Saturday, May 31, 2014

2014 Cadillac XTS Vsport

The 2014 Cadillac XTS Vsport has steering-wheel paddle shifters for its standard six-speed automatic transmission. You will not need them. Ever.

The throttle pedal is all that's required to extract maximum acceleration from the XTS Vsport's twin-turbocharged V6, so mighty is this all-new engine's Thor's-hammer punch. Its massive torque is ready for deployment from as low as 1,900 rpm and it stays on the job all the way to 5,600 rpm. At that point, the Vsport's all-wheel drive and beefed-up automatic are earning their keep to manage what otherwise would be absolute chaos.
It might be 17 feet long, but this is the most bombastic Cadillac since the CTS-V.

The New Name for Fast 
This is the first of Cadillac's new Vsport models, which aim to bridge the gap between the brand's standard offerings and its ultra-high-performance V-Series lineup. In this case, Vsport means an upgraded V6, standard all-wheel drive and a retuned suspension.

And this isn't just any V6; it's a 3.6-liter powerhouse that develops 410 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. General Motors engineers borrowed heavily from the tricks they learned from cars like the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 in the Camaro ZL1 and Cadillac CTS-V.

This engine is 90 percent new compared to the conventional 3.6-liter V6, and is structurally jacked up everywhere to handle the big boost. The net result is that there's brutal shove on top from nearly any speed. The torque drop-off at the 5,600-rpm redline is fairly pronounced, but that's of little consequence. By that time, the six-speed automatic has unobtrusively but vigorously selected the next ratio and you're realizing that the gauge cluster is vomiting three-digit readouts at an alarming pace.

No Need To Talk Numbers

Perhaps in keeping with the "gentleman's express" vibe we get from the 2014 XTS Vsport, Cadillac didn't directly provide a 0-60-mph number. So until we can get some instruments on the thing, we'll speculate that the XTS Vsport will effortlessly crank out 0-60s in the low 5-second range.

That's a vastly quicker time compared with the run we measured for the standard 2013 Cadillac XTS and its normally aspirated version of the 3.6-liter V6. After all, the twin-turbo hardware brings three-digit gains in both horsepower and torque: 106 added hp and 105 extra lb-ft of torque.

Perhaps looking over its shoulder at this state of affairs, BMW hiked the output of the 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 in its 550i for the 2014 model year. It now generates 445 hp and 480 lb-ft, an interesting development given that Richard Bartlett, assistant chief engineer for the new Cadillac engine, mentioned that BMW's V8 was used as a performance benchmark.

With the 2014 upgrade, the BMW V8 makes 35 more horses and as Bartlett concedes, "They spank us on torque." Then again, BMW should have an advantage given the German engine's considerably larger size, something that isn't lost on Bartlett.

2014 Cadillac XTS Vsport

For All You Hydraulic Holdouts
Unlike the heavily revised V6, the chassis of the 2014 Cadillac XTS Vsport is largely unchanged. So yes, you're working big power through what intrinsically is a front-wheel-drive architecture. Typically, that doesn't amount to much fun, and adding another 90 pounds over the front wheels wouldn't appear to help the situation.

But we've already been convinced that the XTS's basic layout does not keep its handling from being responsive and balanced. More power is what the XTS needed, and its chassis and handling are in no way hurt by another 100-odd horses. In fact, the newfound power is a good fix for dealing with the car's tendency to understeer.

The 2014 XTS Vsport's standard adaptive magnetorheological dampers make for a deliciously supple ride, and the Vsport-specific recalibration does a better job of stifling body roll, one of the standard model's less endearing points. As with the standard XTS, there are selectable standard and sport modes, but even the Sport setting leaves the XTS Vsport softer than the 5 Series or E-Class. The big Cadillac's fancy dampers are by no means filled with Jell-O, though, and we reckon the overall state of tune perhaps is more day-to-day appropriate for all but the hard-driving customers.

Caddy, of course, chose to also make all-wheel drive standard for the Vsport (so far, about 40 percent of all XTS buyers choose AWD anyway), and without it the car surely would be no fun. Even so, the system at times struggles to properly channel the thrust, particularly on crowned roads, when pinning the throttle will force some wiggle through the steering wheel.

Even without that kind of prodding, you may decide you are getting more feedback from the steering because the XTS Vsport (and every XTS with AWD, in fact) is one of the few new vehicles you'll find still fitted with hydraulic-assist power steering. Seems the fitting of AWD doesn't leave enough room for the electric power steering setup the front-drive XTS gets as standard. We don't find any definable degree of extra feel or feedback from the XTS Vsport's steering, but it isn't a stick in the eye, either: The overall tune, progressive and reliable, has been reengineered for the Vsport.

2014 Cadillac XTS Vsport

The XTS Vsport's brakes, meanwhile, are not significantly altered or upgraded, and that's an area where it could have used some help.

Would You Buy It?
Despite a footprint that's generally in line with midsize competitors, the 2014 Cadillac XTS Vsport is considerably longer, a physical trait that tends to push it into the big-car end of the spectrum where the "sport" orientation is less emphasized.

Nonetheless, the XTS Vsport delivers up big-league engine performance, subtle styling (a unique grille and badges are the only changes) and a pleasant if non-aggressive balance of ride and handling. If you care, its fuel economy, a combined 19 miles per gallon (16 city/24 highway) essentially is dead even with V8 rivals.

Starting at $63,020 (including $925 destination), the 2014 XTS Vsport's base price is almost a $6,000 upgrade over the standard XTS with all-wheel drive. And while its base price is a bargain in the segment, the car we tested was a lick more than $70,000, which brings it right in line with its foreign competitors.

Cadillac's 2014 XTS Vsport isn't entirely a sport sedan and it might still be too much in the American-luxury idiom for some. If you're buying horsepower and torque, you're getting your money's worth, but if you're buying cylinders and badge, you won't be as convinced.

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