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Driven: 2014 Cadillac CTS V-Sport rocks with a Star Wars beat

For 2014, Cadillac redesigned their mid-sized CTS sport sedan with sharper edges, leaner and meaner lines, and more high-tech inside and out. Getting behind the wheel of the most powerful CTS V-Sport and seeing how it compares to Mercedes, BMW and Audi was a must.

2014 Cadillac CTS V-Sport rocks to Star Wars beat
2014 Cadillac CTS V-Sport rocks to Star Wars beat
Sam Haymart
2014 Cadillac CTS V-Sport rocks with a Star Wars beat
Sam Haymart

Styling is the latest evolution of Cadillac’s Art and Science theme, with signature LED driving lights . These, from a distance give the ghosted appearance of the fence-post chrome outlines of the first Cadillac Eldorado which was such a distinctive look back in the day.

At the rear, sharp LED tail lamps also shape themselves as a mock of tail fin ever just so slightly enough that it pages your brain to the sixties and seventies. Remarkably, the stylists have pressed your nostalgia buttons without being overtly retro.

The 2014 Cadillac CTS has grown in size over the last generation, now truly sinking its toes naked into the sandy beach of the competition I named at the outset. And in terms of style I think the CTS has matured to be well at home here in this latest generation.

Inside, the Cadillac CTS is available with generous selections of leather color, authentic wood trims and so many technical features. The lavish chrome trims seemed the only throwback to Americana which I could have passed on.

The driver gets Cadillac’s new patented “Safety Alert Seat” which provides a strong vibration in alert from systems like the blind spot minder, lane departure warning and the radar based crash avoidance system.

Our Cadillac CTS had the standard small screen LCD gauge cluster which has traditional dials around it. It was easy enough to read, the center screen features accessed through the steering wheel mounted buttons and paddles. A full digital version is available as an option.

The steering wheel itself had not only paddle shifters for the 8-speed automatic transmission, but highly polished magnesium paddle shifters. On the console was a drive-mode selector which offers up some genuine Jekyl and Hyde personality differences in the car.

Getting to the console and center stack here is where the Cadillac CTS took a notably futuristic bent with power operated features like the cup holder cover. Above it is a similarly power operated storage area door which opens and closes at your touch like the cup holder cover.

The entire center stack known as the “Cadillac User Experience” or CUE has no buttons or knobs. Instead you have a slab of shiny black plastic, back-lit with graphics which represent buttons. There you touch the lit graphics to control things like HVAC and audio functions… and even the glove box.

Your touch is met by a vibration that signals your command has been met with action. It takes some getting used to and requires a practiced touch to use well. I get where they are going here. It's high tech in a Star Wars way and therefore cool, but harder to use than the nice switches on the door.

I mention the switches on the door panel because they were characteristically different from anything on the dash. Their material was top notch satin black with metal accents. Their action felt very German in touch, and they looked the part of a $60,000 plus car.

Alas it’s what’s under the hood that I imagine most of you want to hear about. The CTS V-Sport has Cadillac’s first twin-turbocharged V6 engine. It’s a tour-de-force of the latest technologies from direct-injection to variable valve timing.

The 3.6 liter V6 has 420 horsepower and 430 lb.-ft of torque and turns the rear-wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission. Unlike the CTS-V of year prior, this one is not available with a manual transmission.

The Cadillac CTS V-Sport will accelerate from 0-60 in 4.4 seconds according to Cadillac and also achieve up to 24 mpg on the highway, with an average combined mpg of 18 city and highway.

The sound of the engine is enhanced by a system GM calls psycho acoustics. It is as they describe it the meeting of sound perception and car guy instinct. Essentially, a digital processor plays sound files through the Bose stereo system to enhance engine sound.

All this psycho talk might overshadow some of what I really think the takeaway from the CTS V-Sport is. This of course is its most well tamed chassis behavior. It not only handles, it is fun to drive in the rewarding way a BMW used to be.

It’s magnetic ride control, fully independent multi-link rear suspension and huge Brembo brakes all do their spec-sheet entitled job to control the power output of this car. It’s the fact that the Cadillac CTS achieves it with a level of refinement and finesse not previously known in American sedans that really has me impressed.

You might be impressed to know we actually achieved some 22 mpg combined in our week with the Cadillac CTS V-Sport, a full 4 mpg more than promised – despite all of our prodding of the psycho acoustic qualities of its engine.

In the end, the 2014 Cadillac CTS V-Sport indeed serves up the driving character, fun to drive quotient and value that its competitors from Germany do. It's only the Star Wars dash and some of the remaining bits of American car from the 1980's that remain in the cabin that hold it back.

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