Before I even get into it, let’s make sure we’re on the same page: the upcoming Cadillac XTS will not be a competitor to full-size segment stalwarts from Germany such as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class or the BMW 7-Series. The XTS isn’t hoping to be the driver’s luxury car — not that it should, anyway. With its front-wheel drive-based setup thanks to a stretched Epsilon II platform, the XTS may end up being propelled by all four wheels. But it won’t be the same as driving the aforementioned flagship luxury sedans from Germany. Keeping this in mind, there will be two types of buyers that the XTS can truly hope to capture.
The first is the DTS buyer: these folks will be coming out of their barges-on-wheels and — assuming they prefer the barge experience all over again — will be looking for a replacement barge (or something similar). They won’t find what they’re looking for in a 7er, S-Class, or even an Audi A8. Those are too performance-oriented. But the XTS may just be the vehicle that fits the bill.
The other possibility for someone fresh out of a DTS is the Lexus LS — a soft-riding full-sizer that, for all intents and purposes, is better (read: more pure) than the XTS. But Caddy doesn’t want its biggest spenders to detract to a competitor. They’d rather keep them in the family — and the XTS could do just that.
But possibly the biggest reason for the existence of the XTS in the first place is the fact that the true Cadillac flagship won’t be ready by the time the XTS hits the market in Q1 2012. In fact, the true Caddy range-topper, which may or may not be based on the new Omega architecture, may only be ready in 2014, 2015, or even 2016. And weathering four or five years without a full-size flagship isn’t a great idea. Hence, the XTS — a vehicle that will be underpinned by an already-existing Epsilon architecture — is born. With a few changes, tune-ups, and length/width-wise extensions, it won’t cost much to bring to market. Not as much as the all-new RWD flagship will, anyway.
At the end of the day, the XTS will do Caddy some good, even if it’s a stop-gap product: the brand won’t have to weather four or five years without a full-size vehicle — and it will sell a few copies of the XTS to those looking to replace their DTS. Sure, the XTS isn’t rear-wheel drive — a fact that makes it the odd-ball vehicle in the otherwise performance-oriented Cadillac lineup. But GM — and Cadillac — are in the business of making money. And the XTS will hold the fort until the true flagship arrives mid-decade. Then, Herr Benz and Herr BMW… then we’ll talk.