Unconventional, artistic and radical are words seldom used to describe the Cadillac STS and DTS, the auto maker’s now discontinued large sedans.  

But these and similar adjectives crop up more than a few times when WardsAuto editors discuss the ’13 XTS sedan, which replaces both cars in the auto maker’s lineup.

The ultra-rich materials in our Platinum Collection tester were the first things that impressed us, from the synthetic suede covering the headliner and interior pillars to some of the softest leather we’ve ever touched wrapping the instrument panel, doors and center console.

Cadillac also racks up points with the judges for its bold design and daring use of colors and trim materials. Unconventional-looking swaths of perforated leather take the place of typical wood or metallic trim in key areas. Wood is used sparingly, providing a unique and distinctly modern appearance.

And everyone admires the eye-catching, subtly radical purple stitching used throughout the cabin, as well as the indirect ambient lighting that provides an especially elegant atmosphere at night.

“This is what happens when creative engineers and artists team up; stunning and refined,” says one judge.

Designers also took a big risk by using flat-screen LCD gauges instead of a traditional cluster. We have not liked this concept in some other luxury cars, but they fit in surprisingly well with the rest of the techie real estate on the IP and center stack of the XTS. The interface includes the iPad-like display of the CUE (Cadillac User Experience) system and a head-up display that provides turn-by-turn navigation and information on local speed limits in addition to everything else you would expect.

Every vehicle’s human-machine interface has a learning curve, but CUE is easier to use than most. Including the reconfigurable gauges and HUD, the XTS scores top marks for its driver information systems for both the quality and quantity of data they provide.    

The XTS is available with virtually every active and passive safety option available, including short- and long-range radar systems that support full-speed range adaptive cruise control; front/rear automatic brakes; and a rear cross-traffic alert system that vibrates the seat to warn a driver of approaching vehicles when backing out of a parking space.

Cadillac clearly has chosen a new design path for its big sedan that ditches conservatism for an edgier style that is heavy on technology and artistic details. We like where it’s headed.