Cadillac CUE makes its way to XTS, navigates with ease in NYC (hands-on)

Navigating those mean Manhattan streets is an intimidating chore for any driver, with or without a battery of high-tech in-car aides. But after an introduction to Cadillac CUE, it's easy to see the benefit of such a comprehensive system. CUE isn't your typical in-dash GPS nav -- sure it can get you on your way just as well as any other navigation system, but a bounty of sensors and displays allow you to keep your eyes on the road and avoid collisions, while also providing the smartphone integration and media playback support you'd expect from a high-end 2012 automobile. The base system, included standard with 2012 and 2013 XTS and SRX models and available as an option with the ATS, is centered around an 8-inch, 800 x 400 capacitive touch LCD with anti-scratch, anti-glare and oleophobic coatings to keep the display in tip-top shape and completely viewable from both the driver and passenger seats.

The display flips open to reveal a lit storage compartment with a USB port for connecting and charging your smartphone, while capacitive-touch buttons below the panel provide haptic feedback and a variety of control options (you can tap or slide your finger across to adjust volume, for example). Add-ons include a 12.3-inch, 1280 x 480 "instrument cluster" that provides speed and fuel information in a familiar readout, along with directions, phone call info and music selection. Also available is a slick heads-up display, which features a more subdued color pallet (compared to the vibrant LCDs) and outputs key info, including speed limits and collision warnings, while also minimizing ghosting thanks to a wedge-shaped windshield, which thins as you move from top to bottom. Two more USB ports in the center console let you sync up and charge two additional devices, while an AUX input enables older devices to pipe out tunes.

Now, much of this may seem familiar -- we took a peek at CUE at last year's CTIA -- but this is the first time that we've actually had a chance to take the tech for a spin in a drivable 2013 Cadillac XTS, and New York City seems like the perfect venue for pushing the system to its limits. Inputting a destination is as simple as typing an address into Google Maps (though CUE uses a proprietary maps app based on NAVTEQ's database). As we drove from our office near Union Square to the Financial District, the car let us know when we were cutting things a bit too close, as seat vibrations alerted us to obstacles on either side. All the while, adjusting music and climate was simple as can be, and HUD-based directions gave us little excuse to look away from the busy road. After arriving at our destination, we slid on over to the passenger seat to film the action while an expert drove. If a new Caddy is in your future, you should be able to pick up a CUE-equipped car within the next few weeks. For now, you can jump past the break for a front-seat look as we cruise on through the 212.