EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 19, 2014

New Cadillac CTS keeps tradition current

Motor Mouth
Jeffrey Zygmont

---- — The Cadillac CTS has a place all its own among luxury cars. That position lets it match particular tastes, and satisfy specific desires that other glitzy, premium-class autos don’t approach.

For one thing, the CTS is sleekly contemporary and exhilarating. The 2014 model is new, a complete redesign representing the third generation of the sedan that Cadillac calls its “centerpiece.” This updated version looks long and powerfully poised, shaped with the creased, angular panels that have become a trademark look for Cadillac.

The new model has quick, agile and balanced road manners. It offers a choice of three engines that range from satisfying and suitably powerful to screaming fast. Its equipment includes the full measure of entertainment and communication features, and advanced driving aids that make luxury cars today seem wizardly.

Such characteristics make the Cadillac CTS a worthy luxury sport sedan that blends refinement and sophistication with athletic abilities that make driving satisfying and engaging.

But at the same time, the CTS keeps to the Cadillac heritage of elevated comfort and pampering extravagance. The Cadillac brand of General Motors acquired its reputation in the era when American luxury cars stood out for their large size and showy attitude. A lot of drivers still associate those qualities with the GM division. The CTS doesn’t disappoint them.

Significantly, the new version of the sedan is larger than the preceding model it replaces. The 2014 CTS is classified as a mid-size automobile. But dimensions in the mid-size category seem more than just medium today.

Inside the CTS, I experienced the spread-out spaciousness that was a defining feature of luxury cars in years past. I saw the stately sort of dignity that appeals to fans of traditional autos. It was visible in the luster of interior materials, in their heft and substantial construction, in the solidly sculpted shapes that define the car’s dashboard and interior panels. For example, those qualities show strongly in the wide horizontal cap that spreads above the dashboard from the instrument panel to the center stack of cabin controls. They show in the center stack itself, which is prominent, with a big color touchscreen on top and a sweeping downward contour that ends with a tidy chevron pointing to the console between the front seats.

All told, the new CTS balances traditional American luxury-car standards with contemporary expectations for crisp road handling, sporting performance and dramatic styling. Those newer expectations grow largely out of the European approach to luxury-car design, as seen in high-end sedans from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

In the Merrimack Valley, that balance between American tradition and European edginess attracts drivers from both sides of the divide, according to Kevin Bihl, Internet sales manager and head of the business development center for the Bill DeLuca family of dealerships. The group includes Woodworth Chevrolet Cadillac in Andover as well as DeLuca Chevrolet Buick GMC and DeLuca Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram in Haverhill.

At Woodworth, buyers of the CTS include Cadillac loyalists who stick with the brand, Bihl said. But the model also draws drivers of imported luxury cars, he said. That’s especially true since the larger, redesigned version arrived in the fall.

“We’re trading a lot more Audis, Mercedes and BMWs,” he explained. “When someone comes in driving one of those cars and hops into a CTS, they feel very satisfied with it.”

Bihl noted that trade-ins of European models for the CTS have become so prevalent that “if you looked at our used-car lot, you’d think we were an import dealer.”

He described the CTS as a key model for Cadillac, because of its popularity and the image it projects for the Cadillac brand. Cadillac sells the model in three body styles, with two-door coupe and station-wagon versions joining the four-door sedan. But Bihl said the CTS sedan is the most popular style by far.

The new 2014 version offers a choice of three engines. But few people buy models with the top-level, most expensive engine. It’s an ultra-powerful, twin-turbocharged six-cylinder that produces 420 horsepower. The motor powers speed-oriented, Vsport versions of the sedan, typically the choice only of committed performance drivers.

“It’s definitely a specialty version of the vehicle,” Bihl commented.

For practical driving, a turbocharged four-cylinder motor provides 272 horsepower and a gutsy 295 pound-feet of torque. Torque is a measure of engine power that tells you how quickly a car jumps from a standstill. The next step for CTS is a V6 that puts out 321 horsepower, but generates less torque than the turbocharged four-cylinder, at 275 pounf-feet.

At Woodworth in Andover, Bihl sees demand for the two primary engines split evenly. Drivers who are concerned about fuel conservation usually go for the four-cylinder, he said. Its government fuel-economy rating, at 20 miles per gallon city and 30 mpg highway, is slightly better than the rating of the V6.

“For the average person, you get the performance you need from either the four-cylinder or the V6 to pull out of Boston traffic,” said Bihl. My evaluation model, equipped with the smaller engine, moved with more gusto than you get from many larger, less economical engines. The motor’s robust torque enabled it to accelerate away from surrounding vehicles with authority.

The CTS also offers a choice of all-wheel drive, an extra-cost upgrade from its standard, rear-drive configuration. Four-wheel traction is a popular option, noted Bihl. But Woodworth also sells a good number of rear-drive models, he said.

“There are people who feel that they don’t need all-wheel drive. And they like the performance of rear-wheel drive,” Bihl said.

In the end, the one aspect of the Cadillac CTS that seems to attract buyers most consistently is its retention of traditional values, intermixed with the spirit of contemporary motoring.

“Cadillac is making big investments in it. They’re being very aggressive with it,” said Bihl. “They’re competing well with the European models.”

Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction and non-fiction books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.

2014 Cadillac CTS sedan Vehicle type: 4-door, 5-passenger, rear- and all-wheel-drive, mid-size luxury sedan Price range: $46,025 to $69,995 (plus options) Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles basic warranty; 6 years/70,000 miles powertrain warranty; 6 years/70,000 miles roadside assistance Base engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 Power: 272 horsepower at 5,500 rpm; 295 lb.-ft. torque at 1,700 rpm Base transmission: 6-speed automatic Fuel economy: 19 mpg city; 28 mpg highway (with AWD) Wheelbase: 115 inches Length: 195 inches Width: 72 inches Height: 57 inches Weight: 3,616 pounds Fuel capacity: 19.0 gallons Turning circle: 37.1 feet