Cadillac's CTS sport sedan completely updated for 2014

Posted Friday, Jan. 17, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Originally introduced in 2001, after extensive testing on Germany’s Nurburgring race track, the Cadillac CTS last got a makeover for 2008, with updated interior and exterior styling and several new technological features — all-wheel drive and a new six-speed automatic transmission, for example.

With the latest redesign, the CTS is longer, lower and leaner thanks to lightweight technologies and structural elements, and it now has an available eight-speed automatic. All CTS models (24 combos, by my count) come with the OnStar communications system.

The CTS comes in coupe, sedan or sport wagon form, with rear- or all-wheel drive, and five levels to choose from — Standard, Performance, Turbo, Premium and Luxury.

Prices for the CTS range from $39,495 for the Coupe Standard RWD to $69,070 for the 420-horsepower 3.6-liter Twin Turbo Vsport Premium RWD sedan. Sport wagons range from $42,195-$63,600.

With the remake, the CTS sedan is five inches longer, an inch lower and 244 pounds lighter than the 2013 model.

My CTS was the 321-horsepower 3.6-liter Premium sedan with rear drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual mode paddle shifters on the steering wheel, priced at $64,500 before freight and options.

My tester came with one option, Kona Brown leather interior with Jet Black accents for $1,650. Sapele wood, similar to mahogany, trimmed the door panels and the dash.

EPA fuel-economy ratings range from 20 mpg city/30 highway for the base 2.0-liter, 272-horsepower four-cylinder, six-speed Turbo Premium to 14 mpg city/19 highway for the 6.2-liter 556 horsepower V-8 six-speed manual transmission V Coupe.

My CTS Premium was rated for 18 city/29 highway. For this review, in Sport mode, mostly driving in the neighborhood and around town, I averaged 24 mpg.

The tester came with 18-inch polished-aluminum seven-spoke wheels with all-season run-flat tires and a tire pressure monitor to help keep track of inflation of individual tires. The Premium also comes with a sport suspension, magnetic ride control, StabiliTrak stability control with traction control, and front Brembo performance brakes.

Cadillac's magnetic ride control has computerized magnetically controlled damping that adjusts automatically for varying road conditions.

For a lower profile, sporty look, CTS offers 19-inch polished-aluminum wheels with low-profile tires for $1,050. However, Cadillac advises that lower-profile tires wear faster and are easily damaged by roadway hazards, and the damage isn’t covered by the GM new-vehicle limited warranty.

My tester was Phantom Gray Metallic with LED vertical accent lighting; chrome grille, exhaust and air dam trim; door-handle illumination that lights up as the operator moves in; illuminated front door sills; power/heated outside mirrors with auto dimming on the driver’s side; rain-sensing wipers; remote vehicle start, EZ key passive entry and pushbutton start; ultra-view sunroof; and a power rear sunshade and manual rear side shades.

The CTS has LED interior ambient lighting, which also comes on when the operator/key approaches; performance (racing style) heated and cooled front seats with lumbar support; memory for the driver’s seat and adjustable thigh cushion for the driver; and heated outboard rear seats. The power tilt/telescopic leather steering wheel was heated — especially nice at this time of the year.

My CTS also came with a Head Up Display for speed/speed limit, cruise control, audio and other vehicle information; and a re-configurable 12.3-inch LCD cluster for the usual mph and fuel level along with navigation and entertainment information. I found the cluster cluttered, busy and distracting, but someone driving the car every day would get used to it.

Cadillac’s own infotainment system -- CUE (Cadillac User Experience) -- uses an 8-inch color touch screen on the center stack and brings navigation, audio (including satellite radio), phone (via Bluetooth), Pandora, weather, OnStar and vehicle settings with large on-screen icons, using swipe/pinch/spread/tap motions. Below the screen, a panel opens to reveal a storage area for phones, wallets and such, and a convenient USB port.

CUE can be controlled from three points — steering wheel, center stack and voice command. The touch points on the center stack were somewhat slow to respond (especially annoying when trying to lower the radio volume), so the voice command feature might be a better option.

I found the navigation programming, and climate and audio operation to be confusing and less than intuitive, with some icons requiring a search. Using CUE efficiently definitely would require some time and practice.

Rear headroom in the CTS is nearly the same as in front — 37.5 inches vs. 39.2 inches. However, rear legroom is considerably less — 35.4 inches vs. 42.6 inches. The rear seat is comfortable in the outboard positions and has head-curtain air bags and seat-mounted side air bags. All three rear positions have lower anchors and upper tethers for child safety seats.

The driver and front passenger also have head-curtain, seat-mounted side and knee air bags, and the front head restraints are adjustable.

A Driver Awareness Package includes high-tech features to alert the driver to hazardous traffic situations and includes forward collision alert, lane-departure warning, side blind-zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, rear vision camera, safety alert seat, rain-sensing wipers and IntelliBeam automatic headlamps.

This package also includes full-speed range Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Collision Preparation with Intelligent Brake Assist, front and rear automatic braking, and electronic parking brake.

The safety alert seat was startling at first, vibrating under the thighs in response to signals from the front and rear park-assist sensors to indicate the presence of an object too near the vehicle. That happens often in a parking lot or dense traffic.

Automatic braking, also using sensors and advanced electronics, reduces or avoids impact by applying brake force without input from the operator — startling as well, until I realized what was happening.

IntelliBeam gradually dims the headlights as an approaching vehicle gets closer, rather than switching directly from high to low beams. When headlights are dimmed manually, there is a momentary dark space between the vehicles, but IntelliBeam keeps that area well lit without blinding the approaching driver.

My CTS also had Adaptive Forward Lighting, which rotates the front headlights up to 15 degrees depending on the direction the car is turning, essentially allowing the driver to see around curves.

Automatic parking assist is standard on CTS Premium models, enabling the vehicle to practically park itself using a sophisticated system of sensors and computer processes to magically maneuver the vehicle into a parking space.

Cargo space can be expanded from the 13.7 cubic feet of the trunk by folding the split rear seat back. Trunk space was somewhat narrow, due to intrusion of the wheel wells. There was covered storage under the cargo floor, useful for tools or other small objects.

My attractive, powerful, comfortable, fun-to-drive Cadillac CTS 3.6 delivered for $67,075, including the $925 destination charge.

The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams appear weekly in the Star-Telegram. Contact her at emmajayne1948@gmail.com.

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