It was more than 12 years ago, but I remember it well. The then-new Cadillac CTS debuted for the 2002 model year and arrived with a bold new look and feel. That car would chart Cadillac’s course for the coming decades.
Not just in looks, though the angular creases of the brand’s “Art and Science” philosophy certainly set a template for what would become its signature design theme. But the car’s performance credentials were also established.
Seeking to go head-to-head with the best sporty luxury cars from around the world, GM decided that the CTS would be rear wheel drive and offer a chassis that could handle spirited driving with ease. A V6 engine sat under the hood (available with a manual transmission!), with a V8 arriving later in the first CTS-V.
The second generation of the car followed in 2008, and brought an even more dynamic look to the showroom. A wagon and rakish coupe followed the 4-door, both giving variety to Cadillac’s lineup. And again, the V-Series cars put serious performance into the Cadillac brand.
Now, the third generation CTS is here, and it aims to continue that performance and styling roll that the original car started a dozen years ago. The 2014 version is longer, wider and lower, putting it closer in size to the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. (The two previous CTS bodies were somewhere in between the compact and mid-size class.)
The front styling is what most people will notice first, a furthering of that signature grill and headlights that make Cadillacs stand out in a crowd. New LED running lights surround the main headlight cluster, following an industry-wide trend. At the rear, more current Cadillac styling in the form of sharp vertical taillights.
Open the new aluminum door and settle into the supportive driver’s seat, and you’ll be treated to a wonderful cockpit with well-placed controls and instruments. The gauges in front of the driver are displayed on an LCD screen and are perfectly crisp and sharp. There’s also an optional head-up display that projects basic instrumentation on a screen that appears to float out at the end of the hood.
Power for the majority of CTS’s built is provided by General Motors’ excellent 3.6 liter V6, now making 321 horsepower and delivering output to the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. If you choose the optional all wheel drive, the transmission is a 6-speed. Both gearboxes get paddle shifters on the steering wheel for full manual control.
I had the rare opportunity to experience the same 2014 CTS on both the street and a race track. During a press event at Willow Springs Raceway a couple of weeks ago, Cadillac was one of the manufacturers that participated and brought an all wheel drive example of their new CTS. When I jumped in and hit the track, I assumed I was driving the Vsport model. (That one has a 420 horsepower twin-turbo V8 and a more aggressive suspension.)
To my surprise and delight, after doing three laps around Willow’s big road course, I discovered that no, this was just the regular CTS! It handled the snaking 9-turn road course better than most people would expect a Cadillac could, actually keeping up with some much more performance-oriented cars.
I got a subsequent stint in that same car here in town, and it amazed me how sedate and luxurious it was. Sure, it has the taut suspension of a true sport sedan, but it’s also extremely quiet and pampers its occupants in complete comfort. Part of the redesign means in increase in rear legroom, which is quite welcome.
Pricing for the 2014 CTS is wide-ranging, with a “Standard” car (2.0 liter turbo four cylinder) starting at $45,100. You aren’t likely to find many of those on dealer lots, as most buyers will probably want the Luxury trim which includes the V6 for a base price of $51,000. If you go all the way to the top of the line, for a Vsport Premium you’ll spend right around $70,000. You can actually pay a lot more than that for one of the car’s competitors.
Yes, the CTS has become a staple of the Cadillac line. And for its third generation, it continues to help the brand succeed in the luxury market.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @ABC7DaveKunz, Facebook: ABC7DaveKunz