Cadillac Triple: Testing the ATS, CTS, and XTS

Written by Lee Bailie on .

Cadillac ATS PRNMAG 009

Cadillac’s entry-level ATS appears at first blush to be a mini-CTS, especially on the outside where it shares many of the latter’s styling cues. This is a good thing because the CTS is a handsome car, which the ATS borrows to great affect. Available with several engine and transmission combinations in both rear and all-wheel drive, my tester was an Opulent (dark) blue metallic all-wheel drive Luxury model equipped with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. Although it is a bit noisy off the line, the turbo four delivers plenty of thrust. Don’t be thrown off by its small displacement either – this engine pumps out 272 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque. With peak torque beginning at just 1,700 rpm, the ATS scoots along quite nicely and zips through city traffic with ease. Next time though, I’d like to sample a rear-wheel drive model with a six-speed manual and some sticky summer tires. Now that sounds like fun.

Cadillac CTSIn order to make the deadline for this issue, I had to settle for a winterized version of Cadillac’s all-new mid-size CTS, because the spicy V-Sport is off the road until the snow is gone. Some quality seat time behind the wheel of that tantalizing piece is forthcoming, but in the meantime I’ll offer a few thoughts on its Premium all-wheel drive sibling.

First up: the styling. Given its position as a volume seller, GM was wise not to veer too far from the tried and true with the new CTS. That’s why, despite the redesign, it doesn’t appear (at least to these eyes) to look too much different from its predecessor. It still looks like a CTS, updated to reflect the shifting tides of automotive design.

Cadillac CTS Cadillac CTS

Hence, at first blush, the new looks a lot like the old, but without the boxy shape and knife-edge creases that littered the surface of the outgoing model. In its place, is a tauter, sleeker specimen that sports a handsome new face and character lines that exude confidence over brashness. In short, the CTS is now a veteran in the executive sedan market, and its styling is commensurate with a car that has earned its stripes. Finished in a slate grey with spiffy 19-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in some very low-profile winter tires and a sparse amount of chrome, the CTS exudes an air of sophistication.

That feeling of mature luxury continues on the inside where the CTS envelopes its occupants in a rich, modern interior that looks (and smells) great. Brushed metal and piano black trim pieces fit together nicely with supple leather seating surfaces that cradle occupants in a firm, but comfortable fashion. Every surface I ran my fingers across had a feel of precision I wouldn’t normally associate with Cadillac. Even the door switches function with sharp precision.

Cadillac CTS Cadillac CTS

As for the dazzling electronic wizardry that accompanies just about every Caddy these days, I must admit I’m not a huge fan – at least not yet. The Cadillac CUE (Cadillac User Experience) software which powers the instrument cluster and runs the infotainment system works pretty well, but seems to be more about looks than functionality. I must admit, however, that it does look really pretty, especially at night.

With that said, I appreciate at least some functionality and this system is a bit fussy on that score. Some of the buttons on the centre stack don’t respond as precisely as one might wish for a $70,000-plus car, and operating them with gloves on (it was absolutely frigid during my test) proved to be next to impossible. The seats and steering wheel did heat up quickly, however.

On the road, the CTS Premium is a pleasure to drive. The sound insulation is much more impressive (as one might expect) than the ATS, and the oomph delivered by the 3.6-litre V6 is impressive. The metal paddle shifters – another nice interior touch – made the mundane, but perfectly functional, automatic-transmissioned CTS a little more fun to drive, as did the Sport driving mode which livens up the shift pattern and throttle response. As a daily driver, this CTS is about as good as it gets – even fuel consumption is decent.

One thing that did surprise this writer is the price. I realize this isn’t a base model, but $71,690 seems hefty for a CTS, regardless of trim. For a car that starts near $50,000, the MSRP jump is a bit staggering. I can’t say the disparity will negatively impact sales, but it might persuade Cadillac shoppers to consider the XTS. That is not a misprint as I’ll explain.

Flagship Value

Cadillac XTS VSport

Of the three Caddys I drove in short succession, I came away most impressed with the XTS.

Sure, it’s not the sexiest of the bunch (that would be the CTS, hands down), nor is it the newest (CTS wins there too), and it certainly doesn’t generate the most buzz (CTS again), but the biggest Cadillac sedan delivers in spades when it comes to value.

Submitted for your consideration: the XTS V-Sport all-wheel drive Platinum model I drove for seven bone-chillingly cold days in late February.

I picked up this car not expecting to like it much. Sure, it comes wrapped in contemporary Cadillac good looks, with a sumptuous, glitzy interior and a powerful turbocharged V6 under the hood, but really, isn’t the XTS aimed at senior citizens who like to toodle along Florida Interstates at 10 mph below the speed limit?

Cadillac XTS VSportWell, consider my horizons broadened. This XTS is an absolute blast to drive, and completely shatters my preconceived notions of it being little more than an old fogey mobile.

The 3.6-litre turbocharged V6 hustles the big Caddy with a suddenness that felt a little startling – in a good way – thanks to impressive horsepower and torque outputs (410 / 369), and gobs of low-end torque (peak output begins at just 1,900 rpm). Also surprising is the handling, which felt much more precise than I was expecting. Put it this way, the XTS doesn’t drive as big as it looks.

The experience was made all the more impressive when I took a look at the sticker: it comes in at just $4,000 (before taxes) more than the CTS I tested. This is not an indictment of the CTS, which is a fine car, but it does

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