Our resident European car geek, AUTOMOBILE contributor Marc Noordeloos, spent much of the winter driving our Four Seasons Cadillac CTS Vsport. Here are his impressions. –Ed.
Blaine Heavener is the type of guy we want planning new automobiles. As lead development engineer for Cadillac’s ATS and CTS, his team benchmarks cars we love, and he wanted the latest CTS to drive more like the old E60 BMW 5 Series rather than the current F10 model.
“From our perspective, the E60 was what BMW was about,” Heavener told me last April. “The new versions have either taken up a philosophy change or they lost the way a little bit. Keeping that focus is what we’re trying to do with the CTS.”
Which brings us to our Four Seasons 2014 Cadillac CTS Vsport. Until the 640-hp CTS-V arrives in showrooms in the fall, the twin-turbo V-6-powered Vsport is the hottest version of the company’s midsize sedan.
My initial impressions were favorable. The car has gobs of power and impressive steering and brakes, balanced with the ability to approach 30 mpg at steady highway speeds. Our Pirelli Winter Sottozero Serie II run-flats mounted on Moda 18-inch wheels, combined with the standard heated seats, heated steering wheel, and remote start make it a good four-seasons sports sedan.
The rear-wheel-drive sedan’s electronic limited-slip helps, raising the fun factor and aiding traction in slippery conditions. When I could find big, empty expanses of snow-covered pavement, I would hold down the console-mounted button until both the traction control-off and stability control-off lights illuminated. The powerful turbo engine makes sideways driving only a wiggle of your big toe away, and the trick rear diff helps make you look like a hero. You can hold the 2014 Cadillac CTS Vsport insanely sideways as you feel the diff keep the extreme yaw movement in check.
On one occasion, drifting on a snow-covered parking lot triggered a “service differential” alert on the dash. The alert chimed in, and the traction and stability control was automatically turned back on. It seemed fine when I restarted the car 30 minutes later, and it never happened again.
When finished driving like a 1970s rally star, I turned all the safety controls back on and tapped the drive mode switch to Snow/Ice. The Vsport effortlessly plowed through bad conditions. Though it struggles a bit when the snow gets deep, the rear-drive 2014 Cadillac CTS Vsport brings home the point that winter tires are far more important than all-wheel drive. If you insist on AWD, you can choose a less focused CTS model, though you’ll have to give up the Vsport and its 420-hp engine.
But the CTS isn’t the kind of car for drifting around corners every time we drive it. Here’s where the Cadillac needs some polishing -- its secondary ride and in-town comfort need improvement. The car feels unsettled and crashes over rough pavement, and passengers are more likely than the driver to complain. The twin-turbo engine’s throttle mapping isn’t linear, and the transmission and engine feel at odds with each other during normal day-to-day driving. My passengers complained about the boomy exhaust. The Cadillac simply lacks the refinement and depth of its German competitors.
I also tested the auto park-assist on one occasion. It was easy to use and quickly found a spot, but it curbed the right-front wheel at the end of the process. I tried it again an hour later and got the same result. Not impressive.
Inside, the not-quite-there theme continues. Cadillac smartly fills the CTS with a ton of features for the money, though it didn’t make the sunroof a stand-alone option. The panoramic sunroof is bundled in with the Vsport’s $10,000 Premium package, so if you want to keep the sticker no higher than $60,000, you’re out of luck.
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