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.