At the recent 2015 Detroit Auto Show, Cadillac has unveiled their third-generation CTS-V. But before the new super sporty sedan hits the dealerships, we spent some time with the 2014 Cadillac CTS V-Sport. For 2014, Cadillac offered the V-Sport model for those CTS buyers who demand more power and performance that is offered in the standard CTS sedan. The new model adds four inches of length and around $6,000 more to the CTS, separating their popular sedan into two different classes.
When building the CTS V-Sport, Cadillac used the BMW 5 Series as a benchmark and by packing the car with potent engines, lightweight body parts, Brembo brakes and massive tires, it hoped to lure away BMW customers. The CTS-V is based on the new Alpha platform which also underpins the ATS and the Chevy Camaro. The door structures, hood, bumper beams, shock towers, hood and front-suspension arms are made of aluminum, and super-light magnesium engine mounts were used to save about two pounds. The curb weight is about 200 pounds less than the popular mid-size BMW 528i.
Our 2014 Cadillac CTS V-Spot came with the beautiful Phantom Gray Metallic color which fits the car’s profile and design lines. The car features the love-it-or-hate-it vertical styling, with sharp angles and boxy shapes. The taillights design now features a double-row of vertical LEDs braced by the LED trunk lid. The massive rear end accentuates the height of the car while the trapezoid-shaped tail pipes give the car a premium look.
At the front, the large grille dominates the fascia, along with the imposing and aggressive air intakes. The headlights wrap around the fenders to create more sharp angles. There is absolutely no mistaking the new CTS V-Sport for any other car on the road, and its quirky design can be a hit or miss with its customers. On the other hand, the rear-end seems to be a bit rushed and less inspiring.
We also wish the car came fitted with larger 19 inch wheels versus the 18 inch we had to test.
The all-black interior with chrome accents is typical Cadillac, which translates into highly luxurious, a bit bling and somewhat sporty. But the one element that makes the cabin special is the carbon fiber trim found on the dashboard edges and around the center console.
Overall, the interior design and material quality is about up to the 5 Series or E-Class standards.
Being four inches longer than the CTS, the V-Sport offers plenty of legroom even for someone measuring 6″2. The trunk space is also ample, large enough to fit golf or hockey bags, groceries and even a decent sized flat-screen TV. The sporty seats come with great lumbar and side support, and are heated and cooled. The rear seats are more angled than usual on purpose to provide more comfort and more head room.
The infotainment system is still the highly-criticized CUE (Cadillac User Experience). When someone complains about CUE, they’re usually complaining about the touch-sensitive control panel which is slow to inputs. The black panel features chrome accents and backlit icons, but it’s not as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing. At times, you find yourself scratching your head trying to figure out where to touch and how to properly touch the sensitive buttons. Playing around with CUE for a while, we figured that the best area to touch is above the chrome accents, not on the actual chrome. It’s certainly a trainable task, but a bit annoying until you get the hang of it.
Contrary to your smartphone screen, CUE requires firmer touches, and after a small delay, the system will respond to your input. The one cool feature of CUE is the proximity sensor which recognizes your fingers approaching the screen and the presets and access buttons suddenly appear. Pretty neat and a nice way to declutter your screen.
CUE’s problem is its learning curve is steeper than most, but it works fairly decent once you get the hang of it.
A 12.3” configurable gauge cluster, which is shared with the Cadillac XT, allows the driver to change the gauge areas and information displayed inside of each.
While the CTS-V uses the supercharged V8 monster, the V-Sport variants gets by with a 3.6 liter V6 twin-turbo, a first for Cadillac. It produces 420 horsepower and 430 lb-ft @ 3500-4500 rpm. The power is sent to the rear wheels via an Aisin eight-speed automatic transmission which allows for impressive fuel economy of around 24 mpg.
Cadillac engineers designed a short-stroke engine with a 60-degree vee angle to keep the vibrations and noise at a minimum. They also managed to reduce the length of the intake and exhaust-air pathways to improve throttle response.
They haven’t managed to fully removed turbo lag, but it’s minimal with a linear output which makes for quick bursts of speed. The acoustics are not on the same level as the ones found in the V8, but the artificial sound seen in BMW models also helps quite a bit to improve cabin noise through 11 speakers from Bose. The amount of artificial sound is controlled through the different drive modes found in the CTS V-Sport. Clearly the Track mode is the one that put a smile on our faces.
Maybe one piece of tech that makes the CTS V-Sport fun to drive the active rear differential used in the Corvette also. It’s an electronically controlled differential which behaves differently under each driving model.
The ample power and minimal turbo lag simply sets you back in your seat. The throttle response is sharp and the car feels quicker than it probably is. The 2014 Cadillac CTS V-Sport features the Magnetic Ride Control system, same one used in the C6 and C7 Corvettes and the CTS-V. In Normal mode, the V-Sport has a similar ride to what we experienced in some BMW models, a balance between ride quality and handing.
At the opposite spectrum, the Track Mode is the enthusiasts’ darling by stiffening the suspension, sharpening the throttle response and increasing the steering responsiveness. The ride gets a bit more brutal and wild, and driving through sharp corners and twisty roads, makes you appreciate the engineering that went into it. It’s hard to compare the CTS V-Sport ride in Track mode to the one of a BMW 550i in Sport+, both have their pros and cons, with the BMW maybe taking a slight lead in the perfect balance area.
One thing that we noticed though is how much better the ZF-sourced 8-speed transmission is. There is a reason why BMW, Audi and Chrysler use the ZF box. The Aisin 8-speed gives slower full-throttle upshifts, but we still wonder how many “regular” customers would actually notice the difference.
The active rear differential also does a great job at reducing understeer, despite throwing the CTS V-Sport in some quick turns, the car remained planted on the road, giving you the false impression you run on all-wheel drive.
Even though our test car didn’t come with the Brembo brakes, the basic braking system did the job well. We weren’t able to measure the stop distance at different speeds, but driving the car on highway and through some less populated back roads, the brakes system inspired confidence in stopping the car in time.
Cadillac CTS V-Sport, as the other premium sedans, uses an electrically assisted power steering (EPAS) which feels well connected to the front wheels and to the road. V-Sport’s EPAS is mounted on the steering rack, not on the column, for minimal interference. For years, Cadillac has benchmarked BMW steering, so it doesn’t surprise us that special attention was given to EPAS.
SHOULD I BUY ONE?
Over the years, BMW has worked hard to make their sporty sedans more luxurious, a common complaint from customers looking for more premium features inside the cabin. Opposite from the Bavarians, Cadillac has focused more on the driving experience and increasing the sportiness of their cars. The 5 Series, E-Class and CTS V-Sport are now closer to each than ever other in terms of performance and features, even prices are at the same level, so the decision making process is far more complicated. Cadillac is now “more German” than in the past and that should at least make you take a trip to your local dealer.
In the end, buying a luxury sedan is more than just the performance on paper or the extra whistle and bells, and more about your connection with the brand and, especially with the car.
[Photos: Mags McKay, CKCommunications]