There’s a guy on my street in small-town Ontario who drives a Cadillac CTS. Everyone knows when he’s on the road because his car is the only one like it around. It stands out from the RAV4s and the F-150s and the Wranglers and the Civics — everybody knows Tony’s car.
When I drove a new CTS tester home, his wife stopped me at the corner, thinking I was him. “I’m sorry!” she said. “I just assumed you were him. There aren’t many of these cars around!”
It’s true. The Cadillac has love-it-or-hate-it looks, with wedges everywhere and vertical lights front and back intended to flow with the length of the car. Inside, it’s very technical with an almost overwhelming display of dials and switches, all set against a Jet Black trim that gets covered quickly in fingerprint smudges. Even when you’re driving, you know you stand out from the crowd.
You may be ambivalent toward the generic German looks of the BMW 5 Series, or Mercedes-Benz E-Class, or Audi A6, but the Cadillac is polarizing. There’s no middle ground.
In fact, the CTS was smoothed over a little for its new 2016 generation; it’s not quite the overload of rectangles and trapezoids of before. Most important, though, is it now has a wonderful engine and transmission. It was always a driver’s car, but it’s now a truly satisfying driver’s car, just as those German sedans and coupes also offer. It creates 333 horsepower, a boost of 12 hp more than before, and torque is up by 10 to 285 pound-feet.
I can’t remember ever getting into a new vehicle, starting the ignition and stepping on the gas, and then saying out loud: “Ooooh — that’s nice!” as the engine pulled up through the gears. But I did with the CTS.
Of course, this was the Cadillac CTS 3.6L Premium, a $70,000 sedan loaded with enough bells and whistles to warrant the hefty price tag. It had unobtrusive all-wheel drive (an extra $2,000), and a heads-up display, clear even through polarized lenses. The thick leather covered a seat that’s heated as standard but can be optioned with cooling and up to 20 ways of adjustment.
You can still buy a CTS with last year’s basic turbocharged 2.0L engine, and that’ll set you back $48,730 before all the taxes and freight and any options. There’s nothing wrong with that powertrain but it gets around the same fuel consumption as the new 3.6L V6 in the 2016 model, but without the extra power. As well, the gorgeous eight-speed automatic transmission only available with the new 3.6 is taken from last year’s performance V-Sport.
The least expensive CTS with the larger engine is more than $10,000 cheaper, but you won’t get the adaptive cruise control, or the magnetic shocks, or the heads-up display, or the lovely 12-inch instrument cluster screen that can be configured just as you like it. Any of those features are well worth their expense.
Be careful if you’re visiting a dealer lot — there are 2015s and 2016s alongside each other. The older car is a few thousand dollars less expensive, of course, but drive the newer model and you won’t want to go back. The engine is better in every way, and it claims an improvement of nine per cent better gas consumption.
Cadillac says the CTS will consume 12.1 L/100 km in the city and 8.5 on the highway, for a combined official rating of 10.5. That’s regular gas, too, unlike the premium that’s recommended for the 2.0L Turbo. I saw 10.2 L/100 km during my week with the car, so those numbers are accurate.
The new CTS will hold its value better against the older model at resale time, too, but don’t expect a great residual price from any Cadillac. They drop quickly without the new-car prestige.
I must admit, I don’t like the looks of the CTS — I prefer more rounded corners and a little more anonymity. My neighbour, Tony, would call that boring, I’m sure, but I’m in the majority here.
Mercedes-Benz Canada sold 2,906 E-Class and CLS-Class cars in the first 11 months of 2015, compared to just 761 CTSs. BMW sold more than 1,000 more 5 Series cars than the Cadillac, and even the Audi A6 sold 908. At least Cadillac whupped the 362 sales of the Lexus GS.
RELATED: 2015 Lexus GS 350 Review
The CTS is now a contender against any of those premium vehicles. It’s not so comfortable for five people with the tall driveshaft tunnel that bisects the length of the cabin, and the voice-controlled CUE system is still not perfect, but the power of the engine and its smooth delivery makes up for such shortcomings.
If you like technology, you’ll be impressed with the haptic touchscreen that vibrates against your finger, and the Apple CarPlay that comes standard. Android Auto is coming soon, apparently.
The competition offers this too, of course. But the point is, you don’t notice those other cars out on the road, but you notice the CTS. You’ll always find your car in a crowded lot.
And when you thumb the starter button, flick the paddle shifter into first and pull away, you might just pause, as I did, and think, “Ooooh — that’s nice!” And can you ask more from any car?
2016 CADILLAC CTS 3.6L PREMIUM AWD
Base price/as tested:
$69,915 / $73,070
Five-passenger, mid-size sedan
3.6 L V6 with VVT
335 hp / 285 lb-ft
(L/100 km claimed) Regular fuel 12.2 City, 8.5 Hwy., 10.5 Comb.
Four-wheel disc, Bembo aluminum calipers at front, Ferritic Nitro Carburized rotors
245/45 R17 standard, 245/40 R18 fitted as option
10 air bags, Cadillac CUE with Onstar and mobile Wi-Fi hotspot
Mercedes-Benz E-Class and CLS-Class, BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Lexus GS
Manufacturer’s website: www.gm.ca
What you’ll like about this car: The great drive
What you won’t like about this car: Only comfortable for four, not five