For years the CTS has been labeled as the middle child in the Cadillac family, coming nowhere close to being as prominent as its utilitarian cousin, the Escalade, or as rowdy as its 640 horsepower big brother, the CTS-V. But as the 2016 models continue to earn praise for their build quality and design cues, both the CTS sedan and the 2017 GMC Canyon pickup get a shot in the arm courtesy of a V6 that puts down more than just power gains.
The 3.6-liter motor in the CTS generates 335 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque, and features a smaller step in gears that makes shifting feel damn near seamless. While this is by no means a big bump in power over the previous generation, a 9% boost in fuel economy and an 8% drop in carbon emissions does make a convincing argument, with forged internals inspiring confidence in the longevity department.
With eight gear selections, a manual mode that reacts aggressively when paddle shifters are pressed, and a choice of snow, touring, and sport modes for traction gains, luxury buyers now have more reasons to opt for the CTS than ever before. It truly is a sharp-looking car too, with its sweeping vertical running lights, angular mirrors, integrated exhaust, metallic paint scheme, and semi-aggressive front fascia.
The redesigned CTS is a car that proves that Cadillac refuses to revert to its old ways, proudly proclaiming that luxury should never be boring, as even this non-boosted engine makes all the right moves. Being a blast to drive while offering an interior that clicks in all the right places is not always easy either, especially since the next generation of luxury buyer is beginning to eye future options today.
Driving around town, there is an underlying feeling of sportiness within the 2016 CTS that instills confidence and surefootedness. Even though there are plenty of other luxury, performance, and premium trim collections to choose from, the Premium model we received was an interesting blend of sportsmanlike conduct and business suit success, with a hint of retro Cadillac thrown in just for fun.
It features a start/stop feature for saving gas, Cadillac-branded Brembo brakes that are crisp and reassuring, and once in sport mode, it lunges forward with the drivetrain fluidly sending all eight gears spinning, with nary a sign of wheel slip to be felt. This is no track prepped version either though, and there’s still a notable amount of two-ton body roll and some powerband lag when driving assertively, so if nutty luxury is your thing look toward either the twin-turbo Vsport or the supercharged CTS-V.
But there wasn’t an overabundance of slop or hesitation to be felt here either, as the all-wheel drive setup worked in tandem with both the sedan’s magnetic ride control system and the Stabilitrak stability control for optimum compression and rebound and traction settings. Around town escapades and a lack of snow aside, jumping between touring and sport modes yielded some outstanding results, a statement that sadly cannot be made about all automobiles in this segment.
When in touring mode, you get the culmination of every Cadillac success story since the beginning of time too. The CTS sails smoothly around bends with ease, sliding over potholes like they were pinholes, and effortlessly assisting your driving style with both an electric steering system and a throttle that are neither forceful nor flaccid. This car drives the way it looks, with a dignified manner that neither imposes nor folds, leaving one with a driving feel that is surprisingly balanced, especially if tires with a thicker profile were to replace the standard Pirelli rubber.
Grow tired of grandpa mode and you can sling the CTS into its performance setting, select manual shifting mode, and mash the throttle for nearly instantaneous results. GM has instilled a lot of the same technology one finds in the V-rated versions within this lesser subsection, and in the case of the 3.6-liter CTS that means a lot. Precise, balanced, and noticeably more short tempered, the response you get from the suspension, steering, throttle, and transmission are all quite rewarding when in “beast mode.” While it may not rip your wig back like it was gift wrapped, the direct injected engine’s gumption certainly is a welcome addition to the mix when navigating a fun back road.
As we all know, Cadillac means luxury, and in the case of the Premium model that landed in our lap, this is something it had in spades. Some of our favorite aspects include the customizable 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, the leather performance seats in all their adjustable glory, magnesium paddle shifters, the heated steering wheel and panoramic sunroof, and all of the red-stitched, real carbon fiber accent pieces found throughout.
That last part took a little getting used to, especially since this is not a “V” in any way. But at night, the mood light strips come alive to peek out from behind door handles and betwixt carbon trim pieces, giving the cabin a glow that is easily one of the best in the biz. All of the expected safety and preventative sensing tech is in place here too, and outside of the sensational Audi Q7, Cadillac’s surround vision camera system bested every car we’ve tested to date. The Bose sound system also hit extremely hard, and yet not a single clatter or intrusive outside noise could be heard, reinforcing the fact that Cadillac’s attention to detail goes as deep as making sure the fit and finish are overstuffed to remove rattles.
The touch-sensitive temperature and audio control setup proved to be easy to use and attractive, and the eight-inch navi illuminated 3D layouts of surrounding buildings and landmarks extremely well after zooming in. Traffic and construction warnings proved to be accurate without being overly annoying, and the sporty, leather-wrapped steering wheel felt fantastic, with all the right buttons intuitively placed around it.
Issues with the all-wheel drive version of the 3.6 CTS were few and far between, and while it may be out-powered by cars like the supercharged Jaguar XF in both torque and horsepower departments, it was the notable nose dive under braking and body roll in the corners that caused us to deduct a few points. There also was the trunk, which is spacious enough for its class, but the amount of room one is given for putting things into it and retrieving them is severely limited due to the snub-nosed decklid. Then there is the price, which is fairly steep considering a Premium model CTS starts at $64,685, and can easily hit $70,000 once outfitted with carbon, specialized seats, and extra interior amenities.
But this is the luxury segment, so most people could give a damn about the price just as long as all of the appropriate boxes get checked, which is something that the 2016 Cadillac CTS 3.6 does extremely well. There are few reasons to dislike this car if you are shopping for a premium luxury sedan and don’t mind getting an EPA-rated 19/28 fuel economy score and don’t need stupid amounts of power. It has virtually every imaginable modern upgrade one could want in this segment and then some, especially since it is so much more sharper looking, assertive, and surefooted than previous versions.