America's sport sedan is now officially world class.
How do you go get taken seriously in a category that includes global automotive all-stars like the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class?
Raise your prices.
The Cadillac CTS has been completely redesigned for 2014, and in addition to boasting an evolved design, new engines and more sophisticated features, the new CTS has a starting sticker price $6,000 more luxurious than its predecessor's. Combined with a growth spurt that adds five inches in length and a corresponding bump in interior roominess, the CTS is now designed, equipped and priced to compete directly with Germany's famous trio.
A big hit from day one, the CTS has now earned a spot in the big leagues.
The 2014 Cadillac CTS starts at about $46,000 and tops $70,000 for a fully loaded CTS Vsport performance model. Despite the price bump, the CTS still offers more features for the money in many cases, but if you're torn between the Cadillac and the Audi, for instance, the price difference alone won't make your decision much easier (incentives notwithstanding). Three-year resale values are a bit lower for the CTS, although it catches up at five years.
The inside of the new Cadillac CTS is as bold as the outside, a mix of rich, sporty and masculine. "Not real subtle but decidedly upscale," said one KBB.com editor. "Expressive and interesting," said another. The design is a big part of the appeal, but the materials quality and features also contribute to the upscale experience.
Among these four competitors, the Cadillac sits at the end of a spectrum bookended on the other side by the Mercedes-Benz. The E-Class oozes luxury, but in a subtler manner that just takes longer to fully appreciate. In between are the business-like 5 Series and the richly modern A6, which remains the most talked about interior in the category.
With available features like an adjustable suspension, head-up display, stop-and-go cruise control and Cadillac's full-featured CUE infotainment system, the new CTS is about as tech-savvy as any of its competitors. Option an E-Class all the way up to $90,000, though, and you'll get a number of features unavailable on the Cadillac.
Perhaps the biggest difference in the Cadillac's tech offering is the touchscreen-based infotainment system, where the other three systems are operated via control knob. The touchscreen approach has its pros and cons, but the underlying system will benefit from further refinement, as the Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz systems have.
Same goes for the CTS' touch-sensitive, "buttonless" hard controls for functions like volume and temperature adjustment. As they improve we're getting used to such systems in GM, Ford and Toyota vehicles, in particular, but not to the point where we wouldn't gladly trade them for traditional buttons and knobs.
But we do like the CTS' colorful digital interface, which more closely resembles the beloved smartphones in our pockets. The E-Class system looks dated by comparison, and even Audi's system -- a functional standout -- feels due for a visual makeover. But for now they all operate more seamlessly than Cadillac's CUE system.
If your luxury sport sedan aspirations are driven primarily by the sport side of the equation, the 2014 Cadillac CTS is now the car to beat. The 5 Series isn't the eager athlete it used to be, and while the A6 and E-Class are incredibly satisfying cars to drive overall, neither is as hard-edged as the Cadillac.
"The sledgehammer of the bunch, not as subtle or nuanced as the Germans but plenty of brute force," said one editor. "Involving in a way the German cars no longer are," said another. It feels like a smaller, lighter sport sedan in comparison to the others, responding quickly to driver inputs and hanging on confidently in corners.
And like the others, the 2014 Cadillac CTS lineup includes an even sportier version. The CTS Vsport offers a 420-horsepower turbocharged V6, performance-tuned suspension and Brembo brakes, among other fun factors.
Rarely is a car both the most fun and most comfortable choice in the segment, and the trend continues here. The Cadillac CTS is probably the last of these four cars we'd take to Vegas (the benchmark long drive for Southern Californians), but it'd be a top choice among almost any other group of cars.
Helping its cause in the comfort department, the CTS now offers a driver-adjustable suspension system that makes it easy to optimize the car for spirited Sunday drives or more comfortable highway commutes. They could call it the Have Your Cake and Eat it Too system, but they went with Magnetic Ride Control.
If maximum comfort is your top priority, the E-Class makes a logical first choice, followed by the easy A6 and then the BMW 5 Series. And these cars aren't just more comfortable on the highway, they're also more pleasant in day-to-day driving, offering more seamless transmission, throttle and braking action than the CTS.
A Closer Look
What's the 5-Year Cost to Own for the new CTS? What do owners say about the 5 Series? Follow these shortcuts to all the insight and answers we offer here at KBB.com.
Still More Choices
So, is the CTS calling your name even louder now? Or are you sticking with one of the Germans? The decision doesn't end there. Between the four, there are more than 20 engine options, including diesel and hybrid options. And have you also considered the Lexus GS, Infiniti Q70 and Jaguar XF?
With more and better options than ever, picking the right midsize luxury sedan is more work than it used to be. And the arrival of the terrific new CTS doesn't help.
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