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2012 Cadillac CTS ReviewThe Good
The Cadillac CTS midsize luxury car receives a number of updates for 2012, including a new grille, a more powerful V6 engine, a new Touring Package and standard Bluetooth in all trims.The Bad
Some owners have difficulty finding a comfortable seating position in the driver's seat, since it sits low, and visibility out the back remains a problem in the 2012 CTS.
The CarGurus View
With its distinctive styling, sporty performance and well-equipped interior, the Cadillac CTS continues to impress owners and reviewers alike. The updates for 2012, while slight, help the CTS remain competitive in a crowded market segment. Buyers searching for something a little different should definitely give the CTS a look, especially since Cadillac continues to offer rebates and incentives to prospective buyers to help sweeten the deal.
At a Glance
Now toward the end of its second generation, the 2012 Cadillac CTS continually ranks near the top of its upscale automotive market segment, thanks to its successful blend of luxury-oriented amenities, sporty handling and distinctive good looks. For 2012, the CTS continues to come in Sport Sedan and Sport Wagon body styles, at Base, Luxury, Performance and Premium trim levels. Base and Luxury trims get a 3.0-liter V6 engine, which rolls over from the previous year unchanged. The Performance and Premium trims receive an updated 3.6-liter V6, which now produces 318 hp, an increase of 14 hp over the engine it replaces.
The CTS's eye-catching exterior styling gets a slight cosmetic makeover for 2012, as Cadillac updates the vehicle's shield-shaped front grille with new finishes, a new frame and mesh combination, and sharper colors for the Wreath & Crest logo. The updates provide a more refined front appearance, according to the automaker. The new grille leads off an exterior design that also includes jeweled halogen headlights, angular exterior lines, heated side mirrors, vertical LED taillights and a V-shaped motif in the rear. Sport Wagon trims also receive integrated roof rails and a power-operated rear liftgate, while Performance and Premium trims add integrated foglights and HID headlights.
Bluetooth comes as a standard feature in all CTS trims for 2012. Cadillac also adds a new Touring Package, available for the Luxury and Premium trims. When added to the Luxury trim, the Touring Package includes Midnight Sapele wood trim, sport metal alloy pedals, front bucket seats and a sueded steering wheel and shift knob, as well as an exclusive dark-finish grille, chrome door handles and unique 18-inch painted Pearl Nickel wheels. When added to the Premium trim, the package also includes 14-way power-adjustable Recaro performance seats and 19-inch polished aluminum wheels with summer tires.
Both the CTS Sport Sedan and Sport Wagon are powered through the rear wheels, although owners can equip all trims with optional all-wheel drive (AWD). The Sport Wagon sits on the same 113.4-inch wheelbase as the sedan, although it's slightly shorter overall than the sedan. However, the Wagon offers more cargo space.
The CTS competes against such upscale vehicles as the BMW 3 Series, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the Acura TL, the Infiniti G and the Audi A5. It's stiff competition, but critics say the CTS matches or beats most of its competitors, and with the new V6 putting out more horsepower with no noticeable decrease in fuel economy, the CTS should continue to impress prospective buyers and new owners.
As in previous years, two V6 engines drive the various CTS trims. The base 3.0-liter powerplant, updated in 2010, generates 270 hp and 223 lb-ft of torque. Featuring direct injection and variable valve timing, it links to a 6-speed manual transmission, which comes standard, or an optional 6-speed automatic. Fuel economy numbers for the base V6 check in at 16/26 mpg for rear-wheel-drive (RWD) trims and 18/26 for AWD trims. When equipped with the automatic transmission, RWD trims eke out an extra mile for each gallon of gas.
An updated 3.6-liter V6 powers the Performance and Premium trims. Also featuring direct injection and variable valve timing, the updated V6 features larger intake valves, an integrated head and exhaust manifold, a plastic intake manifold and new intake port and camshaft designs. Those updates provide more airflow to the engine, improving power and efficiency. As a result of the updates, the V6 now puts out 14 more hp than the previous powerplant, topping out at 318 hp. Torque rises slightly, from 273 lb-ft for the previous engine to 275 lb-ft for the updated powerplant. Those numbers, Cadillac points out, are better than the horsepower and torque numbers for comparable V6 engines driving such competitive vehicles as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the Lexus ES 350. In the Performance and Premium trims, the new V6 mates only to the 6-speed automatic transmission, which comes as standard equipment. Cadillac no longer offers the manual shifter on the upper-end CTS trims.
Both V6 engines provide plenty of power, according to testers. However, reviewers also note that the larger V6 provides better low-end torque. Still, when equipped with either engine, the CTS move along at a good pace, with plenty of power in passing and accelerating maneuvers, as well as when tossing the CTS around tight corners.
Ride & Handling
Reviewers and owners alike remain impressed with the CTS's capable ride and handling. Thanks to its standard RWD drivetrain and 4-wheel independent suspension with anti-sway bars in the front and rear, the CTS remains well-balanced and firmly planted to the road even in the tightest curves, where it exhibits minimal body lean. The ZF Servotronic power rack-and-pinion steering feels precise and responsive, and 4-wheel antilock disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power. Overall, the CTS provides quick, agile handling and a firm ride that doesn't sacrifice passenger comfort.
Performance and Premium trims add a Sport Suspension tuned for more precise handling and optimal responsiveness, with an independent short-/long-arm design in the front and a multi-link configuration in the rear. Cadillac also offers an optional Performance Suspension with rear load-leveling and speed-sensitive power-assisted steering. Owners can also add an optional Performance cooling system, a limited-slip differential and optional Performance antilock brakes to both the Performance and Premium trims.
Base and Luxury trims ride on 17-inch painted aluminum wheels with all-season tires, while the Performance trims get 18-inch multi-coat painted aluminum wheels. The Premium trim receives 18-inch high-polished aluminum wheels. Owners can add a variety of 18- and 19-inch chrome and aluminum wheels, as well as performance tires, as options. According to reviewers, wind and road noise do not intrude into the quiet cabin, regardless of tire size.
Cabin & Comfort
The CTS's comfortable, upscale cabin earns praise from owners and reviewers alike, thanks to its long list of luxury-oriented amenities and extensive use of high-quality materials. The front row has a dual-cockpit design, separated by a swooping center stack, which places controls and a pop-up information screen within easy reach of the driver and front passenger. Most passengers will find adequate headroom and legroom in both rows of seating, though taller passengers might find the cabin a little tight, due in part to the vehicle's low, sporty profile. Seats are generally supportive, though some reviewers find the seats lacking in adequate bolstering, especially for a vehicle designed for sporty maneuvering. In addition, due to the low position of the driver's seat, some owners say they have difficulty getting comfortable behind the wheel.
Leather upholstery comes standard in all trims except the Base, which gets leatherette upholstery. All trims receive such standard features as automatic dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, remote keyless entry and power windows and door locks. The Base and Performance trims get a leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise, audio and Bluetooth controls, while the Limited trim receives a leather-and-wood steering wheel, and the Premium trim gets a heated leather-and-wood steering wheel. The driver's seat for the Base trim features 8-way power adjustment, while all other trims receive a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat with memory settings and an 8-way power-adjustable passenger seat.
All trims except the Base get heated front seats and ambient lighting. Both the Luxury and Premium receive Sapele wood trim (as opposed to the Midnight Sapele available with the Touring Package), and the top-of-the-line Premium includes heated and ventilated front seats, a split/folding rear seat, keyless start and a heated power-telescopic leather-and-wood steering wheel.
The Base CTS receives an 8-speaker Bose audio system with a CD player and SiriusXM satellite radio. The Luxury trim adds a 6-CD player, while the Performance trim upgrades to a 10-speaker Bose Surround Sound system with a CD/DVD player, a USB port and a 40GB hard drive. At the top of the line, the Premium trim gets a 10-speaker Bose 5.1 Surround Sound audio system with an 8-inch screen, navigation and NavTraffic. GM's OnStar system, standard on all trims, includes one year of the Directions and Connections plan with turn-by-turn navigation. The Limited and Premium trims get a rear-view backup camera.
Cargo space for the 5-passenger CTS Sport Sedan checks in at 13.6 cubic feet, which is slightly below average for the class, since some competitors, such as the Hyundai Genesis, offer nearly 16 cubic feet of space. Some critics find fault with the Sport Sedan's tight trunk opening, which makes it difficult to load larger objects. Owners seeking optimal cargo space can opt for the Sport Wagon, which offers 25 cubic feet of storage space behind the 60/40-split and fold rear seats. With the rear seats down, cargo space tops out at 58 cubic feet. The wagon's cargo management system, which includes an adjustable in-floor containment space, further expands cargo-carrying capabilities.
The IIHS named the 2012 Cadillac CTS a Top Safety Pick and awarded it a top rating of Good. The NHTSA similarly gave the CTS an overall top safety rating of 5 out of 5 stars, since it achieved 5 stars for protecting passengers during front and side crashes, and 4 stars for protecting passengers during rollovers.
The 2012 CTS comes with a full range of airbags, including dual-stage front, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags and front and rear side-curtain airbags. Other standard safety features for the CTS include the StabiliTrak electronic stability control system, traction control and brake assist. In addition, the CTS's OnStar system includes such safety features as automatic crash response, roadside assistance, stolen vehicle assistance and remote door unlock.
What Owners Think
Cutting-edge styling and performance continue to draw buyers to the popular CTS. Owners like the way it straddles the line between a performance and luxury vehicle, delivering the best of both worlds. The car accelerates and handles well, owners say, and they like the CTS's smooth ride as well as its overall build quality. Owners also like the fact that it runs on regular fuel rather than premium, as some upscale V6-powered competitors do. Most owners find the CTS's fuel economy numbers acceptable. In addition, a number of owners point to rebates and incentives that help improve the car's value.
On the downside, visibility out the rear remains a problem for the sedan, due to hunky D-pillars, and some owners find the navigation controls overly complicated. In addition, some owners find fault with the front seats, finding them either too hard or too low to get comfortably seated. Overall, however, owners say the CTS stacks up well against its import and domestic competition.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in Florida.
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