In the ongoing Luxury War between the Germans and everybody else, the Cadillac CTS is America’s best and most potent weapon yet. What do you need to know before you buy a Cadillac CTS? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you everything right here in the Ultimate Buyer’s Guide.
The original CTS helped usher Cadillac into the modern era, and the current one is bigger, faster and more high-tech than ever. From the efficient four-cylinder turbocharged models all the way up to the superfast CTS-V, which shares an engine with the Corvette Z06, the current CTS has everything it takes to be a solid alternative to the normal German choices.
All CTS models are smooth, comfortable, well-appointed sedans with ample power in any of the available engines. Some are just more ample than others. For its size it’s one of the more nimble luxury sedans on the market right now, especially when equipped with the optional magnetic ride control. That technology allows for both ride customization and on-the-fly changes between sporting and smooth, depending on the road and your own driving needs.
The interior is plush and represents a new high mark of quality for General Motors, although the CUE infotainment system remains laggy and frustrating to use compared to its competition. (The inclusion of Apple CarPlay is a real plus.) The 8-speed paddle shift automatic gearbox, the only option on the CTS, is unimpeachably good.
And in CTS-V form, Cadillac’s mid-sizer represents one of the most potent performance sedans America has ever built. It’s a car we once called “a glorious exercise in overkill” thanks to its prodigious power and track-optimized brakes, handling, cooling systems and 200 mph speed.
The Cadillac CTS is in its third generation, and continues to showcase GM’s finest engineering features in an attempt to win sales from the Germans. The third gen sedan launched at the New York Auto Show as a 2014 model year on an all new Alpha platform in place of the previous car’s Sigma bones. The coupe and wagon CTSs remained on the old platform for one final year.
The sedan’s new platform first made its debut in the Cadillac ATS, but the CTS is quite a bit larger. In fact, Cadillac’s new 5-series fighter is five inches longer than its predecessor with a 1.2-inch longer wheelbase. The car was also lower than the previous CTS, with both the cowl and roofline dropping about an inch. But don’t think the extra size added weight. Cadillac’s extensive use of aluminum means the new model was seven percent lighter than the Sigma-based car and 40% stiffer.
But wait, there’s more. The all-new 2014 CTS also received the 2.0-liter turbo four from the ATS, a torquey engine that makes almost 300 lb-ft at 3,000 rpm. Then there was the all-new 420 pony twin-turbo V6.
So 2014 brought a better looking, lighter, more powerful and more efficient sedan to Cadillac’s lineup. That’s good news. The following year brought a few minor updates like a revised grille and some new driver assist features.
But 2015 was the fun year when Cadillac launched the CTS-V, and we don’t mean “launched” as in “accelerated.” That’s a deed that takes only 3.7 seconds. No, we mean they took wraps off of a 640 horsepower monster that puts that new Alpha platform to the test. It comes with huge Brembo brakes, magnetic ride control, lots of carbon fiber and looks that will make you weak at the knees.
But the standard CTS also got some changes for 2016. For one, the 3.6-liter V6 is all-new, getting cylinder deactivation, 14 more horsepower and Stop/Start technology. That Stop/Start tech also makes its way to the 2.0-liter four. To add to the fuel saving tech, for 2016, all CTSs are now mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, as the six-speed bows out.
So the current generation CTS launched as a total badass, and with GM’s continued improvements over the years, they’re making sure it stays a badass.
Power and torque. There’s plenty of that stuff in the CTS’s engine bay, which is filled with a smorgasbord of different direct-injected engine offerings. There’s a base turbo four, a naturally aspirated V6, a twin-turbo V6 and a supercharged V8. Yup, GM is throwing the kitchen sink at the CTS.
The base 2.0 turbo is no slouch, cranking out 295 lb-ft at 3000 revs. That’s enough to get you to 60 mph in under six seconds. Though the 3.6-liter naturally aspirated six is down a few torques, it makes plenty of power at 335 hp. Then there’s the twin turbo V6, which will light up the tires with its 420 horsepower. You’ll get to 60 mph in well under five seconds.
But forget about “lighting up the tires.” The new 2016 CTS-V, with its supercharged small-block V8 will melt your tires until they’re nothing but a pile of silly putty. 640 horsepower tends to do that.
All engines come mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The 2.0-liter and naturally aspirated V6 get GM’s new Hydra-Matic 8L45 8-speed and the V gets a heavier duty version of that transmission, a Hydra-Matic 8L90. The V-sport, the twin turbo V6 model, continues to use Aisin’s TL-80SN 8-speed.
2016 Cadillac CTS Engine Options
Engine Max Horsepower (hp) Max Torque (lb-ft) 2.0L turbo I4 268 @ 5600 rpm 295 @ 3000 rpm 3.6L V6 335 @ 6800 rpm 285 @ 5300 rpm 3.6L twin-turbo V6 420 @ 5750 rpm 430 @ 3500 rpm 6.2L supercharged V8 640 @ 6400 rpm 630 @ 3600 rpm
Fuel economy numbers are good, though the 2.0-liter doesn’t sip as little as you might expect. On premium gas, the 268 horse four-pot-powered Cadi will get you 31 freeway miles on a gallon of gas and 25 in mixed driving conditions. That’s not much better than the 30 highway, 24 combined of the more powerful, 335 horsepower V6 model.
BMW’s 528i will do 34 on the highway and 27 combined, and Audi’s A6 will do 35 MPG on the highway and 28 combined. To be sure, the CTS makes about 30 more horsepower, but you can’t help but want just a little bit more mileage from that little base two-liter.
But the 3.6L V6 actually does well for its class, scoring 30 MPG highway and making 335 horsepower. Unsurprisingly, the powerful V-Sport and CTS-V like to chug fuel, both scoring sub-20 MPG combined fuel economy numbers.
2016 Cadillac CTS Fuel Economy Ratings (City/Hwy/Combined)
_ 2.0L Turbo I4 3.6L V6 3.6L Twin-Turbo V6 6.2L Supercharged V8 8-Speed Auto 21/31/25
20/30/24 19/28/22 (awd) 16/24/19 14/21/17
You can get your Cadillac CTS in tons of trims: 2.0L Turbo Standard, 2.0L Turbo Luxury, 2.0L Turbo Performance, 2.0L Turbo Premium, 3.6L Luxury, 3.6L Performance, 3.6L Premium, 3.6L Twin Turbo V-Sport, 3.6L Twin Turbo V-Sport Premium, and CTS-V.
Brakes on non CTS-V trims are either 12.6-inches or 13.6-inches up front, both clamped by dual-piston calipers. Rears are single-piston calipers squeezing 12.4-inch rotors. The CTS-V gets enormous brakes. Six-piston calipers squeeze brake pads against 15.35-inch rotors in the front, while four-piston calipers create the friction against 14.37-inch discs out back.
All CTSs get a MacPherson strut suspension up front, a five-link setup in the back and electric power steering.
- 2.0L Turbo Standard: Starts at $45,560. Notable standard features: 2.0-liter turbo four, 8-speed automatic transmission, CUE infotainment system with 8” touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, Adaptive Remote Start, keyless access, push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, Brembo front brakes, rear park assist, wireless charging, Bose premium 11-speaker stereo system with noise cancellation, leatherette seats, active grille shutters, memory mirrors and driver’s seat, rear vision camera, power leather seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, Start/Stop technology. Notable options: All-wheel drive ($2,000); Seating Package: leather seating surfaces, heated and vented front seats, split-folding rear seat, heated steering wheel, LED ambient lighting, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, heated power outside mirrors ($2,500); Brake Upgrade Kit: Slotted front and rear rotors, HP1000 performance brake pads ($1,190); Cue Information and Media System with Navigation: Navigation system, 13-speaker surround sound audio system ($905+Seating Package); Sunroof ($1,250).
- 2.0L Turbo Luxury: Starts at $51,285. Notable standard features over 2.0 Standard: Navigation System, leather seating surfaces, heated and vented front seats, split folding rear seats, heated steering wheel, Bose 13-speaker Surround Sounds stereo system, sunroof, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Side Blind Zone Alert, Lane Change Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Adaptive HID headlamps, Rain Sensing Wipers, unique 17-inch alloy wheels. Notable options: All-wheel drive ($2,000); V-Sport Package: Unique 18-inch wheels, run-flat tires, Sport suspension, Magnetic Ride Control, V-Sport Brake Package, unique interior trim ($2,465); Brake Upgrade Kit ($1,190);
- 3.6L Luxury: Starts at $53,285. 2.0L Turbo Luxury with 3.6-liter V6 engine (no start/stop). Same options as 2.0L Turbo Luxury.
- 2.0 Performance: Starts at $56,285. Notable standard features over 2.0 Luxury: Magnetic Ride Control, Head-Up Display, Automatic Parking Assist, Surround Vision, power rear window sunshade, manual side sunshades, illuminated door handles and sill plates, three-zone climate control, heated rear outboard seats, 18-inch alloy wheels. Notable options: All-wheel drive ($2,000); Performance Seat and Cluster Package: 20-way performance front seats, aluminum pedals, 12.3-inch reconfigurable cluster ($1,830); Driver Assist Package: Full-speed adaptive cruise control, front/rear automatic braking, automatic seat belt tightening ($2,540); V-Sport Package: 18-inch unique alloy wheels, run-flat summer tires, Sport suspension, Magnetic Ride Control, V-Sport brake package, unique interior trim ($1,465); Brake Upgrade Kit ($1,190).
- 3.6L Performance: Starts at $58,285. 2.0L Turbo Performance with 3.6-liter V6 engine (no start/stop). Same options as 2.0 performance.
- 2.0L Turbo Premium: Starts at $60,685. Notable standard features over 2.0 Performance: Full leather seats, 12.3-inch unique configurable HD gauge cluster, unique interior accents, full speed adaptive cruise control, front and rear automatic braking, automatic seat belt tightening, aluminum sport pedals, unique 18-inch alloy wheels, Advanced Security Package. Notable options: All-wheel drive ($2,000); V-Sport Package ($1,465); V-Sport Performance Suspension Upgrade Package: Summer run-flat tires, unique 18-inch wheels, performance suspension ($4,995).
- 3.6L Premium: Starts at $62,685. 2.0L Turbo Premium with 3.6-liter V6 engine (no start/stop).
- 3.6L Twin Turbo V-Sport: Starts at $59,995. Notable standard features: 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6, 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, Brembo brakes, Magnetic Ride Control with selectable drive modes, Electronic limited slip differential, Automatic Parking Assist, leather seating surfaces, Navigation, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bose 13-speaker audio system, wireless charging, Surround Vision, 18-inch alloy wheels, HID headlamps, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Side Blind Zone Alert, Lane Change Alert, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Rear Vision Camera, rain sensing wipers, heated and vented seats, memory driver’s seat and mirrors, remote start. No notable options.
- 3.6L Twin Turbo V-Sport Premium: Starts at $69,955. Notable standard features over V-Sport: Full leather seats, 20-way adjustable seats, unique 12.3-inch configurable gauge cluster display, unique interior accents, head-up display, aluminum sport pedals, full speed adaptive cruise control, front and rear automatic braking, sunroof, three-zone automatic climate control, heated rear outboard seats, unique 18-inch alloy wheels, Pirelli summer run-flat tires. No notable options.
- CTS-V Standard: Starts at $83,995. Notable standard features: Supercharged 6.2-liter V8, 8-speed automatic transmission with magnesium paddle shifters, launch control, Performance Traction Management (driver selectable mode), electronic limited-slip differential, Brembo brakes, Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tires, unique exterior aero kit, configurable cluster, LCD display, CurbView camera, Automatic Parking Assist, CUE infotainment system with 8” touchscreen display, navigation, 13-speaker Bose audio system, wireless charging, 19-inch alloy wheels, HID headlights, remote start, leather seats with suede inserts, heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control. Notable options: Luxury Package: Three-zone automatic climate control, split-folding rear seat, heated rear outboard seats, power rear sunshade, manual rear side sunshades ($1,600); Carbon Fiber Package: Carbon fiber hood vent, splitter, spoiler, diffuser ($5,500): Crystal White Frost Limited Edition Package: Luxury Package, Carbon Fiber Package, 19” alloy wheels, unique exterior color; Recaro heated and powered Performance seats ($2,300); Performance Data and Video Recorder ($1,300); Sunroof ($1,250).
We’re partial to the CTS V-Sport because its 420 HP twin-turbocharged V6 provides more acceleration than you’ll ever conceivably need in daily driving along with a heavy dose of refinement and smoothness. It’s probably the best all-arounder in the CTS lineup, and while it’s not a full-on V, you’d be hard-pressed to tell from the performance you get.
Then again, go big or go home, right? The new supercharged 640 HP CTS-V is such an impressive, excessive speed machine that if we’d probably spring for that one if it was in our price range. If you need a car that can beat up your neighbor’s M5, as well as your redneck cousin’s Hellcat, that’s your best bet.
MSRP: $45,560-$83,995 Top Speed: 200 MPH [CTS-V]
Acceleration: 3.7s to 60 [CTS-V]
MPG: 21 city / 31 hwy / 25 combined [2.0L Turbo]
Engines: 2L Turbo I4, 3.6L V6, 3.6L twin-turbo V6, 6.2L Supercharged V8
Max Horsepower/Torque: 640 hp/630 lb-ft
Curb Weight: ~3,640-4,145 IIHS Safety Rating: Not Fully Tested
Transmissions: 8-speed automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front Engine, RWD/AWD
Photo credit: Cadillac