Review: 2016 Cadillac CTS offers honed, chiseled luxury

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The 2016 model year brings new engines, a better transmission, and an upgraded infotainment system as highlights for the CTS(Credit: Aaron Turpen / Gizmag)

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The Cadillac CTS is a very well-made, competitive entry in the midsize luxury sport sedan market. The car features beautiful, marked looks and drive dynamics that come straight from Chevrolet's Corvette. And although it's the high-end CTS Vsport model getting all of the attention, we found the best-selling mid-level package deserves some love, too.

The 2016 model year brings new engines, a better transmission, and an upgraded infotainment system as highlights for the CTS. The new V6 and its transmission take the mid-grade Performance package and make it one of the best offers in the six-trim lineup. Most remarkably, the extremely luxurious and very chiseled Cadillac CTS is marked by its superior handling and engaging driving characteristics thanks to the engineers at General Motors learning a lot from the new Chevrolet Corvette and applying much of that knowledge to this CTS.

There are a lot of good contenders in the segment, however, and some will hold their own against this new CTS. The Audi A6 is most comparable, but the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class have both become much more sedate, like middle-aged men living on the glory days of old instead of in the now.

The 2016 Cadillac CTS is offered in six trim levels with three engine choices, not including the ridiculously high-performance CTS-V model. Even without the -V option, though, the CTS' trim points walk through the gamut of street performance. The base "Standard" model utilizes a punchy little 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that outputs 268 hp (200 kW) and 295 lb-ft (400 Nm) of torque.

Rear-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is an option, while a new eight-speed transmission, found throughout the CTS' lineup, is also featured. Engine stop-start to save fuel when driving around town is also standard for the 2.0L, helping give fuel economy figures of 25 mpg combined (9.4 L/100km), with 21 mpg (11.2 L/100km) in the city and 31 mpg (7.6 L/100km) on the highway in its RWD option. Those numbers drop by about a point for the AWD version.

The upgraded engine, which we drove, is the mid-level V6. New for this year, this is a 3.6-liter six offering 335 hp (250 kW) and 275 lb-ft (373 Nm) with the same eight-speed automatic. It has the same stop-start technology as the four-cylinder and there's a choice of RWD or AWD drivetrain. Fuel economy is good in this mid-grade V6, achieving an EPA rating of 24 mpg (9.8 L/100km) combined with 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway (11.7 and 7.8 L/100km, respectively) with RWD. A couple of points are dropped from the highway MPG rating for the AWD model, lowering the combined EPA rating to 22 mpg (10.7 L/100km).

For those who want some serious umph and aren't interested in the over-the-top CTS-V model, there is the top-shelf Cadillac CTS Vsport option. This takes the 3.6-liter V6, adds some turbocharging, and restricts the eight-speed automatic transmission to rear-wheel drive only. The results are 420 horses (313 kW), 430 lb-ft (583 Nm) of torque, and 0-60 mph (0-96.5 km/h) sprints in about five seconds. The EPA gives this speedy rendition a combined 19 mpg (12.4 L/100km).

Putting together the excellent suspension, well-tuned steering, and great engine choices, the 2016 Cadillac CTS is a good performance sedan on paper. Taking those numbers to the street, though, adds up to a much better drive than expected. This Caddy loves the corners, feels confident on the expressway, and many available options in the mid- and upper grades add a lot of useful around-town features. If you like punchy mid-range performance, the turbo 2.0 is for you. If you prefer a solid performance band of good output through the gears, the mid-level V6 is a good choice. If you want fast off-line runs and good turbo response with a throaty V6 growl, then the Vsport's engine is it. There's something for everyone in the CTS.

All of those numbers take care of the "sports" portion of the luxury sports sedan part. The luxury portion is where Cadillac really comes into its own. Cadillac is unique in the luxury segment in that it has perfected a truly American style of luxury in which ostentatious displays of opulence are tempered by a need to seem a bit puritan despite the excess. Nowhere can this be seen better than in the interior of the 2016 CTS.

The sophisticated look inside the Cadillac CTS is created through a carefully-crafted balance between the use of a range of materials and near-seamless integration of technology and design. The front seating offers a lot of room for any sized driver and passenger, with a lot of elbow room, legroom, and headroom. The base level CTS has more than enough adjustment options to satisfy most and moving upwards through the trims just adds to that.

The wide dashboard inside the CTS is both light and cozy, seeming to draw towards those in front without being stuffy. The use of four materials in sequence to create an opulent interior without going overboard is a touch that only Cadillac has mastered. Rich woods can be optioned or carbon fiber can be chosen for the interior's accent, while leather choices in the higher trims have unusual color choices, such as the red adorning the interior of our Performance model.

The back seat suffers, however, to pay for the roominess up front. Legroom specifically is much smaller than in many rivals, especially the Lexus GS series, but on par with most of the German makes.

Another big upgrade for Cadillac in 2016 is the new CUE system. The Cadillac User Experience has seen some big upgrades for the new model year with the inclusion of a faster processor, some tweaking to improve the voice activation and screen menus, and the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 8-inch infotainment screen remains as it was, with its bright display and excellent graphics quality. The panel below it with the touch-panel buttons for specific systems controls (including climate) can be touched at its bottom to "lift" it out of the way for access to a small felt-lined storage box with a USB input and a small light. Perfect for leaving the phone or MP3 player in the car when parked.

As a total package, we really like the mid-level Performance trim, which starts at $56,285 USD, and the added luxury of the Premium trim, starting at $60,685 USD. These include a host of luxury items, most notably the parallel and perpendicular self-parking feature and surround-view 360-degree parking camera system. They also add collision mitigation with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, 20-way adjustable front seating, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster in high-definition, and beautiful wheel options. For the price, those are a lot of goodies in one car. Both of these trims can be had with any of the three engine options.

The 2016 CTS Sedan ranges in price from US$45,560 to $69,955. We drove the 3.6L Performance AWD that comes in at $60,285 plus options.

Source: Cadillac

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