If someone was looking to make a movie about the last 10 years of Cadillac's history, the obvious title would be 'All The Right Moves.' No, Cadillac isn't reminiscent of a young Tom Cruise trying to escape a Pennsylvania steel town's economic doldrums, it does represent a perfect step-by-step example of how to completely reverse the course of a faltering luxury brand and once again achieve relevance on the global stage.
It was a decade ago that the first brick in Cadillac's new foundation - the CTS sedan - was laid. At the time, the Cadillac CTS was an entry-level premium car, but fast-forward to 2014 and it now sits firmly in the mid-size segment and looks every inch the challenger to established rivals like the BMW 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Such an evolution is praiseworthy, and it's also a stunning achievement in such a short window of time. After spending close to 2,000 kilometres behind the wheel of the 2014 Cadillac CTS, I can confidently state that there's almost nothing absent from the sedan's package that would make one pine for a Teutonic replacement.
The Road Warrior
Knowing that I would be eating up some serious highway on the trip between Montreal and Detroit for the North American International Auto Show, I made sure to specify that my tester came with the optional 3.6-liter V6 rather than its standard 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder unit. Not that I have anything against the four - and its torque rating of 295 lb-ft bests the 275 lb-ft offered by the larger motor - but I wanted the effortless acceleration that 321 horses and additional displacement offer during long-legged cruising.
I certainly wasn't disappointed. Not only did the CTS respond cheerily to each throttle input, but it also surged forward with an enjoyable exhaust note sounding out of its twin tailpipes. It's no sports car, and the added weight of my the vehicle I drove's all-wheel drive system certainly didn't help in that regard, but it's lively enough to keep one interested even as Ontario's featureless plains streak by, their monotony broken up only by a scattering of wind turbines milking energy from the sky.
Some might suggest that the all-wheel drive version of the 2014 Cadillac CTS' reliance on a six-speed automatic transmission in a segment where competitors offer one, or even two additional cogs is a handicap. During my extensive amount of time driving the car I never felt like I was missing out due to the six-speed gearbox, and with fuel efficiency hovering around 10 l/100 km over the course of the entire trip there did not appear to be any distinct disadvantage at the fuel pump either. In any case, an eight-speed auto is available with both the rear-wheel drive V6, as well as the fire-breathing vSport edition of the sedan.
The 2014 Cadillac CTS looked great on its trip back home to the Motor City. In contrast to the more awkward proportions displayed by the full-size XTS sedan, Cadillac has managed to figure out how to stretch its Art & Science design language across a bigger canvas while maintaining the grace and allure of all of those angles and edges. In fact, the CTS has a design that grew on me over the course of the week, especially the LED lights that serve to outline its authoritarian front fascia. It didn't hurt that the car I drove was finished in an alluring shade of Majestic Plum Metallic.
The interior of the Cadillac CTS has also seen a significant upgrade compared to almost any other vehicle in the automaker's line-up. Try as you might, you'll have difficulty finding a surface inside the CTS' cabin that hasn't been finished in either soft leather, aluminium, carbon fibre, or wood. Granted, the car I drove was outfitted in top-tier Premium trim, but the CTS' passenger compartment presents a big step up from the entry-level ATS. Plastics are at a minimum, and space is at a maximum: this is one roomy sedan that served me admirably as it hauled carload after carload of friends and colleagues around Detroit during the week of the show.
Brave New World
It's no longer enough to have a smooth-driving, powerful sedan that is comfortable and classy inside and out if you want to dominate in the mid-size luxury arena - you also need to provide class-leading tech features, too. Here, the Cadillac CTS offers more of a mixed bag in terms of execution. I was impressed by the car's safety features, including the excellent Safety Alert Seat that rumbles on one side or the other to indicate lane departure or someone standing behind the vehicle while reversing. I also appreciated its head-up display as well as its adaptive cruise control system's ability to bring the car to a virtual halt and then speed up again while navigating gridlock.
On the downside was the Cadillac CUE system. I'm not referring to the design of the vehicle interface itself - although the capacitive touch controls on the CTS' center stack won't be enjoyed by everyone - but rather the fact that I had aspects of the entertainment system freeze, go blank, or display unusual characters almost every single time I drove the car. I hadn’t run into this problem in the ATS, which also uses CUE, and so I wrote it off to a software bug on my very-new test vehicle. I will say that regardless of what one thinks of CUE as a whole, the interactive dashboard display is very well conceived, and I appreciated the ability to customize the information it presented according to my own preferences.
King Of The Mountain
There's no question that the 2014 Cadillac CTS is the best car currently available from the luxury automaker, and one that builds spectacularly off of the success of the recently-introduced ATS (whose platform it shares). A well-balanced chassis, great engine options (especially the vSport model and its twin-turbo, 420 horsepower version of the V6), and opulent levels of luxury await those interested in taking this mid-size premium contender for a spin. The CTS is all grown up, and it's been worth the wait.