Our first exposure to the 2014 Cadillac CTS at the New York Auto Show last March left no doubt that the comprehensive recasting of the automaker's popular mid-size luxury 4-door was destined to elevate its status in an intensely competitive segment. By exactly how much remained an open question until now. Having just driven this new Caddy road warrior for the first time, we can confirm the all-new 2014 CTS not only has the look and feel but also the performance and handling to make targeted competitors like the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class take serious notice.

The Gen III Cadillac CTS reflects the boldest and best-integrated interpretation to date of the division's Art & Science design language. Its edgy but elegantly integrated lines are set off with signature vertical LED-infused lighting statements and tasteful brightwork accents that endow the car with a whole new level of visual street cred. Equally meticulous attention to aero detailing - including looking after the entire underbody area - gives the 2014 CTS a 0.29 coefficient of drag, the lowest-ever figure for any Cadillac sedan. And a new active noise cancellation setup also helps ensure that it's one of the quietest. 

Longer, lower, leaner and meaner

Based on a stretched version of GM's excellent Alpha platform architecture that was introduced on the 2013 Cadillac ATS, the new CTS Sedan is some five inches longer and an inch lower than the 2013 model while adding 1.6 inches of wheelbase. Cadillac hastens to point out that those changes finally move it from "tweener" status to full-on mid-size scale. However, the most critical spec change is that the 2014 CTS also is some 250 pounds lighter than its predecessor depending on trim and will roll into showrooms later this fall weighing significantly less than any of its luxo-sedan rivals. More extensive use of aluminum - including the first all-alloy doors on any Cadillac and lightweight front structural and suspension elements  - not only helped trim total mass but also allowed CTS engineers to optimally position the remaining poundage in places that endow all versions of the car with a near 50/50 weight balance.

Our initial hands-on experience with the 2014 CTS included all three basic variations on the power theme - the 272-horse/2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo, 321-horse/3.6-liter naturally aspirated V6 and the hot 420-horspower/3.6-liter V6 Twin Turbo that's exclusive to the performance-focused and rear-drive-only CTS Vsport. The engines are matched with either a 6-speed automatic (2.0L RWD/AWD and 3.6L AWD) or an 8-speed alternative (3.6L RWD and 3.6L Twin Turbo Vsport). While either transmission can be left in Drive and allowed to competently shift for itself, both feature magnesium paddles mounted on the car's multifunction steering wheel that can call up quick, positive cog changes on demand - rev-matched on downshifts - that further bolster its enthusiast appeal. Straight-line quickness in the new CTS ranges from a spirited 6.1 second 0-60 mph sprint in the 2.0T model to an exhilarating 4.4 ticks for its ultimate Vsport incarnation.

Building a more dynamic personality from the inside out

While each CTS variant has its own distinct persona, all share outstanding overall handling characteristics that owe much to a new core structure that's 40 percent stiffer than the one in the outgoing CTS. Working with this solid foundation is an exceptionally well-sorted chassis that minimizes body roll during aggressive transient maneuvers coupled with quick, responsive and nicely-weighted electrically-boosted power steering that keeps the car pointed where you want it to go whether fitted with 17-inch, 18-inch or available 19-inch wheel/tire packages and confident stopping power bolstered by Brembo front brakes.

Although our drive routes precluded any at-the-limit explorations, they were challenging enough to establish the world-class corner-carving capability of this new Cadillac whether riding on its standard suspension or available Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) underpinnings. On the CTS Vsport, the comfort-biased Tour, tauter Sport and slick Snow programs are joined by a dedicated Track setting with a Stabilitrac-abetted Competition mode that dials even more stiffness into the shocks and recalibrates the Vsport's electronic limited slip differential to allow for even higher-intensity flogging. If that's not enough, hard-core go-faster types also can opt to fully disable all traction/stability assists.

Classic luxury with a modern twist

Like its dramatically redesigned exterior, the cabin of the 2014 Cadillac CTS boasts a major remake that shares a number of its upscale cues with the ATS and XTS sedans -- including handcrafted "cut-and-sew" detailing and the division's CUE infotainment system. Real wood, carbon fiber or aluminum accents are part of each of the eight available trim "environments" and complement leatherette upholstery on the 2.0-liter Standard models and genuine leather on all other versions of the car.

Along with adding more contemporary flair to its driver-focused environment, this all-encompassing redo layers on additional comfort/convenience features as the CTS transitions from Standard to Luxury to Performance to Premium Collections or baseline Vsport to Vsport Premium spec. Key items that further expand the car's already extensive equipment roster include voice-activated navigation, a 12.3-inch reconfigurable main instrument cluster, head-up display and a sweet set of 20-way power front buckets. The upgrading process of the 2014 CTS also extends to its now-more-accommodating rear quarters, where leg and knee room have been increased as the result of the wheelbase stretch.

With its impeccable mix of style, performance and personality, the all-new CTS impresses on every level and definitively establishes itself as a power player in the mid-size luxury segment. Pricing for the entry-level rear-drive 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0-liter Turbo starts at $46,025 with the CTS Vsport Premium opening at $69,995. And in case you're curious, Cadillac execs also admit there's a next-gen CTS-V model under development. However, at this point they won't say what engine it might use or even hint at an estimated introduction date.

More Midsize Luxury Sedans

2014 BMW 5 Series adds new features and a turbodiesel option

The updated 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedan offers a new 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine

The Volvo S60 T6 adds an R-Design trim for 2014



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