2014 Cadillac CTS review

  • First drive of Cadillac's new BMW 5 Series rival
  • 272bhp petrol; available only in left-hand drive
  • On sale now, priced from £43,700 (est.)

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The new Cadillac CTS is the US company’s attempt to offer a genuine alternative to the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class and Jaguar XF. That’s not to say Cadillac expects to compete on volume, of course; annual sales of just 1000 cars across Europe will be considered a decent result.

The previous model’s dimensions sat somewhere between the 3 Series and 5 Series saloons from BMW, yet – in the UK at least – it was priced to compete with the larger car. The new CTS resolves the sizing confusion somewhat, by being a full 12cm longer than the car it replaces; 3cm of this growth is within the wheelbase, while 9cm is behind the rear wheels. However, like its predecessor, the new CTS will only be available in left-hand drive form.  

It’s also unfortunate that a pricey, powerful petrol is the only model offered in the UK when there are such efficient diesel-powered rivals available. So, can the Cadillac compete with higher-end petrol BMWs and Jaguars?

What’s the 2014 Cadillac CTS like to drive?

The CTS is available with a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol that produces 272bhp and has 295lb ft of torque. It comes with a six-speed automatic gearbox, and there's a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive.

There are few reasons to consider the four-wheel-drive version in the UK, especially since the rear-wheel-drive car is quicker and more efficient, with a 0-62mph time of 6.6 seconds. This means performance is on a par with the Jaguar XF 3.0D, but a little behind BMW’s 528i.

You don’t need to rev the petrol hard to make decent progress, but if you want to drive faster, taking control of the shifts using the steering wheel-mounted paddles is the best option. When driving at urban speeds, or cruising on the motorway, though, the gearbox is fine when left to its own devices.

In fact, long stretches of motorway is where the Cadillac feels most at home. The engine isn’t working too hard at the national limit, and there’s enough heft in the steering to give you confidence at higher speeds.

Cruising comfort is further improved by the magnetically controlled dampers on all versions. These continually monitor and adjust the suspension, giving a taut but calm ride over most surfaces – only the most rutted Portuguese roads on our test drive managed to unsettle it.

The steering weights up consistently through faster corners, although it’s fractionally heavier than we’d like when manoeuvring at low speeds. The set-up is responsive, if not quite as crisp as you’d like in a car with this much pace. Still, if you’ve sampled the ponderous rack on the old CTS, this new model will come as a pleasant surprise.

The new CTS offers competitive refinement across the board, too. The four-cylinder petrol sounds stressed at high revs, but for the most part it stays hushed. There’s some wind noise from the door mirrors at high speed, but no more than you’d find with a 5 Series. Road noise is well suppressed, especially with the slicker tyres of the rear-wheel-drive version (the four-wheel-drive car gets grippier all-season rubber as standard).

What’s the 2014 Cadillac CTS like inside?

The CTS feels genuinely luxurious behind the wheel. You need to hunt around to find any hard plastics at all, which is more than you can say about some rivals, including the Jaguar XF. Granted, the steering column stalks look a bit dour, and the gear lever doesn’t have the pizazz of Jaguar’s rising rotary selector, but this Cadillac is certainly up to standard. 

Beyond the perceived quality, everything feels like it’s built to last, too. There’s no give or flex in the interior trim, and – with the exception of the weedy electronic handbrake button – the switches and controls feel substantial.

All CTS models get electric front seats and two-way adjustment in the steering wheel, with a good range of movement; drivers of all sizes should be able to get comfortable.

There’s plenty of space in the rear, too; four adults will be comfortable enough on long journeys, although the middle seat is compromised somewhat with the thick transmission tunnel.

The 447-litre boot is some way behind the class leaders', but it should be easy to slot in a full set of golf clubs thanks to the wide - if shallow - opening. Split-folding rear seats come as standard, but they leave an awkwardly shaped aperture to slide longer items through.

Every CTS is loaded with equipment. Entry-level Elegance trim gets 10 airbags, xenon lights with cornering function, leather-faced upholstery with heated and ventilated front seats, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control and a heated steering wheel. There’s also an eight-inch touch-screen infotainment system with a USB socket, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and an 11-speaker Bose surround sound system.

Stepping up to Luxury trim adds the Driver Awareness Pack, which includes forward collision alert, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, a blind spot monitor and a reversing camera. A clever ‘safety alert seat’ delivers small vibrations to the driver via motors in the chair, to warn of potential hazards. It’s an effective alternative to frequent warning bings and bongs, but don’t expect other manufacturers to offer it anytime soon, because Cadillac has a patent on the technology.

The top-spec Performance and Premium trims add extras such as heated rear seats, triple -zone climate control, park assist and a customisable 12.3-inch colour display ahead of the driver (in place of conventional instrument dials). The options list includes sat-nav and upgraded audio for £822, as well as a retractable sunroof for £1010.

Should I buy one?

In the US, the CTS undercuts the BMW 528i on price, but shipping and selling the same car to UK buyers makes it much more expensive. In fact, a manual 528i (which gets leather seats, sat-nav and all-round parking sensors as standard) is more than £8000 cheaper than the Cadillac. Even if you add the brilliant eight-speed auto gearbox and the Variable Damper Control (we recommend both), the difference is still £5700.

The price gap is likely to be even wider come resale time. The previous model retained less than a third of its value after three years, and the new CTS is likely to shed its value quickly, too, despite the step up in quality.

CO2 emissions of 198g/km and fuel economy of 33.2mpg mean the CTS is pricey to tax and fuel, and as a company car it makes even less sense; at the 40% rate, you’d have huge monthly bills of around £460.

In truth, the only luxury cars that make financial sense around the £40,000 mark in the UK are powerful diesels. The Jaguar XF 3.0D V6 Luxury is a tempting option, as is a BMW 525d SE auto. Both are much cheaper company cars than the Cadillac.

If money is no object to you and you don't mind driving a left-hand drive car on British roads, then the Cadillac CTS is now a genuinely - and surprisingly - respectable alterative to a 5 Series or XF as far as ride and cabin quality are concerned. For most buyers, however, the CTS still makes no financial sense.

What Car? says…


Rivals:

BMW 5 Series
Jaguar XF

Specification 2.0T RWD
Engine size 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Price from £43,700 (est.)
Power 272bhp
Torque 295lb ft
0-62mph 6.6 seconds
Top speed 149mph
Fuel economy 33.2mpg
CO2 emissions 198g/km

 
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