Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: April 18, 2018
Cadillac has thoroughly revamped their product strategy in the past few years, pivoting more towards a fun and rewarding driving experience rather than its prior laid back bias towards comfort and style. We’ve seen the fruits of their labour through the Alpha platform, a shared chassis that the ATS and CTS (and their V variants) are born on, and those were phenomenal cars that we really wouldn’t mind taking to the track.
The XTS however is a stark reminder of Cadillac’s former self, sharing its roots with the current Chevrolet Impala. Both vehicles are built on GM’s aging Epsilon II platform which first debuted in 2008. Optimized for transverse engine mounts and all-wheel drive (or front wheel drive) applications, it immediately says a lot about the focus of the XTS’s driving dynamics. So, why the glaring V-Sport badge on the trunk lid?
As the name implies, V-Sport is an injection of the CTS-V and ATS-V’s bonkers DNA. It’s a lot more than what your typical manufacturer would call “sport”, adding just a few faux carbon fibre trim fixings and maybe a decal or two and call it a day. Cadillac however takes the word seriously, and that means equipping the XTS V-Sport with a mean twin-turbocharged 3.6-litre V6 with all-wheel drive.
With 410-hp on tap, you’d think igniting this sedan would have a lot more flair but the reality is quite the opposite - a betrayal of its V-Sport moniker. In XTS tune, this V6 receives 10 horses less than the CTS and 61 lb-ft less of torque. However, it does find all of that twist much earlier in the powerband at 1,900 rpm.
Power is routed through a 6-speed automatic to all four corners, and pundits will note the absence of GM’s homebrew 8-speed gearbox - a design constraint as it’s meant for longitudinally-mounted power plants. Despite all of the performance drawbacks in the manufacturer’s 8-speed unit, the two extra cogs are sorely missed in this application. Fuel consumption has been abysmal, averaging over 14.0 L/100km during my week.
Left to its own devices the 6-speed performs adequately, providing smooth shifts that don’t perturb occupants. Push it a bit harder and the transmission showcases its limits rather quickly, delaying downshifts as it struggles to keep up. Upshifts in manual mode require you to compensate for the lag too. Mistime the shift and you’ll find your face pressed against the windshield as the power cuts out at the limit.
GM’s well lauded Magnetic Ride Control makes a presence in this big Caddy, though noticeably lacking are the different drive modes. Its lone setting needs to handle the comfort and sporty whims of the driver at any point in time. For the most part, it quells undulations in the road well, though the ride is on the stiff side, understandable as it’s required to deal with the massive weight shuffle when cornering. The XTS tends to lean in hard on too, sapping confidence as it does so. Cadillac’s smaller vehicles want you to push it harder, rewarding drivers as they do, but this just feels like a begrudging retired athlete. It’ll do it if you really force it, but it sure as hell won’t be happy.
Which incidentally might be an accurate descriptor of its target market - senior citizens. The XTS is an old school Cadillac in a modern suit. It even comes equipped with a full suite of driving aids to monitor the road environment while occupants enjoy a massage on their heated seats.
The CT6 dictated the future of Cadillac’s design and the XTS happily falls in line with a slight nip tuck for 2018. This includes a refreshed front fascia with LED headlamps that are instantly recognizable from the CT6’s design repertoire. The signature grille gets simplified with a number of horizontal slats in lieu of the ISS solar panels that adorned the outgoing model, and the rear is further retouched with prominent L-shaped LED tail lights. Viewed in isolation, the cosmetic enhancements serve the car well. However it doesn’t address its odd proportions. The transverse engine orientation allows for a compact hood, and when combined with the mildly raked A and C pillars, the silhouette looks like a giant contact lens: tall and dome-like.
The design choices pay off when you slip inside the luxo-barge. It’s a vast and expansive cabin offering plenty of headroom for both front and rear occupants. Perhaps it’s Stockholm Syndrome but I no longer mind CUE as its received a significant reworking. The experience now is much speedier and more importantly, responsive. The rest of the cabin remains largely unchanged, comfortable, and elegant. There’s nothing deceptive about the materials used either. The brushed aluminum surfacing serves as a striking contrast to the warm and inviting leather. Topping things off are classy dark wood trim panels accented by LEDs strategically hidden throughout.
With an as-tested price of $78,310, the 2018 Cadillac XTS V-Sport Platinum presents a solid case for premium large sedan shoppers, if this were 2010. But it’s not, and the biggest threat to this Cadillac doesn’t come from across the pond but rather from within their own camp, the CT6. With the latter’s forward looking design and more engaging driving experience for a a few thousand dollars more, the XTS becomes incredibly difficult to justify. It’s bias towards comfort and luxury earn it some praise, but ultimately the XTS is slowly becoming obsolete. I don't even think the V-Sport badge can save it.
Model: 2018 Cadillac XTS V-Sport Platinum
Paint Type: Dark Adriatic Blue Metallic
Base Price: $49,685
Price as Tested: $78,310
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,102 / 1,852 / 1,509
Curb weight (kg): 1,896
Engine: 3.6-litre twin-turbocharged V6
Horsepower: 410 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 1,900 - 5,600 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 13.2 / 8.5
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 14.3