High-quality look and feel, pleasing performance from higher-output models, good fuel economy from lower-output models, and a blend of luxury and technology.
Mid-size luxury sedan
The latest-generation Cadillac CTS luxury sedan launched for model year 2014, and has been a staple of the luxury sedan scene in Canada for the past several years. When it was unveiled, the new redesign saw it re-engineered, re-styled, re-powered, and re-equipped from the ground up, all with the intention of conquering the heart of the mid-size luxury sedan market.
With exclusive features like in-car Wi-Fi, Magnetic Ride Control suspension, OnStar, and more, the CTS’s great-looking new body wrapped up a comprehensively equipped package. Feature content included 20-way adjustable front seats, a motorized cup-holder lid, heated and ventilated seats, a Bose Centerpoint surround stereo system, and a full suite of multimedia and communications technologies. Automatic parking, a full array of advanced safety features, Brembo brakes, a head-up display, and a variety of driver alert systems were available, too.
All CTS models from this generation were four-door sedans, and key competitors included a plethora of competitive models from BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, Audi, Volvo, and others.
Cadillac cooked up a CTS for virtually every possible shopper whim. The base engine is a 2.0L four-cylinder turbo engine, good for 272 horsepower. Common in the used market is the award-winning 3.6L V6, good for 321 horsepower. A twin-turbocharged version of this engine was available as well, delivering 420 horsepower in CTS V-Sport models.
Note that an extreme-performance CTS-V model was available, but we’ll cover that highly specific model in its own story.
Luxury, Performance, or Premium equipment kits could be added as well, and many model grades could be had with rear or all-wheel drive (AWD), the latter designated by a “4” in the name badge.
What Owners Like
Owners typically enjoy a high-quality look and feel, pleasing performance from higher-output models, good fuel economy from lower-output models, and a blend of luxury and technology. The CTS’s premium audio provisions and climate-controlled seats are among its most commonly favourited features. Ride quality on most models is also said to be exceptional, thanks in no small part to the Magnetic Ride Control suspension system.
What Owners Dislike
Common gripes include somewhat-limited on-board space for smaller items near the driver, and a cabin that doesn’t feel quite as roomy as expected, given the size of the car. Headroom may be at a serious premium for taller drivers. Further, some owners wish for a more straightforward experience from the central command system interface.
Should you get an extended warranty? The answer is “probably”. Given the CTS’s wide array of complex systems and features, available add-on warranty packages that specifically cover its powertrain and on-board feature content are popular, and advised by existing owners. Compare the price and coverage provided by any available warranty packages, and determine if you’re best to opt for added coverage, or save the money in your own bank account in case a repair is required. (In the latter case, you still have your money if a repair is required, and if it isn’t). Still, many owners find the added peace of mind worth the cost of extended warranty coverage.
Here’s Your Test Drive To-Do List
So far, the CTS looks to be a solid and reliable used car buy, with a low volume of owner-reported problems, virtually none of which are serious. Still, shoppers are advised to keep the following in mind as they head out to test drive potential used models.
Check All Accessories
Though reports are sporadic and infrequent, some owners have reported broken or malfunctioning parts on board, including the sunroof sunshade, and the power seatbelt retractors – neither of which are cheap to repair. Test drivers are advised to plan on spending 20 minutes or so going over every possible feature and electrically driven component within the vehicle and confirming proper operation. Pay close attention to the central command system, climate control, climate-controlled seats and adjusters, all locks and windows, the sunroof, the back-up camera, and all steering-wheel mounted controls. If anything isn’t working properly, now’s the time to find out.
Check the Body
Sporadic reports of water inside of headlight and taillight housings, the need to repaint the CTS’s roof under warranty, and the early formation of rust on rear quarter panels mean that owners are advised to perform a thorough inspection of the CTS’s body and all exterior trim and other provisions. Ensure all badging is present and properly fastened, and that the trim around the windows isn’t peeling.
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Maintenance, Modifications, and Warranty
If you’re buying a newer used CTS that’s still covered by existing factory warranty, be sure that that warranty hasn’t been voided by some action of the vehicle’s past owner(s). Avoid any unit that’s been modified with non-factory parts, components, or engine management software, as these typically void remaining warranty coverage on all affected components.
Note that technicians can detect the current or former installation of non-factory engine management software (which is popular with some owners of turbocharged models), and that this software will undoubtedly void any remaining powertrain warranty, even if it’s removed before a dealer visit.
Note that any stretching or skipping of factory-prescribed maintenance also tends to void remaining warranty coverage. Finally, remember that damage caused by failure of a non-factory part (for instance, a non-factory oil filter) will typically not be covered by the vehicle’s warranty. Shoppers are best advised to confirm that the CTS they’re considering has never been modified, and that’s its been continually and consistently dealer-maintained in a timely fashion throughout its entire life.
On models with the turbocharged four-cylinder engine, check the quality of the CTS’s idle with the air conditioner both on and off. A tremble or a shuddering idle has been reported by some owners of models with this engine, (in the CTS and other GM applications), ranging from intermittent and minor to consistent and severe enough to nearly stall the engine. Though the cause and fix of this issue still appear undetermined, some owners have had success in eliminating the rough idle issue with dealer-installed engine management software updates.
Run the CUE infotainment system through its paces, flicking through all menus and functions, programming a destination into the navigation system, making a call via Bluetooth, and more. If the system hangs, crashes, or lags, or otherwise performs poorly, a hard reset or software update (relatively easy and low-cost, or free) may solve the problem. If not, new system hardware may be required. Some owners have had associated components, including the entire head unit, replaced under warranty. Here’s some more information about similar issues on another Cadillac model that uses the same system.
Other Useful Information
Have It Scanned
Shoppers should consider a diagnostic scan, performed by a technician at a Cadillac dealer, to be absolutely mandatory ahead of their purchase. Even if no Check Engine or other warning lights or messages are present, this check can reveal dozens or hundreds of problems with a multitude of systems in the CTS, potentially saving you time, money, and headaches. This scan can be arranged with your nearest dealer, takes minutes to complete, and is relatively affordable.
Ditch the Battery
For maximum protection against potential headaches, consider having the CTS’s battery and charging system tested professionally before you buy, and replace the battery if it doesn’t pass the test with flying colours. A weak or dying battery can cause a plethora of frustrating issues with on-board electronics, and replacing the battery for a new one is an affordable way to fend off issues. Consider using a trickle-charger when your CTS will be parked more than a few days at a time, too.
With built-in navigation, OnStar, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, your new-to-you CTS has numerous means by which it allows you to stay connected to information, your destination, your contacts and your important media and data. Be sure to confirm all connectivity systems are in working order before you buy – by trying all features, placing a call to OnStar, setting a navigation destination, and ensuring the Bluetooth connection works as expected with your smartphone. Now’s the time to discover any potential issues.
As all of CTS’s engines are direct-injected, shoppers are advised to ensure they change the engine oil and spark plugs ahead of the intervals set out in the owner’s manual, to never stretch any maintenance intervals, and to always fuel up with Top Tier gasoline from a reputable retailer. These steps can all contribute to a cleaner and longer-running engine that’ll be worry-free for the long haul.
With the VIN, you can look up any applicable recalls on the GM website.
A used current-generation CTS with all service records and a thumbs-up after a simple pre-purchase inspection can be bought with relative confidence – thanks to what seems like solid reliability through its first few model years. Still, consideration of any extended warranty coverage available is advised.
Crash Test Ratings
IIHS: results here
NHTSA: 5/5 Stars (2014)