America does things bigger. Bigger houses, bigger monuments, bigger stores. You name it, we'll super-size it. The big question, though, is "Is bigger better?" In the case of body mass and cars like the 2013 Cadillac CTS sedan, the answer is: "not so much."
True, the current CTS was a revelation when it was introduced five years ago, as it represented several leaps forward for the Cadillac brand. For the first time in a long time, a car with that iconic crest could stand toe-to-toe with the world's finest luxury sedans while still offering uniquely American style and size. In more recent years, though, the CTS has been left relying on those red, white and blue virtues while its many competitors have been updated and overhauled, essentially moving the luxury standard upward.
On its own merits, the CTS sedan still has plenty of appeal, including a stylish cabin replete with plenty of modern technological conveniences and pleasant materials. The CTS also drives quite well, with respectable power from the larger 3.6-liter V6 engine and confident handling. However, when you drive it back to back with its import competitors, even these admirable qualities tend to fall short of the now-current standard.
The cabins of rival sedans present better interior workmanship and even more features, while the CTS suspension allows more of the road's many imperfections to intrude into an otherwise serene cabin. Opting for one of the optional sport suspensions only adds additional harshness. This Cadillac's size, while beneficial for passengers, also makes it feel less agile and maneuverable than other so-called sport sedans.
While the 2013 Cadillac CTS remains an enjoyable luxury sedan, overall we think there are better choices this year. It should be worth checking out the benchmark 2013 BMW 3 Series or the similarly sized 2013 Lexus GS 350. And if flying the red, white and blue is important, Chrysler's surprisingly luxurious 300 and Cadillac's new, sporty ATS are likely better choices as well.
Unless you truly need that extra room, the 2013 Cadillac CTS proves that bigger isn't always better.
The 2013 Cadillac CTS is a five-passenger midsize luxury sedan that is available in three trim levels: 3.0 Luxury, 3.6 Performance and 3.6 Premium. The high-performance CTS-V is reviewed separately, as are the CTS Coupe and Sport Wagon.
Standard features for the 3.0 Luxury include 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, keyless entry, remote ignition, cruise control, automatic wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, heated eight-way power front seats (with two-way lumbar adjustment), driver memory functions, leather upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, interior accent lighting, OnStar emergency communications, Bluetooth phone connectivity and an eight-speaker Bose sound system with a six-CD changer, an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio.
The optional CTS Touring package adds 18-inch wheels, dual exhaust, a power increase, a sport-tuned suspension (dubbed FE2), adaptive xenon headlights, foglights, a different grille, a faux suede-wrapped steering wheel and special interior trim.
The 3.6 Performance trim adds a more powerful engine, the Performance package and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with a single-CD player, digital music storage and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The 3.6 Premium includes all the above equipment, but adds a panoramic sunroof (optional on all other trims), rear parking sensors, keyless ignition/entry, a cabin deodorizer, a heated and power-adjustable wood-trimmed steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, a split-folding rear seat, a navigation system (optional on other trims) with a pop-up touchscreen interface, and real-time traffic and weather.
The Performance and Premium packages can be equipped with a different Performance package that adds 19-inch wheels, summer tires, an even sportier suspension (FE3), a limited-slip differential, upgraded brakes and shift paddles. A CTS Touring package for the Premium includes all of the above items plus Recaro front sport seats.
Inside, the 2013 Cadillac CTS features a pleasing angular theme to match its exterior edginess. Soft-touch materials are plentiful, accented by tasteful wood trim. The optional navigation system emerges from the top of the dash and retracts almost fully, leaving a small section visible as a touchscreen display for the audio system -- a smart and elegant alternative solution to having a separate control panel. We also appreciate that Cadillac provides a redundant control knob for scrolling through iPod or satellite radio menus. Doing so simply with a touchscreen can be frustrating and distracting.
Unfortunately, the interior also comes with its fair share of flaws. Many find the driving position awkward because of slightly offset pedals, a low-mounted seat and compromised knee room due to the sweeping center stack. Overall comfort is also hampered by flat and stiff seatbacks. Thick rear pillars not only make the backseat feel a bit claustrophobic, but the resulting rearward visibility is notably poor, forcing the driver to rely heavily on the optional rearview camera when maneuvering in reverse.
Trunk space (13.6 cubic feet) is decent, but the narrow opening requires quite a bit of jostling in order to fit bulky items. Golf clubs will not fit width-wise, and so will eat up the available space, as they must be placed diagonally. Split-folding rear seatbacks are only available on the range-topping Premium trim.
Every 2013 Cadillac CTS comes standard with rear-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is optional. The 3.0 Luxury comes standard with a 3.0-liter V6 that produces 265 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque. When equipped with the Touring package, the included dual exhaust bumps output up to 270 hp and 223 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is the only transmission offered.
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the rear-drive, automatic-equipped CTS 3.0 is 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. All-wheel drive drops it slightly to 18/26/21 mpg.
CTS 3.6 models get a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 318 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. The six-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive are standard and all-wheel drive is optional. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 18/27/21 mpg regardless of whether you get rear- or all-wheel drive.
The 2013 Cadillac CTS tracks through corners with greater athleticism than you might expect. The steering is precise and well-weighted, but the car's overall mass ultimately makes it less agile than most competitors. Its road-holding performance also comes at the expense of ride quality. Those expecting the luxurious ride of Cadillacs past will likely find the suspension on the Performance trim models too firm for their tastes. Given that, the even stiffer optional sport suspension will likely be far too harsh and unforgiving for most.
Power delivery from the base 3.0-liter V6 is sluggish compared to the broad-shouldered 3.6-liter engine. Considering that both engines achieve virtually identical fuel economy, we suggest springing for the bigger V6 if your budget allows.
Standard safety features for the 2013 Cadillac CTS include antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, active front head restraints, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, an emergency button, stolen vehicle locator and active intervention, and remote door unlock.
In government crash tests, the CTS received the best possible rating of five stars in the overall, frontal and side crash categories. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the sedan was awarded the best rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
In Edmunds brake testing, a CTS 3.6 Premium came to a stop from 60 mph in 117 feet, which is better than average. With the 19-inch wheels and summer tires, that distance drops to 109 feet, which is about average for similarly equipped cars.
For 2013, the Cadillac CTS base trim has been eliminated, along with the choice of a manual transmission. Also, some features that were previously optional are now standard.