the "frustrating CUE interface," but I find it the best of the high-tech gizmos.

Best of all ...? Lexus and Cadillac make this a tough choice. The visibility problem makes the XTS tough to live with, but the displays and warning vibrations are tough to beat. Mrs. Passenger Seat votes for the Lexus LS460, while Sturgis Kid 4.0 and I would go with the XTS.

Next two weeks: If we save 30 grand, are a fancy Acura or Kia luxurious enough?

autonews

Scott Sturgis, a freelance auto writer, can be reached at mrdriversseat@gmail.com"Wheels," a special advertising supplement, appears inside today's Post-Gazette. First Published October 9, 2013 9:40 PM


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