Is it finally better than German rivals?
Cadillac introduced its first CTS and the launch of “Art & Science” design with its sharp-edged style in 2003. Back then, the venerable domestic brand clearly had BMW and Mercedes-Benz in its sights while a sportier Caddy would help move its image away from boulevard cruiser status. And to add punctuation, the next year Cadillac followed with CTS-V, dropping a big V8 under the hood to rival BMW’s M and Mercedes’ AMG hot rods.
The CTS clearly made modest inroads to win back Boomers who were turned off by shoddy domestic quality while wooed by import brands. But while the original generations of CTS models could match import rivals for performance and endurance, the small details — fit, finish and material choices — were not competitive. This fourth generation CTS is finally in the game, meeting and exceeding luxury imports in every category, inside and out. No excuses. Motor Trend’s Car of the Year jury had both a Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5-Series in the finalist group and the Cadillac prevailed in every department. That leaves the big task to the marketing department and dealers to get luxury prospects to put the car on their shopping list.
Cadillac’s newest rear-drive architecture, underpinning the smaller ATS model as well as the new CTS, has made its mark in weight savings and responsive handling. So while the newest Cadillac is competitive in size with E-Class and 5-Series, it’s the lightest in the segment, weighing in under 4,000 pounds. That benefit allows a choice of four engines, ranging from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder to a 3.6 V6, our twin-turbo VSPORT V6 to the 6.2-liter, 556HP supercharged V8. The VSPORT with its 420HP and perfect 50/50 weight distribution was just the ticket in my book. The balance is much like BMW’s new M-Sport offerings that split the difference between solid standard power and set-your-hair-on-fire performance. And the power is always on tap through a new eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle-shifting at your fingertips.
One of the areas that some automakers struggle with is the fine-tuning of interiors. Audi has the reputation of luxury leadership in this area, but the new CTS invites nitpicking comparison. From soft touch, hand-sewn materials to 20-way power seats and contemporary electronics, this is a nice environment to spend time in.
In the surprise and delight department, the OnStar system provides remote automation from an iOS or Android smartphone for tasks ranging from remote starting to checking fuel levels. It has taken a while, but the renaissance of the Cadillac brand continues. BRIAN DOUGLAS