I always find it hard to put into words how much I like something. It is even harder for me to put it into print. So you can imagine my frustration as I sit at my desk writing this review, especially when I’m hungry. I was asked if I would like to review the all-new 2014 Cadillac CTS about a couple weeks ago by my boss. If there ever was a stupid question, that was it. Of course I would! I was put in touch with the local fleet manager, and we communicated over email about the car. My first question was whether or not it was a VSport? Not until at least January….damn.
Still, it wasn’t anything to be down about. I’ve been following this car for a long time, and the rumors and concepts only kept my stomach growling for more. Here is the God awful truth about the automotive world: extremely hyped vehicles are usually the ones that let you down the most, and there was a LOT of hype going into the reveal of the CTS. It was supposed to be the American threat to the Germans; the American “BMW” that also had to contend with the best from Mercedes and Audi. It was supposed to be the perfect plate of New York style steak without the fat along with mashed potatoes on the side, and steamed green beans ready to be washed down with some fine Californian wine. None of that French stuff. Salivating yet?
Presentation is key
Now, I’m picky. If something looks questionable I tend to stay away but in it’s third generation, Cadillac has finally found out how to make a luxury sedan look good. Better late than never. I can’t say I was ever truly a fan of their Art & Science design language. But I can honestly say that I’m sold on the current iteration of Cadillac’s body styles. What was it that Gore Vidal said? “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” Cadillac knows what it is and its styling is unmistakable. You will never confuse a Cadillac for anything else on the road, and thank God for that since the automotive landscape is full of design mimicry and conformity.
The front face is bold and chiseled with a row of vertical LED driving lights mated to HID lamps on either side of the car traveling up the front and into the fenders. The bold grille with the Cadillac emblem is as in your face American as it gets. The hood has pronounced creases and character lines that start at the front grille and work their way back to the windshield. The side profile continues the muscular chiseled theme with a character line continuing from the head lights and ending near the rear door, while a belt line starts at the front wheel arch and makes its way to the tail lights of the car.
A lower line accentuates the rear hips and gives the illusion of flaring them out ever so slightly for an overall athletic look. The rear of the Caddy is a bit toned down from the heavy aggressive front but the angled theme finds its way to the back also. Much like its little brother, the ATS, the third brake light is integrated into the trunk and also acts as a spoiler helping with the car’s aerodynamics. The dual exhaust accents hide the exhaust pipes from view so it retains the classy luxury appeal. The Red Obsession Tintcoat paint job did wonders for showing off the nuances of the design, and even drew quite a few compliments from two BMW owners with a Benz owner eavesdropping in on our conversation.
The Red Obsession Tintcoat paint job did wonders for showing off the nuances of the design, and even drew quite a few compliments from two BMW owners with a Benz owner eavesdropping in on our conversation.
The test car came fitted with 18” polished aluminum 7-spoke wheels shod in all season run flat tires which hide the beautiful Brembo front brake calipers. I would have preferred a little more aggressive style wheel which would show off those calipers than what Cadillac has to offer for the Premium collection, but that is just me. You cannot have a Cadillac without some bling but instead of the gaudy bits and pieces of chrome that have been tacked on as an afterthought on previous Cadillacs, the new CTS has nice aluminum touches that give it an elegant flair. The front grille surrounds, the side green house surrounds, the illuminating door handles and rear deck lid trim piece are the only places where you will find the tasteful bright work. Sorry to every mainstream copy cat rap artist, but there is no chrome here.
The first bite
This usually sets the tone for everything else you are about to ingest. It is what separates a decent meal from a bad meal and likewise, a great meal from a decent one. In this particular case, the interior is succulent. It may have too much flavor for some with all the bright work, carbon fiber, piano black, and incredible amounts of soft leather, but personally speaking it all fits beautifully. Plastics are kept only for the window switches and their surrounds, the door handle alcoves, vents, and the signal and wiper stalks. The dash board is wrapped in soft padded and perforated leather with real carbon fiber inlays. The stitching is flawless and the leather is tucked nicely into the trim pieces. There are piano black accents on the steering wheel and likewise on the CUE interface in the center of the dash. The bright work sheds some light in the Jet Black interior of our tester. You can option the car with the red leather interior much like the ATS I had tested earlier, which would have been my preference.
Fixed into the dash are two large screens; a 12.3” reconfigurable gauge cluster aft of the steering wheel, and an 8” touch screen in the center of the dash. While the gauge cluster shows the vitals of the car, it can be reconfigured to show you navigation, audio, phone, and other menus as well inside the concentric circles that hold the speedometer, tachometer, and ancillary gauges. The central 8” touch screen contains your infotainment system, Cadillac’s CUE, as well as HVAC controls. For those of whom are not familiar with CUE, there are no buttons to speak of and contains no central control dial to “rule them all” thing that the Germans have got going on. Everything is based off touch. There are a lot of functions that can be handled with the touch screen and you can swipe and drag your finger across the screen to select different options which is rather cool. Compared to the ATS I had last, this system was much quicker to respond to my inputs and had very little lag. Possible update perhaps? Whatever Cadillac did, it makes it an easier system to use.
Compared to the ATS I had last, CUE was much quicker to respond to my inputs and had very little lag. Possible update perhaps? Whatever Cadillac did, it makes it an easier system to use.
However, cycling through the various menus can be a chore but what is a luxury car without a bit of sophistication? The touch sensitive controls beneath the screen mostly control your HVAC while there is a slider that controls your volume should you feel the need to drag your finger across it instead of using the buttons on the steering wheel. Those controls require a little patience and require that you divert your eyes from the road. The system will buzz back at your selection but that is assuming it has picked up your selection the first time. It is more sensitive than the ATS but still a step below an actual button. You can control much of the systems via voice commands using the voice button on the left side of the steering wheel, however, it is a bit slow and a round about way instead of just using your finger to pick out what you want. Also, you cannot control the HVAC controls using the voice function which is a let down. Hopefully, Cadillac will offer it in the next update. However, given its quirks, I still love the system.
Hitting the spot
The cabin is richly appointed. The seats are extremely comfortable and supportive and the fronts boast both heating and ventilation in our Premium Collection trim. The rear occupants are not neglected as they have their own HVAC controls and the two outermost occupants have heated seat controls of their own. The rear passengers also have manual rear shades for the doors, two actually; one for the normal window and one for the small sectioned off window in the door. The rear shade is powered and can be controlled from the front occupants. The moon roof is dual paned with the larger front pane having the ability to slide back. They have their own cover as well. With the cover open, you can hear the moon roof slightly quiver over some bumps but close up the shade and all is quiet.
Despite the appearance of a rather long hood, the view out of the windshield is unobstructed by the nose and the car is rather easy to place into a parking spot. The rear windshield is small and can be difficult to see out of when you are backing out of a spot or out of your driveway, but I’m the type that will turn my head and torso around to actually be able to see out of the rear windows. If you do not, the rear back-up camera, the cross traffic alert, and back up sensors will help guide you out safely. The mirrors are a bit narrower than I had expected and they take a little getting used to, especially if you are coming from a vehicle with larger mirrors. The car is equipped with a blind spot monitoring system so it will notify you of any obstructions that the mirrors can’t catch (You should be looking in the direction you wish to merge into anyway).
The transmission when left to do its own job shifts smoothly and virtually imperceptibly as you cruise around.
The rear seats are very comfortable and combined with the separate HVAC controls and their own heated seat controls, it is actually a welcome place to be on a long journey. With my sub 6′ frame situated in the front seat, ingress and egress wasn’t difficult, however, the seat-back did not allow for bulky shoes to fit. You either have to contort your feet or wear lower profile shoes. Rear headroom is a claimed 37.5 inches and is adequate but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone taller than 6 feet. It was only an inch and a half or so between my head and the roof. The trunk is rather large at 13.7 cubic feet. The rear seats have a 60/40 split fold down capability, but the opening from the trunk into the cabin when they are folded down is not very big and the shape limits what can be stored. However, there is a pass through for when the seats are up.
Now to the tasty part of the review. To those of you who are still hungry for knowing how well the new CTS drives will be very satisfied with the following. The CTS is currently offered in three flavors, the base 4-cylinder turbo 2.0T, the mid level 3.6-liter V-6, and the high-end Vsport with a 3.6-liter Cadillac Twin-Turbo V-6 handling the power duties. Don’t mistake the Vsport for the V though. The latter is the all powerful battering ram while the Vsport is a trim level just to keep you satiated in the mean time. Our tester happened to be the mid level 3.6-liter V-6 with 321 horsepower at 6800 rpm and 275 lb.-ft. of torque at 4800 rpm. Mated to a 6-speed automatic which routes power to all four corners via the AWD system where the magnetic ride suspension keeps the wheels firmly pressed to the ground.
The magnetic shocks are totally trick. In Touring mode, the ride is soft and comfortable without it being floaty like the Cadillacs of old. Body motions are controlled, there is little roll to upset whatever is happening on the inside. The quiet cabin keeps the calmness inside and the chaos out due in part to the Bose active noise cancellation speakers which tune out the unwanted outside noise as well as the dual laminated glass. The transmission when left to do its own job shifts smoothly and virtually imperceptibly as you cruise around. Power is adequate for the car however, there isn’t much low end grunt like much of the competition however, we will touch on this later.
In Sport mode, the suspension firms up leaving a wild savoring after taste. The chassis of the CTS is damn near perfect and is more responsive than most sports cars I have driven. Steering feel is a little numb on center but livens up when the wheel is turned with decent feedback and linear load. You don’t know what is going on with the front tires but you get some information which is better than most cars nowadays. Press the M button the shifter, which allows you to shift the car yourself via the paddles on the steering wheel, and things get even better. The car will rev match on down-shifts, begging you to drive it harder however the up-shifts are not as fast as they could be. The automatic does a damn fine job acting as a dual-clutch gearbox but it just isn’t the real McCoy. Much like it’s younger brother, the ATS, the transmission will hold the gear you are in even at the engine’s redline.
Now here is the part about the engine. With little low-end torque, it isn’t a car that will fly out of the starting gate, despite it having AWD. This engine feels very strong near it’s peak power output however it tends to sound a little coarse when it reaches the rev limit. Aggressive, but coarse. On the curviest roads that Connecticut has to offer (they are also some of the least smoothest roads that Connecticut has to offer) the Caddy shines and shows just why it is better than the Germans. With the body roll virtually flat and the car feeling fleet footed, it takes turns with ease and without any indication of road imperfections unsettling it. The car is solid and well planted and loves to be thrown from apex to apex. I had feared that with the larger CTS, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun as the smaller ATS that I drove. I was completely wrong; the CTS to me is actually a bit more fun than the ATS I had. The 3.6-liter feels stronger in the higher end than the ATS 2.0T and loves to be grabbed by the neck and thrown around.
The CTS feels light, the steering is direct and the load is linear, the brakes are utterly fade free and grab almost instantly, and best of all, the car feels like a small sedan and shrinks around you.
The CTS feels light, the steering is direct and the load is linear, the brakes are utterly fade free and grab almost instantly, and best of all, the car feels like a small sedan and shrinks around you. It doesn’t feel wide and cumbersome like some of the other cars in its class. Cadillac made all this possible through the extensive use of aluminum in the suspension components and the door structures. Caddy was particular about trimming off any excess fat to keep the all new CTS as agile and light as possible. At an entry weight of 3,616 pounds, the Caddy is some 200 pounds lighter than a comparable BMW 528i. By today’s standards, that is pretty light for a mid-size luxury sedan. That weight is split 50/50 front to back according to Cadillac, however, I’d venture that it is a little bit more front heavy for the V-6 AWD version. The main point is, it is ready to take on the Germans on their own Autobahn.
It is very easy to drive whether you are driving lazily around town or whether you are getting frisky with the gas pedal on some of your favorite back roads. It does what you want it to and even begs you to push it more. There is a disclaimer; if you do push it too much, the Caddy does understeer. Unfortunately, with little knowledge of what the tires are doing with the road, I reached those limits of adhesion often. The suspension does a great job of adjusting while the all-wheel drive system and traction control minimize the issue but physics is physics. Turn off the traction control and things don’t help much. I attribute this behavior on the extra weight of the all-wheel drive system which can be easily negated with the rear-wheel drive versions. The hooniganism takes it’s toll on the fuel economy which dipped down to the city mpg rating of 18.
The whisper quiet cabin and supple ride makes it one of the most comfortable cars I have tested yet to date which includes the $129,000+ Audi S8.
When the CTS was driven how most owners would in a calmer more reserved manner, it yielded 24.4 mpg (The AWD CTS 3.6-liter models are rated at 26 mpg on the highway, 29 mpg for the 2.0T) on a 57 mile round trip on Thanksgiving with a family of four including the driver in the car as well as two very well made pies. The car takes regular gas so there is no need to spend the extra coin at the pump with Premium grade. The whisper quiet cabin and supple ride makes it one of the most comfortable cars I have tested yet to date which includes the $129,000+ Audi S8.
This is usually when you gloat about a good meal to your friends and family. One that you recommend to others that they must have it at some point because it is just so good. Well, the CTS is simply incredible. For finally being a serious contender in the viciously competitive mid-size luxury car market, Cadillac has got itself winner. The Premium Collection tester came with such amenities as standard; magnetic ride control, Brembo performance front brakes, Bluetooth, 110V power outlet, heated steering wheel, tri-zone climate control, LED ambient interior lighting, etc. etc. The standard vehicle price for our test car came in at $66,500.00.
Add in the Red Obsession Tintcoat for $995 as well as the ubiquitous destination charge of $925, the grand total came to $68,420. It isn’t as much as a value as it used to be in the past, (it also wasn’t the car that it is now back then either) but you got to pay to play at this level. Is it really worth the price? The answer is a resounding YES! You are doing yourself an injustice if you don’t give this car a serious look. Cadillac may still have a perception battle to fight, but this delectable machine will surely satisfy the pallets of many.
Photo Credit: Copyright 2014 Garry Gulledge / Car Fanatics Blog