Third time's the charm

Has Cadil­lac got it right with the third gen­er­a­tion of its mid-size sa­loon? wheels’ Sony Thomas finds out

Friday - - Leisure -

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

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