Getting respect in the midsize luxury sport sedan segment is like trying to crack the top rankings in MMA. This is a super-competitive group that's full of very strong entries, and one of them is the 2015 Cadillac CTS. With last year's redesign, the CTS went from aging veteran to legitimate contender. Pitted against big-name rivals from Europe, the CTS acquits itself well with classy styling, solid performance and the latest convenience features.
Like many of its competitors, the 2015 CTS has a turbocharged inline-4 as the base engine, and it's rated at an impressive 270 horsepower. There's also a proven 321-hp V6, and those looking for even more performance will gravitate toward the CTS Vsport and its 420-hp, turbocharged V6. In any trim, moreover, the CTS offers exemplary handling that few luxury sedans can match. We also like how the 2015 CTS wears Cadillac's new-age, sharply chiseled design language as well as any Caddy we've seen yet.
In terms of features, the CTS checks most of the expected boxes. Highlights include a panoramic sunroof, adaptive suspension dampers, keyless ignition and entry, adaptive cruise control, tri-zone automatic climate control and a self-parking system that can handle both parallel and perpendicular jobs. Additionally, the CTS provides a high-tech infotainment system called CUE with large virtual buttons and a mostly intuitive layout, though we've found this system to be slow on the uptake at times.
Clearly, Cadillac is pulling no punches in the fight against its premium-brand competitors. But there are good reasons why some of these rivals have historically had the upper hand. The 2015 BMW 5 Series isn't the athlete that the CTS is, but it's got a superb range of engines, and its iDrive infotainment system is a more mature product than CUE. Much the same can be said of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz E-Class (with its COMAND infotainment system), while the 2015 Audi A6 adds proper sport-sedan handling. The 2015 Lexus GS 350 and the hybrid-powered 2015 Lexus GS 450h are worthy alternatives unless you're considering the seriously fast CTS Vsport.
Still, the bottom line is that Cadillac has a complete package in the 2015 CTS. If you're shopping in this class, you'd be remiss not to consider it.
The 2015 Cadillac CTS midsize sedan is offered in six main trim levels: Standard, Luxury, Performance, Premium, Vsport and Vsport Premium.
The CTS Standard comes with the four-cylinder engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, Brembo front brakes, heated exterior mirrors, automatic headlights, rear parking sensors, remote ignition, keyless ignition and entry, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control, a manual tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, eight-way power front seats (with two-way power lumbar), driver memory settings, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery and fixed rear seats with a trunk pass-through. Additional technology features include a 5.7-inch color display screen in the gauge cluster, OnStar telematics, 4G data connectivity with Wi-Fi capability, wireless charging, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, the base Cadillac User Experience (CUE) infotainment system (without navigation), an 8-inch touchscreen interface, voice controls and an 11-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with three USB ports, an SD-card slot, an auxiliary audio jack, and satellite and HD radio.
An optional Seating package includes upgraded exterior mirrors with driver-side auto-dimming, leather seating surfaces, heated and ventilated front seats, a split-folding rear seat, a power-adjustable heated steering wheel and additional LED interior ambient lighting.
Upgrading to the CTS Luxury adds the above Seating package plus available V6 power, four-way power lumbar for the front passengers, adaptive xenon headlights and the Driver Awareness package (automatic high beam control, automatic wipers, a rearview camera, lane-keeping assist, Cadillac's vibrating driver's "Safety Alert Seat," forward-collision alert, a blind-spot monitor, lane-change alert, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-departure alert).
Both the CTS Standard and Luxury trim levels offer a panoramic sunroof, a navigation system and a 13-speaker Bose audio system as options.
The CTS Performance comes with the Luxury's features and options plus 18-inch wheels (optional on Luxury), adaptive suspension dampers, a self-parking system (with both parallel and perpendicular capability) and -- somewhat confusingly -- the Luxury package (illuminated door handles and sill plates, a head-up display, a 110-volt power outlet, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated rear seats, manual rear sunshades and a power rear window sunshade). The optional Driver Assist package adds adaptive cruise control and a collision mitigation system with automatic braking, while the Performance Seat and Cluster package adds 20-way front sport seats, alloy pedals and a larger configurable gauge cluster display.
The CTS Premium comes with the Performance's features and options plus extended leather upholstery and an advanced theft-deterrent package.
The CTS Vsport comes solely with the exclusive turbocharged V6 engine. It starts with the Luxury trim level's standard features and adds the navigation system and 13-speaker Bose stereo, the self-parking system, 18-inch wheels with summer tires, a sport-tuned suspension with adaptive magnetic dampers, a sport-tuned steering system (with a quicker ratio), a driver-selectable "track mode" for spirited driving, an electronic limited-slip rear differential and a heavy-duty cooling system. High-performance brake pads are optional.
The CTS Vsport Premium adds the features from the regular Premium trim that aren't already standard on the base Vsport.
Stand-alone options include 19-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, an engine-block heater and carbon-fiber interior trim.
The interior of the 2015 Cadillac CTS follows the trend set first by the full-size XTS. It's a sophisticated and luxurious design rendered in rich materials, with a high level of craftsmanship and thorough technology integration. The Cadillac User Experience (CUE) infotainment system consists of configurable displays on the main touchscreen and can leverage connected smartphones with app integration easily enough. We appreciate the display screen's large icons and crisp graphics, as well as its mostly intuitive operation, but CUE's reliance on touchscreen and peripheral touch-panel inputs can be frustrating, as the system's response times are sometimes sluggish or missed entirely.
Front passengers in the 2015 CTS enjoy ample personal space, yet the enveloping dashboard and door panels make for an intimate cockpit that meshes nicely with the car's sporting mission. Rear passengers will be less pleased, however, as there's only modest space back there by midsize standards. At 13.7 cubic feet, the CTS sedan's trunk brings up the rear when compared to the 5 Series and E-Class.
A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 272 hp and an impressive 295 pound-feet of torque is the base engine for all but the Vsport trim levels. Available with either rear-wheel drive (RWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD), the four-cylinder is hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Optional on the Luxury, Performance and Premium trims is a 3.6-liter V6 good for 321 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. With RWD, the engine comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The V6 AWD employs the six-speed.
Topping the line is the Vsport's turbocharged 3.6-liter V6, which cranks out 420 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel drive with the eight-speed automatic is the sole drivetrain configuration.
As far as fuel economy, the four-cylinder CTS gets an EPA-estimated 24 mpg combined (20 city/30 highway) with RWD and 22 mpg combined (19 city/28 highway) with AWD. The V6 with RWD also rates 22 mpg combined (18 city/29 highway) while the AWD version rates 21 mpg combined (18 city/26 highway). The Vsport drops to 18 mpg combined (16 city/24 highway).
In Edmunds testing of a CTS Vsport, we recorded a 4.9-second sprint to 60 mph, which is a competitive time for a high-performance midsize sport sedan, but a few tenths off the pace set by the BMW 550i.
Acceleration in the 2015 Cadillac CTS Vsport is impressive, with gobs of torque available whenever you squeeze on the gas. It's not quite enough to make us forget about the previous-generation CTS-V's supercharged V8, but it certainly puts Cadillac on the same plane as its European rivals with upgraded engines. Of course, most CTS models will have either the turbo-4 or the regular V6 engine, and those are competitive offerings as well. The four lacks the eerily linear thrust of the BMW 528i's similar engine, but it compensates with a healthy midrange punch that should be more than enough for most tastes. As for the 321-hp V6, it's a carryover from the previous CTS, but we're still fans of its broad-shouldered torque and burly soundtrack.
Through turns, the CTS provides uncommon levels of composure and tactility. If you ever find yourself driving one on a racetrack, don't be afraid to toss it into a corner -- it'll shrink around you like all great sport sedans, and you'll enjoy arguably the best steering feel and body control in this segment. Oh yes, this Caddy is sharp, yet it still maintains its composure over bumps, especially when fitted with the adaptive suspension. The CTS is also ideal for highway cruising, thanks to its smooth ride and fairly quiet cabin.
Standard safety features for the 2015 Cadillac CTS include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, active front head restraints, front and rear side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Also standard are rear parking sensors and OnStar telematics (which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, an emergency button, stolen vehicle locator and active intervention, and remote door unlock).
Additional safety equipment is bundled into two packages. Standard on all except the CTS Standard trim is the Driver Awareness package (automatic high beams, automatic wipers, a rearview camera, lane-keeping assist, Cadillac's vibrating driver's "Safety Alert Seat," forward-collision alert, a blind-spot monitor, lane-change alert, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-departure alert). Optional on Performance and standard on Premium and Vsport Premium is the Driver Assist package (adaptive cruise control and a collision mitigation system with automatic braking).
In government crash tests, the CTS received the top rating of five stars overall, including five stars for total frontal impact safety and five stars for total side impact safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the CTS its highest rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset and side impact crash tests, and the CTS also earned the top "Superior" rating for frontal crash prevention when equipped with the Driver Awareness and Driver Assist packages.
For 2015, the Cadillac CTS receives a revised grille, a wreathless crest emblem (the classic "wreath and crest" is no more), 4G data connectivity with Wi-Fi capability, a wireless phone charging system and a perpendicular parking feature for the available self-parking system. Also, the Driver Awareness package now includes lane-keeping assist and lane-change alert, and the CD player has been eliminated.