Test Drive: Cadillac CTS takes aim at imports

Test Drive: Cadillac CTS takes aim at imports

November 2nd, 2013 by Mark Kennedy in Business Diary

The sculpted lines of the new Cadillac CTS are a prime example of the brand's angular design signature.

Photo by Staff photo by Mark Kennedy

FAST FACTS

Model: 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T (Luxury Collection)

Exterior color: White Diamond Tricoat

Interior color: Cashmere (leather)

Engine: 2.0-liter, turbo-charged

Horsepower: 272

Transmission: six-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 30 mpg highway/23 mpg city

Dealer: Integrity Cadillac

Price (as tested): $53,825

Cadillac's new television commercials feature a car full of high-spirited 30-somethings headed out for a night on the town.

Clearly, GM is trying to position its pinnacle products to appeal to a younger audience, while also keeping its more mature customers happy. Time will tell if the General achieves this elusive goal, but the new mid-size Cadillac CTS sedan certainly gives it a fighting chance.

The sleek new CTS is bracketed by the compact ATS sedan (the 2013 North American Car of the Year) and the full-size XTS, Cadillac's excellent flagship full-size sedan.

The first 2014 CTS models to hit Chattanooga had been on the ground only about 48 hours earlier this week when Integrity Cadillac General Sales Manager Bryan House loaned us the keys to a White Diamond Tricoat beauty.

As this 55-year-old driver slipped behind the wheel, I began to feel like one those 30-somethings in the television commercials -- invigorated and ready to burn rubber.

COMFORT AND STYLING

My, how things have changed. My first Cadillac memories are of my aunt's 1970s-era Caddy land barges. I remember velvet-soft bench seats covered in light-green fabric, air-conditioning so cold that water droplets condensed on the outlets and a trunk as big as a studio apartment.

By contrast, today's tightly-constructed Cadillacs have all the modern creature comforts luxury owners expect -- ventilated leather seats, a heated steering wheel and a bevy of infotainment features, for example -- but also offer the soul of sports sedans. Modern Cadillac products are, at their core, import fighters; and indeed their sporty driving dynamics now match or exceed comparable cars from BMW, Audi and Infiniti.

Meanwhile, the new CTS also has tremendous visual presence. It sports the latest evolution of Cadillac's angular design language. A blunt front fascia is highlighted by LED running lights that frame the front corners of the car like illuminated quotation marks. The hood has at least six character lines that flow gracefully into a raked windshield. In the back, a wing-shaped brake light is integrated into the trunk lid, and trapezoidal dual exhaust tips add a touch of muscle. Ten-spoke alloy wheels frame giant Bembro brakes (in the front) and all the wheel hubs sport the brand's ubiquitous wreath emblem.

Inside, the CTS is furnished with leather-clad seat and dash surfaces. There are lots of chrome accents and polished surfaces that send light glinting in all directions. An eight-inch touch screen at the top of the center stack is the brain center for CUE, Cadillac's integrated information, communication and entertainment system.

My favorite bit of tech wizardry in the new CTS is a three-dimensional navigation system that gives you a bird's eye view of your progress. The little car icon heading down the road on the touch screen was actually the same color as our test car. Coincidence?

Other standard features on our Luxury Collection test car included eight-way power front seats, keyless start, LED interior ambient lighting and Bluetooth compatibility.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

CTS buyers have three engine options, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a 3.6-liter V-6, and a V-6 with twin turbos. Our test car came with the four-cylinder, 272-horsepower engine, which was surprisingly quick. I'm old school, and had to be sold on a four-cylinder Caddy. Frankly I came away dazzled after a short test drive on curvy Kings Road near Chickamauga Lake.

The CTS's rear-wheel-drive configuration and nearly perfect 50-50 weight distribution make it fun to fling around corners. The car is also available in an all-wheel-drive layout for those who want an added layer of security in rain or snow. Dimensionally, the CTS is about four inches longer that before, adding welcomed interior knee room.

BOTTOM LINE

Our test car has a base price of $51,000, and the only options were for the luminescent White Diamond Tricoat paint and navigation. The bottom line is $53,825.

Now fully capable of competing with the BMW 5-series and other mid-size luxury benchmarks, the CTS customer base is almost guaranteed to swell.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.