Making its Midsize Mark

2013-12-18T11:52:00Z Making its Midsize MarkBy Jim Gorzelany CTW Features nwitimes.com
December 18, 2013 11:52 am  • 

The redesigned Cadillac CTS sedan is ready to compete with some of the finest midsize luxury sedans in the world

Cadillac has – for decades it seems – been striving to recapture its former glory as a premier luxury car brand, albeit with mixed results. However, with last year’s ATS sporty compact and the redesigned-for-2014 CTS midsize sedan, Cadillac is finally on track to make a credible run at the top European makes.

The new CTS in particular compares favorably with models like the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class with a winning combination of vehicular fashion and impressive overall performance.

It’s longer and lower than before, with fresh athletic exterior styling that’s highlighted by a pair of boomerang-shaped headlamps that reach far upwards and into the front bumpers, with LED running lights that run back downward into a pair of aggressively cast air intakes. The car’s tall beltline and sleek roofline extend elegantly rearward into a tall decklid that sits atop vertical taillights and large rectangular dual exhausts.

Inside, the CTS’ passenger cabin blends classic finishes, contemporary technology and luxurious touches, including subtle ambient lighting, attractive accent stitching on its leather-wrapped and wood-trimmed dashboard and a configurable LED electronic instrument panel. A motorized cupholder lid in the center console is both amusing and frivolous.

We drove the 3.6L Performance Collection version that comes with a full range of amenities, including heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and a head-up display that projects vehicle speed and other selectable information onto the inside of the windshield in the driver’s line of sight.

For better or worse it also included heavily bolstered sport seats that, while they help keep the driver and front passenger upright during extreme handling maneuvers, proved to be a bit uncomfortable over longer and more leisurely drives. There’s plenty of room up front for taller drivers to stretch out in comfort, with the back seat being sufficiently spacious for two adults, with a third able to squeeze in if necessary (though legroom can become cramped if the front seats are in their rearmost position).

Three separate engines are available, including a base 2.0-liter 272-hp turbocharged four-cylinder and a smoother and livelier 3.6-liter V6 with 321 horsepower that should suit most buyers. Meanwhile, the “Vsport” version features Caddy’s first ever twin-turbo V6 that enables a galloping 420 horses. Rear-drive models come with a new eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts precisely and almost imperceptibly, though only the previous generation’s six-speed automatic is available with the optional all-wheel-drive system.

We’re pleased to report the new CTS’ handling is undeniably first-rate in the European tradition, affording an energetic and secure feel through even the sharpest curves. Even better, it leaves an accomplished driver the ability to kick rear 7end out slightly through a higher-speed handling maneuver before the stability control system intervenes to get things safely back on track. Our test version came equipped with Cadillac’s Magnetic Ride Control suspension that deftly adjusts the stiffness of the shock absorbers instantaneously to successfully maintain a smooth ride over all but the roughest pavement.

Perhaps the CTS’ most glaring flaw is its CUE (for Cadillac User Experience) multimedia control system that uses both a large iPad-like LCD display and clumsy “touchpoints” on the dashboard instead of easier-to-operate buttons and knobs. While it provides some tactile feedback when executing operations, we found CUE to be difficult – and distracting – to operate while driving.

All the latest safety features are available including lane departure and blind spot warning systems and both front and rear collision detection with automatic braking. Each interfaces with Cadillac’s Safety Alert Seat that gives feedback to the driver from the aforementioned systems via a vibrating seat cushion instead of audible alerts. It works well enough, but isn’t particularly recommended for the overtly ticklish, though it does give new meaning to the phrase, “driving by the seat of one’s pants.”

Unfortunately, starting at $45,100 (not including a $925 destination charge), the 2014 Cadillac CTS is about $6,000 pricier than the version it replaces, which brings it closer to parity in yet another way with its European-brand competition.

© CTW Features

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