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- Highs Fun-loving handling, potent twin-turbo V-6 option, all-inclusive infotainment suite.
- Lows Middling powertrain refinement, cramped back seat, lackluster cargo capacity.
- Verdict This Caddy zigs, but its luxury-car mission zags.
In a field of luxury sports sedans that are directed more toward the posh end of that spectrum, the 2019 Cadillac CTS is a breath of fresh air for driving enthusiasts. Its rear-wheel-drive layout, balanced suspension, and direct steering make quick work of curvy back roads. It imparts a feeling of athleticism from which modern BMWs have drifted, and its edgy exterior styling stands out from the crowd—for better or worse. The Caddy also offers all the most popular infotainment features that premium-segment buyers expect, including an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot. However, the CTS underdelivers on the luxury front: rear-seat passenger space is limited, build quality isn't consistent, and powertrain refinement is subpar. Buyers face a wide range of choices within the sport-luxury market, and the CTS is one of the better choices.
What's New for 2019?
The 2019 CTS carries over completely unchanged.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
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We're still enamored with the CTS V-Sport and its 420-hp twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6, a satisfying match for the CTS's finely tuned chassis. In addition to its muscly power, the V-Sport model comes with performance-enhancing features such as a performance-tuned suspension, upgraded front disc brakes with Brembo four-piston calipers, and an electronic limited-slip differential. What the V-Sport's entry fee won't buy you is all-wheel drive: Like the full-bonkers CTS-V with its 640-hp supercharged V-8 (which we review separately), the V-Sport is a true driver's car exclusively driven by the rear wheels. If all-wheel traction is a necessity, you'll have to settle for one of the Caddy's other two less powerful engines—a 2.0-liter turbo four or a 3.6-liter V-6—that offer it as an option.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Likes: High-performance twin-turbo V-6 available, suspension encourages back-road antics, great steering.
Dislikes: Unrefined powertrains, stiff ride.
The base CTS's 268-hp turbocharged four-cylinder outran the best similar-engined sedans from Europe in our acceleration testing, but its sound is less refined than those in the BMW 530i or the Audi A6 2.0T. Unfortunately, the Caddy's optional 335-hp 3.6-liter V-6 struggled to compete with rivals such as the BMW 540i and the Audi A6 Competition. Opt for the 420-hp twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter and the CTS in V-Sport form becomes a performance powerhouse with almost 100 more horsepower than either of those German sedans. At our test track, the V-Sport hustled from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.
The CTS is one of the most dynamic sedans in the mid-size-luxury segment. Steering is direct; the front wheels respond immediately to inputs, but some of our editors feel that the steering effort is artificially heavy no matter which driving mode is selected. Nonetheless, turn-in is wonderfully sharp, and the CTS seems to hunker down through corners. Body roll is well controlled, and even in aggressive maneuvers, the CTS remains composed and unruffled. The trade-off is a ride that can be harsh when driving over rough stretches of road. It doesn't punish, but it's far from the heavenly ride of the Mercedes-Benz E300.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
None of the three engines that are available in the CTS can claim the fuel-economy crown. For the most part, they fall behind the segment's most efficient powerplants. The 3.6-liter V-6 has adequate highway mileage despite being unable to match its EPA highway rating in our real-world testing; it delivered only 27 of its promised 30 mpg. We've yet to test a four-cylinder model, which may prove to be more efficient than the V-6.
Interior, Infotainment, and Cargo
Likes: Driver-focused interior, high-tech infotainment features standard, neat hidden storage spot behind infotainment display.
Dislikes: Fussy interior design, tight rear-seat space, smallish trunk.
The cabin of the CTS is made from a collection of materials that run the gamut in look and texture—both smooth and perforated leathers, open-pore wood, gloss-black trim, chromed plastic, and faux suede. The combination of so many different materials, as nice as they are, results in a busy interior design. The interior is arranged with the driver in mind; most of the controls are within easy reach, and the driving position is ideal for sporty driving. Both the standard analog gauges and the optional digital gauge-cluster display are easy to read at a glance, with the latter being both better-looking and reconfigurable to show a variety of information.
There's no need to check option boxes to get the CTS's high-tech infotainment system. Cadillac has made everything but navigation standard. The CUE infotainment system features an intuitive menu layout, large buttons that are easy to activate while driving, and an 8.0-inch touch-sensitive display. The rest of the CTS's infotainment offerings are comprehensive: three USB ports, real-time traffic and weather updates, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, onboard Wi-Fi via a 4G LTE data connection, and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming are all standard fare.
When it comes to practicality, the CTS holds its own but is hardly the practicality king. Although it has a couple of tricks up its sleeve—such as a handy hidden smartphone cubby in the dash—its middling trunk capacity, high lift-over height, and smallish interior-storage bins make its cargo-hauling capability only average for this segment.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Overall Safety Rating (NHTSA)
Reviews from the nation's leading safety agencies are a mixed bag, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration giving the CTS five stars, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety scored the CTS's headlamps as Poor and the driver's-side small-overlap crash-test results as only Marginal. A comprehensive suite of driver-assistance features is available, including an automated parking feature, but most of them are optional. Key safety features include:
- Available automated emergency braking
- Available lane-keeping assist
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
In a segment where a four-year warranty is the status quo, Cadillac offers each new CTS with a powertrain warranty—transferable to subsequent owners—that is good for six years or 70,000 miles, with courtesy transportation and roadside-assistance coverage to match.
- Limited warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 6 years or 70,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for the first visit