Cadillac is beyond just being back, it’s now about kickin’ butt and takin’ numbers.
First, unlike most sporty luxury brands, Cadillacs now exude style. The new CTS is the beauty queen of luxury sport sedans leaving others only to compete for Miss Congeniality.
CTS’s well chiseled profile with long, wide hood and big mouthy grille give it some panache. But those vertical taillights that carry over from previous models, some dating back to the 1960s, plus the big headlights that extend back into the slender fenders give it an athletic presence – think pro athlete in a fitted Ralph Lauren suit.
Beyond the edgy styling that catches a potential buyer’s eye, Cadillac continues to deliver performance and luxury in equal doses.
The tested CTS Vsport, the top-level model, now boasts a 420-horse twin-turbo V6. The 3.6-liter unit earns a torque rating of 430 that reportedly pushes the rear-drive sedan to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. Power is readily available and smoothly delivered with Caddy’s first 8-speed automatic, which offers a manual mode and steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
Ride is comfortable too with GM’s magnetic ride control and a performance suspension that provides a firm, well-controlled ride. Plus CTS offers four driving modes, selected via a switch on the console between the front seats. Touring is for everyday driving and smoothes the ride while offering responsive steering. This would do for most of us 90-95% of the time.
BUT, as in some other higher end models, like Chevrolet’s Corvette, you can select Sport, Track or Snow/Ice. Sport seems barely different from Touring to me, but Track firms the ride considerably and the steering effort and precision increase fairly dramatically. Snow/Ice obviously would come in handy in Wisconsin winters. For the record, Caddy also offers an all-wheel-drive CTS.
As alluded to above, the steering effort is responsive, but on the heavy side. The car corners well on its Pirelli 18-inch R-rated P Zero tires. You feel as if you could hit a sharp turn at highway speeds and never have to give it a second thought. Some of that comes from the well-balanced chassis that Cadillac has developed via racing and time spent testing on Germany’s famed Nurburgring, where CTS set the lap record a few years ago.
Braking is from tremendous Brembo disc brakes with a track-style cooling system. That prevents brake fade if you’re pushing your CTS hard, presumably on the track, or racing down Pikes Peak. Stability and traction control are standard.
Inside the dark metallic gray test car was a stylish “twilight blue” and black leather interior with smoked chrome and gloss black trim. Sharp, although a few riders thought the blue leather tended more toward purple in direct sun. Still, it delivered a personalized touch not found in some all-black German makes’ interiors.
For 2014 the CTS is 5 inches longer than its predecessor and its wheelbase grows 1.2 inches. That naturally aids its ride, but also gives it more interior space. Headroom and legroom are good front and rear, but the rear seats are deep buckets and assist handles over the door frames are welcomed sights if you need to pull yourself out of the rear seat. Teens will be fine, but us “mature” adults will love those handles.
In back the rear seat splits and folds, plus CTS has a pass-through to accommodate skis or other long items. The trunk is modestly sized at 10.5 cubic feet. That’s big enough for two or three large or medium-sized suitcases, plus odds and ends.
All that adds to CTS’s practicality, but it’s the extreme quiet and sporty good looks of the interior that make this a special place to reside while en route to someplace at least a few hours away. I like the dash styling with the three main gauges featuring blue background rings, plus an adjustable subset of digital gauges just below. You choose where to put the trip computer readout, various warning alerts and digital speedometer. Controls for all that are on the power tilt/telescope steering wheel’s hub. The wheel itself is quite thick, a possible concern for drivers with smallish hands, and leather wrapped.
CTS’s navigation/radio screen is large too and all operated by touch on the center stack’s face. I’ve praised its look in the past, but the CUE infotainment system takes some getting used to. This one was way less touchy than the previous model I’d tested. While it’s improved, ask your dealer for some CUE training before you buy.
Seats are mostly comfortable and well-shaped. There are multiple power controls, including power lumbar and two memory settings for the driver’s seat. I felt a lump of some sort mid-back that couldn’t be adjusted away. Others had no discomfort with their cushions, although my wife said the headrest pushed her head a bit more forward than she likes. That said, the leather here is exquisitely soft, especially on the headrests.
Technology is plentiful in the CTS Vsport too, with a blind-spot warning system, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled seats and both lane departure and parking warning system. These are activated by a variety of sensors and tell you you’re near another car, a curb or are starting to wander from your lane by vibrating the corresponding side of your seat. I like this much better than annoying beeps, which can also tend to disturb passengers.
Another system flashes a red warning light on the dash if you approach another object too fast and the system anticipates an impact if you fail to brake or slow. That can be helpful.
A few other pluses include a good Bose surround sound system, chrome door sills, overhead visors that slide, a CD player in the glove box, covered cupholders, frameless rearview mirror, but, oddly, no sunroof.
I don’t mean to complain though because the CTS is a delight to drive and delivers reasonable gas mileage for a 420-horse machine that will rocket up to highway speeds. I got 22.0 mpg in about 60-70% highway driving and in one round-trip to Chicago with four people aboard I managed 24.7 mpg, although the trip computer was bragging at 27.5. The EPA says to expect 16 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, which my drive seems to confirm. The twin-turbo prefers 91 octane premium fuel though.
Base price for a Vsport is $59,070 and with a $925 delivery fee this one settled at $59,995. There were no options. There are several lower level models starting about $40 grand, but each offers a less powerful engine, but a bit better gas mileage. CTS also is available as a coupe or wagon, including Vsport models.
All look great!
FAST Stats: 2014 Cadillac CTS Vsport
Hits: Edgy styling, twin-turbo power, comfortable ride and a quiet cabin to challenge any mainstream luxury brand. Attractive dash with large nav/radio screen, laudable technology such as blind-spot warning system, heated power tilt/telescope steering wheel, heated/cooled leather seats, four drive mode selections.
Misses: CUE system takes getting used to, but seems improved. Thick steering wheel, driver’s seat back felt lumpy and no sunroof at $60 grand.
Made in: Lansing, Mich.
Engine: 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6, 420 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/manual mode
Wheelbase: 113.4 in.
Length: 188.5 in.
Cargo: 10.5 cu.ft.
MPG: 16/24 (EPA)
MPG: 22.0 (tested)
Base Price: $59,070
Dealer’s Price: N.A.
Major Options: None
Test vehicle: $59,995
Sources: Cadillac, http://www.kbb.com