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2015 Cadillac CTS

The Cadillac CTS receives a short list of updates for 2015–including the addition of the new Cadillac crest to the grille–making this already excellent luxury sedan that much better. This year, it’s only offered as a sedan, competing against cars such as the Audi A6, Jaguar XF, BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

For shoppers interested in the CTS-V Coupe performance models, Cadillac will sell 500 final edition cars during the second half of 2014. ( Read our most recent full review on the carry-over Cadillac CTS-V Coupe . )

The third-generation CTS finally tackles the thorny E-Class/5-Series/A6 superset head-on, while it marches Cadillac a few more brisk steps away from its straight-edged Art & Science theming.

That retreat is unmistakable–because from some angles, the 2015 CTS bears a remarkable resemblance to Mercedes’ E-Class, from the shape of the side glass, to the angle of the rear roofline. The blunt edges are smoother; the LED lighting at the front end does the neat visual trick of pulling the nose to the ground, while it picks it up and into the fenders. The CTS’ interior mixes leather and wood trim, and caps it with a piece that drapes over and into the center stack. The CUE infotainment screen grabs major real estate in the cockpit, on the center stack and in the gauges. On some models it replaces the gauges entirely.

Finally, a true mid-sizer

The 2015 CTS has grown up and out into true mid-size dimensions, making back-to-back comparisons with E-Classes and 5-Series and XF easier. It’s 195.5 inches long overall–4.1 inches longer than before–and the wheelbase is 114.6 inches, an increase of 1.1 inches. The roofline’s lower by an inch, to 57.2 inches, and that has as great an effect on its five-passenger utility as the boost in rear-seat space.

The CTS’s front seats build up great support with firm bolsters and dozen or more adjustments. Base seats can be adjusted 14 ways, while 16-way leather-covered seats and 20-way seats can be fitted from the options list. The back seat in the CTS has a bit less leg room and support than the seats in its big-name German rivals, but it’s better than past CTS sedans. The Cadillac’s trunk is small, to boot.

GM uses active noise cancellation to mute the noises of the turbo-4 and twin-turbo V-6. At the same time, sounds from in front of the firewall are pumped into the cabin through Bose speakers. The cabin wears a soft glow from all its screens, and discreet dashes of metallic trim lend it glamor.

Bracketed by turbos

Three engines frame the CTS’s argument in the mid-size luxury debate. The base engine is the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, rated at 272 hp, teamed with a six-speed automatic, and offered with either rear- or all-wheel drive. The base car is sorted well; it has light electric steering and a softly sprung ride, but sounds more gruff than the turbo four from BMW.

The top CTS sedan is the $60,000 Vsport, fitted with GM’s new twin-turbo 3.6-liter V-6, and good for 420 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. It’s rear-drive only, with a paddle-shifted 8-speed automatic, and comes with dedicated 18-inch Pirelli tires, an electronic limited-slip differential, a track mode, and Brembo brakes.

Cadillac’s 3.6-liter V-6 slots into the mid-line CTS with 321 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. The rear-driver can be fitted with all-wheel drive, and those latter cars get same 6-speed automatic with paddles. A new 8-speed, paddle-shifted automatic comes with rear-drive versions. The V-6 fits better as a mid-size Cadillac, since it’s quick enough to throw off 6-seconds runs to 60 mph.

The CTS is relatively trim and light. Its base curb weight of 3,616 pounds is some 250 pounds less than the last-generation CTS, and its body structure is far stiffer. A slimmer CTS means superior handling, no matter which version: the steering forgoes steroidal and artificial weighting and it rides firmly, with little lean. We’ve driven a handful of CTS sedans, and our favorite is the Vsport, and not just because it compiles especially beautifully on a track. With Cadillac’s magnetic dampers (an option on all models) and a quick steering ratio, it grips the ground fanatically, needling its way through carousels and esses–but relaxes in comfort mode to a composed, confident default mode.

Safer seats?

Like the Cadillac ATS, the 2015 CTS gets a full set of high-tech safety features, above and beyond the usual stability control. Ten airbags, parking sensors, rearview cameras–they’re a little passe, aren’t they? The CTS pairs radar and cameras to enable forward-collision alerts, and it offers adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warnings.

The CTS also gets the clever haptic setup from the ATS and XTS. The system detects when the car rolls over the lane striping and vibrates the seat cushion as a gentle alert.

GM’s OnStar system is free for one year with the 2015 CTS, and comes bundled with smartphone-app access, down to remote start. OnStar also now includes 4G LTE data connectivity with the ability to create an in-car WiFi network.

2015 CTS features and options

The 2015 Cadillac CTS will come in three different trim levels, named just as those on the ATS are named: Luxury, Performance, and Premium. All versions will come with power features, cruise control, climate control, and Bluetooth with audio streaming.

Cadillac’s CUE system is available. It’s a defining piece of technology for the brand, and one that’s far from foolproof–a sentiment we have regarding other infotainment systems. In particular, CUE has haptic feedback that isn’t always predictable. It’s not very good at natural-language commands and often, we reverted to smartphone-based Google Maps. Still, CUE looks dramatic and has some fascinating features that are worth learning. Its big 8.0-inch screen displays navigation, audio, climate, and phone functions, linked to a second screen between the gauges, controlled by voice or by steering-wheel controls. Navigation integrates with CUE, but remains optional on base models. The CUE system also includes text message alerts for 2015, and there’s an available wireless DockSpot charging pad for mobile devices, too. And, the CTS now has a perpendicular self-parking feature available, too.

Other nifty touches include parking assist, which steers the car into parallel spots while the driver keeps a foot on the pedals; ambient LED lighting; Bose audio; and a cupholder with a power-operated cover. Forget what the GPS says–that’s the signal that the 2015 CTS sedan has finally arrived.

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