Savannah Postcard (6)

Here is the X-series Touring Sedan, or XTS. The vehicle could be found in Cadillac showrooms between 2013 and 2019. During my time in Savannah I saw just one, pictured today.

Cadillac XTS side view, October 2022

The production run puts that of its peer, the last Lincoln Continental into sharp relief, a car when launched in 2017 lacked the will-power to soldier on any further than 2020. Both of them suffered the same aesthetic problem: too little bonnet ahead of the A-pillar.

A junction near Savannah, Georgia, October 2022

We’ll come back to that in a moment.

The XTS appeared in 2013, replacing the DTS and STS saloons. The STS easily wore the nicest iteration of Cadillac’s 21st century styling themes, Art & Science, draped over the Sigma platform. The DTS was a similar looking vehicle on the G-platform. It was a little longer than the STS, by 20 cm. The XTS is pretty close in size.

The front end disappears from this view.

Three engines dragged it along: a 2.o petrol and 2 V6s of 3.6 litres capacity, one of which was not turbocharged. If you put the SWB XTS on a big enough weighing scales, you will observe a weight of around 1800 kg, almost the same as the STS and the DTS. Perhaps the biggest single aspect about the DTS was the Northstar V8, a 4.6 litre lump.

Cadillac XTS – this is the best view (and the only good view).

Those who mourned the loss of the V8 in the XTS could leap a little for joy because its successor, the CT5 has a 6.2 litre supercharged V8.

2017 Lincoln Continental. “Let’s make the same mistake as Cadillac did with the XTS, guys!”

All of this can’t stop me asking why Cadillac invested effort in a car so grievously compromised by its layout. From most views there is clearly not enough car up front. In the 1980s the GM design model was to have too little car behind the B-pillar. After a balanced interregnum, they decided to have a lot of car behind the A-pillar but not enough ahead of it.

Cadillac XTS (source) seen in less sunny conditions. The visual masses are remarkably unbalanced. There is so much metal over the rear wheels. At the front, a withered snout from a C-class car.

What is curious about this is that Audi produced and produces some quite imperial-looking saloons that are visually balanced, yet also have front-drive. And in the past, Cadillac achieved the same. The CT-5, which is rear-drive and plainly designed to deal with the hazard from Genesis as well as BMW and Mercedes, would seem to me to indicate that Cadillac have learned there is no point in offering a visually compromised car in this price range.

This next comparison (below) shows how the car is but also shows how I seem to perceive it: an elongated back end and a rather too short front end.

It’s a quick and dirty sketch. The lower one is a kind of a caricature.

How could this look if the designer could give it better proportions? It could look something like this (below). Again, I’m only roughly shoving shapes about here – blur your eye and squint to hide the discontinuities, please.

Cadillac XTS original (top) and revised (bottom)

It would seem to indicate that another 15 cm ahead of the leading edge of the door would help a lot. Cadillac’s stylists tried to reduce the front-driviness of the shape by making as big a radius as possible from the front wheel to the centre line. This just made the car look pug-face flat.

I don’t lay the blame for any of this on the stylists. The interior is blandly nice. The detailing offers no cause for complaints. It was Cadillac’s management who thought a thing of beauty could be produced by burdening the development team with a layout unsuited for the brand and its market position.

Kia K9 (source), the Cadillac of Kias.

What do others think? “The XTS is a competent and relatively affordable retirement cruiser, but it can’t truly compete with the best in this class”, wrote Car & Driver. Another, more complimentary opinion is to be found here.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

31 thoughts on “Savannah Postcard (6)”

  1. Good morning Richard. The last time I was in the US was in 2019. Like you, I don’t think I saw a lot of XTS’s around.

    I agree with you about the unbalanced visual masses. And the 15 centimeters of extra metal between the front door and front wheel are a good solution to the issue. I wonder how much better it can become if the visual mass of the rear is reduced somewhat.

    1. I assume they want a large car so I held the rear half constant and tried to mess with the front. The fast-back look added to the mass of the rear. They could have made it look more saloon-like. At least they had the benefit of inexperience. Lincoln reproduced the same effect five years later and then flushed the stool three years later, dropping the toilet seat on decades of heritage in the posh saloon market.

  2. Good morning Richard. Well observed on the XTS, although I find the visual mass over the rear wheels more troubling than the rearward positioning of the front axle. I suppose I’ve grown used to the latter, which is commonplace in FWD saloons, irrespective of size, and only really apparent in side profile. The weight sitting over the rear wheel has the effect of making that wheel look smaller than the front, which is apparent even in the metal. (I saw a few XTSs on the streets of Chicago earlier this year and noticed it then.)

    The DTS predecessor, although sharing the same FWD issue as the XTS, looks rather better balanced to my eyes:

    1. The DTS reminds me of the last Ford Scorpio – it´s an old package with a new skin, not very well applied. It´s pretty abysmal. Quite what goes through the minds of the chiefs at the top of GM is beyond me.

    2. The Epsilon II LWB platform seems to exaggerate that rear bulk issue, though there are various ways around it as I pointed out with the final Impala. I agree that the DTS always had somewhat of a lithe elegance about it, FWD provenance and all. Your image of it in side profile shows it still has a bit of that ‘nose-down’ stance, but without the rear bulk it’s nowhere near as prominent as on the XTS. When they facelifted the DTS to ‘Art & Science’-ify it the result didn’t ruin the car’s proportions but did cover it in a thick layer of cheap and naff looking plastic bits that made the car feel much less authentic than the original.

      Regardless it was considered ‘fancy’ enough to be converted to a head-of-state limousine only for it to ‘bottom out’ while visiting Dublin 😁: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5icV_mctrkE

  3. As an aside, here’s the current Kia K9 compared with the new BMW 7 Series:


    I’ll leave others to decide which is the ‘dog’. 😁

    1. Lovely comparison David, but the facelifted K9’s still got nothing on the pure elegance that is Genesis’ new flagship:

      I’d say it’s been a long time since we’ve had a car express such gravitas and sheer presence without looking like a knock-off Rolls Royce.

    2. D’oh, not sure why I called you ‘David’ this morning! I’ve been getting over a cold and my brain’s all fogged up, my apologies Daniel!

    3. No worries, Alexander, I’ve been called worse…😁

    4. By the way, I can’t figure out whether or not you’re bring ironic about the Genesis…🤔

    5. Hah! No irony here, on the Genesis I simply enjoy how individualistic it is, with the clamshell bonnet and low-slung design flying in the face of convention regarding the big and bulky nature of the F-segment norm these days. It’s nowhere near perfect and certainly makes stylistic mistakes here and there, but I daresay it’s the most Jaguar-esque option in the segment that exists today now that the big cat has leapt its last.

    6. I think that on review, the Genesis looks like its own car. It has a distinct accent which almost looks French. It could take me a while to work out quite why – the crease of the shoulder makes a long arc backward which interesects with the rising curve of the lower body brightwork. That might be a trope on the CX. The glass house is more formal but sweeps down to the rear wing in a Saab manner. Yet it´s not a pastiche. It has grown on me.

  4. Richard,

    it’s interesting you bring this up. A recent trip to NYC reminded me of the XYZ, since it was among the very few ‘prestige’ sedans in regular use as Uber chariot there – the overwhelming number of cars sporting C plates being SUVs.

    Its proportions are unquestionably dreadful, but even so, it just about stands out in a way the Continental (which I really wanted to like) doesn’t.

    To anyone interested, here are some thoughts on the truly meaningful ingredients necessary for a proper American car design: https://www.design-fieldtrip.com/read/the-essence-of-american-car-design-61-lincoln-continental-corvette-pontiac-aztek-proportions

    1. Deciding which of these two designs is superior is not that easy. I thought the Cadillac had some good details, particularly at the rear.

  5. The XTS looks as though it’s permanently braking heavily – presumably it wants to avoid making its bonnet even shorter. I read recently that white is a very ‘searching’ colour and really shows up problems in designs.

    It makes an odd-looking hearse (and limousine), too, although I like the blue colour in the picture.

    Cadillac XTS hearse

    1. There´s clearly a need for a purpose-made hearse, something with the right shape for the coffin and which is elegant and respectful. It would sell steadily for decades; someone ought to rebody a Tesla. That Cadillac hearse is not really the right shape for the job.

    2. This seems suitably dignified for the job, but what is it?

      Don’t be fooled by the ‘coach’ doors, it’s not a Rolls-Royce.

    3. Thank you – I think it’s a tribute to the Century’s designers that it’s quite distinctive and modern-looking, while being subtle.

      It could be that I recognize it easily because I like the design (because it’s distinctive and modern-looking, etc).

    4. This raises a general question as to why a country with such marked accumulations of wealth never managed to give rise to a product at the quality levels of Japan (Century, Lexus, Toyota), Germany (Mercedes, Audi, BMW and even Opel´s last Admiral) or the UK (Rolls, Bentley, Bristol, or Jaguar). Jg

    5. They did – take Duesenberg, as an extreme example. US mass-produced cars used to be routinely engineered to be the finest in the world.

    6. Duesenberg went out of business quite some time ago. And US cars aren´t now engineered to be among the finest in the world. That accolade goes to Japan, I would say.

    7. Yes, probably, although it depends how one defines ‘best’ and in which segment. I’d probably say that either the US or China make the best (plushest and most technically advanced) EVs. I agree that the Japanese make some of the best combustion-engined cars and probably the most cars to the highest quality in mass production terms, although I wouldn’t discount the Koreans, either.

    8. I’m not the expert on hearses, but the problem with them is that they are conversions of existing cars and adding length and roof height does change things quite a bit. Having said that the Century looks right and almost purpose built for the job.

  6. Have never noticed the proportions before, they are odd. Pretty humdrum car, badge engineering from a platform that also produced Chevrolet Impala and some Buick. But I understand it sold better than any of the RWD sedans, which are sharply styled and dynamically excellent. Fun fact, Warren Buffet drives one, no Maybach nonsense for him

  7. I’ve never understood the idea behind XTS’ nose-down stance. I agree that it’s deeply unpleasant and unbecoming for a ‘luxury’ car, but neither its siblings riding on the Epsilon II LWB platform nor other FWD saloons of a similar size and class share that trait (thankfully).

    Pictured are its platform-mate Impala and the Kia Cadenza, respectively. (I adore the K9 as a ‘Korean brougham’ but its RWD nature makes it an unfair comparison to the XTS.) I think the Cadillac’s primary fault is the character line on the side that ascends toward the rear to meet the vertical taillights. No doubt it is intended to create an ‘arched sinew’ sort of effect but instead comes off the way you pointed out, clumsy and irritatingly FWD. The Chevy manages to hide its rear bulk behind an aggressively ‘carved out’ rear fender line (a la W212, one could say) whereas the FWD Kia just has much less rear overhang to contend with and looks more balanced without trying. As for the Continental, it doesn’t get as much wrong as the Cadillac, but it also just doesn’t try very hard. It doesn’t take much to recognize the FWD Ford Mondeo underpinnings and when you’re charging BMW prices for that, it doesn’t take much for customers to start going elsewhere.

  8. I would have considered the Lincoln MKZ to be the XTS’s direct Ford equivalent. It also shares a similar ‘rear-heavy’ appearance and was in production for a similar amount of time (unlike the ill-fated Continental)

    1. The MKZ ran from 2013 to 2020 and is Ford CD4 based; the Continental is 2017 to 2020 and is also Ford CD4 based. No wonder they have the same rather stunted front ends. While also FWD, the previous Continental looked alright proportionally as did the 2006-2012 MKZ. Something went horribly wrong. The 2002 Lincoln Continental concept looks ready to launch tomorrow though.

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