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This isn't your daddy's Caddy

Cadillac is in the middle of a revival. Go to any Cadillac dealership and you won't find any of the old land yachts anywhere.
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The Cadillac XTS still has the interior luxury traditional buyers demand, but with plenty of high-tech gadgetry.

Cadillac is in the middle of a revival. Go to any Cadillac dealership and you won't find any of the old land yachts anywhere.

Part of that revival is the new 2013 Cadillac XTS, a mid-size luxury car that is supposed to appeal to a younger crowd, yet be conventional enough to retain its traditional buyer.

That it still appeals to Cadillac's traditional - read older - buyer was borne out when I went to pick up a car for a test drive. When I got to the dealership a potential buyer - a traditional one - was trying out the car. Things got delayed.

I didn't ask if the gentleman ordered one after his test drive, but I wouldn't be surprised if he had. This Caddy might be thoroughly modern, but it is still a Caddy, with an opulent interior and a well-proportioned exterior.

The unspoken question was how he found the cutting-edge technological features that the new Caddy simply bristles with.

These gee-whiz features are there not because of the traditional buyer, but for the younger generation, the children and even grandchildren of their core clientele. This group stayed away from Cadillac in droves when all the luxury marque could offer were land yachts. Cadillac's hope is that the smaller XTS can be a "bridge" vehicle - appealing to both traditional and younger buyers, the big car and the mid-size car buyer.

Although the XTS is a mid-sized car, it has a trunk many people would expect of a full-size, capable of swallowing 509 litres of cargo. A person could easily fit four golf bags or five (or more) suitcases.

The interior is equally spacious. I got a 198 cm (six-foot six-inch) colleague who drives a Mercedes to make himself comfortable in the new Caddy - and he did, with headroom to spare. Granted, there wasn't much legroom in the seat behind him, but he did fit. Cadillac benchmarked the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the BMW 5-Series as the ones to beat, and it looks like they succeeded.

But a measuring tape seems dated when a person begins to take stock of the technological advances offered in the XTS. These include:

- Magnetic Ride control, rear air suspension

- Safety Alert Seat that vibrates if car strays from lane

- Short-and long-range radar

- Haldex all-wheel-drive system with limited slip differential

- Front and rear automatic braking

On the (Platinum) toptrim model, the XTS boasts advanced safety features that electronically monitor everyday driving situations.

It uses ultrasonic sensors and cameras to warn if the vehicle comes too close to the car ahead of it. It will first warn the driver with audio and visual cues to take action. Failing to do so, and facing an impending collision, the car will even intervene, applying the brakes automatically to prevent, or mitigate the severity of, a collision.

All this technology is under the surface and works automatically. But the other half of the new technology is the interface between driver and vehicle - and the one Cadillac is hoping traditional buyers will embrace as much as younger buyers.

Cadillac calls its interface CUE (Cadillac User Experience). Drivers won't be able to miss its 203-millimetre centre screen. Industry firsts include capacitive-touch screen with proximity sensing and gesture recognition.

As expected, there are multiple layers of menus and controls. Touch any command on the screen and it will reward you with a "bump" - a tactile acknowledgment the command has been received. The instrument panel can also be ordered as a 312-mm configurable screen, with a choice of four themes - ranging from minimal to enhanced information.

Last week, I reviewed the Spark, GM's entry-level car. I called that system a smartphone on wheels. If that was a smartphone, the XTS system is like an iPad on wheels.

The only item I missed was a navigation system. Sure, one can get turn-byturn navigation via OnStar, but the navigation system is optional in the Luxury Collection trim level.

The XTS is powered by a new direct-injection 3.6-litre V-6 that produces 304 hp and 264 lb.-ft. of torque. Performance is adequate, but won't cause engineers at Mercedes-Benz or BMW to lose any sleep over it.

The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic, two fewer gears than some of the competition. But the transmission makes up for it by being very smooth and seamless in its operation. A minor annoyance is that the transmission lever must first be put into M in order for the steering-wheel paddle shifters to work.

The XTS is equipped with GM's Magnetic Ride Control, originally found on the Corvette. It is a sweet bit of suspension technology - assessing driving conditions every millisecond and adjusting individual shock settings every five milliseconds.

Our tester was equipped with the all-wheel-drive option, which should find fans once the wet and cold weather returns. The regular XTS is the only model in the lineup not available in AWD. It is driven by only the front wheels.

The era of the land yacht is over. The made-in-Canada XTS is the new flagship of the Cadillac line. The luxury marque's revival continues when it introduces the entry level ATS later this year and a revised CTS next year. The era of offering world-class contemporary designs has begun. But can Cadillac attract the next generation while keeping traditional buyers happy with the XTS?

Only time will tell.

THE SPEC SHEET

Type: Mid-sized luxury four-doorsedan, front engine, all-wheel-drive

Engine: 3.6-litre V-6, 304 hp at 6,800 r.p.m., 264 lb.-ft. of torque at 5,200 r.p.m.

Transmission: Six speed automatic

Dimensions (mm): Length, 5131; width, 1851; height, 1501; wheelbase, 2837

Curb weight (kg): 1912

Price (base/as tested) Luxury AWD: $54,135/$57,490 (includes $1595 PDI and $100 AC tax)

Options: Sunroof $1,660

Tires: 245/45 R19 on alloy wheels

Fuel type: Regular

Fuel economy (L/100km): 12.5 city, 7.7 highway

Warranty: Four years/80,000 km, six years/110,000 powertrain and roadside assistance

parrais@timescolonist.com