Our resident European car geek, AUTOMOBILE contributor Marc Noordeloos, spent much of the winter driving our Four Seasons Cadillac CTS Vsport. Here are his impressions. –Ed.
Blaine Heavener is the type of guy we want planning new automobiles. As lead development engineer for Cadillac’s ATS and CTS, his team benchmarks cars we love, and he wanted the latest CTS to drive more like the old E60 BMW 5 Series rather than the current F10 model.
“From our perspective, the E60 was what BMW was about,” Heavener told me last April. “The new versions have either taken up a philosophy change or they lost the way a little bit. Keeping that focus is what we’re trying to do with the CTS.”
Which brings us to our Four Seasons 2014 Cadillac CTS Vsport. Until the 640-hp CTS-V arrives in showrooms in the fall, the twin-turbo V-6-powered Vsport is the hottest version of the company’s midsize sedan.
My initial impressions were favorable. The car has gobs of power and impressive steering and brakes, balanced with the ability to approach 30 mpg at steady highway speeds. Our Pirelli Winter Sottozero Serie II run-flats mounted on Moda 18-inch wheels, combined with the standard heated seats, heated steering wheel, and remote start make it a good four-seasons sports sedan.
The rear-wheel-drive sedan’s electronic limited-slip helps, raising the fun factor and aiding traction in slippery conditions. When I could find big, empty expanses of snow-covered pavement, I would hold down the console-mounted button until both the traction control-off and stability control-off lights illuminated. The powerful turbo engine makes sideways driving only a wiggle of your big toe away, and the trick rear diff helps make you look like a hero. You can hold the 2014 Cadillac CTS Vsport insanely sideways as you feel the diff keep the extreme yaw movement in check.
On one occasion, drifting on a snow-covered parking lot triggered a “service differential” alert on the dash. The alert chimed in, and the traction and stability control was automatically turned back on. It seemed fine when I restarted the car 30 minutes later, and it never happened again.
When finished driving like a 1970s rally star, I turned all the safety controls back on and tapped the drive mode switch to Snow/Ice. The Vsport effortlessly plowed through bad conditions. Though it struggles a bit when the snow gets deep, the rear-drive 2014 Cadillac CTS Vsport brings home the point that winter tires are far more important than all-wheel drive. If you insist on AWD, you can choose a less focused CTS model, though you’ll have to give up the Vsport and its 420-hp engine.
But the CTS isn’t the kind of car for drifting around corners every time we drive it. Here’s where the Cadillac needs some polishing — its secondary ride and in-town comfort need improvement. The car feels unsettled and crashes over rough pavement, and passengers are more likely than the driver to complain. The twin-turbo engine’s throttle mapping isn’t linear, and the transmission and engine feel at odds with each other during normal day-to-day driving. My passengers complained about the boomy exhaust. The Cadillac simply lacks the refinement and depth of its German competitors.
I also tested the auto park-assist on one occasion. It was easy to use and quickly found a spot, but it curbed the right-front wheel at the end of the process. I tried it again an hour later and got the same result. Not impressive.
Inside, the not-quite-there theme continues. Cadillac smartly fills the CTS with a ton of features for the money, though it didn’t make the sunroof a stand-alone option. The panoramic sunroof is bundled in with the Vsport’s $10,000 Premium package, so if you want to keep the sticker no higher than $60,000, you’re out of luck.
Staffers have complained about the CUE infotainment system before, so I won’t dwell on its shortcomings. It’s simply not brilliant. Still, fiddling with the settings — namely, altering the proximity sensor setup — makes it a passable package. Be sure to keep a cleaning cloth handy to wipe down the shiny screen and touch-sensitive buttons that cover the center stack. Speaking of shiny, the whole theme inside the CTS is just too glitzy and gaudy for my taste, with too much bright silver and chrome highlighting. Then there are the overlooked details, such as the lack of a switch to dim or turn off the steering wheel illumination and intrusive headrests that dig into the back of your neck in any seating position. These are two shortcomings that really wear on you during a long journey.
Still, I enjoyed my time with the 2014 Cadillac CTS Vsport, especially when driving it hard. Cadillac nailed the basics and, with some refinement, could make it a really fast and impressive alternative to the German and Japanese players in the segment. The new, subtler 2015 Cadillac badge is a good start. But Heavener and his team need to spend more time in the E60 BMW 5 Series. The beauty of the old Bavarian sedan was its ability to cosset you day-to-day but still tick all the boxes when you tossed it into a corner. Cadillac nailed the latter. For the former, it needs a visit to finishing school.
- Body style 4-door sedan
- Accommodation 5-passenger
- Construction Steel unibody
- Base price (with dest.) $59,995
- As tested $60,490
- Engine 24-valve DOHC V-6
- Displacement 3.6 liters (217 cu in)
- Power 420 hp @ 5750 rpm
- Torque 430 lb-ft @ 3500-4500 rpm
- Transmission 8-speed automatic
- Drive Rear-wheel
- EPA Fuel Economy 16/24/18 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
- Steering Electrically assisted
- Lock-to-lock 2.5 turns
- Turning circle 36.7 ft
- Suspension, Front Strut-type, coil springs
- Suspension, Rear Multilink, coil springs
- Brakes Vented discs
- Wheels F/R 18 x 8.5/18 x 9.5 in
- Tires Pirelli P Zero
- Tire size 245/40R-18, 275/35R-18
- Headroom F/R 39.2/37.5 in
- Legroom F/R 42.6/35.4 in
- Shoulder room F/R 56.9/54.8 in
- Wheelbase 114.6 in
- Track F/R 61.4/61.7 in
- L x W x H 195.5 x 72.2 x 57.2 in
- Passenger capacity 97 cu ft
- Cargo capacity 13.7 cu ft
- Weight 3952 lb
- Weight dist. F/R 50%/50%
- Fuel capacity 19 gal
- Est. fuel range 361 miles
- Fuel grade 91 octane (premium unleaded)
- Adaptive suspension dampers
- Performance suspension
- Electronically controlled limited slip differential
- 18-inch aluminum wheels w/performance tires
- Brembo front brakes
- Leather-trimmed seats
- 8-way power front seats
- Heated and ventilated front seats
- 60/40-split folding rear seats
- 5.7-inch CUE system
- Bose audio system
- SiriusXM satellite radio w/3-month trial subscription
- Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity
- Heated sport steering wheel
- Magnesium paddle shifters
- Automatic dual-zone climate control
- Auto-dimming rearview mirror and driverâs exterior mirror
- Automatic HID headlights
- Keyless entry and ignition
- Remote start
- Front and rear parking assist
- Automatic parking assist
- Blind spot monitoring system
options for this vehicle:
- Majestic plum metallic paint- $495