XTS concept heralds new Cadillac design, hybrid strategy

  • 21-Jan-2010 03:20 EST
XTS Platinum concept Cadillac - NAIAS10.jpg
General Motors' Epsilon II vehicle architecture underpins the XTS concept. The production car will launch at Oshawa in late 2011.

Many jaws dropped at Detroit’s Cobo Hall when General Motors rolled out the Cadillac XTS Platinum concept. The big luxury sedan is the first look at a long-awaited replacement for both the aging DTS and STS.

XTS is important for two strategic reasons. First, it provides a glimpse at what GM engineers indicate is a new, less-edgy styling theme for the brand. Bringing a new “face” to Cadillac based on a “softer” exterior theme is aimed at winning over some potential luxury-segment customers who have been put off by the brand’s polarizing sharp surface language.

Second, the XTS gives insight into GM’s powertrain strategy for its luxury brand, as the automaker prepares to meet the stringent new U.S. 35.5-mpg fleet fuel efficiency standard mandated for 2016. The XTS pairs a direct-injected 3.6-L V6 with a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) drive system featuring GM’s next-generation Two Mode hybrid transmission in an all-wheel-drive configuration.

The XTS will enter production in late 2012, as a 2013 model, according to industry analysts familiar with GM’s production plans. The car will be built at GM’s Oshawa, Ontario, complex.

The concept and production car are based on GM’s Epsilon II architecture. Also called Global Epsilon, the platform was first introduced with the Opel Insignia and is currently shared with the Buick LaCrosse. While reporters’ tape measures were not permitted on the concept car while it sat on the show stand, a GM engineer said the car’s overall length measures 204 in (5180 mm). That is 7 in (178 mm) longer than the LaCrosse.

The longer body design reflects GM’s desire to offer limousine-spec rear-seat legroom to XTS customers. GM plans to use XTS to boost Cadillac sales in China, where chauffeured luxury vehicles are common and back-seat space is a key sales feature. The voluminous back-seat area also is aimed at growing Cadillac sales in the U.S. urban town-car livery market.

The Epsilon II architecture and its related production tooling are designed for maximum flexibility. The platform will support “considerable stretch” to the LaCrosse’s 111.7-in (2837 mm) wheelbase, 61.7- and 62-in (1567- and 1576-mm) front/rear track, respectively, and 73-in (1860-mm) overall width, GM engineers told AEI.

GM product planners are aiming XTS at the growing market for large luxury vehicles that offer affluent buyers traditional comfort and performance without the associated environmental guilt (or at least less of that guilt). BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus have introduced hybrid powertrains in recent years, and the other luxury marques are developing similar systems.

"We envisioned this concept as an automotive personal headquarters, using advanced technology to enable new levels of connectivity and luxury," said Bryan Nesbitt, Cadillac's General Manager.

The XTS’s 3.6-L direct-injected V6 with plug-in hybrid technology enables the lithium-ion battery to fully charge from a standard 110/120V electrical outlet within five hours, Nesbitt said. The system delivers approximately 350 hp (261 kW) and 295 lb·ft (400 N·m).

With the PHEV powertrain, the XTS’s expected range on battery power alone will be close to the 40 mi (64 km) claimed for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

Cadillac appears to be the first GM brand to produce a PHEV, following aborted announcements by Saturn (Vue, 2007) and Buick (2009). Both were slated to use a modified version of GM’s Two Mode transmission originally developed by Allison for bus applications. The system offers separate driving modes for urban driving cycles as well as for highway use. It is the first hybrid transmission designed to be capable of trailer towing, suited for larger vehicles and payloads.

For Saturn Vue use, the Two Mode PHEV system was expected to offer electric-only propulsion for more than 10 mi (16 km). To propel the vehicle at higher speeds, electric-only mode would switch to either a combination of combustion engine and electric power, or engine power alone. The transmission features two permanent-magnet e-motors.

When GM canceled the Buick PHEV project last summer, Vice Chairman and product-development chief Tom Stephens wrote on GM’s FastLane blog: “The Buick crossover we showed received consistent feedback from large parts of all the audiences that it didn’t fit the premium characteristics that customers have come to expect from Buick."

He added that GM "decided that the important plug-in hybrid technology would be applied to another vehicle, at no delay.” That vehicle appears to be the Cadillac XTS.

Inside the XTS, the cockpit features the next iteration of Cadillac's touch-screen graphics that use organic LEDs (light-emitting diodes) instead of traditional gauges. Rear-seat passengers can stretch out on an expansive back seat and watch video on screens that rise out of the backs of the front seats.

The seating surfaces are covered in a new style of automotive suede, with a laser-etched pattern used on the center sections of the seats and the door trim.

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