Who needs refinement when you’ve got this much excitement?
The Cadillac CTS V-Sport has been one of our favorite sports sedans for years now, having racked up three 10Best Cars trophies since it first arrived in 2014. The CTS didn’t make the cut this year, but, seeing as we don’t separate our annual award into categories, it wasn’t because a hotter new sports sedan arrived to claim its crown (yet). So we have no trouble defending the CTS V-Sport’s honor, even though it wasn’t one of our 10Best Cars for 2017.
Three years after its debut and first 10Best appearance, the CTS sedan is mostly the same as it ever was. The V-Sport model, sliding in between the standard CTS and the fire-breathing CTS-V, comes one of two ways: well equipped or fully loaded. Both the standard V-Sport and the V-Sport Premium tested here come with a 420-hp twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6.
With athletic proportions and an attractive stance (especially in the rear, where the wide, 275/35R-18 tires enhance the impression of width), the CTS’s styling has aged well. Compared with our 2014 long-term car, some mild visual updates keep it looking fresh, including Cadillac’s redesigned logo, introduced in 2015, and a few small tweaks to the front and rear fascia for 2017. Our test car’s $3000 Carbon Black package also added a bit of drama in the form of a black grille, different 18-inch wheels, a subtle rear spoiler, and, perhaps most importantly, aggressively bolstered Recaro front seats.
It Means Business
It doesn’t take more than a quick jab of the throttle, a tap of the brake pedal, or a turn of the steering wheel to realize that the V-Sport is a serious performance sedan. The primary controls are taut and precise in their responses. Throttle tip-in is aggressive but not so much so that it impedes smooth driving, while the engine emits a throaty growl even in the lower rev range. The brake pedal is firm and satisfying whether you’re puttering around town or charging hard down a curving road.
And charge hard it does—storming to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and getting through the quarter-mile in just under 13 seconds makes the V-Sport an impressive straight-line performer. Yes, some of the Mercedes-AMG, BMW M, and Audi RS sedans of the world are quicker still, but shaming those German muscle cars from a stoplight is a job for the 640-hp, V-8–powered CTS-V. Plus, the V-Sport’s sensation of speed is greater than its performance numbers suggest, as the quick-responding eight-speed automatic and the V-6’s raucous, exciting soundtrack make for a racy experience.
Talkative and Taut
The V-Sport’s steering enhances the rest of the car’s dynamics with its positive feedback and communicative nature. It tells you everything you need to know—no more, no less—about the texture of the road surface. The meaty, leather-wrapped steering wheel feels good in your hands, and the rack is accurate and weighty, whether you select the Tour or Sport driving mode (there’s also a Track mode that partially deactivates the stability control and a Snow/Ice mode for more treacherous conditions).
This sort of raw, unfiltered dynamic character is exactly what we look for in a sports sedan, but given the luxurious segment the CTS resides in, a bit more polish in the cabin would be appreciated. A mishmash of leather, carbon-fiber-look trim, plastic, chrome, and suede, the interior gives up a lot to its European rivals in terms of elegance and usability. Some creaks and rattles cropped up during our drive, and Cadillac’s CUE interface continues to frustrate with its slow-to-respond touch-sensitive controls. CUE’s one saving grace is the clean integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, which work better with the CTS’s touchscreen than they do when paired with the more complex control-knob interfaces found in the Mercedes-Benz E-class and the BMW 5-series.
Balancing Sport and Luxury
As with many sedans in our increasingly crossover-obsessed market, CTS sales have been slow as of late, and it’s easy to imagine luxury shoppers being turned off by the subpar interior atmosphere. And, considering Cadillac’s less-than-stellar brand image, we could also see potential buyers scoff at paying the same money as they would for a BMW or a Mercedes. Our fully loaded V-Sport test car stickered at nearly $76,000; yes, that sounds like a lot, but it’s a reasonable sum in the context of luxury sedans with this much power and performance. The price is about the same for roughly equivalent, 400-hp versions of the E-class, 5-series, and A6, (that’d be the AMG E43, M550i, and S6, respectively), and the Germans are stingy with standard features, so you’ll shell out even more for their luxury options.
Given that the CTS V-Sport’s luxury quotient isn’t its strong suit anyway, we’d advocate for the non-Premium, base V-Sport model, which can be had for $61,690 if you don’t mind giving up the Premium’s fancy digital gauge cluster for basic dial indicators. This Caddy shines bright because of the way it comes alive on a great road, not because of the way it coddles you during your morning commute. Make no mistake: Although we might not bestow our highest award upon it anymore, the CTS V-Sport is still a winner.