Car review: Cadillac CTS tested in UAE

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Which Cadillac is this?  

It’s the Cadillac CTS, the brand’s reasonably large executive sedan. For those who aren’t enormously clear on the Cadillac line-up, the CTS is essentially an American rival to the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class. It’s bigger than the BMW 3 Series-sized ATS, but not quite as big as the 7 Series-sized CT6. Once one of Cadillac’s biggest sellers, its sales numbers have dwindled in recent years, but it’s still an important car for the brand.

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Gotcha. So what differentiates the CTS from the competition?  

Well, as is the case with every modern Cadillac, the first thing you’ll notice is the aggressive, angular styling. We’re now onto the third generation of the CTS, and while many of the lines have been softened since the first one, there’s still a design-by-ruler approach to the styling. It’s in stark contrast to a brand like Mercedes, which has discovered a penchant for curves in recent years.

Anyway, style is subjective, so it’s up to you to make your mind up on the looks (which we quite like). The other main thing that differentiates the CTS from the competition is its price. It starts at AED 164,000 – a whole lot less than the BMW 5 Series’ starting price of AED 250,000.

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What will the starting price get me?  

It’ll give you a rear-driven executive saloon powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine good for 268 bhp. That power figure is about on-par with the new BMW 530i, but the Cadillac is heavier, meaning its performance figures aren’t as impressive.

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At the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got the CTS-V, which comes with an outrageous 6.2-litre V8. If that sounds a little much, you can have the V-Sport model, which features a twin-turbocharged, 3.6-litre V6 developing 420 bhp. Or you could buy the mid-range model that we’ve tested, which comes with a non-turbocharged 3.6-litre V6 good for 335 bhp.

Sounds ample. Is it any good?

The stats won’t blow you away – the 0-100 km/h dash is taken care of in 6.0 seconds, while top speed is limited to 230 km/h. So far, so average – and the CTS even feels a little more sluggish than its numbers suggest when you put your foot down. But as you spend more time with it in this guise, the CTS makes a fair case for itself as a driver’s car suited for the everyday grind.

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Go on.

Well, Cadillac says that the new CTS was partly developed at the Nürburgring (the famous, twisting racetrack in Germany). At the track, Cadillac says, the brand’s engineers assessed the CTS’s performance and “fine-tuned its agility”. And while Nürburgring-developed cars aren’t anything new these days, that’s something of a surprise from a brand like Cadillac, which is better known for creating supremely comfortable road-barges in which to waft about.

Is the CTS a hard-and-fast track monster now, then?

Oh, certainly not. It’s still very relaxing in its manners, and eerily quiet at speed. And that’s a good thing – I can’t imagine many Cadillac buyers would be satisfied with bone-shattering suspension set-ups and raucous exhaust notes every time they went for a quick jaunt to the shops.

But that Nürburgring development has nevertheless paid dividends. The steering, particularly in sport mode, is calibrated beautifully, giving you a wonderful, weighty feel for what the front wheels are doing. It’s also direct enough for you to be able to point the CTS in whatever direction you see fit – at almost any speed – without much drama.

What this translates to when approaching a twisty road is a car well suited to the job of having some fun. Turn-in is sharp, body roll is manageable, and grip is momentous, meaning you can get on the power early when exiting the corner for a quick getaway. Go too hard here, and the CTS’s rear-drive layout starts to show, with the back end slipping away slightly. But thanks to that fabulous steering rack, it’s just so easy to manage the slip. In fact, you’re encouraged to go too hard because, well, it’s a lot of fun when the tail steps out slightly.

In fact, all things considered, I was astonished by how much fun this thing is to drive.

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But it’s not a fast car, is it?

It’s fast enough. While the CTS, with this engine, won’t melt your mind with its speed, there’s power available across the rev range, meaning you never get the impression that it’s slow. Certainly, you’ll be up to highway speeds in a matter of moments, and, if you carry on pushing, earning black points on your licence in no time.

What about the interior? That’s where American cars tend to stumble.

Interior quality is more than adequate for a car of this price. The leather is supple, the seats comfortable and supportive, and there’s plenty of space in the front and back. The gear-shifters behind the steering wheel are a nice touch, too – each is made of a single piece of magnesium and is beautifully engineered.

All of that said, the CTS is let down by the strength of its tech. Everything is there – Apple CarPlay, 360-degree parking cameras, lane departure assist, the works. But it’s just not quite as refined as you’d hope – in fact, some of it is just intrusive. Take the lane departure assist, which isn’t much good at reading road markings on routes going through roadworks. As a result, you have to wrestle (quite hard) with the steering wheel as the car aims to keep you in what it deems to be a lane, but is actually a collision course with a bollard. There’s also a really annoying seatbelt tightening system that pulls you violently into the seat once you’re above a certain speed.

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Elsewhere, the 360-degree parking camera goes for the same top-down view of the car in its parking space as the systems found in Audis, Volkswagens and BMWs. And while it works, the magic of the experience is lost by the fact that the car displayed on the screen is surrounded by an ugly black box – where the designers hadn’t bothered to properly cut out and crop the picture of the vehicle.

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None of this stuff is enough to make you dislike the CTS, but it does help explain why it’s so much less expensive than its German rivals. You just don’t get those small annoyances and oversights from the Germans.

So you’d have a Mercedes or BMW over the Cadillac?

Actually, no. Despite its tech-related annoyances, the CTS is a properly well sorted saloon car. Whether you’re doing a 500-kilometre highway drive or a quick dash up a mountain road, it’ll perform exactly how you want it to. I’d go as far as to say that it’s more entertaining to drive than an equivalent BMW 5 Series. And if that’s the sort of company that the CTS keeps, you’ve got to look at it as something of a bargain.


Engine: 3.6-litre V6
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic
Power: 335 bhp
0-100 km/h: 6.0 s
Top speed: 230 km/h
Price (starting): AED 164,086
Dealer: Liberty Automobiles (Dubai)

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