2014 Cadillac CTS Review

2014 Cadillac CTS - Third-generation CTS continues defining Cadillac brand


 Cadillac's longest running sedan currently in production, the CTS, entered the automotive fray in the 2003 model year with Generation Two premiering circa 2008. As with the larger, image-conscious Escalade sport utility, CTS signaled a new direction for General Motors' luxury division upon its arrival. Previous era names including Seville to Deville are long retired from showrooms.

The mid-size CTS set the stage for a new-generation of alpha-numeric Cadillac entries, including the smaller ATS sedan and coupe and full-size XTS four-door, both introduced in 2013 model year. Both share visual CTS cues including, chiseled corners and sharp lines.

Assembly takes place in Lansing Michigan, the state capital, at one of GM's newest North American facilities; Grand River Assembly. Opened in 2001, the plant churns out all three CTS body styles (coupe, sedan and wagon) plus compact ATS sedans and coupes. Production of Chevrolet's edgy, high-volume, rear-drive Camaro moves to Lansing from Canada in the coming year.

Unscientific, driveway-driven data culled from inquiring neighbors, dog walkers and postal professionals throughout central DuPage County places CTS at the top of the most ogled and queried vehicles rotating through the test driveway so far in 2014.

Cadillac's CTS remains a great driver's car with rear-drive performance or available all-wheel drive. A coveted 50/50 front-to-back weight distribution enhances handling. Wheelbase (distance between front and rear axle) expands by 1.2 inches while overall length grows by a healthy 4.2 inches in 2014. Gen Three sheds 245 pounds by substituting pricier aluminum and magnesium for one-time steel structures; now, the light-weight champ of the mid-luxury, rear-drive division.

Updated engine selections add to a wide spectrum of mix and match possibilities. While CTS sedans receive third-generation redos in 2014, coupe and wagon body styles are carried over from the 2013 model year as is the high-performance 6.2-liter V-8-powered CTS-V. The 'V' division represents sedans, coupes and wagons sporting high-performance, specially-tuned brakes, exhausts and V-8 powertrains.

New to the 2014 CTS line up; a rear-wheel-drive-exclusive CTS VSport sedan, not to be confused with the aforementioned 556 horsepower CTS-V.

The newly minted 2014 CTS VSport bridges a gap between the naturally-aspirated V-6 and fire-breathing CTS-V's V-8 by incorporating a standard, direct-injection twin-turbocharged V-6 (a Cadillac first) delivering a V-8-like 420 horsepower requiring premium fuel through the self-sealing, cap-less fuel tank. It's the most powerful V-6 in Cadillac's 112-year history and also available in the full-size 2014 XLS sedan. Plus it's a kick to drive when teamed with a new eight-speed automatic transmission.

Turbochargers run off of recycled exhaust gases spinning a pinwheel-inspired turbine to pump a higher air concentration into the engine. Employing two smaller, yet faster spooling turbochargers ensures quicker air pressure build-up, enhancing performance while taming 'turbo lag,' a pause sometimes felt when aggressively summoning accelerator pedals.

Two remaining CTS engine options are available in non "V" or VSport sedans: 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo with 272 horses or a naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V-6 cranking out 321.

The VSport comes well equipped at $59,070. Our bottom line ended at $59,995 with $925 destination charge and no options. If optimizing bells and whistles, the VSPort Premium trim (heads-up display, ultra-view sunroof, etc.) adds an extra ten grand. A conventional 2014 CTS sedan with four-cylinder turbo begins at $46,025.

In addition to turbo twos underhood, VSport includes a sports-tuned suspension, premium steering enhancements, high-performance Brembo disc brakes and a track cooling package.

Included is a lane departure warning gently pulsating a section of the driver's seat cushion dependent upon the lane infringement side. More attention-grabbing than an audio beep or illuminating icon, it repurposes a part of the anatomy (specifically the derriere) normally not called upon to detect approaching danger.

Electronic steering and enhanced shocks soak up Chicagoland's worst imperfections for an impressively smooth ride and nimble handling. Expect effective, powerful, but not 'grabby' brake pedal nuances. This twin turbo, torque-rich, V-6 generates V-8-like horsepower with V-6-type fuel consumption. Add to this pleasant highway mileage figures and CTS VSport signifies a home-run for team Cadillac.

The prominent front grille with centered Cadillac wreath gets flanked by prominent headlight housings with 16 daytime running LED lights, eight starting on the fender and eight continuing down the front bumper (doubling as turn signal indicators). Main, multipurpose, round projector headlights follow steering direction with eye-ball-like attitudes. Stout, five-sided side-view mirrors including blinker bands.

Thick-sized rear 'C' pillars connect up with a stubby deck lid with outward pointing center. Framing trunk sides are narrow, vertical taillights. The smallish 13.7 cubic foot trunk is home to the left-side lead-acid battery, and right-side in-floor bin accommodating two gallon-sized milk jugs (or a favorite 12-pack beverage) but no spare tire. Dual exhaust comes standard emitting a specially-tuned exhaust note depending on the drive mode selected (tour, sport or VSport specific track). The lid sports a diminutive spoiler directing air flow at high speeds.

Inside, push-button start comes standard, as expected. What's not so expected, but welcome none the less, is a motorized cup holder lid between front bucket seats, movable with a simple tug forward or back. The electronically-locking glove box drop-down door opens via a dash button, but requires a manual push to shut. When exiting, white and colored instrument panel backlighting fades to black, signifying the engine is off (sometimes a challenge with push-button start).

With the rear-drive central transaxle floor hump traveling vertically front to back, rear seat travels are best left for a duo, not a trio. When smallish rear doors swing open, leg entry room remains tight as in the first two generations.

Expect three months of complimentary satellite radio. The suddenly old-school compact disc unit now gets relegated to the glove box. Plug-in iPod and USB ports reside inside the armrest/storage bin.

The center-mounted CUE (Cadillac User Experience) received mix reviews since its debut in the 2013 model year. It's standard in all 2014 CTS variants. While finger slide and touch commands work well with cell phones and portable tablets, in a moving vehicle, it's distracting.

CUE began with good intensions thanks to a visually attractive layout with large icons and eight-inch center touch screen with 'vibrating finger feedback.' Below is a touch-sensitive plate, with designated, well-marked push points to decrease/increase ventilation fan speed and temperature. Fan direction commands take some hunting, appearing on the touch screen after first summoning fan speed.

Secondary audio functions can be had via steering wheel controls and viewed inside the instrument panel. Missing? Tactile twist knobs. In addition, the 'home' button needs a closer proximity to the touch screen. During testing, too much time was spent eying CUE rather than the road ahead; this after already experiencing CUE in previous ATS and XTS drives. Dealers remain well aware of CUE's learning curve, so ask for a detailed demonstration, Cliff notes and a point person if questions arise.

While CUE's growing pains continue, GM's user-friendly OnStar in-vehicle telematics scores an ease-of-use 'A.' Maybe it's OnStar's human interaction versus CUE's infinite do-loop of technology. Press the OnStar Blue button and connect audibly with a real-live individual (who may be CUE savvy). One-year subscriptions come with every 2014 CTS.

2014 Cadillac CTS VSport

Price as tested: $59,995

Wheelbase: 114.0 inches

Length: 195.5 inches

Width: 72.2 inches

Engine: Twin turbo 3.6-liter V-6

Horsepower: 420

Curb weight: 3,616 pounds

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.