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By Colum Wood
Huge luxury without the huge price tag, XTS wows with technology
Cadillacís return to large luxury comes with an inherent gamble, that Americans want to buy, and will continue to want to buy, large luxury machines. With compact cars now outselling mid-size ones, there seems to be no evidence to support this plan. Then again, perhaps the luxury segment is different.
Built just as much for China, where long wheelbase versions of conventional German sedans like the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6 are hugely successful, the new Cadillac XTS will hit them head-on, sized like a 7 Series, but priced like the 5. But do American consumers want their staple luxury sedans, the Mercedes E350 for instance, in an even larger package?
PACKED WITH TECHNOLOGY
Having just piloted the XTS for a day through Malibu, itís obvious the brandís new flagship sedan is an equal in luxury (something few, if any, Cadillacs have been able to say in recent history). And to help make the package genuinely enticing Cadillac set out to mesh two concepts together, blending the brandís DNA for big with industry leading technology.
Hit the push button ignition and the XTS fires up like something out of a Sci-Fi novel. The gauges, no conventional analog units, are instead replaced digitally on a 12.3-inch display screen (on Premium and up models). The graphics are rich and the operation is precise, as you can even watch the little tachometer hum up and down as the carís engine idle adjusts.
Customizing the center of the gauges is simple with a control button on the right side of the steering wheel. Make the middle of the speedometer a simple analog-style needle, switch to a digital readout or have the navigation screen appear within. Or change the complete display entirely to either a performance focused one, or a style that has more in common with a computer display than conventional gauges.
CUE: TELEMATICS EVOLUTION OR REVOLUTION?
Itís a smaller screen, however, that is the bigger technological advancement. Located in the center stack, this 8-inch unit houses the Cadillac User Experience (CUE for short). Perhaps the most significantly new user interface since iDrive rocked the auto world in 2001, itís the first to be open source and is based on a Linux platform, not Microsoft like iDrive or MyFord Touch.
Natural speech voice controls can be used to operate it, but the ideal way is with your fingers, using iPad like controls. Make a channel a favorite by dragging it into place. Scroll through your selections with the swipe of a finger. And zoom in on the nav screen with a pinch. Considering how long display screens have been in cars, youíll be wondering why it took so long for someone to invent this.
Taking the technology a step further, the screen gets haptic feedback, which means it pulses where you touch it. Unfortunately the pulse sounds cheap and has enough of a delay that often it happens after youíve removed your hand. Not exactly a flawless execution, itís a far better first effort than most and is generally intuitive.
If the screen sits idle for 20 seconds the surrounding controls and icons fade away. Need to adjust something? No worries; just move your hand towards the screen and before it even gets there the icons reappear.
Making it all the more impressive is the fact that the graphics are vivid and high tech, plus the screen is mounted in a piano black instrument panel with no frame, so it gives the impression of being a part of the car, not some addition.
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