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Cadillac Changing Game with Third-Generation CTS

No more “tweener” car.

by on Mar.26, 2013

The Vsport version of the 2014 Cadillac CTS -- shown during its NY debut -- will feature the new 420-horsepower Twin Turbo V6.

It’s been a good year, so far, for Cadillac.  The new ATS compact took honors as the North American Car of the Year and, along with the equally new XTS, Caddy sales have shown the sort of momentum General Motors’ flagship brand it hasn’t seen in years.

Yet, the real story begins this week at the Big Apple’s Jacob Javits Center, where New York Auto Show Show-goers are getting their first look at the all-new 2014 Cadillac CTS.  After years of trying to position the sedan in its own distinct niche, the new model is about to go head-to-head with some of the toughest competitors in the luxury market.

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“Cadillac has been on a journey the last 10 years,” since the original CTS debuted, introducing the marque’s distinctive Art & Science design language, says Cadillac Design Director Mark Adams, “And there’s no question the CTS has been the backbone of that journey.”

The 2014 Caddy CTS is now 5 inches longer - pitting it directly against the formidable BMW 5-Series.

But in its first two versions, the sedan was what might be called a “tweener,” a car that didn’t quite fit into any traditional segment.  In Gen-1 form, Caddy hoped that would give it an advantage by providing a roomier, better equipped model than the BMW 3-Series but at a price significantly lower than the bigger Bavarian 5-er. With the 2013 CTS, however, there’ll be no more half measures.

The third-generation sedan is far more than just a re-skin. Indeed, it’s more than the typical end-of-cycle remake. The 2014 Caddy CTS grows larger, more luxurious and is now more directly positioned to take on key competitors such as that trio of well-established German mid-range luxury sedans, the BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6.

The 2014 Cadillac CTS is “larger, lower, leaner” than the outgoing model, notes Adams.  At 195.5 inches, nose-to-tail, it gets an extra five inches of length, the wheelbase growing by a single inch. The roof, meanwhile, is one inch lower. The interior, meanwhile, is larger and roomier in every dimension.

The original CTS introduced Cadillac's Art & Science design language. The new model takes it in a new direction.

The resulting shift in dimensions gives the sedan a more hunkered down, planted feel.

Fans of the Art & Science look will immediately recognize the 2014 CTS, though it is clearly not the chiseled-edge sedan of earlier generations.  Caddy officials like to say they’re taking the distinctive styling theme to “the next level.” It’s also a bit toned down, with more subtle details that seem to have matured to the point where the new model is no longer wildly in-your-face.

There are the familiar, tall head and taillamps – though up front, Cadillac used an interesting pairing of smaller headlamps that flow into the side fenders while a set of daytime running lamps rises up from the bumper to create the familiar, vertical lighting cue.

Cadillac designers and engineers took some interesting steps to create a tight bodyshell. The inlaid hood is set back from both the fenders and grille allowing the appearance of smaller, better-executed gaps, something that enhances the car’s overall sense of luxury and refinement.

What’s both inside and under that body is just as significant.  The interior will likewise be familiar to those who have checked out the new Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid that was introduced at the Detroit Auto Show in January.  It is arguably the most sophisticated cabin Cadillac has ever offered, with distinctive cut-and-sew detailing, lavishly finished accents, and elegantly expressed gauges and controls.

(For more on the new Cadillac ELR plug-in, Click Here.)

The goal was to create the feel of a "bespoke interior" for the 2014 Caddy CTS.

It lives up to Adams claim that Caddy was setting out to create a “bespoke interior.”

The central gauge cluster is based on a reconfigurable digital display that can quickly switch between four different display designs. A second, large screen handles infotainment duties. Caddy officials, meanwhile, promise to resolve some of the concerns with the slow functionality of the CUE system introduced on the ATS and XTS last year.

One of the more creative steps debuting on the new Cadillac CTS will allow a buyer to choose from an assortment of different trim materials for a number of interior panels, such as the surround by the front door handles. The seats, meanwhile, can be upgraded to a 20-way power system that is heated and cooled and adopts the “haptic” warning system first shown on the ATS and XTS. Linked to the various external safety sensors it vibrates to warn you, for example, when a collision is imminent or you’ve inadvertently drifted out of your lane.

The 2014 Caddy CTS adopts a number of the underbody measures introduced on the CTS to cut mass, improve rigidity and reduce fuel consumption. That includes not only the extensive use of aluminum – which saves 66 pounds in the doors alone – but subtle details like scalloping the welded B-pillar to eliminate steel where it isn’t needed.

The new Cadillac Twin-Turbo V-6.

Chief engineer Dave Leone claims the new CTS will be the lightest vehicle in its class, which appears to hold true at around 3,600 pounds, or 200 lbs less than the comparable 5-Series models. It’s also 7% lighter than the old, smaller CTS.

Cadillac already signaled some major news earlier this month by previewing the new Twin-Turbo V-6 going into the new Vsport version of the 2014 CTS. Don’t confuse this with the replacement for the past V-Series models.  That’s still in the works and will likely top 500 horsepower. But at 420-hp from its 3.6-liter displacement, the Twin-Turbo should be one of the most impressive engines in the segment, delivering more horsepower than the much bigger 5.4-liter BMW powerplant.

(Click Here for more on the Cadillac Twin-Turbo V-6.)

Along with the Twin Turbo CTS buyers can opt for a 321-horsepower naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V-6 and a 2.0-liter single-turbo inline-four making 272-hp.

The new LED daytime lamps help maintain the look of Caddy's traditional, vertical headlamps.

The list of intriguing details Cadillac has worked up for the new CTS could double the length of this preview so we’ll hit just a few highpoints, including standard tap shifters. (Sorry, no manual unless and until they add one for the V-Series.) There’s the MagneRide electronic suspension system, perhaps the fastest variable system in the business, Head-Up Display, a first-ever Cadillac electronically controlled limited-slip differential, and Brembo brakes across the board, with an upgrade for the Vsport.

For decades, Cadillac seemed to have a fantasy that simply by putting its badge on the car it could command a sizable market. Of course, its decades-long slide revealed quite the opposite. The good news is that with the launch of the 2013 ATS, the GM marque has shown it really can take the competition seriously. And the CTS appears to take things well further. We’ll have to wait for our first drive to see if the 2014 Cadillac sedan lives up to its promises.

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