Once the self-described “standard of the world,” Cadillac has spent the last few decades watching as such imported competitors as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus have surged to the top of the sales charts, both in the U.S. and abroad. The Detroit maker finally began to fight back in earnest with the 2002 launch of its CTS sedan, the first model to adopt Caddy’s distinctively edgy Art & Science design language.
The first two generations of the CTS were so-called “tweener” cars, sized somewhere between the BMW 3- and 5-Series or Mercedes’ C- and E-Class lines. The all-new 2014 Cadillac sedan is larger and more lavish, taking direct aim at the more upscale of those import offerings. And while it maintains some of the distinct creases and folds of the Art & Science theme—along with familiar Cadillac cues, such as the vertical head and tail lamps—the new CTS adopts a more sculpted, even sensuous shape.
Driving through the tony, import-oriented neighborhoods of Santa Barbara, the new Cadillac sedan proved a consistent head-turner, but as eye-pleasing as the new exterior design may be, the more significant changes come inside the now-roomier cabin. The new CTS without a doubt boasts the most lusciously refined interior of any Cadillac to date and may also set a new industry benchmark, especially with an optional package blending hand-stitched leathers, suede-like details and rich woods. The most controversial detail is the Cadillac Cue infotainment system, with its capacitive touch screen and voice controls. The good news is that the iPhone-like system is much improved since its launch in the smaller Caddy ATS a year ago.
GM’s flagship luxury brand offers an assortment of engine options, including a solid 3.6-liter V-6 and a peppy 2.0-liter Turbo. Our favorite, though, is the Twin-Turbo V-6 underpinning the new CTS V-Sport model. Making an impressive 420 horsepower, it blends the refinement of a true luxury sedan with the raw power of a classic muscle car. That translates into a vehicle that can smoke most of the competition when the light turns green, then deliver sports car-like manners through the tightest turns. Set the driver-selectable mode switch to Comfort, however, and the V-Sport’s Magnetic Ride Control smooths out even the harshest bumps.
Cadillac has had its hits and misses since the original CTS debuted, but it’s been delivering a series of solid shots over the last couple years, the compact ATS winning kudos as North American Car of the Year for 2013. That’s a tough act to follow but Cadillac’s latest, larger, more lavish offering seems more than up to the task. Buyers should be aware, the competition beware.