2014 Cadillac CTS First Look

For most of its existence, the Cadillac CTS has had to do it all. It's been the halo model in Cadillac's struggle to attain relevance, and at the same time has usually been the brand's most affordable and highest-volume car. The CTS has tried to be edgy and sporty enough to attract German luxury car owners -- setting lap records on the Nürburgring and such -- but at the same time is supposed to appeal to Cadillac traditionalists who expect a big car.

The all-new, 2014 Cadillac CTS, which appears for the first time at the New York auto show, finally catches a breather. The smaller ATS takes over entry-level duties, the larger XTS appeases the Palm Beach crowd, and the upcoming ELR shares in the halo-car duties. That means the CTS can finally focus on a more manageable, if still very difficult, task: beating the BMW 5-series.

"The new CTS is sportier, more refined, more sophisticated, more powerful than what we have today -- we think it's going at the heart of the segment" says Cadillac chief engineer Dave Leone.

That new focus is instantly evidenced by the new styling. Whereas the current CTS wore the edgiest sheetmetal in Cadillac's lineup, the 2014 design may be the brand's most subdued. Cadillac lead exterior designer Bob Boniface has talked of taking the so-called Art and Science design language in a more "sophisticated" direction, with softer surface detailing rather than severe, polarizing sharpness. The CTS's clamshell hood flows into a rounded-off nose, and the rear end is almost bulbous. That's not to say the car has gone flabby. Sculpted body sides, a low hood, and slim side-view mirrors tell you that it's not an XTS. So do the lovely rear-wheel-drive proportions -- phallic nose, razor-thin front overhang. But much like other entries in this segment, namely the current 5-series and the newly redone Mercedes-Benz E-class, the CTS clearly is trying to appeal to the tastes of a conservative buyer.

The 2014 CTS rides on a stretched version of the Alpha platform that underpins the ATS. Compared with the current car's platform, which dates back to the first CTS, the Alpha architecture employs more lightweight materials and features much daintier components -- thinner control arms, smaller fasteners. The CTS also has aluminum doors, something deemed too expensive for the cheaper ATS. As a result, the CTS boasts a base curb weight of less than 3620 pounds -- about 200 pounds fewer than the lightest version of the current car -- even though it's 4.3 inches longer. It's also about 200 pounds lighter than a comparable 5-series, which Cadillac makes no bones about declaring the new CTS's template. "Absolutely BMW. From a performance standpoint, that's been our clear target from the beginning," says CTS program engineering manager John Plonka, clarifying that the particular focus was on the livelier, previous-generation 5-series. In a nod toward refinement and noise isolation, the engine sits farther forward than in the ATS, but the CTS still enjoys a near fifty-fifty weight distribution (the most front-biased is the all-wheel-drive model, at 52/48 percent front/rear). "It is not a couch on wheels," says Leone.

The 2014 CTS also shares two of its powertrains with the ATS -- a 272-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder replaces the old 3.0-liter V-6 that made about the same power (further contributing to the weight loss) and a 321-hp, 3.6-liter V-6. But the big story is a new twin-turbo 3.6-liter V-6. The long-anticipated engine produces an estimated 415 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel the CTS to 60 mph in fewer than five seconds, according to Leone. The turbo shares the same basic design with the normally aspirated V-6 but has a new cylinder block and heads, plus reinforced connecting rods. Rear-wheel-drive six-cylinder models will use an Aisin eight-speed automatic; all-wheel-drive and four-cylinder cars get a six-speed. A manual transmission, which sells in "very, very, very low" numbers on the current CTS, won't be offered except in V models. Cadillac has not yet released fuel economy numbers but expects the four-cylinder model to achieve better than 30 mpg on the highway.

As with the ATS, Cadillac has pushed back against the trend toward large, heavy wheels. Seventeen-inch wheels are standard; eighteens and nineteens are optional and bring magnetorheological dampers. The sportiest setup, offered with the twin-turbo V-6, uses eighteen-inch summer tires that are wider in back. Brembo front brakes are standard. The turbo model features slightly larger front rotors.

The interior closely resembles Cadillac's other recent introductions. Materials quality in particular takes a major leap forward. The optional carbon-fiber trim, for instance, cost Cadillac three to four times as much as the fake stuff used in the old model. Worth it. Upper trim-level models like the one we sat in feature fancily cut-and-sewn semi-aniline leather on just about every imaginable surface, even the horn cap on the steering wheel. Cue, Cadillac's controversial infotainment system, is standard. Outward visibility is good, thanks to relatively thin A-pillars and the aforementioned low nose, which in some markets necessitates pyrotechnic actuators to raise the hood in the event of pedestrian impact. Despite the increase in length, the back seat is still a bit tight, and the center seat straddles the driveshaft tunnel, as is typical with a real-wheel-drive layout. "The price you pay for having a car the way God intended it," says Plonka.

Like most new luxury cars, the CTS offers a raft of driving aids, including active cruise control that can bring the car to a full stop, lane-departure warning, and self-parking. Cadillac (among others) is working on so-called super cruise, which can keep a car in its lane at high speeds but is not offering it yet. Look for the feature to debut on one of the brand's less sporty models, like the XTS or the SRX.

The 2014 Cadillac CTS sedan goes on sale in the fall. Expect the price to climb at least $5000 from the current car's $40,000 starting point to match the 5-series. The current-generation wagon and coupe will remain on sale, as will V-series variants of all body styles. Cadillac won't say much about their replacements. The wagon, in particular, seems to have a cloudy future given that Cadillac, according to Leone, sells "thousands of them every year, not tens of thousands." That said, the brand's brass has been pleased with the positive attention it has earned. In any event, Cadillac may take its time rolling out a new CTS lineup given its chock-full product development queue, which includes a new Escalade, a flagship sedan, variants of the ATS, and perhaps a large crossover.

On sale: Late 2013
Price: $48,000 (est)
Engines: 2.0L turbo I-4, 272 hp, 295 lb-ft; 3.6L V-6, 321 hp, 274 lb-ft; 3.6L twin-turbo V-6, 415 hp, 430 lb-ft
Drive: Rear-wheel
Transmission: 6- or 8-speed automatic
EPA Fuel economy: N/A

The design is fantastic. It manages to tone down the excess of the previous version, while achieving greater continuity. The character line that starts at the front bumper and flows to the tail is genius. As it rides on the lauded Alpha platform, I expect this vehicle will perform at the top of the segment. Class leading looks, along with class leading performance will be tough to beat. 
To all of you blasting Cadillac, your all nothing but a bunch of FOX NEWS cry baby Republicans, go suck on Rump Limbaugh's micro nuts!
And, what's with GM's refusal to get rid of the ridiculously cheap-looking fake interior wood trim that it has used since the 70's?  My guess is Harry Reid or an Obama donor owns the supplier.  Have Cadillac designers bothered to look at the interior of a BMW, Mercedes or Lexus, the brands they claim to compete with?  The wood trim in those quality cars looks high-gloss, solid and classy. 
Dud.  Typical GM re-do. I am surprised they haven't pulled the "This car may suck, but it is just a place-holder.  Just wait until you see the next one"- card  The tens of billions of taxpayer money poured down GM's dysfunctional drain has changed very little.
Aaahh, the return of my grandfather's Cadillac!! I'm 30 y.o. and was hoping to be able to consider the next CTS as a contender for my next purchase. The CTS looks too much like the XTS and not enough like the ATS. I just prefer sport over luxury. I don't have any brand loyalty, but  I'm sticking with BMW (and the refreshed 2014 5-Series). I'm the exact buyer Cadillac was hoping to convert, but I guess I can scratch Cadillac's off my list for the next decade or so! FAIL.
Awee Jcaz, you are SOOOOO superior!  Go suck a German
Price point equal to the BMW 5 series?   WRONG!  I'm not even looking at this thing unless it's at least $10K under the Bimmer, because I'm going to take at least that much of a hit on the resale....    Oh I forgot- everyone leases anymore and doesn't care about the price, my bad....
I woudlo not call the styling conservative, the front end is aggressive.  But I would call it excetionally well-tailored, very appropriate for its market.
I love the brown leather and interessting wood trim.  Wheel sizing is wise.
I think G.M. finally got this one right. I know I will think about it when I replace my present car. That's something I never thought I would say.
Overall, I really like it.  I like the engineering direction taken in this new car. Hard to tell from the pix, but it looks like Cadillac may have reduced the front overhang a bit.  I am thrilled that they got the lead out.  It now weighs about what the 1st gen. CTS weighed. The current model, which I like a lot, is way too heavy (I don't think Jim Taylor and the brass appreciated my critique when it was introduced back in 2007).  I hope they reduce the weight further in future versions; I would prefer that the new CTS weighed about another 200 lbs less and weight distribution were 48/52 instead of the other way around with the AWD.  The A pillar seems to be much easier to see around (presumably just as strong or stronger).While I like naturally aspirated engines, I am looking forward to the twin turbo 3.6 and 400+ ponies and torquies.  I hope the changes have not increased the weight too much.  The shorter block vs. a V8 should help balance; although, the DOHC moves center of gravity up.
My one concern is that the center stack looks massive.  I suspect that it is just the camera angle and wide angle lens.It won't be my Cadillac.  I value quick handling response.  But because I also have to haul gear around from time to time, I like a wagon (not a wagon on stilts like a crossover or SUV) and hope Cadillac will add it to the ATS lineup in North America.  An ATS wagon is what I am lusting after.
Cadillac's new 2014 CTS appears not as aggressive as the current 2nd GEN car and if they had relabeled this car as being a different model, I wouldn't have thought otherwise because they're so different.  I can't wait to read the road test of the CTS with twin-turbo V6 and how it might compare with the 2nd GEN's CTS-V sedan numbers.  One final thing that will be interesting is whether Cadillac will build a coupe version of the new CTS or like the ATS, it'll be just 4-door sedans.
W Casey Durnil
Is it just me, or is Cadillac making just one car in Small, Medium and Large?
You can see the official press releases and preliminary specifications here:

Van K
@JJoe Did you write this without bothering to look at the pictures, read the article, or know anything about the trends in car interiors? Just wow.
Hello, Brian
@JJoe Apparently, you have not been paying attention to current automotive trends.  Both BMW and Audi are now using matte finished woods in their interiors....and what you are looking at here is REAL wood; not fake.
Van K
@JJoe  OK, having read your other comment it's clear: you have a foregone conclusion that has nothing to do with the car. The previous version won high praise, and this new one looks to be even better. Tribalists. You can't take a single breath of air without tainting every discussion with your simple-minded politics. Try taking an occasional breath of independent air. Thinking for yourself instead repeating the talking points assigned of whichever party is leaching your poor brain will make you free. 
All replies should come with an age disclaimer and how many grandchildren you have! 
Van K
@Rynamite! You prefer sport over luxury and you went with the new 5 series? As the ATS has shown, Cadillac is heading toward the space BMW used to target while BMW is chasing Mercedes into uber-luxury paradise. The 5 series is a great luxury vehicle, but sporty? I didn't get that when I drove it.
Hello, Brian
@Rynamite!  XTS?  Are you blind? This is not really like either, but it definitely is more like the ATS than it is like the XTS. You go ahead and stick with BMW...nothing wrong with that.  But, although you will not be looking at Cadillac, many more of us will.
Van K
@OMEGATALON Prediction:  4.7-4.8 0-60, quarter mile @ 12.9. It will be a high performer that will handle very well, but not at a V level. It will probably satisfy all but the true CTS-V addicts for $6-7k less. Of course for a car that will go north of $60k, I'm not sure how much that will matter.
@W Casey Durnil You mean like Camry/Avalon/ES/Highlander/RX/Sienna?
W Casey Durnil
@Pa1neRacer @W Casey Durnil The ATS, CTS & XTS
Van K
@Hello, Brian @W Casey Durnil @Pa1neRacer I don't see the 3 series-5 series (or A4-A6 for that matter) as being any more differentiated than the designs between the ATS and CTS. Similar design language, different implementations.
Hello, Brian
@W Casey Durnil @Pa1neRacer These three are similar, but all very different
Sorta like the 3 Series, 5 Series and & & Series?  Everybody does it.

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