Our newly tested Cadillac XTS is a wonderfully luxurious sedan, with a very spacious and well-appointed cabin. However, the XTS is hampered by a new high-tech infotainment system called CUE, for Cadillac User Experience.
With CUE, conventional buttons and knobs are replaced by a touch screen and flush touch-sensitive buttons. The system is so convoluted and frustrating that it detracts from the XTS's easy-going and otherwise pampering environment.
CUE has some things going for it. The system looks extremely impressive in the showroom, with the center dashboard being a swath of glossy piano black and chrome accents. And smart-phone connectivity and voice-command functions mostly work well. But a deeper look reveals plenty of issues.
The customizable touch screen looks nice and lets you sort icons to your liking and delete ones you don't use. But CUE hides some icons from sight until your hand comes within proximity of the screen. That creates something of a moving target, frustrating your ability to easily aim for desired on-screen spot. You're often flipping through screens, taking several steps to find what you want. And the touch screen sometimes needs a rather hard tap to register an input.
Cadillac aimed to model CUE after the input methods on a smart phone or tablet, incorporating swipe gestures. However, scrolling through menus can be slow and cumbersome. Doing this action just isn't the same as when you're using handheld electronics, partly because you can give them more attention since you're (hopefully) not driving when using them.
Forget about blindly reaching for a big knob to crank up the volume or dial in a station—because there aren't any. Instead you need to take your eyes from the road to find the fussy flush control you want. It looks like you should tap the raised "metal" sections on the panel, but you're actually supposed to tap just above them where the labels appear.
A unique feature is that CUE tries to duplicate the touch "haptic" feedback of a normal button by sending a small vibration through the screen or control beneath your finger tip. But this often is ill-timed or slow to react. It all seems like a lot of complication just to make a button look high-tech.
Steering-wheel mounted buttons can be quicker and easier than using the screen and center stack, but you can wind up diving deep into on-screen menus. The steering wheel toggle is really overly complicated and pushing straight-in to "select" an entry only works part of the time.
Perhaps it's inevitable to ask how CUE compares to MyFord/MyLincoln Touch, Ford's also-frustrating high-tech control system. On the plus side, CUE generally has larger fonts and simpler screens. In our experience, it isn't as buggy as MyFord Touch. However, it's considerably easier to navigate the Ford system's logic, making it less of a hassle to find what you want. And some versions of MyFord Touch still have conventional buttons and knobs, unlike CUE.
Since this is the first iteration of CUE, the system will undoubtedly evolve. We expect ongoing updates like Ford has done with MyFord Touch. But CUE is destined to spread through the Cadillac line-up, starting with the XTS and ATS and moving to the SRX for 2013. This is a shame, because this control system definitely will hurt our test scores for these otherwise nice cars.
Check out our video below for more on Cadillac's CUE system. And see our detailed XTS road test, complete with a road test video.