The XTS is a big, plush Cadillac sedan in the old-school tradition, which makes it decidedly out of sync with the American luxury brand’s current push to compete with the best German sports sedans. (Even so, it’s outselling the ATS, CTS, and CT6 and was Caddy’s best-selling passenger car in 2016 and 2017.) A year after the XTS’s launch for 2013, Cadillac made some effort to spice up the large, front-wheel-drive-based cruiser by adding a V-Sport variant that brought standard all-wheel drive and a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6 producing a potent 410 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. But the big power simply served to distract from the XTS’s considerable two-ton-plus curb weight and humble building blocks shared with the Buick LaCrosse and the Chevrolet Impala.
Why We Tested It and How It Performed: The XTS received a mid-cycle refresh for 2018, so we strapped our test equipment to a V-Sport model for the first time in nearly five years to see if anything had changed with the Caddy’s track performance. Given that the updates were mostly visual, we weren’t too surprised to find that the numbers were mostly the same this time around. Zero to 60 mph took 5.2 seconds, matching the 2014 test car, while the quarter-mile time and trap speed were unchanged, too, at 13.6 seconds at 105 mph. Despite Cadillac’s claim that all 2018 XTS models ride on new tires, our test car wore the exact same all-season Bridgestone Potenza rubber as the 2014 V-Sport, which made for a similar, if slightly improved, skidpad result of 0.82 g.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t line up those numbers against Cadillac’s true state-of-the-art sports sedan, the CTS V-Sport, which shares its engine with the XTS V-Sport but uses General Motors’ fabulous rear-wheel-drive Alpha platform for truly hallowed driving dynamics. Weighing 461 pounds less than the pudgy XTS, the CTS turned in a 0.7-second-quicker zero-to-60-mph time, a 0.11-g-better skidpad performance, and a 16-foot-shorter stop from 70 mph—all of which makes it the obvious choice for true driving enthusiasts looking within a Cadillac showroom.
What We Like: The XTS’s strengths lie in its pleasing ride quality and serene isolation that make the cabin a hushed, comfortable place to while away the miles. Sure, a softie like this does not live up to the athletic expectations that the V-Sport badge brings, but the blown V-6 does provide effortless power for highway passing, and the six-speed automatic is mostly inoffensive in its shifting.
We also were generally impressed with the materials found within the XTS; the dashboard’s assembly quality struck us as an improvement over other recent Cadillac test cars, and the tan leather looked and felt good. And although the CTS may outpace the XTS on a curvy road, it cannot come close to the XTS’s palatial rear seat, which offers generous legroom and headroom.
What We Don’t Like: For as much grunt as the twin-turbo V-6 offers, the XTS’s chassis is unnervingly flaccid, lacking the body control and agility that we expect from any sports sedan, let alone one wearing badging from a sporty sub-brand and with upward of 400 horsepower. The steering is light and overly boosted, sapping confidence as the heavy front end pushes wide in aggressively driven corners and the all-wheel-drive system struggles to shift power rearward quickly enough to combat the hints of torque steer tugging at the front wheels.
The fussy CUE infotainment system and dismal 15-mpg observed average further dim the XTS’s appeal, but the absurd $73,490 base price is truly the nail in the coffin. While the XTS V-Sport comes fully loaded, the vastly more satisfying CTS V-Sport—not to mention numerous other great luxury sedans—can be had for more than $10,000 less. There might be an argument to be made for the more reasonably priced, non–V-Sport XTS trims (which start at $53,390 with all-wheel drive), but this hi-po version of Caddy’s bread and butter defies logic.