- Sprawl-out backseat space
- Quiet, refined interior
- Awesome safety net
- Near-ideal ride and handling
- Capacitative "buttons"
- Expensive for what it is
- Front seats could have better support
The 2017 Cadillac XTS is quick, comfortable full-size cruiser, one that lives up to its back-seat hype.
At one time, the Cadillac XTS was going to be GM's luxury flagship. Goalposts move, the C-suite changes, and today, the XTS is a full-size luxury car with an inordinate appeal to airport shuttles and car-hailing services.
It's been supplanted as the uber-Caddy by the CT6, but that doesn't make the XTS obsolete before its time. In any of its four versions—base, Luxury, Premium, and Platinum—the XTS is a handsome, well-mannered four-door that leaves the executive-sedan arms race to the CT6 and its Euro rivals (S-Class, 7-Series, A8).
There's also a wonderfully composed XTS V-Sport, in Premium Luxury and Platinum trim. Its twin-turbo V-6 and standard all-wheel drive make it the only XTS we'd buy, if we had no plans to press it into fleet service.
The XTS' rivals include everything from the new Lincoln Continental and Genesis G80, to the Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6. In that class, it fares best in features and interior space.
On our ratings scale, the XTS earns a 7.2 out of 10, thanks in big part to its big back seat and excellent big-car road manners. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Styling and performance
The 2017 XTS is a handsome sedan with a softly arched roofline and a smoothly drawn profile. It's the plus-sized companion to other Cadillac sedans, the only one without the long-nose, short-deck proportions of a classic sport sedan.
It's a good-looking car, but Cadillac should think about selling it inside-out. The XTS has a wonderfully clubby cabin, with a lovely mix of contoured lines and well-chosen textures and tones. Fit and finish are up to a high grade, with beveled, tightly-fitted metallic trim pieces snugged up against wood and leather.
The Cadillac XTS doesn't aim its gunsights at the AMG and M sedans of the world, but it's more athletic than it lets on. A base 305-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 is smooth and predictable with the 6-speed automatic, although it's a little lacking from a standing start. We'd pick the V-Sport's twin-turbocharged, 3.6-liter V-6; its 410 hp deliver a V-8-like kick.
Gas mileage isn't bad in the XTS, even if you're dead. The EPA rates the front-drive XTS at 22 mpg combined, while all-wheel-drive models are pegged at 20 mpg. The XTS Hearse, because you need to know, gets a 17-mpg combined rating (figured with two live passengers aboard).
In terms of ride and handling, the XTS tones down Cadillac's cushy, underdamped past and dials in a more connected driving feel. The XTS is well composed and well-isolated, thanks to a combination of magnetic dampers and air springs. It's very quiet inside, and at the same time, its responses are more crisp than in other comfort-oriented cars.
Comfort, safety, and features
When passenger space is the question, the XTS is a good answer. It's more than spacious, with excellent head and leg room, front and back. The front seats could use a bit more support, but the back is just about perfect—as you well know, based on your last trip to the airport.
The XTS has an extensive set of safety features, from surround-view cameras to adaptive cruise control. Crash-test scores are good, but incomplete.
The XTS comes in standard guise, plus in Luxury Collection, Premium Collection, and Platinum Collection versions. All come with power features, remote start, cruise control, and an infotainment system, dubbed CUE.
CUE runs functions like audio and navigation via an 8.0-inch touchscreen, one that responds to gestures, like a tablet computer. CUE leaves the dash remarkably free of physical buttons, and that's a mixed blessing. It's very good at voice commands and touch-and-swipe toggling between features, but it's too easy to trigger competing functions, and we've hit noticeable lags in screen responses.
For 2017, the XTS adopts a new gauge cluster, as well as a teen-driving protection system. Teen Driver can give visual and audible warnings when the car goes over a set speed limit, and can display how and where the vehicle was driven during a certain time period. It can also mute audio from the car's radio or from portable devices when seatbelts are not properly fastened.
2017 Cadillac XTS
The Cadillac XTS is all about low-key luxury, from its quietly attractive sheet metal to its well-composed cockpit.
The XTS has plenty of sharp angles and creases in its sheet metal, but the Cadillac design theme called "Art & Science" has been softened dramatically since it bowed almost 15 years ago.
We score it a 7 out of 10. From our base score of 5, we award the XTS points for a nicely drawn interior and exterior, though it doesn't quite break through in class-best ways. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Inside, the XTS marked a big step forward in Cadillac interior quality. The instrument panel and interior trims spare the passengers the clutter of lots of lines and material types. It's a collection of smartly chosen textures, pared-down design, and tasteful tone choices. Since it was new, we've been impressed by the XTS' combination of beveled, metallic trim pieces, fitting tightly against smooth contouring—a feat of fit and finish, really.
At the center of the XTS's instrument panel sits an 8.0-inch, fully capacitive touchscreen like those used in tablet computing. It's part of the Cadillac User Experience (CUE), which removes many physical buttons from the cockpit and advances the interior design. There aren't any real gauges either in many XTS models, just simulated ones on a separate configurable screen in front of the driver. There are ergonomic consequences, but in terms of styling, the screens are a net plus.
With its exterior design, the XTS balances taut panels and curved surfaces in a way that hides some of its bulk. It's a very attractive large sedan, with a smooth and clean profile, and enough of the edgy theme applied to give it a distinct Cadillac look in the universe of softly sculpted luxury sedans. There's some faint resemblance to the related Buick LaCrosse and Chevy Impala, mostly in the profile and the softly arched roofline.
2017 Cadillac XTS
Capable road manners are standard on all models, but the VSport is the Cadillac XTS for us.
With the XTS, Cadillac isn't so much challenging the sporty editions of the best-selling German luxury sedans, as tightening up the game of its classic big luxury sedan. It's progressively tuned the XTS with tauter dynamics than any DTS or Deville ever offered—and in V-Sport trim, it's given it a deep source of thrust.
We give it points above our base score of 5 for its excellent V-Sport engine and the absorbent ride in all models. In past years, it would have received a point for for its 6-speed automatic, but more efficient 8-speed units have become standard issue in many vehicles in its class. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Base XTS sedans come with a perfectly serviceable 3.6-liter V-6 with 305 hp. It starts very smoothly, idles quietly, and settles to a glassy idle. Cadillac pegs this model at 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds and at a (limited) top speed of 136 mph; it's reasonably quick, though it can feel labored when pulling away from a stoplight with a full load of passengers. It doesn't churn out low-end torque like some V-6 rivals, but its power is delivered ably by a smooth and predictable 6-speed automatic transmission, with either front- or all-wheel drive.
Our pick is the V-Sport's twin-turbocharged, 3.6-liter V-6. It kicks out 410 hp and 369 pound-feet of torque, which it makes from 1,900 rpm all the way up to 5,600 rpm. If you're hesitating over the XTS because it lacks a V-8, the V-Sport V-6 and its immense power deserves a fair shot.
Cadillac XTS ride and handling
You might expect floaty, cushy ride motions and lifeless steering, but that's the Cadillac of two generations ago. The XTS has superb road manners, not just for a car of its size. This sedan has an absorbent, relatively firm ride that comes courtesy of MagneRide, a system that uses electromagnetically adjustable dampers to quickly adjust ride quality to soak up harshly broken pavement. MagneRide works together with a leveling air suspension to stay composed, even when you have the whole family loaded in.
It helps make the XTS feel more nimble without being any less comfortable, and with the deft damping of MagneRide, the XTS doesn't feel as heavy as its base 4,000-pound curb weight. It loads and unloads into corners in a confident way, and stays flat, rarely coming across as flustered. There are two wheel sizes,19- and 20-inchers, and the differences between them, from behind the wheel, are really minimal.
One minor complaint in braking isn't enough to deduct a point from its score. When braking hard (strong Brembo front brakes are standard), there's some noticeable nosedive. That's a compromise dialed into its dampers by engineers, to preserve the XTS's ride quality.
2017 Cadillac XTS
Comfort & Quality
The XTS' secret weapon is a gargantuan, well-padded back seat.
Almost the size of a short-wheelbase BMW 7-Series or Audi S8, the Cadillac XTS is one of the few five-seat sedans that can actually host that many adults.
We give it a score of 8. From the base score of 5, we award it points for excellent front and rear seats, and for very good interior and cargo storage. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The XTS doesn't seem quite as large from the outside, as it is from the inside. The cabin's laid out to deliver maximum head and leg room.
In front, the seats are very good, with a wide range of adjustments possible with its standard power seats. They're not of the super-supportive, carved-out, adjustable-in-every-way class as those of some flagship models, but we've spent hours in them without complaint. Also, they're mounted a bit higher than those in other large luxury cars, which grants great outward vision.
The back seat is the XTS' secret weapon. Many luxury cars disappoint there, but this Caddy has enough space to fit any passenger in comfort. The headliner includes carved-out areas for even more head room behind the sunroof housing, so even those taller than 6 feet will have extra space. The back seats don't have exaggerated contours, but as a result, the middle back seat is entirely useful.
Cadillac XTS quality
Interior materials are excellent, even opulent. There's real wood trim; available soft Opus leather with perforated inserts (Platinum trim); a leather-wrapped instrument panel; and soft-touch surfaces virtually everywhere. Step up to Platinum models and you'll get a headliner made of Alcantara synthetic suede.
Active noise cancellation also helps keep the XTS cabin quiet, negating some road noise and any boom from the powertrain; the engine is only audible under hard acceleration.
The XTS comes close to earning an additional point for exceptional quality, thanks to its quiet and attractive cabin. Its fussy controls hold it back.
Ergonomically, some might be shocked or surprised to find out that there are no physical buttons for the climate control or audio, other than what's on the steering wheel. Swipe-style controls replace some good old-fashioned buttons, and they don't always inspire confidence, or deliver the desired effect.
2017 Cadillac XTS
The XTS does very well in crash testing, but those tests are incomplete.
The Cadillac XTS has earned very good crash-test scores, but those scores are lacking one of the most recent bits of data.
We give the current XTS a score of 7, awarding it points for a five-star NHTSA rating and for its affordably priced safety options. It misses a point for not achieving five-star ratings on all tests; it earns 4 stars for rollover resistance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
It leaves more points on the table in IIHS testing; it earns "Good" ratings in all tests performed, but hasn't been subject to the new small-overlap test, which prevents it from being named a Top Safety Pick or TSP+.
Standard safety features include traction and stability control and airbags, as well as a rearview camera. It's on the options list where the XTS excels. It can be equipped with a suite of safety technology that includes forward-collision warnings,lane-departure warnings, blind-spot monitors, and surround-view cameras.
The package also bundles in the GM Safety Alert Seat, which vibrates on one side or both to help point out potential dangers—like when you veer over the lane marking, for instance--as well as adaptive cruise control with automatic emergency braking.
The XTS can also be ordered with an Automatic Parking Assist feature that will steer the car into a parking space, with the driver only tending to the brakes.
2017 Cadillac XTS
We'd rather use CarPlay than CUE; the rest of the XTS' features are top-notch.
The 2017 XTS is a very good value in its class. It's priced like a well-equipped mid-size luxury sedan, and offers lots of technology and features to compete with direct rivals and some stretch targets like the Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
We've given it a score of 8 here because it offers excellent base and optional equipment, and a range of custom features, mostly to make it a better chauffeured car. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
If we were cheeky, we'd give it a point for a "killer app"—the XTS can be factory-ordered as a hearse. We're not that punny today.
Standard and optional features
Four different versions of the standard XTS are offered: there's base, Luxury, Premium, and Platinum. Each of these models comes with power features; remote start; Bose audio; and dual-zone automatic climate control.
As you shop those higher trim levels, Cadillac adds some fancy stuff to the mix. Premium and Platinum models get a configurable gauge cluster with a new look for 2017. It has several layouts and lots of customization programmed into its design. Those models also get a head-up display, which projects critical information onto the windshield.
The XTS Platinum has 22-way power-adjustable front seats with heating, cooling and massage features.
Stand-alone options include include navigation on base models; a surround-view camera system; a panoramic sunroof; wireless smartphone charging; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; and a safety package that adds adaptive cruise control.
The XTS is covered by a 4-year, 50,000-mile limited warranty. The warranty does not cover regular maintenance, as Jaguar has adopted, and doesn't include valet service, as Hyundai's new Genesis division offers for free.
Cadillac XTS infotainment
The XTS doesn't win our point for its infotainment system, though it's one of the more advanced ones in any luxury car.
CUE—short for Cadillac User Experience—is a haptic touchscreen system that can accept inputs with gestures, even if your fingers aren't touching the screen. It's an attractive, smartly organized interface, but it still has some notable flaws, four years after its introduction.
It responds well to voice commands. Ask it to “Take me to Starbucks,” or “Let's go to Starbucks,” and it can understand. There's no need to learn nested commands or particular words.
Its learning curve is somewhat less steep than other complex infotainment systems, mostly because its gesture interface is like popular smartphones, with swipe-and-pinch touch control.
Screen scrolling is smooth and glitch-free, and the live-traffic features that have been cause for frustration in so many other vehicles seemed to work flawlessly here, with good detail.
However, CUE can feel jumpy and slow to process commands. We've lost our place at critical junctions during navigation, and the proximity control of its touchscreen sometimes chooses functions we hadn't intended.
It's telling that, where it's offered, we usually plug in and go right to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Their simplified, near-native smartphone experience is much easier to comprehend and use on a regular basis.
2017 Cadillac XTS
The full-size XTS turns in decent gas mileage for its size.
At about 4,000 pounds on the scales, the Cadillac XTS is no lightweight sedan. With up to 410 hp, it's also no lightweight in performance.
It's no surprise, then, that it delivers decent, not stellar, gas mileage, which earns it a 6 on our ratings scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The EPA rates the base front-wheel-drive XTS at 18 mpg city, 28 highway, 22 combined. Adding all-wheel drive pushes the numbers down to 17/26/20 mpg.
The V-Sport is our favorite XTS for performance, but it's at the bottom of the list for frugality: it's rated at 16/23/18 mpg.
Considering its true five-passenger capacity—even for long road trips—that's quite respectable.
Of course, if it's your last road trip you have in mind, you'll be at peace knowing the XTS comes in factory guise as a hearse, and in that form, it's rated by the EPA at 15/21/17 mpg.