2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Review
The price is steep, but oh-so-worth it.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: February 7th, 2014
Cadillac can thank the CTS for being a big help in its comeback from the abyss. Initially introduced as a replacement for the unloved Catera (the "Caddy that zigs" never zagged out of too many showrooms) meant to fight the BMW 3-Series/5-Series juggernaut, the CTS has now fully grown into a 5-Series rival, complete with pricing to match. (If you want a Caddy to take on the 3- and 4-Series, take a look at the smaller ATS.)
Luxury mid-size cars aren't what they used to be. In addition to the expectation that they'll be loaded with gimmicks, gizmos, and goodies and the demand for performance, they're now expected to pass gas pumps with regularity - even senior managers have to watch their expenditures, and we know they aren't cutting back on the trips to Morton's. Hence the presence of a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the hood of our tester.
Enough with the pearl-clutching: This ain't your daddy's '80s-era four-cylinder. There's no carburetor, the emissions controls don't choke power, and most importantly, this isn't a Cimarron. In an era in which our watches and glasses can act like wearable computers, Cadillac (GM's flagship luxury division) can surely build a four-banger that's worthy of the brand name. At least, that was what we hoped when we snagged a set of keys for a loan that would include a Chicago-to-Detroit roundtrip freeway blast.
On the Road
Automakers keep touting smaller-displacement turbo engines as having just as much power as the bigger units they replace, and based on the input from our backsides, the reality matches the marketing speak, at least in this case. There's a quick "one" count while waiting for the power to come on, but when it does, it moves the CTS with enough force to get the job done. The four-pot even sounds like it has an extra two or four cylinders when under throttle, making pleasing noises from the exhaust.
We didn't get many chances to attack a curving road - I-94 doesn't exactly have any corners resembling Eau Rouge - but during a couple of limited (by weather and darkness) runs through our favorite ravine, we found the CTS's handling chops to be solid. In Sport mode (there are three drive modes: Sport, Tour, and Snow), the steering tightens up considerably, which is good, since we found it too light in Tour. We would like a bit more feedback, but the accuracy is generally spot-on. Body roll is tamed, and the car sets up nicely enough.
Ride quality is excellent - the CTS wards potholes off well enough, and it's very smooth on long interstate stints, even as speeds creep past the limit. For a quick inter-city blast, the CTS is a fine choice.
Cadillac manages to make the CTS look bold and aggressive while still holding to the slightly more conservative ideals of the mid-luxury segment. It does that by giving the CTS a large, in-your-face grille, LED lighting up front, and lines that streak down from the cowl to the front fascia. There's no wildness here, no wacky "look at me" gimmicks, just a business-like stance that suggests that the CTS can kick ass when warranted and fade into the background the rest of the time. It's like the automotive equivalent of a Secret Service agent's suit. Kudos to Caddy for coming up with a look that menaces on the highway, yet blends at the country club.
If we have beef with the CTS, this is the area which drew the most complaints. Cadillac User Experience, or CUE, is the code-name for the brand's haptic-touch, smart-phone inspired infotainment system, and while CUE has improved since our first experiences with it back in 2012, it still needs more time in the oven.
It's too easy for the screen to misinterpret our hand's location and bring up the wrong menu, and sometimes the scroll feature was too imprecise, causing distraction at speed. We also found the voice recognition to be slow to process commands; it sometimes took so long to switch radio stations that we'd traveled an entire city block before we got the tunes we wanted. And the haptic-touch "buttons" in the center stack were also finicky, sometimes requiring two or three touches to register a command, while at other times registering an input when we didn't want it to. We also found ourselves restarting Pandora radio with each engine restart (which can be distracting) - whether this is a Cadillac issue or an iPhone issue is unclear.
CUE's interactive gauge cluster fared better with us. It's easy to control via steering-wheel switch, and we liked the customizability. We also dug the cell-phone storage bin hidden behind the center-stack, which rises up at the touch of a button (one of those finicky ones) and hides a USB port. It's a great place to stash a phone while driving - just plug in, play music, and avoid any temptation to look at incoming texts. We do wonder just how much it will cost to replace that door down the road, however.
Same goes for the motorized cupholder cover, which also seems a bit unnecessary - it's luxury for luxury's sake.
Aesthetically, the interior design looks better than it operates, and we found no quarrel with the seats after long stints at the wheel. We also appreciated the available heated steering wheel, as well as the Caddy's mostly successful efforts to keep wind and tire noise out.
It's hard not to fall in love, or at least deep like, with the CTS. It's comfortable, looks classy, makes a great highway companion, has plenty of passing power even with just four cylinders, is capable on a twisty road, and it even passes gas pumps more often than one would expect - we saw a tick above 25 mpg on our Detroit-to-Chicago run. That number isn't impressive on its own, but it did translate into over 330 miles of range. Again, not exactly mind-blowing numbers, but better than one might expect.
Where the numbers go sour is the price tag. Even with the four-cylinder, it's hard to argue the CTS as a value proposition when it starts at $57,000 or so. With just one major option package (the Performance Seat & Cluster Package, which included leather seats, alloy pedals, and the customizable gauge cluster) and the black paint job, our tester topped $60K. That's pretty steep.
Ultimately, it comes down to this question: Will you pay a little more in order to drive a great car? We would, and Cadillac hopes you would, too.
Sixty-thousand dollars is a lot of money. But from behind the wheel of the CTS, it feels oh-so-worth it.
Specs, Features, & Prices
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Drive Wheels: Rear-wheel-drive
Fuel Economy: 20 mpg city/30 mpg highway
Base Price: $57,400 (excludes $925 destination fee)
Price As Tested: $60,945
Available Features: USB port, navigation, CUE infotainment, sport pedals, leather seats, heated and cooled front seats, tri-zone climate control, blind-spot alert, sunroof, LED headlamps, adaptive forward lighting.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2014 Cadillac CTS, click here: 2014 Cadillac CTS.