Cadillac’s CTS remains one of GM’s biggest success stories and for good reason. The mid-size sport sedan features edgy styling and handles like a fine European sport sedan, but with better ride characteristics and now, all-wheel-drive.
The dark metallic gray test car was the CTS AWD 3.6L Premium Collection, which is a long way of saying its the upscale version with AWD. Same well chiseled profile, long and wide hood, mouthy grille and slender retro vertical taillights. The car looks, and feel, upscale.
What I like, and I’ve said it before, is that Cadillac delivers performance and luxury in equal doses.
Standard in this model is the strong 3.6-liter VVT V6 with auto start/stop. No turbo, and it still gets 335 horsepower and creates 285 lb.-ft. of torque. Others may crank up more ponies and the turbo versions rock like race cars, but this has good power to get the car up to highway speeds in a flash, but with a smoothness befitting its luxury nameplate.
Helping that effort is Caddy’s silky 8-speed automatic, which first debuted a couple years back. The tranny seems perfectly suited to the V6 and there are paddle shifters behind the steering wheel if the driver wishes to take shifting into his, or her, own hands.
CTS also offers three driving modes, selected via a switch on the console between the front seats. Touring is for everyday driving and smooths the ride while offering responsive steering. This would do for most of us 90-95% of the time. But you can go Sport mode and firm things up, or adjust for snowy and icy conditions. Naturally the AWD also helps once the roads turn sloppy, but I dodged that bullet for this drive.
Unlike some European makes that push the performance envelope a bit too much, the CTS features a firm yet comfortable ride, using MacPherson-type struts up front with a direct-acting stabilizer bar and independent five-link suspension in back with twin-tube shocks. GM’s magnetic ride control works on both to level the roughest roads. Again, there’s a sporty firmness, but damping and bump control are excellent.
This Caddy corners well too and the suspension and wheel feedback help that. CTS seems to be Caddy’s best tuned steering system yet, although the ATS is awfully nice too and the two models share much the same platform. If you’re feeling racy you can take turns at speed and the car grips corners as if in a groove. Body lean is a thing of the past. CTS feels nimble and responsive.
Start/stop technology can be disconcerting to drivers who haven’t experienced it before, but it’s easy to get used to and works at saving a bit of gas. This being a spirited car, such aid can be helpful. I managed just 21.8 mpg in about a 50-50 mix of city and highway. I’d gotten 22 in a turbo CTS a couple years ago. Still, this one is rated higher at 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. A mid-size crossover couldn’t do any better and you wouldn’t have the power, handling and ride you have with CTS.
Aside from the CUE system, I like the Cadillac’s interior, both its styling and comfort.
The test car had a black leather dash, with suede on the doors and carbon fiber trim on the dash’s face, plus a gloss black face on the center stack. Seats were leather, naturally, with gray stitching there and on the doors to give CTS a sophisticated look that exceeds what European makes generally offer.
The driver’s seat has two memory settings and multiple power settings to allow maximum comfort. And both front seats are heated and ventilated (3 settings each). Even the steering wheel is heated, a welcome feature in our climate. Seats are well formed and comfortable and there’s room in back for a couple adults to ride comfortably too. Even the trunk is useful. While the opening is a bit shallow, the trunk is deep enough to accommodate four or five suitcases.
Quiet? Well, yes it is inside the CTS’s cockpit.
Other key pluses include a power tilt-telescope steering wheel, a heads-up display for the driver, a sunroof overhead and the OnStar system.
The CTS’s navigation/radio screen is large too and operated by touching the center stack screen’s face. I’ve praised its look in the past, but the CUE infotainment system that runs through the screen takes getting used to. This one was less touchy than the previous model I’d tested. Yet so many accessories are operated by the touchscreen system that it can become distracting and is more difficult to use in winter when wearing gloves. More work needs to be done to further refine CUE.
As with past CTS models, technology is plentiful, including a blind-spot warning system, lane departure and parking warning systems, and lane keeping and rear cross-traffic alerts. 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 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. The system also will automatically brake for you, if you do not react quickly enough.
Other electronic pluses include a good Bose surround sound system, rearview camera, surround vision, power rear sunshade, illuminated outside door handles, remote start, wireless charging and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. Other nice features include overhead visors that slide, covered cupholders, frameless rearview mirror and manual side rear window shades.
Cadillac touts its automatic safety belt tightening system too. While it may work fine it can be disturbing at how tight it suddenly gets as you first start driving the car. It then loosens and is comfortable enough after that, but it’s sort of like having an automatic blood pressure cuff strapped to your chest for about 3 seconds each time you drive. Not sure I like that.
One other issue, in the test car the delayed windshield wipers also did not work. I had to turn the wipers on to full power to get them to clear the windshield. Once at full power they actually rocked the car from side to side with their movement. Odd! Oh, and yes Caddy folks, I know this has Rainsense wipers that sense when the windows are wet. That wasn’t the problem here. The windows were definitely wet and yet the wipers sat still until I switched off the delay system.
Lastly, there are a lot of CTS models, so you can have the look without having all the bells and whistles. A standard model 2.0 lists at $46,555. This is a rear-drive model with turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder creating 268 horses. The test model started at $64,685 and ended up at $66,425 after adding a couple options.
Other models include the Luxury, Performance and Premium editions and the higher end models add the new V6 to the mix. Most models are available with RWD or AWD. There also is a Vsport Premium model with a twin-turbo V6 that makes 420 horsepower and a CTS-V model with a 640-horse supercharged V8. Uh, it’s even faster and pricier!
Hits: Edgy styling, good power, comfortable ride, good handling and AWD. Three drive mode selections, lighted exterior door handles, heated power tilt/telescope steering wheel, deep trunk and sunroof.
Misses: Complex touch controls for accessories and CUE system, automatic snugging shoulder belt, delay wipers didn’t work and wipers on full power actually rock the car when it’s sitting still.
Made in: Lansing, Mich.
Engine: 3.6-liter, VVT V6, 335 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 4,035 lbs.
Length: 195.5 in.
Wheelbase: 114.6 in.
Cargo: 13.7 cu.ft.
MPG: 19/28 (EPA)
MPG: 21.8 (tested)
Base Price: $64,685
Dealer’s Price: $61,475 (includes delivery)
Moonstone metallic paint, $$95
Cooling system extra capacity, $250
Test vehicle: $66,425
Sources: Cadillac, www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Mark Savage