2012 CTS New Car Test Drive
The Cadillac CTS is loaded with style, performance and technology, and it delivers the essential attributes of a true sports sedan. It's as refined as its import-brand competitors, and easier to live with than some. Simply stated, the CTS is a very enjoyable car.
For 2011, Cadillac CTS is available in two new body styles: a two-door CTS coupe and a CTS Sport Wagon. (The CTS Coupe is reviewed separately by New Car Test Drive.) This is in addition to the four-door sedan.
The CTS Sport Wagon, introduced in late 2010, is available in CTS and high-performance CTS-V trim, and the CTS-V Sport Wagon is a 556-horsepower family hauler that goes toe-to-toe with the hyper-tuned luxury cars from BMW's M division and Mercedes-Benz AMG.
The CTS offers something for a wide range of automotive needs with three engine options, manual and automatic transmissions, four different suspension and tire/wheel combos and optional all-wheel-drive in three different body styles.
By price, the Cadillac CTS line compares with compact-sized luxury competitors such as the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class. By size and function, however, the CTS is closer to midsize competitors such as the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class, and Audi A6. The base CTS sedan is a great value at about $36,000.
The CTS uses rear-wheel drive, the baseline for a true sports sedan. The standard 3.0-liter V6 generates 274 horsepower and revs freely, complementing the available 6-speed manual transmission. The upgrade 3.6-liter V6 increases output to 304 hp, with substantially more torque, and it's rated at the same 27 mpg Highway as the smaller V6. The larger V6 works great with the optional 6-speed automatic, which is one of the best in this class. Both engines feature the latest technology, with variable valve timing and high-pressure direct fuel injection for the current optimum in power, fuel economy, and low emissions.
All-wheel drive is available, and it's a valuable addition in the Snowbelt. The AWD system uses an active transfer case that normally sends 40 percent of the power to the front wheels, 60 percent to the rear, maintaining a more rear-wheel-drive feel. But in slippery conditions the system can apply all of the torque to either axle, maximizing the CTS's ability to find traction.
The CTS and CTS-V feature sophisticated suspension systems developed, among other places, at the famous Nurburgring race track in Germany. Even the standard suspension delivers a good balance of handling response and ride comfort. The ride is always comfortable, but always well damped and never mushy. Steering is as fluid, as accurate and as nicely weighted as that in any sedan in the world. The CTS feels solidly put together, and it's quiet underway. The cabin is attractive, comfortable and space efficient, and everything is easy to operate. The Bose 5.1 Cabin Surround audio upgrade sounds fantabulous.
The Cadillac CTS-V has a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that makes 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque, offered only with rear drive. It's one fast car. Cadillac reports a top speed of 179 mph, and when we tested the CTS-V at sinewy Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, its lap times were nearly as quick as the NASCAR Sprint Cup racecars that compete there. Then we drove it away, coddled in quiet civility and superb audio. The V series is tip of the CTS line-up, starting just under $63,000. Still, a buyer can find a CTS sedan with the upgrade V6, essential luxury features, the audio upgrade and navigation for less than $45,000, maintenance included for 50,000 miles. It's a luxury-class value that's hard to overlook. A new Cadillac CTS Coupe has joined a growing family of CTS-branded vehicles. The family started with the CTS four-door sedan in 2003, based on a new rear-wheel-drive platform, a major change for a division that had been heavily front-wheel-drive for many years. Then Cadillac added the high-performance CTS-V, using a variant of the Chevrolet Corvette V8 engine and a manual transmission, and then added the slick CTS sport wagon. Now the CTS family includes a radically edgy coupe. Cadillac's last coupe, the Eldorado, went out of production in 2002.
The powertrain chosen for the CTS Coupe is a 3.6-liter V6 engine with four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, and direct fuel injection, about as modern as any other V6 engine on the planet, and it is capable of producing a whopping 1.4 horsepower per cubic inch at engine speeds approaching 7000 rpm, or 304 horsepower from only 217 cubic inches, on regular fuel. For reference, the old 500 cubic-inch Cadillac V8 made 400 horsepower, or 0.8 horsepower per cubic inch, and generated unspeakably bad fuel economy, whereas the new engine can reach 27 mpg on the highway easily. Even in a car that weighs more than 4000 pounds with two people in it, the V6 pulls very strongly at full-throttle and sounds muscular and powerful while doing it, which some other V6 engines in this class do not.
The CTS Coupe is available with all-wheel drive.
The CTS Coupe offers a six-speed automatic transmission. It's also available with an Aisin six-speed manual transmission, which comes with summer performance tires and rear-wheel drive. The Summer Tire Performance Package is also available with the automatic transmission equipped with paddle shifters.
What started out as a purely provocative concept vehicle under former GM product czar Bob Lutz got such a strong response that GM decided to build the CTS Coupe as a regular production vehicle to compete with the new rash of luxury coupes from the German and Japanese luxury brands. The sheetmetal, decoration and dimensions of the production coupe are all nearly identical to the concept vehicle, and it is one angular and angry-looking beast.
Inside, the CTS Coupe mimics all the other cars in the family with a rich mix of chrome, wood, leather, and in-car electronics and entertainment systems that are on par with any other vehicle in this relatively small class, with navigation, AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio, OnStar, Stablitrak chassis control, and a comprehensive information display.
The CTS Coupe competes with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe, BMW 335i coupe, Audi A5, Lexus IS 350 C, and Infiniti G37 coupe.
The CTS-V Coupe boasts a 556-hp, 6.2-liter supercharged V8, upgraded suspension, larger high-performance tires and alloy wheels, huge Brembo brakes, and GM's Magnetic Ride Control shock absorbers, for what Cadillac claims is the world's fastest sedan.
The 2011 Cadillac CTS sedan and Sport Wagon offer two V6 engines or a supercharged V8, with either a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. All-wheel drive ($1,900) is available with the V6 engines on both body styles, though it requires the 6-speed automatic ($1,300).
The CTS 3.0 sedan ($35,165) and wagon ($38,265) are powered by a 3.0-liter direct-injection V6 that delivers 273 horsepower and 223 pound-feet of torque. The 6-speed manual comes standard, with 17-inch alloy wheels. The wagon increases cargo capacity to 53.4 cubic feet. Standard features include leather seating, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-speaker Bose audio with CD, satellite radio and auxiliary inputs, programmable central locking, a power driver's seat and OnStar with turn-by-turn navigation. Options include navigation system with audio upgrade ($3,145). The Luxury Package ($3,055) adds a 6CD changer, heated 10-way power driver and front passenger seats with memory, Sapele wood trim and a wood-leather steering wheel, rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, accent lighting and a cargo convenience net. The Performance Package ($4,600) includes the Luxury Package, plus foglamps, HID headlamps, a limited-slip differential, V-rated 18-inch tires and sports suspension.
The CTS 3.6 sedan ($41,565) and 3.6 wagon ($43,365) get a larger 3.6-liter V6, increasing output to 304 hp and 273 pound-feet of torque. The CTS 3.6 models offer either the manual or automatic transmission for the price, and come standard with 18-inch wheels. The Premium Package ($6,055) includes navigation system with Bose 5.1 Cabin Surround Sound, 10 speakers, a programmable hard-drive and XM NavTraffic/Real Time Weather, as well as cabin air filtration, heated and ventilated seats, Keyless Access proximity key, remote start, rear park assist, power tilt and telescope steering and a power sunroof. The Performance Package with manual transmission ($1,840) or automatic ($2,090) includes performance suspension, limited-slip differential, performance brakes, 19-inch polished wheels, performance tires, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters (with the automatic transmission), fog lights and HID headlights.
Options include Recaro sport seats ($2,800), sunroof ($1,150) and many other features.
The CTS-V ($62,165) models are powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter V8, essentially the same as the engine in the Corvette ZR-1 sports car, delivering 556 hp and 551 pound-feet of torque. A suite of technical and performance enhancements complement the engine, including Magnetic Ride Control variable suspension, extra-large Brembo brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport Z-rated tires on 19-inch forged aluminum wheels. Distinctive details, such as a wire mesh grille and interior badging, separate the CTS-V from the V6-powered models.
Safety features standard on all CTS models include dual-stage front airbags, front passenger side-impact airbags, full cabin head-protection curtains with roll-over deployment and active head restraints for front occupants. Active safety features that come standard include advanced ABS, traction control, Stabilitrak electronic stability control and OnStar automatic crash response. Rear park assist and a rearview camera are available on all CTS models (with navigation), which can help the driver spot children and objects behind the car when backing up. Optional all-wheel drive improves safety in slippery conditions. The Cadillac CTS Coupe ($38,165) comes with leather seating surfaces, dual-zone climate control, OnStar with navigation, directions and connections, 18-inch alloy wheels and P235/50VR18 tires, remote starting, keyless operation, AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 eight-speaker Bose audio, power seats, mirrors and locks. The CTS Coupe AWD ($40,065) adds all-wheel drive.
The Performance Connection ($42,605) adds HID xenon headlamps, adaptive forward lighting, 10-way power leather seats, Bose 5.1 Surround Sound, USB integration, 40GB hard drive; it's also available with AWD ($44,505). To that, the Premium Collection ($47,010) and AWD ($48,910) adds interior ambient lighting, rearview camera, heated/vented front seats, heated steering wheel, wood trim, navigation, sunroof.
Options include P245/45ZR19 front and P275/40ZR19 rear Continental summer tire performance package with 19-inch polished alloy wheels, a limited-slip differential, and manual transmission ($2,090); power sunroof ($700); navigation ($2,145).
The CTS-V Coupe ($62,165) features a 6.2-liter supercharged V8, paddle shift controls, Brembo brakes, Magnetic Ride Control, and 19-inch wheels with performance tires.
Safety features include front and side airbags, side air curtain, ABS, traction control, StabiliTrak electronic stability control. All-wheel drive is optional.