2014 Cadillac CTS - 2014 Automobile of the Year Finalist

2014 Cadillac CTS - Automobile of the Year - Contender-5

The 2014 Cadillac CTS bowed at the 2013 Chicago auto show as the new in-between model in the Cadillac lineup. Its styling is a mash-up of the smaller ATS and the luxurious XTS, and the CTS's dimensions neatly average those of its siblings. That size is important, as the CTS now makes sense in the luxury landscape. The first and second generations of the Cadillac CTS, launched in 2002 and 2007, respectively, didn't quite match up size-wise to its competition. A little too large and comfortable to fight the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the CTS was at the same time too cramped and too sporting to truly rival the 5 Series and E-Class. Now that the Cadillac ATS has taken the entry-level slot, the 2014 CTS is free to grow and take on larger luxury sedans.

The third-generation Cadillac CTS is 4.3 inches longer than the last sedan, and has a slightly more mature version of the brand's Art and Science design language. There's more rear legroom, too. The dashboard is, as is the case with the ATS and XTS sedans, dominated by the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) capacitive-touch interface. It does away with buttons in favor of a touch-sensitive center stack and large touchscreen, allowing users to operate everything from the navigation to the climate control simply by lightly brushing one's fingers over the controls. At least in theory. In practice, we've struggled to acclimate to CUE's finicky operation in our Four Seasons 2013 Cadillac ATS sedan; in the CTS, similar problems prompted senior editor Joe Lorio to complain that, "the nicely crafted interior is spoiled by CUE. Time for a fix that replaces the gimmicky touch-sensitive sliders with real knobs."

There's better news under the hood, where the majority of 2014 Cadillac CTS sedans will be equipped with either a 272-hp, 2.0-liter turbo-four engine or a 321-hp, 3.6-liter V-6. There's also a new Vsport version, which is less extreme than the outgoing CTS-V but still delivers a serious punch. A twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6 engine rated for 420 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque is backed up by an eight-speed automatic transmission, a combination so potent that several editors named it a must-have option. "It's so much better than the standard V-6 that I can't imagine plunking down the money for a CTS and not going for the full twin-turbo glory," said columnist Ezra Dyer.

Even when it's not equipped with two turbochargers, the 2014 Cadillac CTS is a darling on the street or at the track. Though the new car is better positioned as a large luxury sedan, Cadillac has managed to imbue the big sedan with a heavy dose of sportiness. "Far more so than any past General Motors effort in this segment, the CTS feels very coherent," said Lorio. "The steering, the brakes, and the powertrain all have a very nice uniformity of action." Though it grew significantly for its third generation, Cadillac engineers kept the new CTS on a strict diet. In fact, the new CTS is about 200 pounds lighter than the old model. Employing high-strength steels, aluminum, and even magnesium mean the CTS feels like a grown-up small car, rather than a large that has been shrunken down. We think it has much more in common with the entry-level Cadillac ATS than the XTS, a sensation that rewards when the pace quickens. Editors found the CTS far more engaging than the previous Cadillac sedan -- and even more thrilling on twisty roads than some of the Cadillac's German rivals.

"The styling and chassis dynamics make this a truly competitive car," said associate editor Greg Migliore. "The CTS is a worthy BMW 5 Series fighter."

Although the Cadillac CTS has never been named Automobile of the Year, the original CTS-V nabbed a spot on our 2004 All-Star list, and the Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon was named a 2011 All-Star. Stay tuned to learn how the 2014 Cadillac CTS fared in this year's evaluation.

Photos by Patrick Hoey.

We will be releasing our 10 Finalists for the 2014 Automobile of the Year throughout the week leading up to the announcement of the winner on Saturday, November 16. See the other finalists here:

2014 BMW 435i

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