- Cadillac interiors keep getting better
- Looks American, looks runway
- Twin-turbo V-6s are here, too
- Wagon's gone for good
- A whiff of Stuttgart at the roofline
- CUE still missing a beat
The 2016 Cadillac CTS sedan is a stunning luxury sedan that drives as well or better than its European rivals.
The Cadillac CTS competes well against vehicles like the Jaguar XF, Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Among its competitors, the CTS has taken a giant leap over its last generation as a standout in the segment, better even than our beloved Cadillac ATS, which became the 2013 North American Car of the Year.
For 2016, Cadillac added the CTS-V model to go after the performance variants from its European rivals. In addition, the two base engines get start-stop technology, and the 3.6-liter V-6 is revised with more power and added cylinder deactivation. The 8-speed automatic is now the only transmission on all but CTS-V, and other changes include Apple Car Play and Google Android Auto smartphone integration and a new 360-degree camera system.
The current CTS is the best interpretation of Cadillac's "Art & Science" design language that we've seen. This four-door—now in its third generation—smooths over a few of the edges that originally came with the Art & Science theme. From the rear side view, the 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 LED trim on its vertical headlamps pulls the nose to the ground and provides an unmistakable nighttime signature. Inside, the dash cap is wrapped in a single piece that drapes into the center stack, and wood trim mingles with cut-and-sewn 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 higher trims, replacing the gauges entirely.
The front seats of the CTS provide great support, and more than a dozen adjustments. The standard-issue seats have 14-way power adjustments, and 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. 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, though Cadillac pumps in extra sound from the turbo six through the CTS' Bose audio system. The CTS still is on the glamorous side of interior finishes, and the cabin's awash in the soft glow of screens, a futuristic look that sets it apart nicely.
The CTS' engine lineup matches up well with its luxury rivals. The base powerplant is a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4, rated at 268 horsepower, coupled to an 8-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 turbocharged 4-cylinder from BMW.
Cadillac's ever-present 3.6-liter V-6 checks into the mid-line CTS. Updated this year, it makes slightly more power at 335 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque. If also offers a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. We think the 3.6 is a more fitting drivetrain for a mid-size Cadillac than the four, and it is quick enough to deliver sub 6-second runs to 60 mph.
The CTS Vsport tackles rivals like the Audi S6 and Lexus GS F Sport. Fitted with a twin-turbo 3.6-liter V-6, it is good for 420 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque. It's rear-drive only, paddle-shifted 8-speed automatic only, and gets its own 18-inch Pirelli tires, a track mode, an electronic limited-slip differential, and larger front brakes.
In all versions, Cadillac's attention to weight has kept the CTS relatively light. The base car's curb weight is a tidy 3,616 pounds. The steering doesn't load up with steroidal levels of artificial resistance, and the CTS rides firmly, with little lean. With the MRC dampers and a quicker steering ratio, the Vsport 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.
Safety is another CTS strength. It has performed well in crash tests and offers a full dose of tech-intensive safety features. Ten airbags are standard, as are parking sensors and a rearview camera. The CTS also offers a new surround-view camera system, and its combination of radar and cameras enables forward-collision alerts, adaptive cruise control, cross-traffic alerts, and lane-departure warnings. The CTS also offers a clever haptic driver's seat. The lane-keeping functions don't vibrate the wheel as they do on some luxury cars. Instead, they vibrate the seat, either on the left or the right side of the bottom cushion, depending on which side you transgress.
Cadillac offers the 2016 CTS in Standard, Luxury, Performance, and Premium trim levels. The CTS-V is a model of its own, but the Vsport comes in base and Premium trims. All versions offer competitive feature sets.
The defining feature of the interior is Cadillac's CUE infotainment system. CUE isn't foolproof. In particular, the 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. Navigation integrates with CUE, but it's an option on base versions of the CTS. For 2016, CUE adds Google Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration.
Without a hybrid option, the rear-drive 2.0-liter inline-4 is the most efficient CTS at the moment. It manages EPA ratings of 21 mpg city, 31 highway, 25 combined. Predictably, the CTS-V is the thirstiest of all at 12/18/14 mpg. Adding all-wheel drive to models where it's available shaves roughly 2 mpg off of combined and highway figures.