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Over the past several years Cadillac has made some memorable sedans--especially the CTS and CTS-V models, which are bolder and brasher than about any other sport sedans on the market. The trouble is, that overly edgy style hasn't exactly resonated with the heart of the luxury market. The CTS (and the adrenalizing CTS-V) might go a long way for Cadillac’s image, but there are a lot more Cadillac shoppers wearing their Fratelli Rossettis (okay…or just rocking the Hush Puppies) than flaunting their Pilotis.
To help Cadillac set its controls for the heart of the luxury market--"large luxury," as they put it--there's the softer, smoother 2013 Cadillac XTS. It’s a good-looking car on the outside, and while the boxed-out front and rear appearance give the XTS a distinct look, you can see some resemblance to the related Buick LaCrosse in the profile and softly arched roofline (it’s also related to the upcoming 2014 Chevrolet Impala). Cadillac would probably rather have you look from the inside out, as the XTS’s instrument panel and interior trims look like those of no other GM vehicle; there’s a swoopier look and softer details throughout. We're impressed by the combination of smooth contouring inside, contrasting with beveled, metallic trim pieces, all fitting tightly.
At the center of the XTS's instrument panel is a reminder of this sedan's leading-edge feature set: an eight-inch, fully capacitive touch screen—like what's used in iPads and other tablets, and the first of its kind to be integrated into a new car. The system comes standard, cleaning up the dashboard and leaving it remarkably free of physical buttons; and in many XTS models there are no real gauges either—just a reconfigurable 'screen' of simulated ones.
Cadillac is quick to point out that the 2013 Cadillac XTS isn't trying to be a finely honed sport sedan. But taking that more comfort-oriented mission into consideration, the XTS ends up feeling surprisingly athletic. The XTS's 304-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 moves it plenty quick, with a responsive six-speed automatic transmission, and it can get to 60 mph in less than seven seconds. And in cornering you don't feel the 4,000-plus-pound curb weight so much; thanks to a well-tuned suspension, with MagneRide magnetic ride control and air springs, the XTS stays composed and isolated, keeping minor harshness out while responses are more crisp than in other comfort-oriented cars.
MagneRide rather magically cleans up the ride quality, while the active noise control (included in all XTS models, too) counters road noise, so with the XTS's additional noise insulation, it's very quiet inside. And if passenger space is the priority, you've come to the right place in considering the XTS; in back-seat space in particular, it's roomier than most other sedans this size, with plenty of headroom and lots of legroom. Front seats allow plenty of space, too, though they could be a bit more supportive.
If you opt for either of the safety-tech packages in the 2013 XTS, you'll get one of the most extensive lists of safety features in any vehicle, at any price--including, later this year, a system that can brake the XTS to a stop from about 20 mph--to help reduce pedestrian accidents, for instance.
The XTS comes in standard guise, plus in Luxury Collection, Premium Collection, and Platinum Collection versions. All come with CUE, although only the top two models include navigation and premium audio--which help make the most of the system, which also has one of the best voice-recognition interfaces we've ever tested.