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2014 Cadillac XTS Vsport AWD: Classic Detroit meets the New World

by: GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION - The 2014 Cadillac XTS Vsport goes as good as it looks.Driving older big American cars is a guilty pleasure. Floating down the road in a Detroit land yacht is both a commanding and relaxing experience. But they don't have the responsiveness of modern sport sedans, and the mileage of their huge V8 engines is dismal.

Now Cadillac is trying to recapture its glory days and answer the critics with the Vsport version of its largest model, the XTS.

Driven gently with the six-speed automatic transmission in the normal mode, the 2014 XTS Vsport swallows up pavement like Cadillacs from the 1960s and 1970s. There's plenty of power for passing, but the acceleration is not brutal.

But shifting the transmission into the Sport mode changes the car's character. The suspension firms up, the throttle gets much more responsive and the transmission shifts quicker. The transmission can also be shifted manually from steering wheel-mounted paddles for those who want even better performance.

And the power doesn't come from a large V8 but a twin turbocharged 3.6 liter V6 that produces 401 horsepower and 396 foot pound of torque. It gets up and goes when it want to, but is relatively good on gas.

So Cadillac is trying to honor its past while also appealing to younger buyers who might be considering a big Audi or Mercedes. And for the most part, that high wire act works.

Many manufactures make cars with adjustable dynamics. In some, it is hard to tell the difference between the Comfort and Sport settings. In others, the Sport suspension settings are painfully stiff. The suspension in our test Vsport was never that firm, although fans of German sport sedans might think it is still too soft in the Sport mode. And they may find the V6 is not as satisfying as a big V8, even with two turbochargers.

But we think most potential buyers will like it. In normal day-to-day driving, the XTS Vsport can carry a family of five in quiet comfort, gently absorbing road imperfections. But those who want more can find it just a shift away, without worrying that pot holes and speed bumps will trigger a trip to the chiropractor.

Our test XTS Vsport also had the standard all-wheel-drive system, which worked well during a week of scattered rain. Traction felt the same on dry and wet pavement, which is the intended result.

The styling of the XTS is also impressive. Its sheer bulk enhances the angular styling that characterizes the Cadillac lineup these days. The font end looks like a battering ram, while the thin tail lights are reminiscent of the company's models from the 1970s. The curved roofline is high, which allows the front seats to be raised to almost SUV levels, giving the driver a clear view of surrounding roads and buildings.

The interior is contemporary, reflecting the angular exterior styling without looking gimmicky. Some potential buyers might not like the controls, however, which operate by touch like a smartphone, not by buttons and knobs. It took us a few days before climate and entertainment system adjustments came naturally. Once we got used to them, we concluded the clean look of the dash was a fair trade. But we suspect not everyone is likely to agree.

The back seat is enormous, which is what big Cadillacs have always been about. If you're not planning to haul a lot of people around all the time, Cadillac makes a good midsize, the CTS, which also offers a Vsport version. But if you take a lot of family trip or regularly drive numerous co-workers to business meetings, the XTS is the one for you.

Out test XTS Vsport was Graphite Metallic with a black and grey interior that gave the car a serious almost menacing look. The dark exterior also helped show of the 20-inch aluminum wheels and chrome dual exhausts. Lighter colors might reduce the Sopranos overtones. Then again, maybe you like that kind of thing.

The XTS originally debuted as a 2013 model with a normally aspirated V6. It was generally well received, with the only consistent complaint being the lack of a more powerful optional engine. Cadillac has now filled that void and then some the twin turbocharged V6 that will hopefully be offered in some other General Motors models. It was worth the short wait.

Facts and figures (all models)

• Model tested: 2014 XTS Vsport.

• Manufacturer: Cadillac.

• Class: Full-size luxury car.

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

• Style: Four-door sedan.

• Engines: 3.6-liter V6 (304 hp, 264 ft-lbs); twin turbocharged 3.6-liter V6 (401 hp, 369 ft-lbs).

• Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift modes.

• Fuel Economy: 17/26/20 (V6); 16/24/18 (TTV6 - as tested).

• Price: Starting at around $44,000 ($87,096 as tested).