Cadillac has changed a lot during the past decade and a half. Once considered the brand that old folks would buy for their comfort and plushness, Cadillac has grown into a real competitor for the Germans. To see how the brand became a threat, all you need to do look at the CTS. The first and second-generation CTS models showed real promise as Cadillac got the handling and design characteristics right. But there was always something lacking that kept it a few rungs down, whether it be the interior, drivetrain, or something else. Enter the third-generation CTS and Cadillac appears to have taken the lessons it learned from past models, along with a lot of development work to get to this point. Is it a real threat? We spent some time in the CTS VSport model to find out.
In terms of design, the current CTS is toned-down when compared to the last-generation model. There is a fair amount of sharp lines and angles throughout the body, but it doesn’t quite have that shock and awe look that the previous CTS had. Instead, the current CTS’ design is much more fluid and complete. Every panel and line seems to flow and makes the model seem like it was sculpted from a block of steel, not bits and pieces. The only downside to CTS’ design is the rear end as it looks like it was done at the last minute and doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the vehicle.
Cadillac has also gotten the details right with the CTS. Little things such as LED lighting, headlights that extend into the front fenders, rear spoiler, and chrome exhaust ports. A set of nineteen-inch wheels adds some aggression for the VSport.
The CTS VSport gets a set of leather seats with extra bolstering to keep you in place when you decide to play. Whenever you decide to stop playing around, you’ll find the seats provide excellent support and comfort for long distances. The back seat may seem small when compared to competitors, but it’s a different story when you sit back there. Even for taller passengers, the rear seat provides more than enough head and legroom.
Infotainment duties are handled by CUE (Cadillac User Experience) and it sadly hasn’t gotten any better. The capacitive touch buttons still don’t always recognize a finger press and you’ll need to hit them a few times for a response. The system is slow to respond to simple tasks such as changing a station or bringing up the navigation. I know criticizing CUE is now at the ‘kicking the dead horse level’, but this is a key part of the vehicle. If it doesn’t work smoothly, you’re going to lose people who are interested in the car.
For power, the CTS VSport employs a twin-turbo 3.6L V6 with 420 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The engine is quite a revelation when you first take it out. It feels more like a V8 in how eager the engine is to get up to speed. Cadillac says 90 percent of the torque is available between 2,500 to 5,500 rpm, giving the engine strong power in most driving conditions. It shows as the CTS VSport was eager to get up to speed at a rapid rate. Also, the engine had a lot of power in reserve for times when it was called on. The eight-speed automatic performed fast gear changes.
Fuel economy for the CTS VSport is rated at 16 City/24 Highway/18 Combined. I saw an average of 20.1 MPG in mostly city driving.
Aside from the twin-turbo engine, the VSport boasts some other goodies. There is a sports-tuned suspension with GM’s Magnetic Ride Control system, electronic limited-slip differential, and a set of performance tires. This combination makes the CTS VSport one of, if not the best handling sedan in the class. Put the vehicle into Sport and it hunkers down onto the road. Body motions are nonexistent when cornering and the steering provides excellent feel and weight. When you’re not horsing around and just doing the daily grind, the CTS is a pleasant and comfortable place. Put the CTS VSport into Comfort and suspension will soften to glide over most bumps. Road and wind noise are kept to levels that are considered to be silent.
Cadillac has a real world-beater on their hands with the CTS. In VSport form, the CTS gives all of the midsize luxury sedans a real run for their money in terms of handling and power. The CTS also boasts one of the nicest interiors and unique exteriors in the class. CUE is still a problem for the CTS and Cadillac need to address this system ASAP.
But there are still some issues for Cadillac as a whole. Perceptions of the brand still linger and the dealership experience still doesn’t quite match what you might find other luxury automakers.
So while the CTS is now at a point where it can be considered best-in-class, the rest of Cadillac needs to catch up.
Disclaimer: Cadillac Provided the CTS VSport, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Engine: 3.6L Twin-Turbo V6
Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 420 @ 5,750
Torque @ RPM: 430 @ 3,500 - 4,500
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/24/18
Curb Weight: 3,952 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Lansing, MI
Base Price: $59,340
As Tested Price: $60,435 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
Performance Brake Linings - $100.00