Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2015 Cadillac XTS Vsport AWD

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

“It’ll be easy. The story is pretty much going to write itself!” At least that’s what I thought before I picked up the 2015 Cadillac XTS VSport AWD you see here.

I was banking on my press car being painted black or dark charcoal, or maybe a silver hue and I was going to get my neighbour’s opinion on it.

That’ll be a witty and unique angle to the story, I thought, since my neighbour’s family runs a funeral home and have a few Caddy DeVilles or DTSes – the predecessor to the XTS. I’d simply get her opinion on the XTS, sprinkle in a few of my own observations and voila! Let’s see if the big Cadillac is still popular amongst the living who work with the dead.

But then I received the keys to this Caddy and walked out to the lot to see it’s painted a very bright “Crystal Red Tintcoat” (that’ll be an extra $1,295 thank-you-very-much).

Hmm… that’s a little gaudy for funeral duty, I mused.

Then things got worse.

Sat behind the steering wheel, I pressed the engine start button and somewhere, possibly in the next county over given how hushed its noise was, the 3.6L V6 settled into a smooth, rhythmic idle. The rich aroma of leather fills the cabin, and it’s easy to see why. The seats are of course finished in lovely, soft hides, but even the dash top, arm rests and door panels are finished in a convincing replication of leather, all stitched precisely together. In this particular car, the seats are a coloured “very light platinum” and with 13,000 km of butts having sat in them before me, were pretty discoloured. Certainly, such light seats would be impractical for a funeral car what with all the tears and dark-coloured clothing.

The real killer… excuse me, the real determining factor that this XTS is ill-suited for hauling around the family of the dearly departed lies beneath the hood. In my grumbling over the death of my story idea, I neglected to notice the “V” badge on the trunk when I got in. And so, only moments after starting the big Caddy for the first time, I drove down an on-ramp and noticed that nearly two metric tons and more than five metres of Manhattan’s finest was ripping through the atmosphere at a surprising clip.

What I had failed to appreciate until that moment was that this big cruiser had a pair of turbos affixed to its V6, bumping power from an adequate 304 to a healthy 410 hp which, when bolstered by 369 lb-ft of torque from 1,900 rpms, is plenty to move even a very large car with considerable verve. The transmission works its way through its six speeds with impressive smoothness, though they’re not as rapid-fire as the more modern gearboxes found in some competitive models. What’s more, six speeds seems a little behind-the-times in an age when seven or eight speeds are considered the norm in this class of vehicle. Tiny paddles are hidden somewhere behind the steering wheel. I tried them once, and like most XTS buyers, didn’t bother with them again. The transmission works just fine for normal duty when left to its own devices. 

Nonetheless, the XTS Vsport is a stellar highway machine. The engine is as relaxed as a big V8, and noise – be it from the wind, road or engine – is impressively quelled leaving a tranquil cabin in which to enjoy conversation or the 14-speaker Bose 5.1 Surround Sound system. Should the need arise to pass slower moving traffic, the XTS VSport is always up for it with deep wells of power even if there are four hefty passengers on board and a trunk full of lead.

Although there are seatbelts – and width – for five passengers, the driveshaft tunnel cuts into the rear middle passenger’s legroom. The trunk, at 509 L, requires very little care when packing. Got two steamer trunks’ worth of stuff to bring? No problem, the XTS’s cargo hold will contain it. You could go spelunking in there. Need more space? Drop the rear seats and you’ve got more even more real-world carrying capacity.

GM’s Magnetic Ride Control has been celebrated in sporting applications like the Corvette and Cadillac’s full-blown V-cars, but its application is no less magical here in the XTS. The big Caddy stays remarkably flat when cornering and handles directional transitions surprisingly well for its bulk, and yet the ride is still so polished that it’s more aptly described as glide, especially on the highway. Still, over some of the nastiest of potholes, the mass of the 20-inch wheel-and-tire set up (not to mention the low profile of the rubber) produces some THWAP sounds, and those accustomed to big Cadillacs of an earlier generation will likely feel this car’s ride is a little too firm.

Really, with this suspension set up, decently sporting three-season tires and all-wheel-drive, it would be possible to make the journey from funeral parlor to cemetery in a most undignified manner. Its all-wheel drive system will help keep the XTS moving in the right direction, even in poor weather. With that said, this big sedan is not exempt from the laws of physics, so for those looking to have a comfy cruiser that can also do autocross events on the weekends (not that anyone would), there are surely better choices.

The XTS Vsport’s brakes are also surprising. If that twin-turbo V6 causes you to carry too much speed heading into a corner, the 345 mm front rotors are clamped by Brembo calipers and, with a firm and solid pedal feel, haul the big sedan down from speed with ease.

Of course if you drive more like a funeral director than I did, you could theoretically get the XTS Vsport to consume premium fuel at 9.9 L / 100 km on the highway (and 14.8 in the city). With a mix of probably 2/3 highway to 1/3 city, I saw an overall average in the low 11s. With this much power hauling this much mass, that number seems reasonable.

Cadillac’s XTS Vsport turned out to be pleasantly surprising all-round, really. From its much livelier-than-expected performance, to its perfectly assembled build-quality, this car is another good representation of how General Motors has evolved its premium brand. It’s a shame then, that just as they got it pretty much right, there’s already talk of the XTS’s pending demise.

Cadillac’s chief, Johan de Nysschen announced at the recent launch event for the brand’s upcoming CT6 sedan, that the XTS will not be replaced when this generation reaches the end of the line in a few years.

The XTS Vsport is not perfect. The sometimes-frustrating CUE infotainment system is still a contentious point for me in all current Cadillacs. Plus when optioned up as this car is to over $75,000, it does not necessarily scream “value!” when it rolls down the same Oshawa assembly line as the Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Impala.

For long-time Cadillac supporters, the XTS is as close to the Cadillacs of days-gone-by as still remains. Its massive size equates to a spacious cabin and an impressive highway demeanor, but there is enough new Cadillac here, that funeral directors would do well to pass on the XTS, at least in its Vsport guise.

4 years/80,000 km; 6 years/110,000 km powertrain; 6 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 6 years/110,000 km 24-hour roadside assistance

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Model Tested 2015 Cadillac XTS V-Sport AWD Platinum
Base Price $74,370
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,800
Price as Tested $77,565
Optional Equipment
Crystal Red Tintcoat paint, $1,295