Third time's the charm
Has Cadillac got it right with the third generation of its mid-size saloon? wheels’ Sony Thomas finds out
Nothing beats a blue and white roundel, a tri-star or four rings in effectively announcing to the world that you finally broke out of that middle management rut you were languishing in for ages.
But it’s not badge appeal alone that’s made the BMW5 Series, Merc E-Class and Audi A6 perennial favourites in this highly competitive segment. It’s the right mixture of luxury and impressive driving dynamics that helped the Teutonic trio tower over the competition for years.
Cadillac, the only American brand that can today be mentioned in the same breath as these Germans, has traditionally been an also-ran in the segment, mainly because of its aversion to anything other than straight lines. Although the rear-wheel drive CTS launched in 2002 laid the foundation for the brand’s transformation with its surprising litheness, it took the smaller ATS to actually start wooing younger buyers away from the Germans.
Now, the third-generation CTS has arrived, which GM thinks is the ‘next logical step’ in making Cadillac ‘a compelling, convincing and fully credible’ luxury brand.
One look at the all-new 2014 CTS and you know that’s not all marketing hyperbole. The latest CTS is by far one of the best-looking Cadillacs ever made, with bold and intricate lines along with redesigned vertical LED lights and subtler-than-before brightwork giving it a distinct personality.
Underpinning the saloon is a stretched version of GM’s exceptional Alpha architecture that impressed us in last year’s ATS. It’s also longer by 127mm with a 30mm longer wheelbase, and sits lower than before, adding to its athletic looks.
With these changes, Cadillac has nudged the CTS closer to its mid-size German rivals in overall proportions. More importantly, weighing in at 1,640kg, the 2014 CTS is lighter than its predecessor.
In fact, it’s one of the lightest cars in the segment, with Cadillac proudly pointing out that the BMW528i is a massive 90kg heavier. This is due mainly to broad use of aluminium in the car’s construction – it’s the first Cadillac to feature all-aluminium doors – which helped the engineers achieve near-perfect weight distribution. On the road, the new CTS is
exceptionally composed, with Magnetic Ride Control real-time damping system and the stiffer core structure making it noticeably agile and responsive when driven hard. Equally remarkable is the nicely weighted steering that responds quickly to your input irrespective of whether you’re pottering around town or aggressively carving corners.
There are three suspension modes to choose from – the refined Tour setting, the firmer Sport and the irrelevant-in-the-region Snow mode.
Coming to the engine, the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-pot under the bonnet replaces the 3.0-litre V6 that used to power the base 2013 model.
Mated to a six-speed automatic, the turbo mill is good for 272bhp and 400Nm of torque, which are way better figures than those of comparable rivals from BMWand Audi. In fact, the 2.0-litre turbo four A6 puts out only 180bhp and 320Nm, while the 520i with the same displacement engine makes just 184bhp and 270Nm.
Another area where the CTS has seen huge improvement is the cabin, which is now suitably upscale with craftsmanship and materials used right up there with the Germans.
Our test car had an all-black interior with real carbon-fibre trim on the dashboard and the door inserts. And it comes loaded with the latest gizmos and a touchscreen flanked by haptic controls, which are not the most responsive. Cadillac has finally nailed it with the 2014 CTS, which now boasts the performance and handling to match looks, and is a package that is in no way inferior to the BMW5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class or the Audi A6. In fact, it’s arguably better in many ways.
So, if you’ve just received that letter of promotion from HR and you’re off to get yourself a suitable way to trumpet the achievement, then be sure the Cadillac crest can now do it as well as any other prestigious badge would.
From the upscale cabin to the brightwork, this car announces that you have arrived