2015 Cadillac CTS 3.6 AWD Premium

2015 Cadillac CTS 3.6 AWD Premium

There’s a new benchmark in town.


You’ll often hear automotive marketing types breathlessly claiming how their newest sports sedan offering will emerge as the class benchmark, especially in terms of driving dynamics. The phrases ‘sport-tuned suspension’ and ‘unrivaled handling and control’ are often thrown around with reckless abandon, but the fact is these exercises in chest-thumping are usually little more than just that. Every so often, a car will actually deliver on those promises, sometimes even displacing the class of the field in handy fashion. As unlikely as it may seem to some, that’s exactly what Cadillac has done with the CTS- each generation has become progressively better right up to the present day offering. But Cadillac has not only successfully closed the distance between its German rivals within the segment, it has soundly replaced them as the car to have if you emphasize “sport” in your sport sedan.

If you haven’t driven anything that plays in this sandbox for a while, know that there’s a distinctive trend taking place- these so-called sport sedans are moving away from the values that made them so much fun in the first place. Back in the day near-perfectly tuned suspensions, a dedication to keeping needless weight at bay and steering that actually gave drivers an idea of what’s happening at the front wheels was de rigueur. Cadillac could only watch longingly from the sidelines as buyers flocked to BMW, Audi and Mercedes Benz, their offerings being pooh-poohed by shoppers who knew Cadillac only by its defining traits of yesterday: bloat, float, and general malaise.

But what a difference a few short years make.

PROS: Scalpel sharp chassis, luxuriously trimmed interior, all-weather versatility thanks to all-wheel drive.

CONS: Price tag can climb high with options, the V6 can get thrashy during spirited driving, some haphazard material placement inside.

THE VERDICT: Cadillac goes from also-ran to class of the field.

Nowadays, it’s Cadillac that wears the sports sedan crown while the formerly cocky Germans send their engineering teams scrambling to restore what made their cash cows so special but a few model cycles ago.

How exactly did that happen?

General Motors has gone through some dark times in its history, but their engineering clout cannot be underestimated. This is, after all, the company that gave the motoring world such magnificent things as the Corvette, Magnetic Ride Control suspension, the LS7 engine, so we know they are capable of great things when they put their minds to it. It would appear that they enthusiastically tapped into that brain trust while developing this CTS, because not only is it a stupefyingly good car in its own right, it’s now the bogey that the Germans will be aiming at.

Like any special car, what makes the CTS so good is apparent in the first few feet you drive it. There is a palpable sense of polish and that the engineers really sweated the details in providing a driving experience that delights in all aspects. We auto scribes like to wax poetic about the CTS’s surgically precise steering, the firm bite of the brakes and suspension that inexplicably delivers a perfect balance of poise and engaging handling. All that praise is wholly deserved, but feeling all these dynamic delights together in harmony defies description. These virtues are further emphasized if you hop into an A6/E-Class/5 series right after flogging the CTS- they feel insular, numb and imprecise. It would appear that Cadillac overshot their target by quite a large margin- excellent work from a company who used to be content with mediocrity.

Our tester had the 3.6 litre/all-wheel drive drivetrain, which meant that the regular 8-speed gearbox was replaced by a 6-speed unit that was designed specifically to integrate with the on-demand AWD. At first I thought the ‘box with less speeds wouldn’t be as smooth or as snappy as the 8-speeder, but I was wrong. It shuffles through its ratios in stoic silence and competency when pootling around town, and cracks off shifts with decisive firmness when it senses you want to play or when you tug on one of its paddle shifters. I never had a chance to see how the all-wheel drive transformed the CTS into an all-weather tourer, but it sure felt securely buttoned-down during a rainstorm.

Despite the monumental progress Cadillac has enjoyed with the CTS, it is not a perfect car. The strategy of abandoning more value-driven pricing lest their cars be thought of as cheap means that indulging at the options buffet can get just as expensive as its overseas rivals- witness our tester’s price tag of $76 large. For that kind of coin, you do get a whole bunch of kit- maybe too much. Have a look at the interior photos in the gallery, specifically those that look closely at the door panels. It’s quite busy- you’ve got a swath of leather up top, a line of French stitching below followed by a strip of Alcantara, then some carbon fiber and finally some aluminum bits. It all makes for a feeling of busyness, sort of like the CTS is trying too hard. At least the materials are of high quality. The only other area that would benefit from a little TLC is under the hood. The 3.6 litre V6 is a satisfyingly powerful and efficient engine, but things become a tad uncouth as the tach needle nears the red zone- this is one area of concern that’s a non-issue with the usual Bavarian suspects. Nothing of major concern to be sure, and it shows that Cadillac doesn’t have to worry about the fundamentals and focus on making incremental improvements.

Joining turbocharged four cylinder models as well as the 3.6 you see here will be a CTS-V offering that promises to slacken jaws and flatten eyeballs with its performance capabilities. Take this deliciously dialed in platform and stuff the 6.2 litre supercharged V8 from the Corvette Z06 under the hood and you’ve got a car that almost instantly renders the AMG/M/S set of performance variants petulant and limp wristed. That one is going to be epic.

2015 Cadillac CTS 3.6 AWD Premium- Specifications

  • Price as tested: $75,930
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Engine:  3.6 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
  • Horsepower:  321 @ 6,800 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 275 @ 4,800 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 1,763kg ( 3,887 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel consumption: 12.3L/100km ( 19 mpg)

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