Cadillac is in a unique position in the automotive world. In many circles, the brand is considered a has-been, an out-of-touch pretender in a global luxury market that couldn’t hope to keep up with the consistently great luxury cars churned out of Europe and Japan. The thing is, that line of thinking is dead wrong. For the past 15 years or so, Cadillac has been aggressively working to design and build some of the best cars in the world, and now, for the first time in decades, it is.
But there’s still a problem: no one is buying Cadillacs. Even though the full-size Escalade SUVs continue to fly off dealer lots, Cadillac’s lineup of critically acclaimed cars quietly gather dust. Still, Cadillac already has the hard part figured out, and its product is so good that General Motors is willing to sink $12 billion into the brand over the next five years to rehab the brand’s long-tarnished image. While the American market is still a priority, GM and Cadillac will focus on making inroads in the Chinese market and its growing demand for luxury cars, and in Europe, where most of its rivals are based.
Luckily, Cadillac’s core lineup is one of the strongest on the market. As the company prepares to unveil the all-new full-size CT6 sedan at the New York International Auto Show, here are 5 key models that prove that Cadillac isn’t far off from its old position as the standard of the world.
5. 2015 CTS-V Coupe
Production of the CTS Coupe ended in 2014, but Cadillac kept its hot V-Sport two-door on the market one extra year before the all-new CTS-V hits showrooms for 2016. Largely unchanged since it was introduced in 2011, the CTS-V was at the time the most powerful production Cadillac ever built. Sharing its 6.2-liter 556 horsepower V8 with the late-model C6 Corvette, the CTS-V proved that Cadillac could more than keep up with the world’s best. While this final-year coupe is still a capable gentleman’s hot rod, Cadillac has enough up its sleeve with the next-generation model to make sure the old coupe won’t be missed too much.
The CTS coupe may be dead, but a two-door option lives on in the entry-level ATS. Introduced as a 2014 model, the ATS is the first domestic car in years capable enough to stand up to the likes of the Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3-Series, and the Audi A4. Power is delivered to the rear wheels from either a 202-horsepower 2.5-liter inline four, a 272-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four, or a 321-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. Inside, the ATS attempts to close the quality gap between the imports and the domestics with a stylish, tech-focused interior that effortlessly blends style and luxury as well as any of its European competitors.
When the CTS was introduced in 2002, its crisp, angular design marked the beginning of Cadillac’s new global-focused “Art and Science” design language. Fresh from a redesign for 2014, the rear-wheel drive sport sedan is sharper and better engineered than ever before, and it’s finally ready to take on the class-leading BMW 5-Series. The CTS shares its 2.0-liter turbo inline four, 3.6-liter V6, and transmissions with the smaller ATS. This is no handicap, however, as the V6 helps the car hustle from zero to 60 in a respectable six seconds. In 2014, the new CTS made Car and Driver’s 10 Best list. The 5-Series did not.
While the ATS battles the entry-level Europeans, the fire-breathing ATS-V is ready to take on its performance counterparts. Available as a coupe or sedan, the ATS-V is powered by a 450-horsepower twin-turbo V6 that can rocket the car from zero to 60 in under four seconds, and can be mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a dual-clutch eight-speed automatic. Cadillac’s upstart can blow the doors off of the BMW M3 — the iconic German sport sedan’s 425 horsepower engine and 4.1 second zero to 60 time is simply no match off the line for this brash newcomer from Detroit.
1. 2016 CTS-V
In 2011, the original CTS-V took its engine from the Corvette and was the most powerful Cadillac ever built. What a difference five years makes — the new 640 horsepower twin-turbo V8 (borrowed from the current Corvette) makes almost 90 horsepower more than the outgoing model. The big Caddy is expected to hit 60 miles per hour from a standstill in 3.7 seconds and hit a top speed just over 200 miles per hour.
The car’s Magnetic Ride Control suspension makes sure that the CTS-V isn’t just fast on the straightaways, and its combination of speed, handling, and luxury make it ready to challenge the BMW M5. That legendary German sedan can also go from zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds, but its twin-turbo V8 puts out a mere 560 horsepower, and the top speed is electronically limited to 155 miles per hour. If this new CTS-V lives up to the hype, there could be a major shift in the sport sedan hierarchy.
Decades ago, Cadillac was synonymous with performance and luxury. After years of losing the plot, it finally returned returned as a scrappy contender. Even as Cadillac fields this impressive lineup of cars, it still finds itself on the outside looking in. With GM’s major commitment to the brand, Cadillac could soon return to where it belongs, mentioned in the same breath as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi. Who doesn’t like a good comeback story?