The new Cadillac CTS is all grown up. Since its launch in 2002, this sedan has been targeting clients interested in the BMW 3 and 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C- and E-Class. Last year’s arrival of the new compact ATS, which is attacking luxury compacts (BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class) head on, has freed the CTS to do what it was meant to do: take on the best luxury mid-sizes in its class – the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class.
To battle with the big boys, the CTS’ dimensions have been enhanced: it’s 127 mm longer overall, and its wheelbase is 15 mm longer. Some style updates, namely a windshield that is anchored lower and a lower roof, give this car a sportier look. Of course, the body lines respect the style inspired by the US Air Force’s stealth planes. Sharp angles and vertical headlights give it a unique look that everyone seems to like. Take a gander at the ATS, CTS and XTS some time – there’s definitely a family resemblance.
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If you still think that Cadillac passenger compartments mean soft rugs and an unremarkable dashboard, you’ve got another think coming with this new Caddy! The dash has a unique and very stylized design. As on the outside of the vehicle, the angles are sharp. The centrepiece is a vertical console that features an integrated LCD screen in its upper section and a space for light touch controls below. It’ll take a little time to get used to these commands, but once you figure them out, you’ll see that they are better than what you find in some competitors’ models. However, not everyone likes the CUE command system. I’m not terribly comfortable with this type of system in general, but, strangely, I’m not so bad with CUE.
The CTS family includes a basic version equipped with a four-cylinder turbo producing 272 horsepower and paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The first optional engine is a 3.6-litre 321-horsepower naturally-aspirated V6. In the rear-wheel drive version, it comes equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission. If you opt for all-wheel drive, the only available transmission is the six-speed automatic.
Finally, the sportier version is powered by a 3.6-litre 420-horsepower twin-turbo V6. It’s only available on the Vsport. Note that the CTS-V and its thunderous 556-horsepower V8 have not been brought back, at least for now. The powers that be at Cadillac are promising a CTS-V within the next few months.
In the meantime, the Vsport is the sportiest member of the CTS family and it has been equipped accordingly.
Equipped for performance
Making a balanced sports car means more than just putting a 420-horsepower engine under the hood: the suspension and steering components, not to mention the tires and brakes, count for something too.
For starters, we should specify that all versions of the CTS have a sophisticated and rigid platform. The engineers took the platform from the new ATS unveiled last year and then revised its dimensions before carrying out the corrections made necessary by the longer wheelbase and body.
The Vsport has 18-inch wheels fitted with Pirelli P Zero 245/40R18 tires in front and 275/35R18 in back. What’s more, the front and rear suspensions are more rigid, the Brembo high-performance disc brakes have aluminum calipers, the cooling system is designed for intense use and there’s an electronic limited slip differential. The steering gear is less reduced as well, while the Magnetic Ride continuously variable suspension features a track mode.
Of course, the Vsport offers all the other characteristics of the other versions of the CTS: CUE (Cadillac User Experience) electronic control system, obstacle detection, adaptive cruise control with selectable preset distance, lane departure warning, adaptive forward lighting, etc. Basically, the list is long. Furthermore, the finish and quality of materials are up to the high standards of the category.
The legacy of the Nürburgring
A few years ago, anyone who dared suggest perfecting a Cadillac’s handling on Germany’s legendary Nürburgring would have been sent immediately to the loony bin. But things have changed so much in this division of General Motors that developing new models on the German circuit has become commonplace. The engineers that developed the CTS and CTS Vsport mention that they did hundreds of laps on the Nürburgring circuit to collect data and design the best handling car possible.
When you drive the CTS Vsport, you’ll quickly realize that their efforts were not in vain. But let’s talk about the engine first. With its twin turbo, direct fuel injection, and infinitely variable valve timing, power arrives at low engine speed and is delivered almost up to the limit of 6,500 rpm. Note that given the refined nature of this engine, super gasoline is required. The eight-speed automatic transmission, a first at GM, functions impeccably and shifts very quickly. Paddles located behind the steering wheel help accelerate shifting.
The engine doesn’t lag at all when upshifting and acceleration times are impressive with a 0-100 km/h time of 4.7 seconds. But this Cadillac is about more than engine performance. It demonstrates excellent balance, neutral handling in corners, precise and direct steering, and powerful Brembo brakes that are efficient and very resistant to overheating. It seems that all this talk of test drives done on the Nürburgring was the honest truth.
The regular CTS has already won the title of Motor Trend magazine’s “Car of the Year,” and since the CTS Vsport is even better, the logical inference is that this sedan is extremely impressive.