Review: 2015 Cadillac CTS

By Mark Elias
Monday, Sep 7th, 2015 @ 2:16 pm
 
With the 2015 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Luxury, is the third time, er, third generation, the charm? Constantly benchmarked to Europe's best since its original debut in 2002, it was always a case of close but no cigar.

Until this latest generation, introduced in 2014.

Now they have it right, so why aren't they moving off dealer lots as quickly as some other models? Word on the street blames the more "established" (read: older) customer's aversion to the crisp, sharp edges of the car. Others say it's the more aggressive pricing.

Let's see if the more seasoned buyer has it right or if they are truly missing out.

What is it?
Cadillac's mid-sized four-door, five-passenger sedan is the bread and butter of the brand. In the case of our sampler, it gets its power from a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine with direct-injection that produces 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The compressed four-banger sends its power to the pavement through the rear wheels and a six-speed Shiftronic-style automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

If you want more than six forward gears, you'll have to opt for the naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6 or the V-Sport's twin turbocharged V6, both of which include eight-speed automatic transmissions. However, that eight-speed is expected to migrate to the four-banger for the 2016 model year. All CTSs include standard Brembo-brand front brakes.

Although Cadillac's famous Magnetic Ride Control is on offer, our tester came with the standard McPherson strut front suspension with twin tube shocks and direct-acting stabilizer bar. Bringing up the rear is an independent multilink suspension also with twin tube shock absorbers. Steering is through a ZF rack-mounted electric power assisted system with speed-variable power assist. All models include four-channel StabiliTrak with brake assist and traction control.

Our CTS 2.0T was equipped with a drive mode selection button that enabled us to switch ride quality from normal Touring (comfort) to Sport and to Snow/Ice modes. While many seasoned drivers may prefer the Touring mode, our choice was to set it and forget it in the Sport mode.

New for the CTS is the included and upgraded OnStar system with 4G LTE and a built-in WiFi hotspot. Cadillac's CUE (Cadillac User Experience) system returns with improvements that include Text Message Alerts, although it still thinks we hail from the south and as a result had difficulty understanding our commands. A new DockSpot feature includes wireless phone charging with appropriately equipped smartphones.

From the drive side of the equation, the CTS now features Lane Keep Assist and Lane Change Alert as standard in the Driver Awareness Package. Although ours was not equipped, owners can also take advantage of an available Perpendicular and Parallel Parking feature that uses ultrasonic sensors to find, and then move into a parallel or perpendicular parking spot automatically.

What's it up against?
The Audi A6, BMW 5-series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Lexus GS just start to scratch the surface. And that's before the South Koreans step in. It is a very competitive segment with many worthy contenders.

How does it look?
With lighting a touchstone on the Cadillac CTS, the LED illumination on the leading edge attracts viewer's attention before the rest of the car actually does. Chrome plating offers accents starting with the grill, the lighting and vent surrounds, and continues to delineate the window openings in the CTS's greenhouse.

Crisp lines help to draw attention, and at the same time, break up the slab-like side door treatments in an effort to not make the car look as blocky. We especially liked the clean look of what Cadillac calls the "trapped" hood that sits within the sheet metal rather than hangs over the front edge of the grill, for instance. Other details include chrome accents at the rear, with bright door handles and exhaust surrounds below the rear bumper, as part of our CTS's Luxury package. Active aero shutters are part of the Luxury package as well and do their part to help smooth the airflow over the car while at speed.

Although we're not sure if it was intentional, the CTS, when viewed from the three-quarter rearview, display many of the same characteristics as it is larger XTS brother.

And the inside?
When looking at the interior of this Luxury Collection vehicle, it becomes clear how much thought and effort went into the overall design. High quality materials abound, with just the right amount of leather, wood and aluminum to impress even the most discerning of auto snobs.

Seating was well-executed, and offered real comfort during extended drive times, not to mention an infinite amount of adjustment to find a comfortable drive position. And then there was the seat ventilation. The greatest thing since sliced bread, the cooled seats did their best to keep South Florida road-rage at bay.

Nice, and even small details, including such items as chrome-tipped electric window switches, ventilated seating, push-button starter, an eight-inch gauge screen and a 12.3-inch display that works as part of the CUE system, all help to finish out the CTS's cabin. Push a button below the display and the screen rises to expose the DockSpot wireless smartphone charger.

The five-passenger CTS sedan has a cargo capacity of 13.7 cubic feet.

But does it go?
This CTS is a stout performer for a 272 hp four-banger. Don't let that Luxury collection moniker confuse you. We liked the feel of the CTS steering package, which was bolstered by a communicative EPAS steering system, kicking up the boosting at slower speeds, while firming it up at higher ones. Handling from the sport-tuned suspension was stellar thanks to the efforts of the engineers during their Nurburgring-tuning sessions. The suspension borrows much of its technology, and some of its parts, from the Cadillac ATS parts bin.

The engine is a piece of jewelry. It actually has that work of industrial art sensibility to it, that makes you think a lot of effort went into making this small-but-mighty 2.0-liter quite a looker as well as a performer. This 2.0T-based drivetrain is well suited to the CTS application, although we would like to see larger diameter tires in place of the set that it was equipped with. As it is, the four Pirelli P-Zero Nero tires, as good as they are, don't quite fill out the wheel wells. We say bring on the 20-inchers.

Our CTS was equipped with a very smooth shifting six-speed manumatic-style transmission with paddle shift levers. We found the six-cog slushbox surprising, considering that cars like the Acura ILX and Range Rover Evoque have eight- and nine-speed transmissions, respectively.

The EPA says to expect 20 city / 30 highway with 24 combined from this four-door that tips it at 3,616-pounds. We actually managed to exceed that guesstimate, hitting an average of 24.9 mpg. Zero to sixty with the 2.0T engine and six speed automatic checks in at 6.2 seconds. For comparison sake, the 3.6-liter manages it in 6.1 seconds.

The 2015 CTS 2.0T Luxury is a great handler, still possessing a sense of solitude at speed. Very fun to drive, it's one of those rides that, for the most part, knows its place. That is, until the driver gives a jab to the accelerator and the underhood magic happens. And when it does, it really manages to impress. Sure, it's not the 420 horsepower twin turbo V6, but still, there's quite the sense of virility when it is unleashed.

Leftlane's bottom line
General Motor's Cadillac division comes closer than ever before to matching the benchmarked feel of its Teutonic segment-mates, the Audi A6 and BMW 5-series. Offering no excuses, it meets and exceeds them in many ways, including price.

2015 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Luxury Collection base price, $51,270. As tested, $53,860.
Black Diamond Tricoat Paint, $995; 18-inch Premium Painted 15-spoke Alloy Wheels, $600; Destination fee, $995.

Photos by Mark Elias.

  • Aesthetics

    B+

  • Technology

    B+

  • Green

    B+

  • Drive

    A

  • Value

    B

  • Score

    B+