After a week with a Cadillac CTS 3.6 Premium, I walked away impressed with its chassis composure. Hey, thanks, Magnetic Ride Control!
Cadillac has, at times, made a big deal about its Magnetic Ride Control being the self-same system used in European supercars — mostly in that commercial that shows the performance variant, the CTS V, whupping up on that German race track a certain favorite autowriter of mine likes to call the Burgerkingring. But it would appear the system has its advantages well away from the track.
I’ll be honest: I didn’t feel too keen on pushing the nearly $70,000 2014 Cadillac CTS 3.6 Luxury on any of my favorite backroad test routes because most of my test week was rainy and visibility-limited. However, on a wide range of different road surfaces ranging from 35 MPH choppy pavement that was more pothole filler material than original pavement to glassy-smooth Tennessee I-40, the Magnetic Ride Control provided just enough feedback. It was never jarring like a one-trick sports car. Neither did it get the floaty feeling I got in the larger, heavier, and air-suspended Lexus LS460 F-SPORT — though admittedly I never pushed the midsize Cadillac CTS quite as hard as I pushed the sporty version of the most luxurious Lexus.
In other respects, the Cadillac CTS 3.6 Luxury more than holds its own in terms of chassis tuning. Steering felt positive, never too-light as some luxury cars now are, in the era of electric power steering. The CTS has ZF-supplied electric power steering that provides variable assistance depending on the situation, and in my estimation, it did a nice job delivering the right amount of assist-versus-feedback in all the driving conditions I encountered.
One thing I appreciated in the mostly wet conditions of my test week was the CTS’ ability to stop in a hurry. ABS and StabiliTrak working in concert with the car’s large four-wheel disc brakes — 12.6 inches front, 12.4 inches rear — faithfully slowed the car from interstate speed with surefooted traction even when I had to get on the brakes hard to avoid a classic cutoff maneuver.
The Cadillac CTS definitely has its own feel. Where Lexus chooses to ape the Germans’ storied luxury cars of the 80s and 90s in terms of heavy door feel and hushed interior, Cadillac opts to do things its own way. Doors feel lighter but shut solidly. Road noise isolation wasn’t quite up to Lexus LS standards, but was nonetheless very good — and again, perhaps weather played a role in how much road noise (read: road spray) I was hearing. Door pulls were light, yet felt solid. I noted no annoying squeaks or rattles in the interior. That would speak well of Cadillac’s interior assembly tuning at the factory. The only annoyance was the glovebox. The CTS has a trick touch-sensitive glovebox release button on the right of the center stack. After pressing it to gain access to the owner’s manual once during my test week, I noticed I had to really manhandle the glovebox door when shutting it, else the corner nearest the driver seat would remain ajar. I’m the kind of guy who tries to be gentle on glovebox doors — nothing more embarrassing than driving around without a closing glovebox door because you slammed it too hard one too many times — so I was surprised a smooth operator like the CTS required an uncouth touch.
That didn’t matter when I was hauling my family to Nashville to take in some crazy awesome Christmas light displays, however. The smooth 321-horsepower 3.6-liter direct-injection V6 gasoline engine provided plenty of oomph for interstate travel at extralegal speeds. Here is where I must say the redesign done on the Cadillac CTS for 2014 really gives it some presence on the highway. Getting lesser cars to move over out of the left lane was no difficult task. Only once did I have to flash the high beams to get a left lane hog to move into the lane in which she belonged. Something about a Phantom Gray Metallic ghost with LED cat’s eyes snarling down the back of your neck probably makes you feel like getting the heck out of the way.
But back to the engine: Its 275 ft-lbs of torque is not breathtaking in comparison to its horsepower number, but unlike other GM products we’ve driven with variants of this engine — we’re looking at you, Chevrolet Equinox — the Cadillac CTS’ excellent eight-speed automatic transmission was a worthy dance partner that brought out the engine’s best qualities. It never felt slouchy in the city, yet its tall 0.69 eighth gear over a 2.85:1 final drive ratio made it a relaxed cruiser at high speed.
This experience makes me really wonder how insanely quick the V variant of the CTS is. Would it trade some of our tested CTS’ suspension smoothness and versatility for even tauter handling? Would its crazy 420 horsepower and 430 ft-lbs of torque prove too much for the chassis?
Given the mostly positive experience I had with the more pedestrian CTS, I’d doubt it.