Mountain Wheels: Cadillac’s CTS blends sport and style in the best of ways
While you might not guess it by simply looking at it, the seemingly much longer and more executive-hauling-duty oriented Cadillac CTS — all new last year — actually shares its GM Alpha platform with the smaller ATS and the new, smaller Camaro. And not a Chevy Impala, which the third-generation CTS seems about equal within at-first-glance size. The Impala and the even-larger XTS are actually more mechanically connected — the CTS weighing in for the fight at 195.5 inches overall, and 3,745 pounds in rear-wheel-drive form.
This may actually turn out to be a beneficial piece of optical illusion as livery companies or aspirational, former European car buyers — the reinvented Cadillac’s bread and butter — seek a flashy, only moderately expensive machine that mixes prestige with reasonably sporty handling and performance. As a contender set to battle the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes’ E-Class, the new CTS is making serious headway.
The Premium Collection model I sampled, pretty well stocked at its $64,685 MSRP (a very healthy jump from the $45,000 non-Premium base price), gets you much of the stuff that would impress any backseat passenger, but provide you as driver the means to vigorously carve corners on a mountain road — and the optional AWD system to do so year-round.
The new edition CTS’s decidedly squared-off face, with jagged chrome jowls that look like they’re lifted from the monster in Aliens, is set up with horizontal shards of LED lighting; in the back, it’s a solid buttress of tail, set atop broad exhaust ports. The whole thing breathes presence, which is certainly the company’s mantra nowadays.
Plunk yourself inside the uber-leathery interior and CTS feels the most like the sport-oriented midsize luxury sedan it claims to be, with a thin steering wheel commanding adequately expressive agility on the 18-inch wheels (first locking rims I’ve seen on a Caddy, by the way, so I guess they’re expecting this car to be hotter than hot).
It also offers a hearty blast of power from the larger, 3.6-liter V6 available as a premium engine choice, with 335 horsepower and a sport mode on the eight-speed automatic transmission to brighten the pace and the shift points.
The transmission is probably the most notable addition to the automobile’s pleasantly sporty outlook, happily doot-dooting along between all those gears in normal driving mode, with hardly any drama at all. Switch it into manual mode and you can be as aggressive as you’d like. The transmission also has a downhill logic mode built in that’s eerily capable of maintaining speed without the normal jarring manual downshifting that many other modern cars require while headed down the pass, for instance.
It does not feel bulky or looming when driven in a malicious fashion; rather, the standard up-front Brembo brakes serve to contain all that momentum and allow you to enjoy the ride, but not get quite as crazy as you might in the ATS-V (look for a review of that monster in the coming weeks).
Of course it’s chock full of prestigious bits — my tester heightened even more with $2,000 worth of jet black and Morello red accents, semi-aniline leather seats and a blacker-than-black metallic paint job.
Seating is sportily stiff versus the old flat-bottomed and blasé style, and with all of those various colored and textured surfaces — plus metal shift paddles — the look is pretty awesome inside. Those seats can also be set up with the rear-end-buzzing warning system built into the sophisticated proximity parking and safety suite.
About the only indication inside that you’re dealing with a smaller base platform is the rear seat setup, which perches the tall, deeply arched seats on top of a pedestal that’s not entirely flush with the seats themselves — you kinda have to rest your calves on an overly prominent arch. The angle over the rear wheels also makes entries and exits maybe not quite as graceful as they’d be in a much larger vehicle like the XTS.
I would even go so far as to say that the CUE entertainment and navigation system is almost, almost there in terms of regular usability, with Apple’s CarPlay interface and good mapping.
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