2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T & 3.6 V6 Review

Prepare to rethink everything. The Executive Car landscape just changed. Big time.

By Shahzad Sheikh

2014 Cadillac CTS

I briefly drove the all new Cadillac CTS during the Dubai Motor Show, and you can read my impressions of pedalling the 3.6-litre edition here.

But I’m having déjà vu for a different reason entirely. We’ve been here before. Twice before, in fact, I’ve contended that Cadillac is back as a marque to be reckoned with in the Executive and Luxury segments. First when I drove the flagship Cadillac XTS and then the Cadillac ATS.

And I wasn’t entirely wrong. The former re-established Caddy as a purveyor of luxury barges that you’d genuinely consider – moving the game forward in terms of ride (magnetic suspension), efficiency (powerful V6 engines instead of lumbering V8s) and technology (drivers aids and the haptic-touch CUE infotainment system).

2014 Cadillac CTS

As for the ATS, that went a step further and pulled off an even more remarkable feat, by taking the fight directly to the iconic BMW 3 Series and going head-to-head in its most dominant arena – sporting prowess – whilst simultaneously pulling the rug from under the Beemer’s feet by hitting it with the double whammy of being better equipped and cheaper.

Now Cadillac is firing its third (but not necessarily final) salvo at territory held by mostly German saloons, and things are going to get bloody. BMW’s 5 Series has been going great guns taking over the saloon sales lead for the Munich manufacturer from the 7 Series in our market, and Mercedes has refreshed the E-Class to wide acclaim. These are the heavy-weights.

Cadillac has just vaulted the ropes and entered the ring with the CTS. It’s got to be good to go the distance. Actually it’s got to be great.

2014 Cadillac CTS

I’ll tell you right now that it is. Cadillac is on a roll, and for the third time in really not so long, I reiterate what I said above in the second paragraph. And by the end of this thesis I might go even further. We’re no longer talking about going the distance, we’re possibly talking about victory and not just on points either.

CTS – the facts

You’re familiar with the CTS nameplate but here’s what you need to know, about the latest edition. This is all-new and completely different. It’s longer, lower and leaner – employing aluminium structures to reduce weight and achieve a 50:50 balance. It’s actually 127mm longer (30mm in the wheelbase) and its dimensions are only slightly lower than 5 Series.

Whilst the XTS platform is based on the excellent Chevrolet Impala cruiser, the CTS is on a stretched version of the athletic ATS chassis. It’s around 110kg lighter – claimed to be the lightest in the segment – yet 40% stiffer. All CTS models ride on the magical magna-ride suspension (even Ferrari uses this now) which is fitted as standard, as are Brembo brakes.

2014 Cadillac CTS

The styling is completely new, and is yet another page out of Caddy’s prevalent and successful ‘Art & Science’ design philosophy – which I personally take to mean sci-fi, as the Caddy’s do have a futuristic feel about them.

Check out the LEDs on the front of this thing – there’s 16 of them on each edge, eight of which continue down into the front bumper and switch to orange turn indicators when operated. The grille is wider with a more prominent badge – there’s a real pride shown here in the famous shield.

View it in the metal and you’ll find pictures don’t do it justice, it’s elegant and handsome, the proportions are better than those of the XTS, and it carries more gravitas than the ATS. There’s a real presence here – and I would suggest getting it in strong dark metallic finishes.

2014 Cadillac CTS

The CTS obviously also gets the CUE system – which personally I adapt to really easily, although some still struggle with the touch activations and slide ‘n glide volume etc. Additionally you get the 12.3-inch configurable instrument panel which is evolving to an even more effective display – the best yet.

There is also the same safety features already seen in its siblings, such as the proximity vibrations in the driver’s seat base, 10 airbags, seatbelt tightening and also park assist which will steer it into slots for you along with short-range radar and ultrasonic sensors that will forcibly brake to avoid parking bumps.

You also get active noise cancellation for reduced cabin noise, decent riding standard 18-inch wheels (somehow they sensibly avoided the temptation to stick 20s on them), plus remote start with climate control and an 11-speaker Bose sound system (13-speakers optional).

2014 Cadillac CTS

When it officially goes on sale here next month it’ll be offered for prices starting at AED185k and in two main guises: a 2.0-litre Turbo, with all-wheel drive putting 272bhp through a six-speed transmission (with paddle shifts), and hitting 100kph from rest in 6.1 seconds; or a 3.6 V6 with 321bhp driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed auto (the first for Caddy and also with paddles) hitting 100 two-tenths quicker.

Later next year a V-Sport version with twin turbos will arrive putting over 400bhp through the rear wheels – with an expected 0-100kph time of a mid 4 seconds! Talk about cat amongst pigeons etc.

How are they to ride in?

The attempts at sound-reduction have worked, the magna-ride suspension works even better. Body control is excellent, yet it’s smooth and supple, quietly absorbing bumps whilst firming up nicely if you select Sport or start to get a little enthusiastic with it. It’s helped by the 18-inch wheels obviously, which also cut road-roar.

2014 Cadillac CTS

Inside the seat comfort and driving position is spacious and on par, if not better even, than the XTS, and rear leg room is plentiful for even taller passengers – forget the cramped old CTS when it comes to the rear cabin, this is very different.

The configurable instrument panel is a delight to use once you master the controls – mostly all operated from the steering wheel remotes itself, and it is backed by a still more useful full colour heads-up display. So clever is this system that should you be using the Sat Nav, when approaching a crucial direction change, the HUD will switch to the Nav, but the large digit speed reading will move to the Nav’s previous display in the centre of the speedmeter.

And as you scroll through the car info display giving everything from fuel usage to tyre pressures, it’ll spin a graphic image of the car around in various angles next to it. Not necessarily useful, but still rather cool.

2014 Cadillac CTS

It obviously has sensors and drivers’ aids, active cruise control, collision and blind spot alert systems, the rather kinky seat vibration proximity warnings and a full suite of infotainment options and connectivity with your smart phone, which is very quick and simple to execute.

What are they like to drive?

Decent visibility, sensors and reversing cameras all make this a remarkably easy car to manage and park around town, and it’s obviously effortlessly serene on the motor way – and that goes for both engine options.

In fact when it comes to performance, in the real world, there isn’t really much in it. The 2.0 employs its Turbo power to good use and after a minimal initial hesitation delivers punchy performance. The lighter engine makes up for the greater mass of the all-wheel drive version, and despite having two less ratios its economy is pretty much on par with the V6 too.

2014 Cadillac CTS

The V6 is obviously faster, but only fractionally so, and in everyday driving you’ll hardly feel any difference. Where you will notice the distinct characteristics is in the smoothness of the delivery and the far more gruntier and satisfying sound even on start-up which is so much better than the direct-injection diesel-like rattle of the four-cylinder.

Having said that, since sound insulation is so good, if you’d not driven the V6, you won’t feel at all shortchanged by the performance of the 2.0.

Surely they must be very different in handling though? Not entirely. The steering set-up and feel is pretty much the same – more specifically it’s fair to say it’s good – with nicely weighted electronic assistance, with good accuracy and surprisingly keen responses.

2014 Cadillac CTS

Unsuprisingly you get a little understeer from the four-wheel drive version, but the better road-holding and added grip of AWD, makes up for the more enticing prospect of rear-drive only. In fact grip is good even for the latter, so we’re hardly talking a muscle-car style saloon with a slidey-widey back end. It does actually stay pretty planted.

Overall the CTS – undoubtedly thanks to the agile ATS – are remarkably entertaining to drive, with astonishing poise when pressing on. Frankly both versions are very enjoyable to drive, in nearly all conditions.

Verdict

So which of the two to choose? Well unlike in most other instances where getting the smaller engine gives you the lowlier spec, here the 2.0T comes as well equipped as the V6. Apart from the six-speed versus eight-speed transmission, you lose nothing. And if you gain a noisier motor, put into context, it’s still quieter than most saloons, and not exactly rough-sounding or unappealing either.

Plus the added security of AWD gives you confidence, especially here in our region. So save yourself a bit of money and go for the 2.0 – you and everybody else will hardly notice the difference, and you’re not missing out on anything.

However I can understand the lure of spending a little more and getting the V6, though in that case, I’d suggest you wait… for the Twin-Turbo V-Sport. Seeing how good the regular CTS is, the thought of 420bhp through the rear wheels has got me salivating.

Having declared it so good we go back to the earlier claim about its chances against its German rivals. If, like its little brother, the ATS, you factor in the kit and price, and take it from me that build quality and finish is right up to the standards of the very best in the premium sector now, then you’d have to conclude that some knockout blows from the American are really not out of the question.

This is a stunning and significant turnaround. And it means that you need to dump all your preconceptions about the luxury and executive car segment. Put even more boldly, with a proviso that only a direct comparison could confirm this statement, I’d say you’re looking at the best all-round mid-size executive saloon currently on sale – probably.

2014 Cadillac CTS
Specs
Price:
2.0: AED185,000 (US$50k)
3.6: AED210,000 (US$57k)
Engine:
2.0-litre Turbo, 272bhp @ 5500, 295lb ft @ 1700-5500rpm
3.6-litre V6, 321bhp @ 6800rpm, 373lb ft @ 4800rpm
Transmission:
2.0: Six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
3.6: Eight-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
Fuel Economy:
2.0: 10.2L/100km
3.6: 10.7L/100km
Performance:
2.0: 0-100kph 6.1 seconds, Top speed 220kph (est)
3.6: 0-100kph 5.9 seconds, Top speed 250kph (est)
Weight:
2.0: 1640kg
3.6: 1701kg

Would you choose the CTS over the BMW 5, Merc E, Lexus GS, Jaguar XF etc? Tell us below

One response to “2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T & 3.6 V6 Review”

  1. Mohamed Humaid says:

    I think in reality this car squares up nicely with the XF and probably the A6 too. Not that it lacks the refinement or the sporting credentials of the others, but those who purchase a Mercedes, BMW, or even Lexus are either dedicated and returning customers to their brand or simply looking for the prestige and pizzazz associated with owning an established player. It is certainly a reinforcing loop and a direct example of the ‘success breeds success’ theory. Hence, I’d really love to see the CTS and the XF in a thourough comparison test. Make it happen! (Hmmm… It can’t hurt if you could throw a Ghibli to the mix too 🙂 )

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