2016 Cadillac CTS 3.6L Premium AWD Review
If you’ve been wondering if Cadillac is capable of taking on the Europeans in the ever-escalating luxury war, take a closer look at the latest CTS and you’ll likely become a believer. Having now spent three separate weeks in three CTS models since the debut of this version, I can attest to why the CTS is selling better than some of the other names in this category and is, in my opinion, the class leader.
Starting on the outside, the new CTS sports gorgeous new multi-spoke polished 18-inch alloys, but much of the styling remains the same from last year. Vertical LED daytime running lamps grab your attention as they sweep up from the corner brake vents before continuing into the headlamps that wrap over the top of the front fenders. The CTS’ illuminated door handles are the closest you’ll get to automotive jewelry this side of a Rolls-Royce Ghost, finished with sculpted metal tops that incorporate narrow white lighting elements. The rear of the car is a tad more bulbous, necessary to extend rear headroom, while the abbreviated deck lid and small rear window give it a unique combination limousine/coupe-like presence.
The CTS’ rear detailing is very nice, due to the understated yet still sporty deck lid spoiler that only covers about three quarters of the trunk, culminating at a chevron-shaped point that creases all the way down to the rear bumper and lower fascia. The trunk lid gets a chromed garnish on its edge, and the lower fascia features rectangular tailpipes that are visually bound together by a strip of chrome.
When it comes to the interior, Cadillac takes the CTS to new heights. First, they added a variety of stitched leathers, leatherettes and ultra-suede throughout, with particular attention paid to above and around the dash. Thin strips of suede-like material finish off each corner of the dash prior to visually blending into the door uppers, the latter areas also finished with contrast-stitched solid leather. The doors get soft-touch synthetic right to their lower extremities, even including the hidden portions that gets shut within the frame, as do the sides of the center console, while there’s yet more suede dressing up the latter area as well as the center armrest/storage bin lid.
Attractive dark chromed metal and open pore natural elm hardwood complemented my test car’s design, along with plenty of piano-black lacquered plastic, the latter especially nice on the steering wheel spokes and center stack where touch-sensitive controls make for a higher tech look and flush feel. Cadillac even goes so far as to cover the console-mounted cupholders with a stitched leather lid that powers open and closed.
The seats in my tester were outfitted with wonderfully soft semi-aniline full leather upholstery, and even the rear seat was roomy and extremely comfortable. Cadillac has finished the door panels in back just as nicely as those up front, so everybody gets a premium experience. They went even further in my test car by including a panoramic sunroof overhead, a powered rear sunshade, and manual sunshades at each side window, plus rear climate controls on the backside of the center console that were also fitted with three-way buttons for the heated outboard seats.
Back up front, the controls for the heated steering wheel are on the steering wheel instead of buried somewhere on the instrument panel, while the cluster of gauges framed by the wheel is packed full of state-of-the-art TFT liquid-crystal display goodness that includes a large digitized analog-look speedometer at center, a semi-circular tachometer surrounding a multi-information display to the left, plus temp and fuel gauges above and below another multi-info display to the right, all of its colorful details displayed on the finest of ultra-sharp high-resolution screens. The colors change depending on which driving mode you’re in—Tour or Snow/Ice being blue, Sport being red—while different graphics (a checkered flag, snowflakes, etc.) and other information pops up when pertinent to weather, fuel economy, and more.
Cadillac’s brilliantly clear, crisp and colorful eight-inch Cadillac User Experience (CUE) infotainment system has been upgraded with a 360-degree camera for easier and safer parking, plus the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Even better are Cadillac’s mechanical upgrades. An eight-speed automatic transmission is mated to a 3.6-liter V6 that delivered 321 horsepower and 275 lb-ft. of torque, and it’s a much more entertaining package than the six-speed used last year, with quicker shifts between increments of engagement that are more precisely focused on the engine’s 4,800 to 6,800 rpm sweet spot, where it creates the most torque and horsepower respectively, while it’s also wonderfully smooth shifting.
As noted earlier, a Sport mode that enhances just about everything from the immediacy of shifts to more rigid suspension and handling is included. Be forewarned, however: the CTS is already one of the lightest sedans in its class, and in Sport mode you’ll feel every wrinkle in the road. Still, the CTS begs you to go faster, with a really energetic pull off the line, great engine and exhaust notes that only get better as the revs climb, and brilliantly fun handling. It’s also a superb long-range highway cruiser.
Countering this performance-focused capability is the CTS’ fuel-friendly features. Along with that eight-speed gearbox that Cadillac claims is good for a five-percent gain in economy, the CTS is also outfitted with auto start/stop that shuts the engine down when it would otherwise be idling, thus reducing fuel consumption and emissions. As well, the CTS offers cylinder deactivation technology that shuts down three of the six cylinders under light loads such as coasting—something the German competitors don’t offer. Additionally, a default feature on the CTS’ gauge package is a fuel economy indicator that displays real-time average consumption. A flashy gold bar shoots across the middle of the screen as you start using more throttle, and continues right up to scary levels of gluttony when getting harder on the throttle. While it’s not real foot-to-the-floor fuel economy, it still serves as a good reminder to go lighter on the throttle when possible.
The CTS with this engine and AWD is rated at 19 mpg city, 28 highway and 22 combined, whereas the same car with rear-drive offers slightly friendlier consumption at an estimated 20 city, 30 highway and 24 combined. If you want all the size, quality and style while still enjoying a commendable 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, the CTS 2.0L Turbo delivers a claimed 21 city, 31 highway and 25 combined with RWD and 21, 29 and 24 with AWD, whereas the twin-turbo VSport V6, good for 420 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque, is rated at 16 city, 24 highway and 19 combined. The CTS-V? If you have to ask, you’ve bought the wrong car!
What I cared about at least as much as my tester’s fuel economy was its much less expensive requirement for regular unleaded gasoline, saving my wallet about 10 percent compared to higher octane fuels necessitated by every German competitor, while the added convenience of a capless refueling system was a bonus too.
As for complaints, I only have one that’s carried over from both previous models tested, a problem I was quickly reminded of as soon as I started driving away from GM: the CTS’ UltraView panoramic sunroof creaks and groans non-stop. It’s never leaked, thank goodness, but it certainly doesn’t build confidence in the car’s overall build quality or structural rigidity, even though everything looks top grade and it feels absolutely rock solid when pitching it hard through the corners. It will probably continue on without issue for the duration of the car’s life, but until this gets fixed (and it’s been three years now) Cadillac had better keep its salespeople talking during the test drive or smarter yet, have them crank up the superb audio system so that those enjoying its other attributes won’t notice the creaky spooks in the attic.
That UltraView sunroof comes as part of the Luxury package that, at $52,280 for RWD and $54,280 for AWD features a number other items grandfathered up to my Premium tester, including the heated steering wheel mentioned earlier, plus adaptive cornering and auto-leveling HID headlamps with auto high beam function, a driver-side auto-dimming side mirror, rain-sensing wipers, a powered steering column, navigation with voice and text guidance, two additional speakers added to the base model’s active noise cancellation-enhanced 11-speaker Bose surround sound system,ambient interior lighting, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, plus split-folding rear seatbacks plus a lockable center pass-through behind the armrest.
All CTS trims get active aero grille shutters, LED daytime running lamps, heated powered side mirrors with integrated turn signals, adaptive remote start, proximity-sensing passive access with pushbutton ignition, variable intermittent wipers, a tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel, paddle shifters, an eight-inch CUE infotainment touchscreen with haptic feedback and proximity sensing interactive gesture control, smartphone app integration and SMS text messaging read-back, a reverse camera with dynamic guidelines, Bluetooth with audio streaming, OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot capability, satellite and HD radio, wireless charging, a universal home remote, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear parking sonar, plus driver’s seat and side mirror memory. The base model starts at $46,555 for RWD and $48,555 for AWD.
Along with these features, my Premium tester received much of what’s available with Performance trim that starts at $57,280 for RWD and $59,280 for AWD, such as magnetic ride control, 18-inch alloys,illuminated door handles, illuminated front doorsill plates, a color head-up display atop the dash,tri-zone auto HVAC with rear climate controls, heatable rear seats, the Surround Vision camera, the powered rear window sunshade and manual side sunshades, and park assist that automates front, rear and parallel parking.
Lastly, specific to my Premium tester, which starts at $61,680 for RWD and $63,680 for AWD, my particular car was fitted with the V6 and AWD and came in at $65,680 and featured a few other options such as a unique grille insert, the 12.3-inch reconfigurable colored gauge cluster, sport alloy pedals, 20-way performance driver and front passenger seats with manual cushion length adjustment and power side bolster adjustment, full leather upholstery, the choice of authentic carbon fiber or wood interior inlays, full-speed adaptive cruise control, a household style 110-volt power outlet added to the front center console, an advanced security package with a tilt sensor, steering column lock, locking wheel lug nuts and laminated rear door window glass, plus unique 18-inch wheels. The 15-spoke polished aluminum rims mentioned earlier were optional, however, while 19-inch 10-spoke polished alloys are also available.
As far as safety goes, my Premium tester included exclusive front and rear automatic braking and automatic seatbelt tightening, plus the Luxury model’s extensive active safety upgrades including its side blind zone alert, lane change alert, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, forward collision alert, rear cross-traffic alert, and the Standard model’s tire pressure monitoring, four-wheel discs with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, stability and traction control, and full suite of airbags including driver and front passenger knee blockers and rear outboard side-thorax bags.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press