2016 Cadillac CTS review

Beauty runs more than skin deep in the attention-snatching 2016 Cadillac CTS

Cadillac aims for the top of the luxury crowd with the 2016 CTS, and infotainment issues aside, it hits the mark dead on.
Cadillac aims for the top of the luxury crowd with the 2016 CTS, and infotainment issues aside, it hits the mark dead on.
Cadillac aims for the top of the luxury crowd with the 2016 CTS, and infotainment issues aside, it hits the mark dead on.

Highs

  • Aggressive and handsome styling
  • One of the best Cadillac interiors ever
  • Silky smooth eight-speed transmission
  • Magnetic Ride Control and chassis dynamics are top notch
  • Excellent brakes

Lows

  • CUE infotainment system can be frustrating
  • Lane keep function needs work

I got my first thumbs-up before I even hit start. There I sat, in the 2016 Cadillac CTS, befuddled by the amount of attention this car was getting in the Chevron parking lot. Gas station employees, pedestrians, and other drivers were gazing noticeably at the car’s Moonstone Metallic paint and striking LED running lights, and the fun was just beginning. Over my short week with the sumptuous sedan, I received countless double-takes and nods of approval, a testament to the vehicle’s handsome looks and dignified aura.

It is a Cadillac after all, but that’s a name that means something entirely different today than it did just ten years ago. The nameplate has always been known for bling, but interior quality, braking ability, and overall dynamics left a lot to be desired in the Caddys of old. In 2015 though, we’re seeing a company that makes consistent appearances in various “Top 10” and “Best Of” lists, and there’s no better example of that then the new CTS. It’s a handsome car, sure, but in this luxury cruiser, beauty runs much deeper than the superficial.

Getting the royal treatment

As I prepared to leave my procession of admirers behind, I did what any good car journalist would do — I tinkered. I ran my fingers along the dashboard, I squeezed the seats, I scrolled through menus, and dove headfirst into the list of features my chariot had been fitted with.

The CTS starts at $46,555 (including $995 for destination), but my tester was adorned with all-wheel drive, the mid-grade 3.6-liter V6 (more on that later), and the $9,400 Premium Collection package, bringing the total damage up to $66,425. The extra coin netted me adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree camera, 18-inch polished aluminum wheels, authentic carbon fiber and wood trim, and 20-way adjustable seats for those up front, which are the proverbial cherries on top for one of the best Cadillac interiors I’ve ever been in.

On the interstate, I realized just how great the CTS is as a touring car. Due to its Magnetic Ride Control suspension — which reads the road and adjusts shock stiffness up to 1,000 times per second — the car is exceptionally planted and quiet even at freeway speeds. There’s plenty of room for four passengers (five can get a little cramped), but each of your cohorts will be sitting pretty with heated leather, ambient interior lighting, and a spectacular two-part sunroof. If you have any karaoke experts in the car, you’ll find the bass-heavy Bose stereo a nice addition as well.

Staying connected

There’s also Apple CarPlay connectivity for the 2016 model year (Android Auto is coming soon), so it’s a snap to get your music, addresses, contacts, text messages, and podcasts to come along for the ride; you’ll just need a Lightning cable. The current iteration is very simple however, so outside of basic phone functions and Internet radio, there’s not a lot to play with.

The CTS could very well be the best car to drive in its segment.

Speaking of podcasts, don’t fret about downloading that last episode before you leave, because the CTS comes with a standard WiFi hotspot as part of the OnStar 4G GTE suite. It’s very easy to set up, and it’s fast. At one point, I had multiple passengers streaming HD video simultaneously with no issues.

For the one in the driver’s seat though, uploading cat videos can wait, because this car is a blast to drive despite its considerable size.

Weight watchers

Luxury cars aren’t typically lightweight track monsters, and at 3,913 as-tested pounds, the Cadillac is no different. That said, it is lighter than most of its competitors due to the increased use of aluminum, and it balances its weight nicely with 52.7 percent up front and 47.3 out back.

When pushed, the same magnetic setup that gives the car its buttery ride allows it to hide its heft extremely well, and it felt composed, sharp, and never out of place when I took it through some twisty bits. Brembo front brakes are standard across all trims, and even the power steering is nicely weighted — the perfect mix of electric assistance and driver control. Simply put, the CTS could very well be the best car to drive in its segment.

2016 Cadillac CTS

Andrew Hard/Digital Trends

The 2016 model year brings a fresh powertain option for the Caddy — an all-new 3.6-liter V6 with 335 horsepower, 285 pound-feet of torque, cylinder deactivation, and Start/Stop technology. It’s not the twin-turbo V-Sport or Corvette-in-business-wear CTS-V, but the new engine offers plenty of midrange power and responsiveness. Shuttling its power to all four wheels is a new eight-speed gearbox as well, which I found to be as silky and smooth as the leather on the dash. It’s also more fuel efficient than its predecessor, as I averaged just under 23 mpg over 500 miles of driving.

Taking a CUE

If there’s one flaw to the vehicle, it’s the Cadillac CUE infotainment suite. The system looks nice and crisp, and its ability to assign radio stations, navigation destinations, playlists, and even contacts to the favorites tray is quite nice, but there are issues with the interface.

Outside of the steering wheel, there are very few actual buttons inside the cabin. That means infotainment functions are controlled primarily through the touchscreen, which uses haptic feedback pulses to let you know when you’ve successfully made a selection. It’s definitely not a horrible system, but the inputs don’t always take and the response times can be frustrating. Furthermore, you can accidentally trigger things like Automatic Parking Assist as you or your passenger reach for the screen, which causes the alarm bells to sound if you go over 18 mph. It’s relatively intuitive overall, but a physical button here and there could improve functionality significantly in my opinion. Call me old-fashioned.

One other issue is with the Lane Keep Assist. I’ve only driven a few cars that genuinely pleased me with their lane keeping functions, but unfortunately the CTS sits at near the bottom of the barrel. In a nutshell, it allows you to get far too close to the lane marking — even crossing it at times — before correcting, and even then the ricochet angle is steep enough that you end up ping-ponging down the road like a bowling ball hitting the bumpers. It’s a good safety net in case your concentration slips, but in most conditions, I left it off.

Conclusion

Small issues aside, the CTS is yet another standout in the midsize sedan segment for the 2016 model year. It’s a bonafide head-turner that’s supremely comfortable to ride in and equally as fun to drive, and it’s a shame more people don’t feel that way.

Public perception always lags behind product quality, and today, there are still those who will write this car off because of Cadillac’s past. After actually getting behind the wheel, I can tell you that those people are missing out on something great.

Highs

  • Aggressive and handsome styling
  • One of the best Cadillac interiors ever
  • Silky smooth eight-speed transmission
  • Magnetic Ride Control and chassis dynamics are top notch
  • Excellent brakes

Lows

  • CUE infotainment system can be frustrating
  • Lane keep function needs work
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