2012 Cadillac CTS4 Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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First introduced back in 2002 as a 2003 model, the Cadillac CTS has proven to be a benchmark car in many ways, marking the production debut of Cadillac's "Art and Science" design language and, thanks to its performance-oriented rear-wheel drive architecture, helping establish the marque as a true contender in the competitive sport-luxury market.

With the introduction of the second-generation CTS for the 2008 model year, the car's design really came into its own, borrowing influences from the Cadillac Sixteen concept car to give the angular "Art and Science" lines an edginess that's at once more cohesive, more aggressive, and more luxurious looking than the first-generation car.

The second-generation CTS was also wider and longer than the original, and there's the rub for Cadillac, because while the CTS is aimed at the "compact executive" market dominated by cars like the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4, it is really a half-size too big. So for 2013 Cadillac will be introducing the half-size smaller ATS, and will follow up with a new third-generation CTS for 2014 that's rumoured to be a half-size bigger. This makes sense, as it would give Cadillac proper compact, mid-size and full-size options, with the existing XTS filling the full-size slot. But if you're a fan of half-size options and you like the idea of a compact performance-luxury car that's actually closer to mid-size in execution, it means that time is running out.

Happily, Cadillac has chosen to send the second-generation CTS out swinging, and for 2012 has endowed it with a few more horsepower and a subtly different, more refined looking grille. The horsepower comes thanks to internal tweaking of the available 3.6-litre V6, which gets a new cylinder-head design, a new composite intake manifold, lighter connecting rods, and upgrades to the fuel system, bumping the horsepower from 304 to 318, and the torque to 275 lb-ft (this is only two more lb-ft than before, but it's available 300 rpm earlier in the power band).

Inside, the CTS remains entirely familiar, and for the most part that's good. It's a very nicely finished interior, with a sophisticated and serene feel to it. I found the seats comfortable if perhaps a touch on the firm side, and the CTS is indeed a little more spacious than the typical compact (comparing it to the new ATS, which I checked out at a recent auto show, the difference is especially noticeable in terms of rear seat legroom and trunk capacity). Where the CTS perhaps falls a trifle short is in small details like the gimmicky pop-up display screen (let's face it, we all drive with the display screen active 99.9 percent of the time, and this one doesn't look that well integrated when deployed) and the slightly plasticky aluminum-look trim. Also, my test car featured keyless entry and ignition, but rather than a pushbutton start it had an old-school "dummy key" in the regular ignition key spot.

On the road, my CTS tester accelerated with a nice growl from its revised 3.6-litre V6, and offered plenty enough power - acceleration from 0-100 km/h takes a touch under 6.5 seconds. Driven with restraint, the CTS promises reasonable fuel consumption for its class with city/highway ratings of 11.7 / 7.4 L/100km as equipped with the 3.6-litre engine, automatic transmission and all-wheel drive (this isn't as good as some of the CTS' compact competitors, but keep in mind it's a slightly bigger car).

Around the corners my test car offered crisp, neutral handling that really is on par with its European competitors, yet it soaked up potholes and other roadway imperfections without any hint of harshness. When pushing hard you do start to feel the car's substantial heft (it weighs in at 1,773 kg in rear-wheel drive trim and a whopping 1,874 kg - 4,131 lbs - in AWD trim), but if aggressive corning is your style you do have the option of ordering up a Sport package that adds paddle shifters for the automatic transmission and a suspension that's tuned even more to the performance end of things.

Price-wise, the CTS covers a wide spectrum, depending on how you equip it. The base starting price for the 270-horsepower 3.0-litre CTS with a 6-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive is a very reasonable $37,240 (plus $1,595 in destination charges). Add the all-wheel drive option (which includes a 6-speed automatic transmission) and the price jumps up by $4,325 to $41,565, and that's with leatherette seating. To get real leather you've got to step up to the 1SD "Luxury Level 1" package ($43,610 in RWD, $47,935 in AWD), which also adds an upgraded audio system, rain-sensing wipers, a rearview camera, a security system, and Sapele Pommele wood trim. Moving up another level is the "Performance Collection" 1SF package that gets the 3.6-litre engine, 6-speed automatic transmission for RWD drive cars and upgraded "Nuance" leather with heated front seats. Next in line is the ultra-powerful CTS-V, but that will have to be another story for another time (fingers crossed).

My test car was fitted with the range-topping "Performance Collection" 1SH package that adds, among other things, a double-sized power sunroof, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated seats, proximity entry with keyless ignition, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, 60/40 folding rear seat, and polished aluminum wheels. In this trim, with the AWD, the CTS is a truly luxurious and capable executive performance sedan, although at a suggested price of $60,670 plus destination charges it also opens the door to slightly bigger competitors such as the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6. That said, if you like the idea of having almost all the room of a mid-size luxury-performance car in a slightly smaller package, the advantage still belongs to the CTS.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sport Sedan, Cadillac, 2012, CTS, $30,000 - $39,999, $40,000 - $49,999, $50,000 - $74,999,

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