Cadillac is trying to reach out to the top of the premium segment with an all-new car called the XTS. But if it has front-wheel drive like the old DTS, it won’t succeed.
Since the Eldorado of 1968, Cadillac has always had a barge cruiser with front-wheel drive. First it was the Eldorado, which totally ruined things. Then in 1985, the flagship sedan, the DeVille, went to the FF layout, also (front-engine, front-wheel drive). Sales of the DeVille and its replacement, the DTS, were not so hot in recent years. The large cruiser was seen with little old ladies and gentlemen who couldn’t see over the steering wheel, mostly in Florida, too. This was actually bad PR for Cadillac, if you’d believe it.
Then Cadillac goes and does something smart. They do a whole new attitude in regards to design, build quality and substance of the CTS in 2008, and bam, Cadillac were pretty much reborn at that moment.
Now, though, while Cadillac sales for the CTS and CTS-V models are good, the STS is gone, as well is the DTS. Now Caddy’s never really had a high-end premium car to compete with the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and now Porsche. But now they need it more than ever, if they’re to survive, that is.
Think about it. They’re building the next-gen CTS, which is rear-wheel drive with all-wheel drive optional, to be as big as the current F10 BMW 5-Series. That’s smart, because as of right now it’s only slightly larger than the current E9x 3-Series. They’re currently creating the ATS, a direct 3-Series competitor. Again, smart. But that leaves a large hole: what about the $70,000 and up market? Well, the Germans and Lexus pretty much have that under control. Except that’s potentially some good money for GM.
If reports are true, Cadillac is looking at producing a car called the XTS it showed off as the Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept in Detroit last year. It’s a pretty attractive car; it’s certainly got the size and looks covered, but other reports are saying that GM is looking at using the Epsilon II platform that the current Buick Regal, LaCrosse and next-generation Chevrolet Malibu, as well as Saab’s 9-5 all ride on. Ugh, this was looking so good until I heard the whole FWD thing. Really, Cadillac? You really think that’s the way to go… again? How’d that work out for you the last time? I can use a lot more rhetorical questions to describe why this is a horrible idea.
Let’s just start with this, though. Every top luxury car in the world sits on what? That’s right, a rear-wheel drive platform. And what’s under the hood? Good job; a V8. Man, you guys are smart.
The Cadillac XTS is said to be powered by the same 3.6-liter V6 that goes in to the much smaller CTS. Are they looking to stop production right around the time it starts? If so, then sure, be my guest.
Audi A8, BMW 750i, Mercedes-Benz S550, Lexus LS, Porsche Panamera S, they’re all V8s. Granted, BMW and Porsche do offer six-cylinder premium models (the BMW with 315 hp/330 lb-ft of torque from a turbo inline-6, and Porsche with a 300 hp/295 lb-ft of torque V6) but they’re genius engines, especially the one in the Porsche Panamera V6. Also, the Porsche V6 weighs 3,880 lbs, and the BMW at 4,344 lbs. The Cadillac XTS will weigh no less than 4,300 lbs. I mean, the CTS-V weighs just shy of 4,300 lbs! The Porsche Panamera V6, since it weighs so little, can get to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, which is the same as the current Cadillac CTS with its 3.6-liter V6, with similar power and less weight.
So now that I’ve shown you Cadillac’s current 3.6-liter V6 can’t outperform that of Porsche’s, nor BMW’s, how are we to expect the Cadillac XTS to be any better when it shows up packing 4,000 lbs or more? Short of adding turbocharged power, it won’t be a good fight.
Cadillac needs to use the C7 Corvette’s V8. Whether it’s a 3.5-liter V8, a downsized version of the 5.5-liter V8 Corvette may use, I don’t care. But it has to be a V8 with good fuel economy and great power. Sub 5.5-second 0-60s are a must. Market research may tell you differently, but it’s wrong.
Now the premium segment isn’t all about drag races. No. It’s about luxury and amenities at a higher price. I have no doubt that Cadillac will prove to be good value for the money here with a high-end luxury sedan like the XTS. However, I must stress that if Cadillac go to a front-wheel drive platform, even if they offer all-wheel drive, the XTS will fail, and big time. People don’t want front-drive luxury barges anymore. The Buick LaCrosse sells to a much older customer who enjoy the classic Buick-y comfort, not the driving pleasure. The Chevy Malibu isn’t a sporty car, either. The XTS, though, will be up against some of the most sporting of any bunch. The new Audi A8, BMW 750i, Porsche Panamera S and Mercedes-Benz’s S550 can all drive on a race track and enjoy similar fun that a decent, cheaper sports car can. The customers that buys these cars aren’t taking them to the track, but they are having fun with the power and driving abilities. The abilities of each one of the German cars, even the Lexus LS, I’ve mentioned help to keep the cars under control during emergency maneuvers. Front-wheel drive does not. In fact, it’s been proven that front-wheel drive cars are less safe in emergency avoidance situations than almost any other car. That’s not good news for someone behind the wheel of something roughly the size of a double wide… and the same weight.
I’m not trying to hate on you, Cadillac, I just don’t want any more disappointments. The CTS has gotten rave reviews. Though, I’m not a huge fan of it. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s good. The CTS-V is damn brilliant. Again, it has some work to do, as do BMW, Mercedes and Audi with their direct competitors, but they’re not chasing you, it’s still you chasing them. So let’s build a top-notch premium luxury sedan that can really fight the Germans. No more front-wheel drive platforms.
Now you ask, how can Cadillac make the XTS right? Simple, GM is working on a newer, better, more efficient Zeta platform that underpinned the Pontiac G8, and currently sits under the Camaro SS, the Holden Commodore, and the Chevy Caprice overseas, and the Caprice police cruiser here in the states. Lengthen that bad boy up a bit, and you’ve got yourself a great starting point. Cadillac is also looking at producing an XTS-V to go up against the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, BMW 760i, Porsche Panamera Turbo, and the next Audi S8. But how do you do that with front-wheel drive? Wait, they’re looking at doing all-wheel drive XTS models, too. Great, just what we need, an understeering boat that can’t kick the tail out.
So I urge you, Cadillac, think about what you’re doing. Be smart about this. You can topple the BMW 7-Series or the Mercedes-Benz S-Class; the two gold standard of automotive luxury executive cars. Porsche and Audi just did it in 2010.
[Spy shots: Brian Williams/Brenda Priddy & Company, Jeremy Kupfer/Brenda Priddy & Company]