Long gone are the days when Detroit dominated the huge American luxury car market. In fact, Cadillac and rival Lincoln are barely also-rans these days.
The General Motors division is called the XTS its ‘flagship’, and it was for a while, until the CT6 rocked up on the scene.
The new XTS does a credible job of pointing the brand in the right direction. The new saloon features a more refined and elegant take on the so-called Art and Science design theme popularised by the Cadillac CTS, here a bit less edgy, introducing a slight coupé-like curve to the roof that flows into vestigial fins reminiscent of Cadillac’s golden days, and the 2017 update just helps refine that character further.
The XTS cabin is handsome and comfortable and here Cadillac gives Audi, the generally perceived interior benchmark, a run for its money. The reconfigurable, all-glass gauge cluster is especially appealing. There are six trims to choose from - XTS, Luxury, Premium Luxury, Platinum, V-Sport Premium Luxury and V-Sport Platinum, with entry-level models getting 19in alloy wheels, adaptive suspension, rear parking sensors, keyless entry and Cadillac's CUE infotainment system with a Bose sound system as standard.
Upgrade to Luxury and the XTS is adorned with sat nav, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and steering wheel, parking sensors and a reversing camera, while Premium Luxury adds a 14-speaker Bose surround sound system, tri-zone climate control, a 12.3in digital instrument cluster, adaptive headlights, a head-up display and Cadillac's full suite of semi-autonomous emergency technology.
Those seeking more luxury maybe tempted by the Platinum trim which includes semi-aniline leather upholstery, massaging front seats, a panoramic sunroof, 20in alloy wheels and adaptive cruise control, while V-Sport Premium Luxury and V-Sport Platinum models get an aggressively-styled bodykit and a more potent 3.6-litre V6 under the bonnet.
Cadillac’s new infotainment system Cue essentially makes the XTS an iPhone on wheels, complete with a Siri-like voice-control system that recognises conventional language rather than requiring a motorist to learn rigid commands. The downside is that on rough roads the iPhone-style touch controls can be a bit difficult to operate.
Powering the XTS is a 3.6-litre V6 available in two variants - the standard 300bhp and a twin-turbo 405bhp, with the former available in front and all-wheel drive, while the latter can only be had with all four wheels driven.
Some purists will gripe that the XTS is the only front-drive model in the Cadillac saloon spectrum. Perhaps, but that hasn’t stopped Audi, and the big saloon proved reasonably nimble manoeuvring through the narrow, winding canyons outside Los Angeles.
The all-wheel-drive configuration offered a bit more sure-footedness. But this is not a true BMW fighter if you’re measuring success by g-force and 0-60mph times. Our biggest complaint centres around the six-speed automatic which, even in sport mode, is slow to respond when the driver’s foot calls for a rapid double downshift.
The XTS might best be thought of as the redefinition of the classic American luxury car. That’s not meant as faint praise; the saloon is solid, well equipped and more than pleasant to drive. It may not be the standard of the world but it is a credible offering for a brand that has long lacked credibility.