2016 Cadillac CTS Review

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Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Editor
June 11, 2016

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.

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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.

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2016 Cadillac CTS

Styling

Classically handsome, the CTS is distinguished by unique LED signature lighting and a high-end cockpit.

Cadillac has learned much in the past decade about composing and executing world-class interiors, and all that knowledge has been applied to the CTS. The dash wears a single piece of trim that drapes over the center stack, where cut-and-sewn upholstery mingles with wood trim, at least on uplevel models. Cadillac introduced two-tone themes on the smaller ATS, and they're on offer in the CTS, too, where they present some of the same exciting options and pitfalls.

Big screens are the dominant feature of the CTS' cabin: the 8.0-inch touchscreen twins with a 5.7-inch monitor between the gauges or, on higher trims, a 12.3-inch panel that replaces the gauges. All lit up, the cockpit is a strikingly futuristic place, a universe away from the cool-touch Germans, more interestingly executed than the glam Jag XF.

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 that made its debut on the first-gen CTS.

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 way the pillar bends down toward the trunklid, and the shapes of the side glass. Everywhere else, the CTS is pure Cadillac. The blunt edges of previous Art & Science designs have been smoothed down. The trapezoidal grille is mostly dark with the badge up high (it dropped the wreath wrap-around last year). The vertical headlamps feature LED trim that does the neat trick of pulling the nose to the ground, but also integrating the headlights into the fenders. These LEDs provide as much of a signature look at night as Audi's LED-framed headlamps, or Dodge's rings-of-fire rear ends.

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2016 Cadillac CTS

Performance

A deft balance of ride and handling team with a 420-hp twin-turbo V-6 to make the CTS a worthy rival for the Germans.

The Cadillac CTS has pointed its scope at the German sports sedans since it was brand-new, and has improved in performance with each passing generation. Today, the CTS has caught up with the rest, and may very well have the best handling in class.

The CTS hits the road with finesse and poise. While it doesn't imitate the road manners of the 5-Series or E-Class, it's obvious that the CTS drew inspiration from them. Not unlike its smaller ATS sibling, the CTS belongs in the same sentence as its competitors, rather than as an addendum to the list of best luxury sports sedans on the market.

The stable and composed ATS lends its road feel to the structurally related CTS, and it's obvious even in the versions with the lowest aspiration—with a standard-tune FE2 strut-and-five-link suspension, electric-assist power steering, and 17-inch wheels and tires. The CTS' near-equal weight balance lets even the small-tire model cut cleanly through corners, with steering that doesn't dose up with steroidal levels of artificial weight.

Most of our time with the CTS has been spent in V-6 cars with GM's Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) suspension. That system, which uses dampers filled with magnetically charged fluid, is able to change stiffness in milliseconds and is shared with the Corvette Stingray. The CTS' magnetic dampers deliver smooth and agreeable ride quality one moment and sports car-firm damping the next. More supple than the shorter ATS thanks to more wheelbase, the CTS is never floaty or uncontrolled, and yet it's almost as agile as it's little brother. It also has sweetly tuned electric power steering and a remarkable sense of stability.

The CTS Vsport neatly outlines how Cadillac has absorbed the schooling doled out over decades by cars like the S6 and even Lexus' GS F Sport. This half-step to V-Series status lines up perfectly against those cars in ambition. The Vsport gets a flurry of handling upgrades, including 18-inch Pirelli tires (19-inchers are an upgrade); a quicker steering ratio; a track mode for the magnetic dampers, steering, throttle, and shift points; an electronic limited-slip differential; and larger front brakes. It all compiles beautifully, with more nuance than all its digital inputs suggest. On 18-inch summer tires, the CTS Vsport grips the ground fanatically, needling its way through carousels and esses famously, piped-in soundtrack ripping through the cabin downshift after downshift. The third-gen version MRC in the CTS is a must-upgrade. The CTS with MRC delivers top-drawer grip precisely, without ever slacking into lame mode.

Cadillac goes one giant step further this year with the CTS-V. With a 640-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 under the hood, the CTS-V also features its own list of performance features. Additional bracing and reinforcement make the body 20 percent stiffer than non V models. It also gets the Magnetic Ride Control suspension, Brembo high-performance brakes, stiffer shocks and springs, a Performance Traction Management system, and 19-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tires. We cover that car separately.

Driving the CTS-V is breathtaking: brutal, endless acceleration; shockingly good braking; neck-stretching grip. Part of the surprise factor in the CTS-V’s performance comes down to weight. Yes, the CTS-V is a large luxury sedan, but, somewhat surprisingly, it’s not that heavy. In fact, its 4,145-pound curb weight is about 300 pounds heavier than its little brother, the ATS-V, and more than 200 pounds lighter than the 2016 BMW M5. This translates to a nimbleness, and a feeling of “shrinking around the driver” that you don’t expect from a rear 3/4 angle of the exterior.

In other words: the CTS-V is good, really good. We think it's better than the BMW M5/M6, both on the track, and, if you can get past or get used to the CUE infotainment system, better on the street, too. And the performance numbers are mind boggling: it hits 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and reaches a top speed of 200 mph.

The other powertrains aren't nearly as quick, but they help the CTS approach the mid-size luxury class evenly. At the entry end, there's a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4, rated at 268 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It's the least appealing of the CTS' engines to listen to, even with active noise cancellation, but its peak power drops in at usefully low revs and lingers into the 5,500-rpm range. We haven't driven it yet with the 8-speed automatic that was added this year, but the extra gears should help this engine stay in its power band even longer.

We'd pass up the base drivetrain for Cadillac's excellent 3.6-liter V-6, especially now that it's revised for 2016. It checks in with a sonorous growl, but more importantly, 335 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque. The 8-speed also does time with this engine, and a 0-60 mph estimate of under 6.0 seconds feels easily within reach here.

The Vsport's twin-turbo 3.6-liter V-6 is good for 420 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque, and it comes only with rear-wheel drive and the paddle-shifted 8-speed automatic. GM pegs its 0-60 mph times at 4.6 seconds and its top speed at 170 mph. It's power-shy on paper compared to a twin-turbo V-8 550i, but because it's relatively lightweight—at 3,616 pounds in base trim—the Vsport is a vibrant straight-line performer.

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2016 Cadillac CTS

Comfort & Quality

Mid-size dimensions and plenty of interior luxury make the CTS a comfortable place for driver and passenger alike.

Unlike the last generation CTS, the current model is a true midsize car, though it still gives up a little space to the roomiest rivals. Up front, the CTS has comfortable knee and head room—at least, without the sunroof that's sure to be a popular option. We've driven examples with Cadillac's fantastic 20-way adjustable seats. Like the buckets in the ATS, they're formed with real care to upper-back support without giving in to the firm-is-best philosophy.

The back seat is fairly roomy but not palatial like the rear bench in an E-Class. The cushion's mounted low, and so is the rest of the car. Climbing in and out isn't simple, even though the door cuts are decently sized. The low roofline requires a duck, and once you're in, the cushion height will leave most adults with less under-leg support, and less knee and head room, than in the Benz or BMW. It's very Jaguar-like, in fact—a conscious choice to split the difference between a sleek roofline and a truly large back seat.

While you're planning a long golf weekend, know too that the trunk's on the slim side, too. It's 13.7 cubic feet is adequate in the luxury realm but on the small side.

Quality is a subjective term, but we're impressed by the fit and finish of the CTS' interior, but Mercedes probably features nicer materials. Cadillac's treatments are more glamorous than the woods and metals in an E-Class or a 5-Series, though. The combination of those big, bright screens and glossy wood finishes contrast sharply with the softer tones in a BMW or a Benz—in the right way.

Managing noise inside the CTS has become a science. GM actively modifies the noises that enter the CTS' cabin, piping in the exact opposite frequency of those it wants to eliminate, cancelling them out. It helps the 4-cylinder engine the most, which isn't as purely happy at high engine speeds as BMW's turbocharged 4-cylinder. In the CTS Vsport, some engine noises from ahead of the firewall are piped into the cabin, doubling the intensity of the good sounds. Before you start a complaint letter, know that BMW does the same trick in some models. If you care about authenticity, it's an issue. If you care more about cutting weight and boosting performance as a result, noise cancellation is a cool solution made possible by rapidly advancing technology.

The CTS-V is even noisier, but in a good way. It lets out a raspy, lower-pitched wail that performance enthusiasts will love. While it's the same engine as in the Corvette Z06, it isn't as loud here to fit with the Cadillac character.

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2016 Cadillac CTS

Safety

Excellent crash-test scores and a host of safety features are only slightly offset by compromised rearward visibility.

All versions of the CTS have more than the usual number of airbags—10 are standard, including front knee airbags. Rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are also included, as is GM's OnStar telematics system with a free year of service and remote access via a smartphone app.

On the options list, the CTS offers a parking assistant for parallel and perpendicular spaces, which uses its suite of sensors and cameras and the car's electric power steering to help guide it into parallel-park spaces without drama. There's also the now-common package of adaptive cruise control, cross-traffic alerts, forward-collision alerts, and lane-departure warnings—with a twist. The lane departure system vibrates the steering wheel in most other vehicles. In the CTS, it sends a shiver through the driver's seat cushion, a gentler alert that even triggers on the correct side of the seat, depending on which side of the yellow line you cross. For 2016, Cadillac also adds a new surround-view camera system.

The Cadillac CTS has received top-notch safety ratings from the NHTSA, earning a five-star overall rating and five stars in all individual tests, including rollover.

The IIHS praised the CTS in all crash tests except for the small overlap frontal test. It scores the top rating of "Good" in all tests and it receives a "Superior" rating for its forward collision system, but its sub-standard "Marginal" rating in the small-overlap crash test keeps it from being a Top Safety Pick.

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2016 Cadillac CTS

Features

The 2016 Cadillac CTS is packed with luxury and tech features, though the CUE infotainment system is still somewhat frustrating.

The 2016 Cadillac CTS competes directly with the German mid-size luxury sedans, and it's equipped better than most of them. 

Cadillac offers the CTS in Standard, Luxury, Performance, and Premium trim levels. Also offered are the performance-oriented Vsport and Vsport Premium, as well as the new high-performance CTS-V.

Standard models come with automatic climate control, AM/FM/XM/CD audio, Bluetooth with audio streaming, cloth upholstery, a 14-way power adjustable driver's seat with memory, a Bose audio system, Brembo brakes, and 17-inch run-flat tires on alloy wheels. The Luxury trim adds leather upholstery, HID headlights, and a Driver Awareness package with numerous advanced safety features. The Performance gets 18-inch wheels, Cadillac's Magnetic Ride Control suspension, a navigation system, a panoramic sunroof, and a head-up display. The Premium has a 20-way adjustable driver's seat, full leather trim, a configurable 12.3-inch instrument cluster, and even more safety features.

The Vsport comes with 18-inch summer tires, Magnetic Ride Control, electronic limited slip rear differential, automatic parallel parking, larger front brakes, and leather upholstery. The Vsport Premium is equipped like other Premium models.

The new CTS-V adds plenty of performance features of its own, including the Magnetic Ride Control suspension, Brembo high-performance brakes, a Performance Traction Management system, sport seats, 19-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tires, and stiffer suspension settings. Notable options for the CTS-V include Recaro bucket seats, a carbon fiber aero package, and GM's Performance Data Recorder.

The CTS offers CUE, a touchscreen infotainment system that uses haptic feedback and proximity sensors to help users cruise through its menus and functionality. The system reads out text messages, and can broadcast a wi-fi network using OnStar's 4G LTE data connection. New this year are Google Android Auto and Apple Car Play compatibility and a faster processor.

Cue is a dazzling-looking system with some of the usual downfalls common to touchscreen and voice-activated systems. Voice recognition can be spotty, and it can be cumbersome to swipe and tap through functions that formerly lived in a single button. CUE's beautiful 8.0-inch center screen is paired with a smaller screen inset between the gauges, and higher end models, the entire gauge display is swapped out for a 12.3-inch screen that morphs its look as it cycles through driving modes, from comfort to sport.

A navigation system that integrates with CUE is an option on base CTS sedans, standard on others. Other key features include a head-up display; parking assist, which steers the car into parallel spots while the driver keeps a foot on the pedals; ambient LED lighting; Bose Centerpoint audio; heated and ventilated front seats with up to 20-way adjustment; remote start; and a cupholder with a power-operated cover. Forget what the GPS says—that cupholder is the signal you've arrived.

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2016 Cadillac CTS

Fuel Economy

If fuel efficiency is your goal, the 2.0-liter is the best choice, though a start-stop feature and cylinder deactivation should improve the fuel economy of the 3.6-liter V-6 this year.

Cadillac made some changes for 2016 to improve the fuel economy of the two base engines. The turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and 3.6-liter V-6 add start-stop technology, and the 3.6 also gets cylinder deactivation so it can run on four cylinders in light load conditions. The 2.0 also swaps its 6-speed automatic for an 8-speed. 

The 2.0-liter is shared with Cadillac's ATS. With rear-wheel drive, it earns EPA ratings of 21 mpg city, 31 highway, 25 combined. Adding optional all-wheel drive drops those numbers slightly to 21/29/24 mpg.

General Motors' workhorse, its 3.6-liter V-6, is updated this year. It is teamed with the 8-speed automatic as well, and with rear-wheel drive it is rated at 20/30/24 mpg. With all-wheel drive those numbers fall to 19/28/22 mpg. 

The Vsport is rear-drive only, paddle-shifted 8-speed automatic only, and rates 16/24/19 mpg.

The monstrous CTS-V, with its 640-hp supercharged 6.2-liter V-8, is no gas-sipper. It is rated at 14/21/17 mpg and requires premium fuel. It comes only with a 6-speed manual transmission and is covered separately.

Active grille shutters are one of the many gas-saving technologies that have made their way into the CTS sedan, but there's no hybrid version in the works—though Cadillac has said it's mulling a diesel powertrain for some models it sells abroad.

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October 26, 2016
2016 Cadillac CTS 4-Door Sedan 3.6L Luxury Collection AWD

A Top Flight Car

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I've been driving my new 2016 CTS for several months now and couldn't be more pleased. The interior is beautifully finished with finely textured soft touch plastics, real stitching, supple leather, and... + More »
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May 18, 2016
2016 Cadillac CTS 4-Door Sedan 2.0L Turbo Luxury Collection AWD

Very cheaply made, cheap seats, rough ride, mag s break a lost, cue system is very bad

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not a good car, bad cue system, rides very rough, engine makes noise, stay away from this car
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April 8, 2016
2016 Cadillac CTS 4-Door Sedan 2.0L Turbo Luxury Collection RWD

Good Car, but not anything better than my last car which was a Buick Lacrosse

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Voice Recognition is a little better than my Buick, but has a long way to go. Can be very frustrating
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