Cadillac is on a roll. The 2013 ATS sedan was chosen last year’s North American Car of the Year and the 2014 CTS has been chosen Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year.
By TOM STRONGMAN
Seems fitting since the two cars have sprung from the same rear-wheel-drive chassis architecture.
Cadillac today is not the Cadillac of old. Its cars are more European in character. Style, handling and performance take precedence over chrome trim and bench seats that ruled a few years ago. The CTS is a worthy competitor to BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, not to mention cars from Japan and Korea.
There are three engines from which to choose: the 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder with 272 horsepower; a 3.6-liter V-6 with 321 horsepower; and the Vsport’s twin-turbo, 3.6-liter V-6 with 420 horsepower. There are several trim levels, ranging from $46,025 for the base car with the four-cylinder to $69,995 for the Vsport Premium. All-wheel drive is an option on all but the Vsport. The base car is roughly $6,000 more than the last year’s base CTS but more equipment is standard. I drove a Premium model with the four-cylinder engine, and its sticker price of $65,425 seemed pretty high to me.
Last year’s CTS Coupe and CTS Sport Wagon will carry over unchanged for 2014.
The turbocharged four-cylinder is a nice engine with good across-the-board performance and the best fuel economy numbers. The V-6 would add considerable zip, and the twin-turbo is bound to be quite scintillating, although at nearly $70K it should be.
I found the rear-wheel-drive car from GM’s press fleet to have reasonable traction in a recent light snow, but I did have trouble climbing a slight hill in my driveway. I can’t imagine folks in the snow belt choosing anything but the all-wheel-drive version.
Weight is the enemy of speed and economy, so a key to the new car is a lightweight and strong chassis platform whose wheelbase is 1.2 inches longer than last year’s car, and nearly 5 inches longer than that of the ATS. The front-rear weight distribution is nearly equal, and that, along with an independent rear suspension and Cadillac’s magnetic ride control, delivers a smooth ride with agile and athletic handling. The steering is light and precise and the brakes are powerful.
While I didn’t expect the test car to handle like a sports sedan, it felt light on its feet and quite capable in turns. That’s another benefit of a lighter weight car.
The cabin was well designed and filled with a wide variety of materials and textures. Some might think there were a few too many textures, but overall, I liked the look. The two-tone, dark brown and black interior was snazzy without being gaudy. Satin-finished faux wood trim on the dash and doors gave a touch of warmth. The front seat has a wide range of adjustments, and the driver alert package vibrates the seat to alert the driver to vehicles in the blind spot.
The CTS can park itself in parallel spots when equipped with the optional parking assist.
The instrument panel was equipped with a 12.3-inch, configurable digital gauge panel whose display looked like analog instruments. The driver can choose several display options. I liked the basic layout, with a speedometer in the middle, tachometer on the left and auxiliary gauges on the right. A small window in the center of the round speedometer can be used to display map information from the navigation system. That is most handy and less distracting than having to check the center of the dash for map details.
The center stack is home for CUE, or Cadillac User Experience. All of the controls are manipulated by touch, but I found it to be frustrating at times. I like to be able to grab a knob and change the direction of warm air, or change radio modes, without having to step through a menu system on the touch screen. CUE is better than some systems but still not as good as the best.
Rear-seat legroom is reasonable, and the trunk spacious.
The exterior styling reflects Cadillac’s angular Art and Science design philosophy. The body is simple without being plain. The front is dominated by a large grille and Cadillac’s now-signature vertical light-blade LEDs that run down the fender and fascia.
The base price of the test car was $61,800. Options included the two-tone interior and 19-inch wheels. The sticker price was $65,425.
Four years or 50,000 miles, with a six-year, 70,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail is email@example.com