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New fullsize sedan combines style, comfort and quality

by: GENERAL MOTORS CORPORTATION - The all new Cadillac XTS is one of the best large luxury cars the company has ever produced.For many years, Cadillac and Lincoln competed to see who could build the biggest, heaviest, most powerful, most comfortable, most expensive — and occasionally most innovative — American luxury cars. The competition peaked in the early 1970s, just before the Arab Oil Embargo sent gas prices soaring and all but killed the demand for such models.

Ever since then, Cadillac and Lincoln have been more focused on downsizing their cars. Although they continued to produce at least one fullsize model, most of their attention went into perfecting smaller models that could compete against European and Japanese luxury cars. Right now Cadillac is heavily promoting its new compact luxury sport sedan, the ATS, which is intended to challenge the BMW 3 series.

But, even though it has not received nearly as much attention, Cadillac has also just released a new large car, the XTS. It replaces the aging DTS and STS sedans and is among the best fullsize cars Cadillac has ever made. The styling is dramatic, the interior is roomy and classy, the ride is smooth and quiet, and the quality is world class. It also features new touch screen technology that dazzles without being overwhelming.

The XTS shares components the new, fullsize Buick LaCrosse. Our test XTS felt much more composed than the LaCrosse we drove earlier this year, however, perhaps because it had such options as magnetic ride contrrol, 19-inch alloy wheels and all-wheel-drive. Whatever the case, the XTS deserves to be considered on its own.

The XTS is not designed to compete against the biggest Audis, BMWs and Mercedes. It has only one engine and transmission, a 3.6-liter V6 mated to a six-speed automatic. The high performance supercharged V8 and six-speed manual transmission available in the midsize Cadillac CTS are not options. That’s because the XTS is aimed at more traditional Cadillac buyers who want to carry their family and friends in style and comfort, not race teenagers on the weekends.

And the XTS fully succeeds in that goal. The angular style is similar but more sophisticated than the exterior lines on the sleek ATS and CTS. The treatment around the trunk is especially refined, with the slightly extended tail lights hinting at the tricks Cadillac designers pulled to stretch the length of their cars in the 1970s. The trademark grill and headlights are well integrated into the front end, giving the XTS a mature look.

The interior is both simple and refined, with the wide dash emphasizing the vast room between the front doors. The 8-inch fixed touchscreen is so large the CD player had to be mounted in the glove box. It accesses the CUE infortainment system, which stands for Cadillac User Experience and operates much of the audio, phone, optional navigation, optional weather, and climate systems.

The CUE system was both advanced and intuitive to use. Unneeded icons disappear until your fingers near the screen, when they come back into view. Basic controls like volume and heat can also be adjusted with touch-sensitive controls on a panel below the screen. Some older drivers might find the set up confusing, but anyone with a smart phone will figure it all out pretty quickly.

Our test car was equipped with a high quality leather interior that heated and cooled power front seats, a heated steering wheel, and a climate system for the very ample back seats. The optional wood trim package was package was tasteful, the opposite of the excesses of the 1970s.

On the road, the XTS was a pleasure to drive. The 3.6-liter V6 was silky smooth, producing 304 horsepower and 264 foot-pounds of torque, more than enough to move the large car along under any circumstances. The six speed autotmatic handled the chore of transferring the power to the AWD system with ease, moving up and down through the gears without hesitations.

We can understand a desire for more power. We enjoy supercharged, turbocharged and big block engines as much as anyone. But the XTS is perfectly well balanced with its single engine and transmission. The ride — aided by the optional magnetic suspension in our test car was — was enjoyable enough that our trips didn’t need to be shortened.

The XTS was also equipped with a safety system that vibrating the drivers seat whenever the car was getting too close to another object. This happens both at freeway speeds and when parking. Although it sounds silly, the system actually works pretty well, especially when parking in the ever-shrinking spaces now found in urban centers.

With a starting price of around $45,000 for the base front-wheel-drive model, Cadillac is once again appealing to the kind of upscale customers that deserted the company when comfort and luxury got sacrificed in the rush to downsize. Cadillac says the XTS is not intended to be its flagship model, suggesting the company is developing an even larger and perhaps more powerful sedan. We think the XTS does Cadillac proud right now, however.

Facts and figures (all models)

• Model tested: 2013 XTS.

• Manufacturer: Cadillac.

• Class: Fullsize sedan.

• Layout: Front engine, front and all-wheel-drive.

• Style: Four-door car.

• Engine: 3.6-liter V6 (304 hp, 264 lbs-ft).

• Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters

• EPA estimated city/highway/average mileage (engine/drivetrain): 17/28/21 (V6/FWD); 17/26/20 (V6/AWD).

• Price: Beginning at approximately $45,000 ($56,730 as tested).

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