- Looks American, looks runway
- Cadillac interiors keep getting better
- Eight-speed automatics have arrived
- A whiff of Stuttgart at the roofline
- No more V-8--yet?
- Coupe, wagon could be gone for a while--or for good
The 2014 Cadillac CTS sedan scales up the ATS' handsome profile and spot-on handling, and tops it off with a winning Vsport edition.
The Cadillac CTS has finally risen to the world-class ranks. Back in 2001, the CTS was GM's first attempt at turning around the Cadillac nameplate, and with the new CTS, it's completed that ascendance. It's now truly competitive with--if not a better all-around effort than--vehicles like the BMW 5-Series, Jaguar XF, Audi A6, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
In all those brands' mid-size offerings, the CTS stands out, better than the last generation, better even than the Cadillac ATS, the 2013 North American Car of the Year.
Read our most recent full review on the carry-over Cadillac CTS Coupe, Wagon, and CTS-V
The third-generation CTS finally tackles the thorny E-Class/5-Series/A6 superset head-on, while it marches Cadillac a few more brisk steps away from its straight-edged Art & Science theming.
That retreat is unmistakable--because from some angles, the 2014 CTS has an uncanny resemblance to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. It's all in the rear roofline, the angle of the pillar that bends down toward the trunklid, and the shapes of the side glass. The blunt edges have been smoothed down; the LED trim on its vertical headlamps does the neat visual trick of pulling the nose to the ground, while it picks it up and into the fenders. Inside, the dash cap is wrapped in a single piece that drapes into the center stack, and wood trim mingles with cut-and-sew upholstery, at least on uplevel models. The touchscreen CUE interfaces dominates the cockpit, with big, bright displays in the center stack and in the gauges--in some cases, replacing the gauges entirely.
Bracketed by turbos
Three engines frame the $46,025 2014 CTS's argument in the mid-size luxury debate. The base powerplant is the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, rated at 272 horsepower, coupled to a six-speed automatic with rear- or all-wheel drive. It's a well-sorted base car, with light-touch electric power steering, but even with active noise cancellation, it's more gruff than the turbo four from BMW.
Cadillac's ever-present 3.6-liter V-6 checks into the mid-line CTS with 321 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque, and a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. All-wheel-drive cars get same six-speed automatic with paddles, but a new eight-speed, paddle-shifted automatic comes with rear-drive versions. It's a more fitting drivetrain for a mid-size Cadillac, quick enough to throw off 6-seconds runs to 60 mph.
The top 2014 CTS sedan is the $60,000 Vsport, fitted with GM's new twin-turbo 3.6-liter V-6, and good for 420 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. It's rear-drive only, paddle-shifted eight-speed automatic only, and gets its own 18-inch Pirelli tires, a track mode, an electronic limited-slip differential, and Brembo brakes.
On all versions, Cadillac's attention to weight has kept the CTS relatively light: the base car's curb weight of 3,616 pounds is about 250 pounds less than the last-generation CTS, and body structure is far stiffer. A slimmer CTS means superior handling, no matter which version: the steering doesn't load up with steroidal levels of artificial weight, and the CTS rides firmly, with little lean. We've driven a handful of CTS sedans, and our favorite is the Vsport, and not just because it compiles especially beautifully on a track. With Cadillac's magnetic dampers (an option across the board) and a quicker steering ratio, it grips the ground fanatically, needling its way through carousels and esses--but relaxes into a comfort mode for everyday driving that's composed and confident, not at all punishing.
Finally, a true mid-sizer
The 2014 CTS has grown up and out into true mid-size dimensions, making back-to-back comparisons with E-Classes and 5-Series and XF easier. It's 195.5 inches long overall--4.1 inches longer than before--and the wheelbase is 114.6 inches, an increase of 1.1 inches. The roofline's lower by an inch, to 57.2 inches, and that has as great an effect on its five-passenger utility as the boost in rear-seat space.
The CTS's front seats have great support, and more than a dozen adjustments--the standard-issue seats have 14-way power adjustments; leather-trimmed, 16-way adjustable seats and 20-way adjustable seats are options, with manual tweaks for the bottom cushion length and the headrests. In back, there's somewhat less room and support than in rival sedans: the seat bottom is mounted low and it's short, though entry and exit have improved a lot from the former CTS. Trunk space is fairly small, too.
As for quality, GM's active noise cancellation has a helpful effect on muting the sounds of the turbo four-cylinder and the twin-turbo six, where extra sounds from in front of the firewall are pumped into the cabin through the CTS' Bose audio system. The CTS still is on the glamorous side of interior finishes; the cabin's awash in the soft glow of screens, a futuristic look that sets it apart nicely.
Like the 2013 ATS, the 2014 CTS will get a full dose of tech-intensive safety features, above and beyond the usual stability control. Ten airbags, parking sensors, rearview cameras--they're a little passe, aren't they? The CTS offers a combination of radar and cameras that enable forward-collision alerts, adaptive cruise control, cross-traffic alerts, and lane-departure warnings.
The CTS also gets the clever haptic setup from the ATS and XTS, wherein the lane-keeping functions don't vibrate the wheel as they do on some luxury cars--they vibrate the seat, either on the left or the right side of the bottom cushion, depending on which side you transgress.
GM's OnStar system is free for a year with the 2014 CTS, and comes bundled with smartphone-app access, down to remote start.
2014 CTS features and options
The 2014 Cadillac CTS will come in three different trim levels, named just as those on the ATS are named: Luxury, Performance, and Premium. All versions will come with power features, cruise control, climate control, and Bluetooth with audio streaming.
Cadillac's CUE system will be available. It's a defining piece of technology for the brand, and one that's far from foolproof--a sentiment we have regarding other infotainment systems. In particular, CUE's haptic feedback isn't always predictable, and its natural-language recognition fails us often enough to resort to smartphone-based Google Maps. But it's a dramatic-looking setup with some fascinating features worth learning: there's a big 8.0-inch screen that displays navigation, audio, climate, and phone functions, linked to a second screen between the gauges, controlled by voice or by steering-wheel controls. Navigation integrates with CUE, but it's an option on base versions of the CTS.
Other nifty touches include parking assist, which steers the car into parallel spots while the driver keeps a foot on the pedals; ambient LED lighting; Bose audio; and a cupholder with a power-operated cover. Forget what the GPS says--that's the signal that the 2014 CTS sedan has finally arrived.