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The Cadillac CTS led GM's blitz against banality, back in 2001. And since then, the "standard of the world" brand has battled back, segment by segment, replacing duller rolling stock with better cars, every time.
The streak goes on with the 2014 Cadillac CTS, now ready for its worldwide launch. 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. Everywhere else, the CTS is Cadillac, evolving as it is. The blunt edges have been smoothed down. The CTS' grille has fewer ribs and a higher badge, and the vertical headlamps get LED trim that does the neat trick of pulling the nose to the ground, while it picks it up and into the fenders.
The lessons learned from the Cadillac ATS get applied inside the 2014 CTS. 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 two-tone themes that liven up the ATS can be had on the CTS too, and present some of the same exciting options and pitfalls--we haven't seen all the combinations, but the ATS can get overwhelmed with a poor hand on the options tiller, and we assume the same holds true for the CTS.
By the way, the CTS sedan is the only model being shown off by Cadillac to date. From what we understand, the coupe and wagon editions might not return, now that Cadillac has the ELR electric coupe and the SRX crossover wagon to support.
Bracketed by turbos
Three engines frame the 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 and 295 pound-feet of torque, that launched with the 2013 ATS just last year. GM says it's likely worth an EPA rating of 19/30 mpg in its lightest rear-wheel-drive application, with the standard paddle-shifted six-speed automatic. All-wheel drive drops gas mileage to 18/26 mpg.
The ever-present 3.6-liter V-6 shows up in the midrange CTS, where it checks in with 321 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque, and a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. Fuel economy's estimated at 19/28 mpg and 18/27 mpg, respectively. The same six-speed automatic with paddles is standard, but a new eight-speed, paddle-shifted automatic is an option with this engine.
At the peak of the CTS lineup there's the 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 rates 17/25 mpg in preliminary gas-mileage tests.
All versions of the CTS ride on a fully independent suspension, and use electric power steering. All models will have access to GM's Magnetic Ride Control adjustable dampers, while the Vsport gets a flurry of handling upgrades all its own, including 18-inch Pirelli tires, with 19-inch upgrades, quicker steering, a track mode, an electronic limited-slip differential, and Brembo brakes.
No matter which version's in question, GM says weight distribution of 51:49 will keep handling well-balanced--and it says a relatively light curb weight of 3,616 pounds in base trim puts the CTS about 200 pounds under the BMW 528i and 250 pounds under the last-generation CTS.
Finally, a true mid-sizer
That's all the more surprising since the 2014 CTS has grown up and out, now fitting the current definition of mid-size--at least, in the luxury realm.
The 2014 CTS is 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.
We expect great things from the CTS's seats, if those in the ATS and other new GM products are any example. The CTS will be offered with standard-issue seats with 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 headressts.
As for quality, GM's active noise cancellation will be in effect on four-cylinder versions, cutting perceived interior noise levels by up to 20 dB. It's essentially white noise pumped into the cabin through the CTS' Bose audio system.
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 will offer 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 not completely baked--a sentiment we have regarding other infotainment systems. In particular, CUE's haptic feedback isn't always predictable, and its natural-language recognition isn't foolproof. 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 you've arrived.
- Looks American, looks runway
- Cadillac interiors keep getting better
- Eight-speed automatics have arrived
- Twin-turbo sixes are here, too
- Vsport leaves room for CTS-V
- A whiff of Stuttgart at the roofline
- No more V-8--yet?
- Coupe, wagon could be gone for a while--or for good
- CUE still missing a beat