Cadillac XTS AWD Premium Review
Patrick Rall's picture

2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium Review: a true luxury flagship sedan with a bargain price

While German and Japanese luxury brands grab the lion’s share of attention in the modern auto industry, the 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium serves as a stark reminder that there is a true luxury flagship sedan that offers all of the comforts and amenities offered by the foreign counterparts made in the USA with a surprisingly low price.

Cadillac has always been well known for the brand’s level of luxury features inside and out but with the introduction of the new XTS – General Motors wanted to remind the world that an American automaker still makes a big, super-luxurious sedan that can rival anything in the world. The 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium is a rolling testament to the fact that you can get a loaded up, high end luxury sedan from an American automaker and you can do so with a substantially lower price. Even though it is hard to classify a $60k luxury sedan as a bargain – that is exactly what the XTS AWD Premium is in relation to the competition.

When you consider the prices of other full size, all wheel drive luxury sedans including the BMW 740LI xDrive ($80,600), the Audi A8 ($72,200), the Lexus LS460 AWD ($75,830) and the Mercedes Benz S550 4MATIC ($98,905), the 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium’s price (as tested) of $60,620 is vastly less expensive than the competition although it offers all of the same features that a modern luxury buyer expects – and more. Also, with fuel economy figures of 17 miles per gallon around town, 26 in the city and 20mpg combined, the XTS is one of the more efficient all wheel drive luxury sedans available in the US.

Before I get into the heart of my 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium review, I should point out that the Premium package is not the top of the line XTS. That right is reserved for the XTS AWD Platinum which includes everything in the Premium package while adding 20” wheels, a standard Ultra View sunroof, rear window shades, a sueded headliner, some extra chrome bits around the exterior and a more elaborate leather interior package.

Fortunately, my test car was fitted with 20” wheels that are very similar to those found on the Platinum package and while my test car was not fitted with the Ultra View sunroof – it is available on the XTS AWD Premium. These wheels added $500 to the $55,810 base price of the XTS AWD Premium while the Crystal Red Tintcoat exterior paint and Driver Assist Package added $995 and $2,395 respectively. Those who want the big sunroof can add that for $1,450 but shy of the chromed up exterior and the more heavily leather clad interior – the Premium package doesn’t leave XTS buyers wanting for much.

The Exterior of Cadillac XTS

The Cadillac XTS essentially introduced the world to the current Cadillac brand exterior design language that has since been applied to the new ATS compact sedan and the redesigned CTS midsized sedan. The most significant feature of the XTS exterior is the front end that combines high tech lighting with a big, bold chrome grille that leaves no question that this is a premium luxury sedan. The angular design to the grille creates sharp lines that flow from the bottom of the front fascia, along the grille, through the outer edges of the hood and into the windshield. Adding to the fluid front end design are the large headlight assemblies that narrow as they travel back into the front fenders which, with the lines that run along the grille, give the XTS a very fast look.

Bolstering the high tech look are rows of LEDs that run down the outer edge of the headlight assemblies with the LED treatment being echoed in the fog lights mounted low in the front fascia. In addition to these LED driving and fog lights, the XTS features projection headlights that look great and provide gobs of light for nighttime driving. The whole front end of the XTS is punctuated by the huge Cadillac crest mounted in the middle of the sexy silver grille.

Cadillac XTS front

From the side, the 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium features a silhouette that looks more like an elongated fastback coupe than a large sedan. The short bonnet, low roofline, gently sloping back glass and short trunklid give the XTS a low, sinister design that looks slippery and offers great aerodynamics for improved fuel economy. My AWD package has a slightly taller stance than the front wheel drive XTS but while the chassis sits a bit higher, the sleek roofline preserves sporty feel. Furthering the coupe like design from the side are the black B and C pillars with the entire side glass wrapped in chrome while some subtle bright silver trim on the door handles and lower body appliqué add just enough chrome to remind us that this is a premium luxury sedan. Too much chrome has become unfashionable in the luxury world but GM added just enough chrome to the exterior of the XTS to give it that bling factor without being gaudy. The addition of the optional 20” wheels go a long way in filling out the wheel wells and giving the XTS a more high end look since it has become commonplace for high end luxury sedans to have some nice, big wheels.

The back end of the 2013 Cadillac XTS has been a point of controversy since its debut as it doesn’t quite offer the level of sporty design that we see across the front end and as much as I love the front end, I have to agree that the back end could be a bit more aggressive. The tall, thin LED taillights look great and they’re impossible to miss at night but beyond those high tech taillights, the rump of the XTS is very vanilla whereas the front end is more like mint chocolate chip covered with chocolate syrup and whipped cream. There is nothing “wrong” with the back end but it just seems like it could use some jazzing up to fit with the rest of the car. The integrated exhaust tips and the LED wing/third brake light combo are great but like the taillights, they take up only a very small portion of a fairly large back end. At the same time, there is something to be said for simplicity and there are plenty of XTS owners who love this rear end design so this is more of a matter of opinion than anything else.

XTS rear

The Interior

The interior of the 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium is the keystone of this luxury sedan and there is nothing that you don’t get in terms of modern luxury goodies. The heated and cooled front seats are wrapped in plush leather with incredible adjustability to offer unbelievable levels of comfort. All modern luxury sedans – especially in the full size class – have comfortable seats but I believe that the driver’s seat in the new XTS is the most comfortable I’ve experienced in a car that is priced in the five-figure range.

The XTS driver’s seat offers your basic settings (up and down, forward and back, seat base angle) along with 4 way power lumbar adjustments and thigh depth adjustments so you can have as much or as little support for your legs as you want when behind the wheel of the XTS. Add to those seat adjustments the depth-adjustable headrest and you have a driver’s seat that is every bit as comfortable and supportive in every way as a high end leather recliner that your average luxury car buyer would have in their home. I don’t think that I can clearly describe just how comfortable these front seats are so if you are in the market for a new luxury sedan – I strongly suggest that you go experience the seats (and the rest of the car) for yourself. The passenger front seat allows similar levels of comfort and adjustability.

XTS front seats

On top of that, the XTS features Cadillac’s Safety Seat that vibrates in different areas to alert the driver of a variety of hazardous conditions including lane departure, blind spot monitoring, forward collision alert and rear cross traffic warning. When you are wander out of your lane or are in risk of a front end collision, the different zones of the driver’s seat vibrate to get your attention. Honestly, I found this system to be most useful when parking in lots that have high curbs as it vibrates under your legs (at the front of the seat) when you get too close to the curb.

Basic comfort and technology of the seats aside, the 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium offers a ton of passenger space in the front and rear with an uncompromising amount of head, leg, elbow and shoulder room for the driver and passengers both front and rear. The back seat has a declining angle that is comfortable and relaxing while also helping this sleek-roofed sedan to offer plenty of rear head room for tall passengers. You can seat two large adults very comfortably in the back seat and while the middle seating position doesn’t have the comfy cushion design of the outer seats, this seat is pretty comfortable as these third seats go.

XTS seats rear

My Cadillac XTS AWD Premium was fitted with the two tone caramel and jet black that features an even balance of black and tan leather accented by silver and wooden trim throughout. As you can see in the image above, the seats are largely clad in caramel leather with more of this light tan hue on the upper portion of the door panels and the lower portion of the dash. The jet black is found in the seat accents, across the dash cap, through the middle of the dash, in the lower portions of the door panels and in the carpeting and floormats while the black leather is accented along the dash and center armrest with caramel stitch work. This color layout gives the XTS a very plush look that I love and were I to buy an XTS today, the caramel/jet black would most certainly be my first choice for interior colors. Best of all, when the sun goes down and the interior cabin lights come on – the silver trim along the dash and door panels present the soft glow of white LEDs that offers just a touch of interior lighting in a very classy way.

XTS dash

The crown jewel of the 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium is the Cadillac CUE infotainment system which incorporates the navigation system, the stereo system, the dynamic back up camera display and the hands-free phone system into one large touchscreen mounted high on the dash. Below that touchscreen is a touch-panel that controls the vehicle’s dual zone climate control system while also offering some basic controls for the sound system. Those who don’t want to take their hands off of the heated steering wheel can also call upon the many buttons on the side spokes of the wheel to adjust the sound system or the adaptive cruise control. The steering wheel controls also allow the driver to adjust the stunning thin film transistor gauge cluster that features three large gauges (tachometer, speedometer, engine temp/fuel level) with smaller information displays within each. The image below shows the TFT panel adjusted to show tire pressure inside of the tachometer, a digital speedometer inside of the analog speedometer and the digital compass inside of the combo temp/fuel gauge. The driver can also select fuel economy gauges, a stereo readout and a navigation display among many other options.

XTS gauge cluster

Speaking of the sound system, my 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium was fitted with the optional Bose 14 speaker sound system that is – by estimate- one of the best “stock” sound systems ever offered in an American car. This speaker system offers incredibly crisp, clean sound with the sharpest highs and the most earth-shattering lows across the entire range of volume. There are even “tweeters” mounted on either side of the front headrests so the sound literally engulfs you while driving. No matter how loud you turn this system up, it sounds great and it hits as hard as any sound system I’ve experienced. If you are buying a new XTS – the Bose 14 speaker system is a must-have.

But wait…there’s more!

In addition to the super comfortable, roomy seats, the plush interior finishes, the CUE infotainment system and the high end Bose sound system, the 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium features a heads up information display that is also one of the best Ive experienced. GM has been trying to get heads up displays right for a very long time but with the XTS heads up display – the General has hit a home run. It takes some time to get used to having something floating in your direct line of sight while driving but once you’ve grown accustomed to the display – it is a great feature. It is customizable so in addition to the vehicle speed and blind zone readout, the heads up display will also show the speed limit, a linear tachometer and your sound system selection. Ultimately, if you do not like the heads up display, you can adjust it so that it is out of sight altogether but I would wager that a few miles driven with this system will make most drivers fall in love with the convenience.

XTs heads up display

The 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium has so much content that I am sure that I am missing things so this is a cabin best experienced firsthand. I have no doubt that any luxury sedan shopper who checks out the XTS will agree that this is one of the most comfortable and most luxurious sedans available in the US market.

The Drive
The 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium is powered by the same 3.6L V6 as the rest of the XTS lineup with 304 horsepower and 264lb-ft of torque being funneled to the advanced all wheel drive system. This drivetrain makes the XTS one of the most fuel efficient AWD options in the segment and while it doesn’t offer the big power that you can opt for in some far more expensive luxury sedans, it provides more than enough power to make the XTS very confident on the road. This isn’t a car that is going to win many drag races but the powerful V6 pulls hard through the midrange and that equates to a great drive on the open road with plenty of higher speed passing power. While the bottom end acceleration isn’t equal to some V8 powered luxury sedans, the XTS will very comfortably and confidently cruise down the highway at even the highest speed limits in the country – and well above said speed limits if the driver opts to do so.

Whether you are driving the Cadillac XTS around town or out on the open road, the cabin is whisper quiet at 25 miles per hour or 75 miles per hour and a big part of that is the Magnetic Ride Control suspension system that is constantly adapting to the road surface and the driving style to offer the best balance of comfort and handling. This is a similar adjust on the fly suspension system that is featured in the Corvette ZR1, the Camaro ZL1 and the high performance CTS-V vehicles but unlike those performance models, the magnetic ride control system in the XTS works to optimize comfort while also providing impressive handling capabilities.

When driving hard on a smooth road with lots of turns, the suspension system adjusts to improve handling as much as possible while reducing ride quality as little as is necessary but when you enter the highway with a rougher surface, the suspension system can soften itself so that the roughness of the road isn’t transferred through to the driver and passengers. In short, when the XTS is being driven gently the suspension adjusts to offer the most comfortable possible ride regardless of the road conditions while hard driving will afford the XTS improved handling characteristics – providing the best of both worlds for this big luxury sedan. Also, this high tech suspension system works with the advanced all wheel drive system to offer great road handling capabilities in all types of weather and road conditions.

Cadillac XTS

While the 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium doesn’t pack the big power of the competitors, the 304 horsepower V6 provides plenty of power to get this roomy Caddy sedan down the road in a hurry while also very real fuel economy measures of 20 miles per gallon over the course of a tank of fuel. I do not drive gently by any means yet I was still able to average 20.4 miles per gallon while driving the XTS AWD with a pretty even mix of highway and city driving.

The 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium offers comparable power to a handful of far more expensive luxury sedans (like the ones mentioned above) but when driving this roomy GM luxury sedan, it really doesn’t feel like a vehicle starved for power. There was a point in time where no proper flagship Cadillac could be taken seriously without a big V8 but the 3.6L V6 provides enough power for most luxury sedan buyers with impressive fuel economy measures.

More importantly, the whisper quiet cabin works with the magnetic ride control system to offer an astonishingly smooth ride even on Detroit’s rough highways at speeds topping 70mph. This isnt a vehicle that is going to rival the higher end luxury sport sedans but for those who care more about a true luxury ride, the XTS delivers 100%. For the luxury sedan driver who is less concerned with going fast and more concerned with a comfortable, capable ride in any weather condition and any road surface – the XTS is perfect.

XTS side

The Final Word

The 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium might be missing a few items from the brand’s Platinum package but there is so much luxury content in the XTS Premium that buyers likely won’t miss things like a leather wrapped center console or rear sun shades – and everything else from the top of the line package can be added to the Premium sedan. That being said, the incredible number of high end luxury amenities inside and out make the new XTS truly worthy of the title of a premium luxury flagship. A smooth yet sporty ride, a super luxurious cabin with tons of space, a sharp exterior design that is distinctly Cadillac and seemingly every high tech gadget possible come together to make the new XTS sedan one of the most impressive luxury sedans in the world today. This is a luxury sedan that is as obsessively opulent as any other large sedan in the class but this big Caddy offers all of these goodies with a price tag that is tens of thousands of dollars less than the competition. If you want a large all wheel drive sedan that stands at the summit of modern luxury with a price that is substantially lower than the competition – the 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Premium is your next new car.


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