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2018 Cadillac CTS Overview
Sporty and elegant, the 2018 Cadillac CTS mid-size luxury sedan packs plenty of power beneath its stylish exterior. Combining strong acceleration, nimble handling, good safety ratings, and a well-equipped cabin, the award-winning CTS continues to run with the best in its class. For 2018, it receives only a few minor updates, both luxury- and tech-related, as it rolls into the fourth year of its third generation, which debuted in 2015.
Many credit the CTS with spearheading Cadillac's revival early in the 21st century. Since then, the automaker has unveiled a number of other sporty luxury sedans, like the entry-level ATS, which slots into the vehicle lineup below the CTS, and the XTS and relatively new CT6 sedans, which take the top two positions. Those vehicles, as well as Cadillac's popular SUVs, have put a dent in CTS sales, but it remains a solid performer and a good choice for those seeking a domestic counterpart to competitive European luxury sedans. On the downside, some reviewers note a lack of legroom and headroom in the CTS's second-row seat and would like to see better fuel economy from its powerplants.
Updates for 2018 include a new smart-heated steering wheel. The previous year's heated steering wheel is upgraded with a unit that monitors the cabin's ambient temperature and adjusts to keep the driver's hands comfortable. In addition, owners can now integrate Apple Watch with the CUE infotainment system using the myCadillac mobile app for iOS. When integrated, owners can use Apple Watch to locate the car, remote start and stop, lock and unlock doors, and operate horn and lights. Finally, Cadillac introduces a new Satin Steel Metallic exterior color for 2018, joining existing colors Dark Adriatic Blue Metallic and Red Obsession Tintcoat.
Although past years have seen a variety of body styles, the current lineup consists of Base, Luxury, Premium Luxury, and a performance-oriented CTS-V sedan (covered in a separate preview). All CTS trims display a bold exterior design, highlighted by the prominent chrome grille with the Cadillac emblem, angular headlights and foglights, sweeping sidelines, and a long, low profile. LED daytime running lights, heated power exterior mirrors, vertical beveled taillights, and dual bright chrome exhaust pipes are standard on all trims. The mid-level Luxury trim adds automatic on/off HID headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and auto-dimming side mirrors. At the top of the lineup, the Premium Luxury includes illuminated door handles. Both the Base and Luxury trims ride on 17-inch alloy wheels; the Premium Luxury upgrades to 18-inch wheels.
The CTS delivers a sporty ride with agile handling and precise steering. In its standard configuration, the CTS is rear-wheel drive (RWD), but buyers can upgrade to an all-wheel drive (AWD) that automatically monitors slippage and makes necessary adjustments. Active grille shutters, standard on all trims, close at higher speeds to reduce drag and improve aerodynamics. All trims get performance-oriented Brembo front brakes and sport-tuned electronic ZF steering, as well as GM's StabiliTrak electronic stability control system. The top-end Premium Luxury also comes equipped with Magnetic Ride Control, which makes continual adjustments to the suspension system to ensure a smooth ride and responsive handling on all types of road surfaces. For a firmer ride, Luxury and Premium Luxury buyers can add an optional performance suspension.
Two different engines drive the trio of CTS trims. Both the Base and Luxury trims come equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder powerplant. It generates 268 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, which is available over a broad range for robust acceleration and passing power. Cadillac pairs the engine with an 8-speed automatic transmission and includes magnesium steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual control. An auto start/stop function helps improve fuel efficiency. The CTS manages numbers of 22 mpg city, 30 highway, and 25 combined on RWD trims and 21, 29, and 24 with AWD.
Although some reviewers claim the turbo 4 is not as refined as the base powerplants found in other luxury sedans, in most driving situation the engine proves adequate. Buyers seeking a more powerful performance and smoother operation will want to step up to the Premium Luxury trim, which gets a 3.6-liter 6-cylinder delivering 335 hp, while torque drops to 285 lb-ft. The 6-cylinder links to the same 8-speed automatic and features start/stop technology and Active Fuel Management for improved efficiency. Despite the increased horsepower, fuel economy numbers drop only slightly, to 20, 30, and 24 with RWD and 19, 27, and 22 with AWD.
The focal point of the CTS remains its refined cabin with seating for five passengers; although, adults may find headroom and legroom to be limited in the second row. The front provides more room all around, with comfortable bucket seats and a driver-oriented design that places controls, knobs, and displays within easy reach. The Base gets a fixed rear seatback with a center armrest and a pass-through to the trunk, while the Luxury and Premium Luxury trims come equipped with 60/40 split-and-fold rear seats. Cargo space in the trunk measures 13.7 cubic feet.
Standard interior highlights include ambient lighting, push-button start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, wireless charging, and a reversing camera with rear parking assist. Additionally, all trims get the automaker's Cadillac User Experience (CUE) infotainment system, which features an 8-inch touchscreen, three USB ports, and satellite radio. Updated in 2018 with integration for Apple Watch, the CUE infotainment system displays a revised, more intuitive user interface, Summary View for quick access to audio, climate, navigation, and phone apps like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In addition, drivers and passengers can create personal CUE accounts for customized operation.
Other standard interior features for the well-equipped Base trim include leatherette upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and an 11-speaker Bose audio system. The Luxury trim upgrades to leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a power sunroof, the new automatic heated steering wheel with a power tilt/telescopic steering column, and a 13-speaker Bose audio system. The range-topping Premium Luxury adds tri-zone climate control, heated rear seats, a head-up display, illuminated front door sills, and a rear window power sunshade. Beyond that, Cadillac offers a wide range of options and add-ons for the CTS, including a variety of wood, aluminum, and carbon fiber interior trims, several unique leather seating surfaces, and sporty options like aluminum pedals.
Like all GM vehicles, OnStar comes standard on the CTS and offers advanced diagnostics, roadside assistance, automatic crash response, and Wi-Fi hotspot capability. A full range of airbags, including knee airbags, comes standard on all trims. The Luxury and Premium Luxury trims include advanced safety features like lane departure warning, blind-spot alert, forward collision alert, and rear cross-traffic alert.. The Premium Luxury also comes equipped with Surround Vision, giving drivers a bird's-eye view of the area around the vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the CTS a top safety rating of five out of five stars, and by most other parameters, including performance, comfort, and tech features, the CTS continues to receive similar good ratings.
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 California.
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