2013 Cadillac XTS: Is CUE The Best Touch-Screen Interface Yet?

May 29, 2012
If you've owned a luxury car in recent years, you're familiar with the idea of a screen-based interface as a control hub for connectivity, navigation, and entertainment. But these systems—like MyLincoln Touch (Lincoln), iDrive (BMW), COMAND (Mercedes-Benz), MMI (Audi), or Remote Touch (Lexus)—are often a far cry, in ease of use, from the interfaces we have on our smartphones and tablets.

Finally in the 2013 Cadillac XTS that reaches dealerships in a few weeks (and on the way in the 2013 Cadillac ATS later this year) there's a system called CUE (the Cadillac User Experience), which has some of the functionality we're used to from those personal devices. According to GM, it has the first fully capacitive touch screen—much like the one in the iPad—in an original-equipment car system; the first gestural and proximity sensing in a car-based interface; and the first build-in haptic feedback in any screen-based system.

CUE can do a number of things that only a few other systems can at this point, like read text messages to the driver or send pre-formatted text replies. And it utilizes a next-generation version of voice-recognition software from Nuance, installed and processed onboard rather than relying on a network/data connection.

Although by now we've received several demos and previews of what CUE will be like—and we've already seen that it's one of the best-looking interfaces yet—we were faced with the question of how, really, will CUE actually work in the car, while you're driving?

Natural language works—most of the time

Thankfully, we can report no major hangups, or distractions. And even more importantly, we had a far more pleasant and productive experience with CUE's voice recognition system than with the systems in any other new cars. Over the nearly ten different voice tasks that we tried to do—mostly audio- or navigation-related—CUE understood our natural-language command and simply did it.

The voice recognition mostly did exactly what we told it. It's the newest voice processing from Nuance, and it’s again a big step better than what’s in current-generation vehicles. Additionally, the XTS's exceptionally quiet interior and its standard active noise cancellation play a role in functionality here. That said, it's still far from perfect. For instance, a query to take us to ‘Griffith Park’ brought the suggestion of ‘Crispers’ over and over again (when you say 'no,' why won't it remove that possibility from the query list?). Eventually we got there by asking for the adjacent Griffith Observatory instead.

From behind the driver's seat, while focusing on driving, we found CUE's abbreviated, reconfigurable gauge panel to be very useful in avoiding distraction. You can choose from several primary gauge layouts, placing whatever information is particularly important to you, and then it's all within easy sight and controllable via steering-wheel toggle buttons.

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