European sport sedans have long usurped the big American luxo-boats as the ideal luxury four-door. Cadillac recognized this years ago when they pulled the wraps of the very first 2002 CTS. In the 16 ensuing years since, the brand's bread-and-butter Deville has disappeared from the market, while the CTS has managed to become a credible competitor to the stalwart German machines. Handsome, fast, and always eager to dance, the 2019 Cadillac CTS is still a viable option in a crowded and competitive segment.

Best Value

While the reputations of the Germans remain sterling, Cadillac's suffers from severe tarnishing. What this means for consumers today is that there's no brand-snobbery tax here – prices are more sane across the board than for something like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class or BMW 5-Series.

Consider, for instance, the mid-level Luxury trim. It comes with an available 3.6-liter V6, built-in WiFi, a rearview camera, heated and ventilated front seats, and a 13-speaker Bose audio system, among other things. The price for all this? A shade over 55 grand, which is a more reasonable cost of admission than a comparably-equipped BMW or Mercedes. And if you're like us, you'll find the $2,465 V-Sport Package to be well worth the expense. Here's the full breakdown on our ideal CTS:

  • Model: 2019 Cadillac CTS Luxury
  • Engine: 3.6-liter V6
  • Output: 335 hp / 285 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
  • MPG: 19 City / 29 Hwy
  • Options: 3.6-liter V6 engine ($2,000), V-Sport Package ($2,465, Magnetic Ride Control, performance suspension, Brembo performance brakes, sport steering wheel, 18-inch wheels with summer tires), Rear Camera Mirror ($475)
  • Base Price: $53,690 (including the $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$58,630

Performance

BMW 3 Series

Weighing in at only about 3,600 pounds, CTS models of all stripes are light, lithe machines. The base suspension is taut and fine-tuned; these cars positively dance around corners, which is a surprising feat to anyone who's only familiar with the brand's older models. It's a strange world we live in these days, one where BMWs have become more deadened while Cadillacs are paragons of handling prowess. But after our stint with the CTS, we certainly won't be voicing any "they don't make 'em like they used to" lamentations.

If the base suspension isn't sporty enough and you don't have the dough to splurge on the full-boat CTS-V model, Cadillac offers the $2,465 V-Sport Package. Available on all trims but the base model, the V-Sport Package includes, among other things, the excellent Magnetic Ride Control, which alone is worth the price. It reads and responds to road conditions every five milliseconds, giving the car excellent response and precise, appropriate dampening action in every situation. When coupled with the V-Sport Package's bigger brakes, summer tires, and stiffer suspension, the CTS is elevated from a sedan with sporty tendencies to a genuine sport sedan.

With 285 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, the base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine isn't lacking for power. But a lack of adequate refinement and the dearth of real-world power delivery make it the least enjoyable of the three available engines; fuel economy of an EPA-estimated 22 miles per gallon city, 30 mpg highway, and 25 combined is too close to that of the V6, making that a moot selling point. It's not that the four-cylinder is a bad engine per say, but for a more refined experience get one of the two available sixes.

The 3.6-liter V6 comes standard on the Premium Luxury trim, and is a $2,000 upgrade for Luxury models. It's the volume engine, and for good reason – this familiar six is pleasantly powerful and reassuringly smooth. It makes 335 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque, and delivers 19/29/23 mpg (city/highway/combined).

Atop the engine hierarchy is a twin-turbocharged variant of the 3.6-liter V6. Power is boosted to 420 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque, and going from zero to 60 mph is a 4.6-second endeavor. It's exclusive to the V-Sport trim, and includes the V-Sport Package as standard equipment. For those looking for an under-the-radar fast flyer, this is the way to go.

All three engines use an eight-speed automatic transmission. This unit worked unobtrusively during our testing, and had no issues with hunting for gears or being reluctant to downshift when pressed for power.

Style

It's been five years now since the CTS first wore it's current sheetmetal, but a cursory glance wouldn't have the average onlooker suspecting as much. The front still retains a modern countenance, though we'd be happy if those teardrop LEDs were finally wiped away. Its profile is defined by the almost-formal C-pillar, which gives the car a distinctive three-box look rather than a pseudo-hatchback style that seems to be in vogue. Overall, the whole exterior of the car has aged well, and it still looks fresh despite its age.

It's a different story inside. The interior shows that it came out of those dark days when GM was feeling its way through the uncertain post-bankruptcy restructuring. While materials are nice enough, they just can't compete with the newer, more modern interiors of the latest E-Class and 5-Series, and the Caddy's overall design – lots of creases and angles, all dominated by a distinct center stack – takes you back to 2010.

Adding to the disappointment is the lack of rear-seat space, which again falls short of the German competitors. At least the front buckets are comfortable, and come standard with eight-way power adjustment. The CUE infotainment software has also improved greatly since version 1.0; we'd even name the system as one of our favorites. The optional 12.3-inch display screen that takes the place of an analog cluster is excellent as well.

The Best and Worst Things

The handling, style, and V6 powertrains are all quite laudable, and keep the CTS competitive with the best from Germany.

The fuel economy isn't anything to write home about, rear-seat room is a little too cozy, and the interior is clearly in need of a revision.

Right For? Wrong For?

BMW 3 Series

Buyers who want a quick, fine-handling sport sedan would be happy with the CTS.

Those who are looking for roomy rear seating, such as families with children and car seats, are best to look elsewhere.

The Bottom Line

Cadillac has come a long way since the dawn of the 21st century. Then the manufacturer of stodgy old Devilles and venerable Eldorados and Sevilles, the brand is now building some of the best-handling non-performance luxury sedans on the market. Who would've thought? But that's the way the world goes – those who sit on their laurels and refuse to change will watch the world pass them by. After two-plus decades of mediocrity, the first-gen CTS was proof that Cadillac wasn't about to let themselves keep getting passed by. And now, three generations of consistent improvement later, the 2019 Cadillac CTS celebrates the shedding of an old reputation and the simultaneous creation of a new one. Handling, performance, technology, and style – this is Cadillac, and this is the 2019 CTS.