ACTON, Calif. -- Running up a serpentine Soledad Canyon Road, two lanes of blacktop at the base of California's San Gabriel Mountains north of Los Angeles, a front-wheel-drive version of the new 2013 XTS, Cadillac's mid-size luxury touring sedan drawn with taut lines and keen edgework, cuts crisply through the apex of every turn at a quick clip yet without protest from the massive 20-inch tires.
In these benders, our Cadillac test car maintains a stable position with minimal lateral roll, the result of a stiffly braced unibody design with sophisticated independent suspension elements at all corners plus standard Magnetic Ride Control variable shock damping to control wheel and body motion via magnetized fluid in shocks.
Tap flanking finger paddles posted behind the wood-trimmed steering wheel allow a driver to play the upshift/downshift game when slicing apexes in the curvy stuff at a swift clip.
Or on the rare straightaway our foot prods the go-pedal and this XTS surges ahead.
The XTS carries an aluminum 3.6-liter V6 engine rigged with dual overhead cams, direct injection technology and VVT (variable valve timing). With direct injection, the fuel goes directly into the engine's combustion chamber and fosters a thorough burn of the mix of air and fuel.
The V6 produces 304 hp at 6800 rpm, with torque peaking to 264 lb-ft at 5200 rpm.
Stock transaxle on XTS is a smooth-to-shift electronically controlled six-speed automatic, GM's Hydra-Matic 6T70, with those paddles on the steering wheel for driver shift control.
Traction choices include standard front-wheel-drive or on-demand all-wheel-drive with Haldex technology and an electronic limited-slip differential that splits torque between the rear wheels.
Sheetmetal styling on XTS looks oh-so-sharp.
The aggressive face features a prominent horizontal louver panel in modern interpretation of the Cadillac classic egg-crate grille, and piercing optics with stacked round high-intensity discharge xenon lamps that swivel in concert with the vehicle's front wheels via the Adaptive Forward Lighting device on the top two XTS trim tiers.
Flanks are sheer below edgy shoulders and interrupted only by fenders flaring around big wheelwells. The wheels stand near front and rear corners, leaving curt overhangs at prow and tail.
The roofline remains low, canting in front in line with the windshield and canting in back in opposing lines with blacked-out center pillars to simulate a stretched trapezoidal streak of tinted window glass.
Tail treatment for XTS shows a slick slab bumper in monochrome flanked by tall vertical taillamps, a Cadillac hallmark, with rectangular pipes in chrome protruding below the bumper.
Inside a spacious cabin with seats for five, the exterior theme of chiseled forms and angular features is expressed in a monochromatic treatment with hand-cut, hand-sewn and hand-wrapped surfaces and leather upholstery as standard equipment.
The 2013 XTS trim variations consist of Base, Luxury, Premium and Platinum.
For XTS Base and XTS Luxury editions, the instrument panel employs conventional analog gauges and an electronic driver information. For XTS Premium and XTS Platinum editions, the instrument panel amounts to a full-color 12.3-inch thin-film transistor display that's re-configurable.
Cadillac's new electronics interface -- CUE -- appears on all XTS trim editions. It features a touch-sensitive eight-inch display in the center stack and steering wheel tabs to control climate, audio, phone and optional navigation functions with finger touching, swiping and pinching movements as used with tablets and smartphones.
Cadillac XTS base model comes with 19-inch painted alloy wheels and P245/45R19 all-season tires, Brembo front brake calipers, rear parking sensors, heated auto-dimming exterior mirrors with turn-signal indicators and puddle lamps, keyless remote entry/ignition, twin-zone climate controls, the CUE touchscreen interface, Bluetooth phone connectivity, analog instrument cluster, power tilting/telescoping steering wheel with wood trim, leather seat upholstery, 60/40 split/folding rear bench seat and a Bose audio kit with CD deck and HD radio.
Cadillac XTS Luxury Collection brings additional equipment such as dual exhaust pipes, a rearview camera, front parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, a heated steering wheel, heated/ventilated front seats and heated rear seats.
XTS Premium Collection adds the reconfigurable digital instrument cluster, a head-up display, tri-zone climate controls, 110-volt power outlet, the Driver Awareness Package (blind spot monitoring system, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, forward collision alert), and an upgraded Bose system with navigation.
XTS Platinum Collection scores 20-inch polished alloy wheels with P245/40R20 all-season tires, a sunroof, rear sunshades, upgraded leather seat upholstery, leather-clad dashboard and doors, plus the Driver Assist Package (adaptive cruise control, front and rear automatic braking, automatic collision preparation).
Cadillac posts MSRP points starting at $44,075 for the 2013 XTS Base. XTS Luxury lists for $48,690 (FWD) and $50,915 (AWD), XTS Premium tallies to $53,585 (FWD) and $55,810 (AWD), while top model XTS Platinum reaches $58,160 (FWD) and $60,385 (AWD).