Cadillac CTS V-Sport — Performance personified

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Cadillac offers a compelling reason to buy American if you are looking for a mid-sized luxury sedan — meet the crisply styled CTS that offers an excellent combination of performance, handling, passenger comfort and technology to take on the German and Japanese brands. But — and this is a big but — you have to purchase the correct model to get the full complement of these competitive attributes.

There are three engine choices, two of which are lacking the true sports sedan experience. The base engine is a turbocharged four-cylinder making 268 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, and the mid-level engine is a 3.6-liter V-6 developing 335 horsepower and 285 pound-feet of torque.

For those choosing the Cadillac over the spirited BMW 5 Series or the Audi A6, they will select the V-Sport or V-Sport Premium Luxury trim levels. These trims are outfitted with a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6 developing a prodigious 420 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque, a sport-tuned suspension and steering system, upgraded brakes, 18-inch wheels with summer tires, and an electronic limited -slip differential.

No, we have not forgotten the Big Kahuna of the CTS lineup — the CTS V with its monstrous supercharged V-8 engine that produces 640 horsepower. But that version starts at nearly 90 grand and we do not consider it a daily driver, but a serious enthusiast's car that deserves time at the track and/or at the drag strip.

What the CTS V-Sport brings is true performance measured at 0-to-60 in 4.5 seconds that can serve as a daily commuter car or as a really exciting machine that can be taken just about anywhere. And this performance comes with decent gas mileage measured at 16 mpg city, 24 highway and 19 overall.

It doesn't take but a few minutes behind the wheel to discover the CTS V-Sport is much more than the throaty growl emitted by the engine. The quick-responding 8-speed automatic transmission sends the sedan soaring off the line and stands ready for smooth at-the-the-right-time shifts — including immediate downshifts when needed.

The steering is very communicative through the thick leather-wrapped steering wheel. Select the Sport driving mode from the Magnetic Ride adaptive suspension and the CTS is ready to handle the curving blacktops of America at speeds not normally associated with a four-door vehicle. There is also a Track mode, but it is best reserved for — as it indicates — the track. For one thing it deactivates the stability control, which we of more limited high-speed experience find extremely useful.

We did find the V-Sport rather stiff-legged over some road imperfections giving us the feeling that it was "dancing." Otherwise, we found the ride acceptable — although firm — especially for a car of its road holding abilities.

The Cadillac at first glance has an impressive-looking interior, but it's starting to show its age — it first appeared in this current iteration in 2014 — with a lack of useful knobs in favor of touch-sensitive controls that can be aggravating to use while hurtling down the road. However, steering wheel controls work well including an audio volume button, blessedly eliminating the need to use the touchbar on the center stack. And the CTS now comes with the very useable Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

We found the front Recaro seats comfortable and supportive, and reaching a good driving position was not difficult. Rear seat legroom can be on the tight side if the front-seat passenger is more than 6-feet tall, despite the CTS's rather long dimensions. Cargo space is adequate at 13.7 cubic feet, but again rather skimpy considering the CTS is 195.5 inches in length with a 114.6-inch wheelbase.

As you would expect from a sports sedan starting at $61,990 for the V-Sport and $72,090 for the V-Sport Premium Luxury most of what people demand from luxury vehicles these days is standard equipment including the adaptive suspension, Brembo brakes, and summer tires; and such standard safety as lane change alert with blind zone monitor, rear vision camera with cross traffic alert, surround vision, forward automatic braking and a tire pressure monitor.

While we did have some nitpicks with the V-Sport, we consider them minor compared to the car's enormous performance and handling capabilities. Our V-Sport Premium Luxury test car carried a bottom line of $76,210 and included such standard features as Bose surround sound, tri-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, head-up display, "ultraview" sunroof, and 20-way power driver's seat. The two costliest options were V-Performance Exhaust and Engine Cover package for $2,065 and Kona Brown with Jet Black accent full leather seats for $1,500.

Base price: $61,990; as driven, $76,210
Engine: 3.6-liter twin-turbo V-6
Horsepower: 420 @5,750 rpm
Torque: 430 pound-feet @ 3,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 114.6 inches
Length: 195.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,992 pounds
Turning circle: 36.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 13.7 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 19 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 16 city, 24 highway, 19 overall
0-60: 4.5 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Audi A6, BMW 5-Series,

The Good
• Outstanding acceleration
• Precise handling
• Classy looking interior

The Bad
• Center touch panel dated

The Ugly
• Rear seat room tight