I mentioned to an auto executive who doesn’t work for Cadillac that I was driving the 2014 CTS, the North American Car of the Year (NACOTY). And he admitted that he was looking forward to the opportunity of driving one himself. He said that he was “incredibly impressed” with the body fits and the curb weights. He was also piqued because of the “love-fest” editorial coverage of the car—as in not only the NACOTY judges, although presumably most of those journalists rhapsodized about the car in their own outlets.
It had been a couple of months since I first drove the CTS on twisty, turny, elevation-changing roads in California. Now I was going to have the car in snow-covered, freezing, pothole strewn, and straight roads in southeast Michigan.
And damn if I didn’t crack a smile that didn’t want to go away when I drove out of the parking lot.
Sign me up for the love-fest.
This really is a wonderful car.
What made matters more impressive is the fact that I had just been driving another luxury car with—somewhat—sporty performance. And the distance between the two was rather noticeable in a variety of ways, not the least of which was the powertrain response. The One that Will Go Unnamed (TOWGU) has a V8 and the CTS as driven has a twin-turbo V6. One was stately. The other was bat-out-of-helly.
TOWGU has a really refined interior with acres of leather and a grove worth of trees, too. Yes, yes, the Cadillac has “hand-stitched” leather. No, this doesn’t mean that some person is trying to force a needle through cow hides (I remember back in the day trying to sew a patch on a jean jacket and I put my thumb out of commission for quite some time, and that was just denim.) Rather, a real person is using a sewing machine to put the various trim bits together to create an engaging whole. But even in the last-generation CTS (this, by the way, is the third), hand-sewing and wood and metal notwithstanding, the interiors just left me feeling as though it was still an exercise in trying to achieve three-quarters premium.
The 2014 CTS has an interior execution that I suspect that even people at Audi are impressed with. There is a certain substantialness to all aspects, from the steering wheel to the seats, from the leather and wood trim to the lining in the door pull pockets.
(Here’s the obligatory complaint about the CUE—Cadillac User Experience—infotainment interface. There is an eight-inch color screen that has capacitive sensing capability, just like a smart phone. It is used for entertainment. Navigation. HVAC. Hands-free calling. If you are, say, using the navigation screen and want to change the radio station, then as your finger nears the screen virtual buttons pop up across the top of the screen: you select the one that looks like a speaker, and it brings you to the audio page. Were this a smart phone in the palm of your hand, it would be good. But as this is a screen in a 420-hp vehicle, the whole touching and swiping and swiping and swiping and swiping and---!!!!! doesn’t work out so well. Here thinking that the next-gen CUE has a truly revolutionary addition: a knob that rotates. Maybe even more than one.)
At the risk of committing some sort of sin of design relativism, it is absolutely remarkable to look at a first-gen CTS (2003) and the current model. As you may recall, the first-generation CTS was used in the 2003 film The Matrix Reloaded. The objective was to have a car that looked futuristic, and it did. Funny how the future ages. The first-gen is Bill Logan to the third-gen’s Neo. It has profoundly greater presence, angularity and yet fullness. Eleven years from now it will probably look contemporary.
Yes, a lot to love.
Engine: 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6 w/DI and VVT
Horsepower: 420 @ 5,750 rpm
Torque: 430 lb-ft @3,500 to 4,500 rpm
Materials: Aluminum block and head
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic w/paddle shift
Steering: ZF rack-mounted electric powered assist
Wheelbase: 114.6 in.
Length: 195.5 in.
Width: 72.2 in.
Height: 57.7 in.
Passenger volume: 97-cu. ft.
Trunk volume: 13.7 cu. ft.
EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 16/24/18 mpg