Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2018 Cadillac XTS V-Sport Platinum

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Cadillac currently finds itself in a most unusual situation. Right now, you can walk into any of its dealerships and choose from a trio of similarly sized, high-priced luxury sedans. What’s more, while each of these large four-door offerings stem from dramatically different roots – the Buick-shared XTS platform, the lithe CTS, and the German-baiting CT6 – they are, at least on paper, aimed at a very similar demographic.

Pleasingly muscular attitude and sure-footed all-wheel drive grip

Of the three, only one can survive, and while many thought that the vehicle with the most common architecture would be the first to get the axe, the 2018 Cadillac XTS has proven itself to be surprisingly resilient. After reacquainting myself with the V-Sport model – the most powerful member of the XTS family – it’s easy to understand why the automaker has been so reluctant to sever ties with this particular relation.

New take on an old idea

The XTS can trace its spiritual roots back to the now-defunct DTS, a strong-selling full-size cruiser that made no bones about its comfort-first philosophy. In this way, Cadillac maintains a link to what was once its bread and butter: customers more interested in a car with a suspension that soaks up the indignities of the road rather than transmitting each and every one of them into the cabin for the driver’s careful consideration.

While it’s true that these two models share the same general mission statement, it would be a mistake to assume that the Cadillac XTS isn’t anything other than a thoroughly modern vehicle. Despite sharing its bones with the Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Impala, the XTS looks every inch worthy of the wreath, with its snub-nosed and tall-roof proportions well-disguised by the smart use of prominent lighting front and rear.

The V-Sport model’s hood also conceals a level of sophistication that the DTS could never have conceived of. Specifically, a 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6 that generates 420 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, output that is fed to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. That’s an additional 116 horses over the base model XTS, with the turbochargers ensuring an ultra-low 2,000 rpm torque peak suitable for the sedan’s relatively ponderous 1,900 kilos of curb weight.

Muscle in motion

While that sweet, sweet drivetrain helps the XTS shrug off its meaty mass in a straight line, another XTS V-Sport party trick that allows it to disguise its bulk in the corners too. Standard with the top-tier model is GM’s excellent Magnetic Ride Control adaptive suspension system. With shock absorbers that are able to instantly adjust to road conditions and driver inputs, the car is equally content to stay flat and true through a corner, or to waft its way down the highway on the kind of cushion once reserved for Cadillac’s Barcalounger seat stuffing of days gone by.

Still, it’s important to understand what the V-Sport is not. Don’t look for the kind of driver feedback or grin-inducing backroad dynamics that have traditionally been the draw of European luxury. Instead, the “Sport” in V-Sport refers to the XTS’ pleasingly muscular attitude and sure-footed all-wheel drive grip during modest manoeuvring.

Fewer mis-CUEs

Further cementing the 2018 Cadillac XTS V-Sport’s status as a plush four-wheeled Pullman is its well-appointed interior. In my tester’s Platinum trim, I was surprised by how many places on the dash, centre console, door panels, and even the steering wheel where I encountered the natural feel of wood, tastefully used as a restrained accent rather than slathered across a wide expanse, like the bulwark of some sea-going schooner. Soft and light leather complemented the dark grain, and while it’s easy to be critical of the transition between hides and hewn plastic (such as where the doors meet the dash corners), in general there’s little about the XTS cabin that suggests you’d be better off in a Lexus.

Cadillac has reworked its CUE system, introducing a new workflow and a more responsive interface in response to criticism about the previous design. Not quite as eye-catching as the older version, it definitely felt smoother moving between satellite radio presets, navigation prompts, and vehicle settings, especially when underway. You still, however, have to deal with the capacitive touch controls for volume, temperature, etc., on the centre stack. It’s less than ideal, and I would prefer a knob or two, but it’s functional.

More successful is the configurable gauge cluster that sits directly in front of the driver, which offers several different looks for presenting a surprising amount of information at any given time. This includes not just must-haves like turbo boost and fuel efficiency details, but also unusual details such as the gap, in seconds, between the XTS and the vehicle in front of it (made possible by the forward collision warning system, one facet of the safety-stuffed Cadillac’s suite of advanced driver assists).

It’s also worth mentioning that the XTS boasts exceptional rear seat room and an enormous trunk – two other attributes it carries over from the departed DTS.

Know your niche

The 2018 Cadillac XTS V-Sport is the type of car that fills a very specific gap in the luxury market that few automakers are anxious to advertise their mastery of. Not an exciting car, but still quick; not a tech-filled bubble but still comfortable and up-to-date; not a jaw-dropper, but still handsome and comfortable. It’s the kind of car Lexus has long had in its stable, and that Lincoln has only recently rediscovered how to build. The V-Sport is a real-world winner that proves one doesn’t have to bow to the altar of lap times in a bid to attract the interests of moneyed buyers.

You’ll still have to drop a fair amount of coin on the car, of course – my fully loaded Platinum tester stickered out at roughly $80,000 – and therein lies the problem for Cadillac, which already has two other models within roughly the same price range. Here’s hoping that the accountants continue to turn a blind eye to the marque’s unusual trio of top-shelf sedans for a little while longer.

Engine Displacement 3.6L
Engine Cylinders V6
Peak Horsepower 420 hp
Peak Torque 369 lb-ft
Fuel Economy 15.0/10.3/12.8 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 509 L
Model Tested 2018 Cadillac XTS V-Sport Platinum
Base Price $77,960
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,000
Price as Tested $80,060
Optional Equipment