The New Big Cadillac Is Here

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2013 Cadillac XTS.

It used to be that you didn’t need to put the word “big” in front of the name “Cadillac.” From about the late 1920s until sometime in 1974, there wasn’t such thing as a small Cadillac. Part of the Caddy mystique was its size.

The reference to 1974 was in regard to the introduction of the 1975 Cadillac Seville, essentially a stretched-out Chevy Nova with luxury trimmings stuffed inside to create a leaner, smaller model for the brand to offer during times of climbing oil prices.

Over the years, different size Cadillacs ranged from the ridiculous (the Cimarron) to the interesting (the Catera, based on a sedan fromEurope). Nowadays, the star of GM’s luxury division is the small-ish CTS, available as a sedan, a wagon, or a rakish coupe.

And later this year, the even smaller ATS sedan will bow, a competitor to the BMW 3-Series as an athletic compact. Yet even with those more nimble Cadillacs in showrooms, there’s still demand for a traditional large car.

So the 2013 model year brings us the first all-new full-size Cadillac sedan in over twelve years, the XTS. It replaces the aging DTS, which rides off into the sunset after serving duty in showrooms since 2000.

The XTS is a clean-sheet design, and keeps pace with Cadillac’s current styling theme. The somewhat dated and bulbous shape of the DTS gives way to a bold, aggressive grill and headlights, creased body panels, and a rather steeply raked rear window. You know right off the bat when you see it that this is a modern Caddy.

There’s lots of news with the XTS’s arrival, starting under the hood. For the first time in many decades, you won’t find a V8 under the largest Cadillac’s hood. The sole engine offering is the same 3.6 liter V6 found in the CTS line as well as the SRX crossover, making just a tick over 300 horsepower, and sending power to the front wheels. (All wheel drive is optional, though that’ll likely be a popular choice in the snowier regions of the country.)

Cadillac, like every other brand, is looking at federal fuel economy standards, set to increase dramatically in the coming years. In every way possible, car companies are seeking to eke out more miles per gallon from every model it builds. If the V6 can meet customer expectations in terms of smoothness and drivability, while getting a few more MPG, then it’s kind of a no-brainer for Cadillac.

Underneath, the XTS gets a version of GM’s magnetic ride control that previously has been seen in performance cars like the Chevrolet Corvette. The shock absorbers have tiny magnetic particles in their internal fluid, and an electric signal can realign the magnets to firm or soften the ride, depending on conditions.

Some other technology is making its debut inside the car, first and foremost the new CUE system, or Cadillac User Experience. It’s not the first integrated system for all your connectivity needs (phone, entertainment, etc.), but it seeks to make interacting with everything less distracting. The large central touchscreen provides what’s called haptic feedback to your finger; that quick vibration you feel when you’ve touched an icon on the screen, much like a smart phone or tablet.

The result is that you don’t really need to focus too much on the display, as your fingers can navigate around almost entirely by feel, with just your peripheral vision keeping tabs on what’s happening.

There are a number of other safety features standard or available on the XTS, including a driver’s seat that can vibrate to alert you to a dangerous situation like when you’re inadvertently drifting out of your lane. Very high tech stuff in a car that still delivers traditional big American luxury.

Base price for the 2013 Cadillac XTS is $44,075. Varying trim levels add more features, and the top-of-the-line Platinum model starts at $58,160, or just over $60,000 if you want all wheel drive.

Those who like full-size Cadillacs might have been a little worried with all the attention paid to the smaller models in recent years. But they can rest assured that the brand is still in the business of building large luxury cars.

I’ll see you down the road.

Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @dave_kunz, Facebook: ABC7Dave

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