As we learned earlier this month, during our First Drive of the new CTS on the West Coast, the 2014 Cadillac CTS possesses the luxury and sporting credentials to be taken seriously as a major player in a market typically dominated by the BMW 5-series and Mercedes-Benz E-class.
Now in its third generation, the CTS has morphed from a style leader for Cadillac to a standout in the segment. Substantially larger in most ways than the sedan it replaces, now that the smaller ATS sedan is an integral part of the brand’s lineup, the ’14 CTS is now able to back up the boldness suggested by its styling.
Autobytel had the opportunity for a second look at the CTS, in its three engine variants, last week in New York City. In this review, we’re focusing on the two ends of the CTS’s performance spectrum: its turbocharged four-cylinder and twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engines.
In terms of outright speed and handling, the CTS V-Sport is the Cadillac capable of restoring and endowing performance credibility to the brand known until recently for producing floaty and yachtlike machines. The top-of-the-line CTS looks the part, too, with a restyled grille and larger bumper openings than the rest of the CTS sedans’.
But the primary reason you’ll consider the V-Sport model is likely its engine: a 3.6-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 that produces 420 horsepower – nearly as much as an eight-cylinder 550i or E550. Shifts are quick, through the CTS V-Sport’s 8-speed automatic transmission, which holds gears commendably in Sport mode when more sporty driving is desired. Sub-4 second acceleration on the rear-wheel-drive V-Sport matches or beats its rivals’ times. A throaty exhaust note and burble are an earful, both for occupants and lucky passersby.
Combined with a chassis tuned to balance comfort with sporty driving, and the composure and strength lacking in previous iterations, the CTS V-Sport is not only a compelling Cadillac, but as a complete package, as well. This is the American sports sedan with the potential to dethrone the leaders of the segment.
2014 Cadillac CTS V-Sport: The Numbers
Output: 420 horsepower and 430 lb-ft. of torque
MPG: 17 city / 25 highway mpg (EPA estimate)
While the V-Sport’s 420-horsepower engine is the heart that powers the Olympian, the CTS’s 2.0-liter turbocharged mill moves a spunkier, more plucky athlete. The 2.0-liter turbo, which also sees duty in the smaller ATS sedan, is the least powerful of the CTS’s available engines, behind the 3.6-liter V-6 and its turbocharged sibling, but it never seems to struggle or want for strength. On the CTS, the smallest engine can be equipped either as a rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive model.
On back roads, turbo lag is neither apparent nor excessive, and there is plenty of passing power. Along a long expressway on-ramp, the 2.0 Turbo required a solid foot to the floor in order for any serious amount of acceleration to occur. While not alarmingly quick, the 2.0 Turbo has the gusto worthy of taking on BMW’s four-cylinder engine of the same displacement. There is nothing coarse or unrefined about the engine note, and power delivery is smooth, thanks to the CTS’s 6-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel efficiency of 19 city and 28 highway mpg for the AWD-equipped four-cylinder model is impressive, given its added weight. Figures are slightly higher on rear-wheel-drive CTS 2.0 Turbo models, but if you drive the CTS like we did, on twisty roads with significant elevation changes, your mileage may vary.
2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0 Turbo AWD: The Numbers
Output: 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. of torque
MPG: 19 city / 28 highway mpg (EPA estimate)
The cockpit of the CTS, regardless of trim designation and engine pairing, is a fantastic place to spend time. Attention to detail, with regard to fit and finish, stitching, and quality of materials, awards significant dividends to occupants’ well-being.
Interior styling represents less of a departure from the mainstream than in previous-generation CTS models, but it is a fresh take on a luxury environment focused on technology. Cadillac’s CUE infotainment interface feels slightly easier to use in the CTS, although this feeling might reflect familiarity gained over time spent with the system elsewhere. The accuracy of full voice-command connectivity outweighs the business of the CUE touchpad display.
A customizable, fully digital dashboard display is available on CTS models in uplevel trim, but most of the vehicles at the media preview featured an easy-to-read – if somewhat anachronistic – analog setup. The only tactile shortcoming in the cabin is a motorized cover for the front set of cupholders, which doesn’t feel as likely to withstand heavy use without becoming stuck. Why, Cadillac?
Brand representatives expect that the '14 CTS will bring in a sizable number of younger, affluent newcomers to Cadillac. That may be a tall order, given the CTS' starting price over $45,000, but those new customers will have a lot to like about the car, based on our limited exposure thus far. It may not wear a badge from a European brand, but the third-generation CTS is more than capable of fending for itself.
Regardless to say, we're looking forward to spending more time with the range of CTS models in the near future.