Photos + Copy: Angus MacKenzie

I recently had the opportunity to experience the latest saloon creation from GM’s upscale division – the 2015 Cadillac CTS4. Cadillac is one of those marques that have enjoyed a relatively strong following of brand loyalists since its inception some 60 years ago, and this recent addition has received glowing reviews from many a media outlet. So how will the 321 hp, $71K sedan with AWD react to Calgary’s bipolar weather conditions.

First off, the most important elemente on this new Caddy isn’t that it lost weight, or that its CUE system has been upgraded or its new styling but rather the number 4. That all important figure that resides somewhere between the number 3 and the letter 5 is what keeps the 3700 lb saloon safely betwixt snowbound Beemers and frozen ditches…that and some super sweet 18” performance snow tires.

The ‘4’ in the CTS4, Cadillac speak for all wheel drive, features a thing called Active Torque Tech (ATT). This system automatically monitors and advises the car’s sensors to adjust traction requirements as needed.

Cadillac's angular AWD luxury barge poised in front of the SPARK Science Ctr
Cadillac’s angular AWD luxury barge poised in front of the SPARK Science Ctr

According to one of GM’s brand specialists, the CTS4 features an active transfer case that allows for an infinitely variable distribution of drive forces between the front and rear wheels. The system constantly monitoring various inputs and transfers torque to the front wheels as needed…as much as 100% if needed.

In more technical terms, “The CTS’ active transfer system controller uses information from the brake controller, engine, and steering sensors to determine whether a wheel is about to spin. The yaw rate (rotation around the car’s vertical axis) and the position of the steering wheel, for example, offer important data on current driving conditions. Data of this kind is essential when turning fast so that the system can respond to oversteer or understeer as required and keep the vehicle on its intended path.”

In my experience, the car’s ATT system actually did an outstanding job at handling varying road conditions during my week long test on Calgary’s snowbound, then soggy, then mushy, then dry, then snowbound roads last month.

In the interest of assisting buyers find the right vehicle to go with important interests like architecture, cocktails, films, food, etc. I’ve taken it upon myself to provide this free pairing recommendation service;


For example; during a fresh snowstorm early in February, and with the car loaded with 5 in-laws and the wife, the AWD system performed flawlessly. If the back end came out a bit, the car’s AWD system would harness it in while the front wheels pulled as needed. In fresh snow the car had no trouble securing traction and remaining composed. At 80 km/h with a carload of overly fed Winnipegger’s the CTS4 remained poised and confident on slick and freshly snowed upon surfaces. Winnipeg aunty and godmother were so impressed with the car they proposed I take them to the mall parking lot for a bit of donut hoonery. I declined, but I now have a better sense of what goes on in suburban Winnipeg on a Thursday night.

Paddle shifters help keep the 6-speed in check
Paddle shifters help manage the V6’s powerband & keep the 6-speed in check

Stylistically the big saloon carries Cadillac’s signature angular styling treatments. The biggest difference on the newer Caddy’s is the LED light treatment that runs up and onto the fenders from their headlight originations. This design elemente, that carries up from chrome accents flanking the grille, helps reduce the visual massing from the forward haunches by drawing the eye back along the hoodline towards the cabin.

From the front the CTS presents a stately, aggressive demeanour while out back the mood changes to a more corporate, responsible state of affairs. On profile, sculpted lines that intersect with door handles further reinforce the car’s handsome yet dynamic feel.

From a safety perspective the CTS looks to have more airbags than Minnesota has cheeseheads. Bags or air have your front, thorax, pelvic, side-heed, rear thorax and front knees covered should you find yourself in an accidental situation. A Faberge egg would be so lucky to reside in such a transportational Bouncy Castle as this. Excellent brakes with Brembo front calipers meant stopping in big hurry were not an issue.

The engine, a 3.6 liter V6 VVT features Direct Injection and produces something along the lines of 321 hp and only 275 lb.ft. of torque. That torque figure is unfortunately low for such a big sedan but the quick to rev V6 regains some of that lost pull power through good old fashioned revolutions. The engine delivered a fitting performance exhaust note when requested, but was right bloody quiet for milling about at night.

The 3.6 V6 VVT puts out 321 hp and 275 lb.ft of torque
The 3.6 V6 VVT puts out 321 hp and 275 lb.ft of torque

My personal solution to the power problem looks to reside in the form of the 420 hp/ 430 lb.ft of torque found in the twin-turbo VSport model. But minor power grumblings aside, that the engine has to lug about 1763 kg, or 3887 lbs of aluminum, metal and glass should allow for some performance leniency.

The gearbox, a lovely bit of gear management engineering, was quick and adept at dealing with most requests thrown at it. The 6-speed autobox when flipped to manual/manuel mode, allowed us to work the paddle shifters with much approval. Gearing for city and highway was optimal.

The customizable Heads-Up-Display (HUD) was a nice touch that worked to keep my ADD focused on the road. Rather than me trying to decipher through the myriad of dash inputs I could customize to show the selected gear, hi-fi selection, speed, etc. A most welcome addition.

A heated steering wheel and damn comfortable heated seats made the February test that much more enjoyable. The wife, with asbestos genetics, somehow managed to keep her seat set to molten during any ride-alongs. An impressive Bosee sound setup, in conjunction with Cadillac’s revised CUE info and media system with haptic feedback makes for a techy yet enjoyable interior experience. External road and wind noise was excellent as was the car’s overall planted feel and what appeared to be good build quality.

My one concern, echoed by the FiL (father in law), pertained to cabin space. From the outside the CTS sedan looks and feels substantial, but inside it felt marginally cramped and slightly restrictive. I’m not sure, maybe GM was going for a more intimate experience here. Beyond that tiny concern the cabin felt like a gentlemen’s smoking room. Back seat room is also bit snug when fitted out with a trifecta of Winnipeggians. Trunk space however gets kudos for its size and golf bag holding abilities.

The ZF rack-mounted electric, power assist w/ variable assist steering (holy mouthful) proved equally adequate at giving excellent wheel feedback at speed and enough assist at lower speeds without feeling light. With a turning radius of 11.9 m (39 ft) the Caddy is anything but Mini-like in a parkade but was agile enough for a device of this size.

Cadillac's LED lighting & signature angular style treatment at work
Cadillac’s LED lighting & signature angular style treatment at work

Cadillac’s magneterhologicalhoohaanuggetmeal suspension configuration ie. Magnetic Ride Control, also lived up to the hype. Depending on the selected driving mode the suspension delivered strong body control when needed and changed to comfort florfy when crossing train tracks or ice fields. (Magneto-rheological fluid in the shocks, when subjected to an electric current, changes the fluids viscosity…becoming thicker to reduce body roll during more pronounced cornering or lighter when required for more supple, comfortable cruising)

On the financial side, the price point for our premium tester was $71,900 CDN. Keep in mind it featured high performance 18″ snow tires and most every bell and whistle you might need. This high mid-range price point puts the Cadillac directly in competition with certain Germanic saloons, some nice Asian designs and one of those British performance sedans.

But if you’re a Cadillac loyalist and seeking a big sedan with commendable AWD capabilities, reasonable performance characteristics and angular Caddy styling then this might be a good place to start.

Source: GM

Angus Mackenzie

Canadian born automotive & architectural photographer. elemente magazine was born in 2006 as a Canadian national design publication . It remains as an online entity.

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