The XTS is for anyone who’s ever tried to sit in the CTS’ back seat behind a tall driver. Sure, the CTS is an accomplished, comparison-winning sport sedan and our 2014 Car of the Year, but the XTS provides far more space at the same price. And in the 410-hp, all-wheel-drive V-Sport Platinum form, the updated 2018 XTS does its best to earn a $73,840 price tag and eradicate associations you may have of the XTS as chauffeur-driven airport transportation.
Riding on the same platform as the Chevrolet Impala and Buick LaCrosse, the front- and all-wheel-drive XTS provides a level of interior space you won’t find on some of the Cadillac’s competition. And our Platinum-trimmed tester impressed us with rich interior materials nearly everywhere—well beyond those platform-mates and easily the match of top-tier competition. The V-Sport model elevates performance with its combination of all-wheel drive and a twin-turbo 3.6-liter V-6 making 410 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque.
The 2018 XTS V-Sport reached 60 mph in 5.2 seconds at the track, a noticeable 1.7-second improvement over a 304-hp base-engined all-wheel-drive XTS we’ve tested. A 5.2-second 0–60 time is quick for a 200.9-inch car, but others in the XTS V-Sport’s segment can keep up. We tested a rear-drive Genesis G80 with a V-8 engine (then known as a Hyundai Genesis) accelerating to 60 in 5.2 seconds, and the newer rear-drive G80 with a twin-turbo V-6 is just as quick. Despite having about 100 fewer horses than the Cadillac, an all-wheel-drive 2017 Volvo S90 T6 reached 60 in 5.6 seconds, and a 2017 BMW 540i smoked all of them with a 4.9-second time.
None of those competitors have the XTS’ 18-cubic-foot trunk, however, and the midsize BMW isn’t quite as spacious as the Cadillac. Despite the XTS’ size, testing director Kim Reynolds said the car is “much better handling than you’d predict looking at it.” On the figure-eight test, which tracks driving characteristics such as acceleration, braking, cornering, and the transitions between them, the Cadillac turned in a performance of 26.0 seconds at 0.70 g (average). The car exhibited noticeable roll and pitch on the track, but Reynolds commented that its suspension was damped acceptably. The XTS V-Sport’s figure-eight performance compares favorably to both G80 models, is slightly better than the S90 T6, but isn’t as good as the 540i.
Braking from 60 to 0 required 121 feet, behind the two G80s (116 feet), the 540i (117 feet), and the 2017 S90 (108 feet), but it’s worth noting that Volvo stretched that car for the 2018 model year. Road test editor Chris Walton said that for a car riding on all-season tires, the Cadillac’s braking distance is respectable, but he did note the car had a “squishy pedal” and the body exhibited “lots of dive.” Off the track, the XTS’ brake pedal requires too much travel before any actual braking occurs.
The star of the XTS V-Sport’s dynamics isn’t just the 410 hp under the hood, but the Magnetic Ride Control system, which produces a ride that’s not overly floaty yet still doesn’t pound over every road imperfection. Around town, the six-speed automatic feels like its standard transmission setting is Sport, but after more time with the car, I came to see it more as responsive than touchy. No matter how good the suspension and how responsive the transmission, though, no XTS will ever be as much fun on a winding road as a CTS.
Cadillac made meaningful sheetmetal changes to the XTS for its 2018-model-year update, but the car doesn’t look as premium as a CTS or any other rear-drive-based luxury sedan. Park the front-drive-based XTS near a rear-drive-based G80, and you’ll see a difference in proportions, from the Genesis’ longer hood to its shorter front overhang. At least front visibility in the XTS is improved by the way the short hood drops down, but between the high trunk lid and the extremely thick C-pillars, rear visibility isn’t good.
The XTS has decent safety scores, with a five-star overall rating (out of a possible five stars) from the NHTSA, and four Good crash-test scores from the IIHS. The XTS, which hasn’t been tested in all of the IIHS’ crash-test evaluations, used its automatic emergency braking system to come to a stop in a 12-mph test, avoiding a collision. In a 25-mph test, the car reduced speed by 12 mph, earning a Superior score (the highest rating). That’s good, but the BMW 5 Series and Genesis G80 earn the IIHS’ 2018 Top Safety Pick+ rating.
Where the XTS must apologize for its size and 410-hp V-Sportiness is fuel economy. Among competitors of different sizes, the quicker BMW 540i in all-wheel-drive form is EPA-rated at 20/29 mpg city/highway to the larger XTS V-Sport’s 16/23 mpg. The slightly slower Volvo S90 T6 AWD is rated at 22/31 mpg; the all-wheel-drive Genesis G80 comes in at 17/24 mpg for the 3.3T model and 15/23 mpg for the 5.0 flagship. OK, maybe buyers of large luxury sedans don’t care about fuel economy, but more efficient cars don’t have to refuel as often. On a highway road trip, that translates to about 74 more miles in an all-wheel-drive 540i, 39 miles in an all-wheel-drive G80 3.3T, and 44 miles in the all-wheel-drive S90 T6.
Not a big deal, but worth considering. Just like the placement of the XTS’ touchscreen, which at 8.0 inches, is on the small side for the segment. The screen’s functionality might be improved if it were mounted higher on the center stack for better visibility. Also, even though the volume slider and HVAC capacitive-touch buttons are easy enough to use, nothing beats volume and temperature control knobs. Even so, the polarizing controls look slick when the car is off—before the button labels illuminate—with stylized silver accents on top of piano black trim. Another interior highlight is the digital instrument cluster, which is standard on the Premium Luxury, Platinum, and V-Sport Platinum trims. The system is displayed on a 12.3-inch screen and offers lots of info customization options as well as three distinct display design themes (one is unique to the V-Sport model).
In Cadillac’s sedan lineup, the XTS’s 18-cubic-foot trunk is unmatched by even the CT6, though it’s too bad the XTS doesn’t offer a power-closing trunk. Cargo space should be important if you’re considering this car, which sits between the sportier CTS and the also-spacious CT6. The XTS in Platinum form boasts a rich interior with (mostly) rewarding details and a decent-sized back seat.
What the XTS doesn’t offer at any price is the stance that can distinguish a premium-branded car from less expensive mainstream models. Don’t take my word for it, though. Take an in-person look for yourself at the Genesis G80 as well as the Cadillac XTS and see if you like the proportions of one car over the other (maybe you won’t care). The Genesis’ biggest downside isn’t its odd front grille, but its complete lack of the cachet Cadillac still holds for many buyers. Otherwise, the G80 is a good luxury sedan that, like the XTS, is bigger inside than your neighbors’ 5 Series and E-Class. If you can’t see yourself in the much cheaper Genesis but still dig the XTS Platinum’s rich interior, try the Cadillac’s standard 304-hp engine. It isn’t as entertainingly swift as the 410-hp V-Sport and lacks the Buick LaCrosse’s quick-shifting nine-speed automatic, but you might feel better about your decision after you apply the $6,800 you’ll save toward a European vacation.
|2018 Cadillac XTS Platinum V-Sport AWD|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$73,840|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||3.6L/410-hp/369-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,482 lb (59/41%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||200.9 x 72.9 x 59.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.2 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.6 sec @ 103.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||121 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.84 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.0 sec @ 0.70 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||16.4/24.6/19.3 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||16/23/18 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||211/147 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.05 lb/mile|