If America can build technologically most advanced products from a Boeing 787 to iPad, why a Cadillac cannot be the world’s best car?
Which one is the ultimate American car that can stand up against the almighty German luxury cars and Toyota’s Lexus? It probably is the Cadillac CTS. GM put enormous efforts to recreate this iconic brand and it took more than a decade and three generation to reach a level of quality and maturity that can compete with the Germanic lions.
Two other luxury American brands worth mentioning are Lincoln and Chrysler. Lincoln still has a long way to go to establish its own identity and detach from Ford, the parent company. Chrysler made a big progress at least with the 300C and 200C. The 300C is sold under Lancia nameplate in Continental Europe. Cadillac is Cadillac everywhere. So, GM’s crown jewel has probably the biggest chance to challenge the global German dominance.
Cadillac’s CTS was a bit too big to be compared with compact sports sedan a la BMW 3 Series at the beginning. Now the smaller ATS, another success story of Cadillac undertook the responsibility in this segment. And with 2014 model year as the third generation, the CTS is ready to compete with 5 Series, Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E Class?
Cadillac offers three different engines: The entry level motorization is a 272-horsepower, 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine that produces 295 pound-feet of torque and sends power to the rear or all four wheels. The top-rung, rear-wheel-drive-only $76,295 CTS Twin Turbo Vsport sports a 420-hp, twin-turbo six-cylinder. Between these two power plants, there is the version I tested: The $71,690 Cadillac CTS 3.6 AWD.
As the model definition reveals, this engine has a displacement of 3.6 liter generating 321-hp and 275 lb.-ft. 3.6 L out of its six cylinders and moves all four wheels. With all options and the Premium package — highlighted by features like navigation, sunroof, a full complement of active safety systems, rear sunshades, heated seats for rear passengers and more — the price climbs to $74,325, not that far off from comparably equipped versions of the Audi A6 3.0 TFSI Quattro, BMW 535i xDrive and Mercedes-Benz E 350 4-MATIC.
Times and decades of yacht-sized Cadillacs smoothly floating on curveless and boring American highways are long over. Cadillac CTS 3.6 AWD is a dynamic car fun to drive as much a BMW. As the car communicates with the road surface, I asked myself: “Wow, this chassis is so good, the guys at Cadillac took the job of creating a luxurious driver’s very serious. Add to this a perfect noise insulation, responsive steering and mature suspension, this 1,8 ton vehicle must possess German genetic codes.”
Interestingly, CTS offers a 6-speed auto, instead of eight, as you get with rear-wheel versions to save some weight. At the end of my test drive totaling to 825 kilometers, I reached an average of 11 liters, which was a bit higher than the class average.
Within a decade, we got used to the sharp and edgy design, such as sword-like taillights. Among all these beauties, one area represents insufficiency: CUE, standing for: Cadillac User Experience. The tablet-like and seemingly cool infotainment in the centre-dash is a troublemaker. Your first attempt to activate the haptic (a tactile feedback technology that senses touch) buttons is not always successful. And seeing so many controls on the screen, I remember the word of Dr Wagener, Mercedes Design Chief opposing all kinds of touchscreen controls. Is it really possible in today’s world surrounded by all kinds of screens from smartphones to tablets and laptops?
When I listened to Mr. Johan de Nysschen, the “fresh” President of Cadillac (coming from Infiniti) at the North American International Auto Show in January, heard the number of models to be launched in the next few years and the investment GM will allocate for the development of those models, I was simply impressed. Assuming the new products will be at least as good as the CTS, there are more than one reason to feel confident about Cadillac’s future.
Just one thing to consider: Less touchscreen and more buttons.
Type of vehicle Mid-size, four-door sports sedan Engine 3.6L DOHC V6 gas engine Power 321 hp @ 6,800 rpm; 275 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm Transmission Six-speed automatic transmission Brakes Four-wheel disc with ABS Tires P245/40R19 all-season Price (base/as tested) $71,690/$71,325 Destination charge $1,700 Natural Resources Canada fuel economy (L/100 km) 11.6 city; 7.6 highway; 10.8 as-tested Optional features: 19” 10-spoke aluminum wheels with P255/35R 19 all-season, run-flat tires: $1,095, Black-diamond tri-coat paint: $1.295, dealer installed all-weather floor mats: $145