The 2018 Cadillac CTS can be a comfortable, efficient and tastefully styled large luxury sedan in its lower trim levels, when powered by a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Yet it can also be the CTS-V, a wildly powerful, all-American muscle sedan with a great ride and handling capabilities that match the world’s best. In between, there are V6-powered trim levels that bridge those two extremes.
The overall result is a midsize luxury sedan that doesn’t always compare perfectly on paper or in practice to the best that Europe has to offer — but the 2018 CTS nevertheless has enough style, driving pleasure and overall character to make it tug at the heartstrings in ways those competitors do not. All of its many variations are distinctly American, and the CTS is better for it.
What’s New for 2018?
Changes are light for the 2018 CTS. An additional pair of USB ports in the rear console bring the total standard number to three. The available heated steering wheel gains an automatic functionality, and owners with an Apple Watch can now operate various systems using the myCadillac mobile app. See the 2018 Cadillac CTS models for sale near you
What We Like
Unique and tasteful styling; strong engine lineup; precise handling and braking; uproariously powerful and fun CTS-V
What We Don’t
Run-flat tires deliver a rather harsh ride; front seats are a bit snug; interior lacks the polish of most rivals
The 2018 Cadillac CTS is offered with four engine choices, all of which come standard with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The 2.0 model is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine good for 268 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency rates fuel economy for this engine at 22 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg in combined driving with rear-wheel drive, and 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined with all-wheel drive.
The midlevel 3.6 is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine that produces 335 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque. Rear-drive models are rated at 20 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined, while all-wheel-drive cars earn a slightly lower 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined.
The performance-oriented V-Sport is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V6 engine that pumps out 420 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque. Only offered with rear-wheel drive, the V-Sport returns 16 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined.
Topping the lineup is the high-performance CTS-V, which touts a raucous 640-hp 6.2-liter supercharged V8 shared with the Corvette Z06. Fuel economy is, not surprisingly, a mediocre 14 mpg city/21 mpg hwy/17 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Cadillac CTS is available in five regular trim levels — the base, Luxury, Premium Luxury, V-Sport and V-Sport Premium Luxury — plus the high-performance CTS-V. Note that not every engine is available in every trim level.
The base CTS ($46,500) comes only with the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder as well as standard 17-inch wheels, advanced Brembo front brakes, rear parking sensors, a backup camera, proximity entry and push-button start, 8-way power front seats with memory settings, simulated leather upholstery, OnStar emergency communications, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, Cadillac’s 8-in touchscreen interface, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, three USB ports and an 11-speaker Bose sound system. Options include heated and ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, a navigation system, a sunroof, split-folding rear seatbacks and a power-adjustable steering wheel with an automatic heating function.
All of those options are included or supplanted on the CTS Luxury ($52,200), which further adds a panoramic sunroof, xenon headlights and the Driver Awareness package, which includes forward-collision warning, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems, along with lane-keeping assist and automatic wipers. The 3.6-liter V6 can be had with the Luxury trim level.
The Premium Luxury trim ($59,700) adds the 3.6-liter V6 as standard plus 18-in wheels, a magnetically controlled adaptive suspension, a head-up display, a surround-view parking camera, a self-parking system, tri-zone climate control, heated rear seats, Cadillac’s special rear-camera mirror, rear sunshades (power rear) and the availability of different interior color combinations. The Premium Luxury trim’s Driver Assist package bolsters its standard Driver Awareness items with forward and reverse automatic emergency braking, automatic safety-belt tightening and adaptive cruise control.
The V-Sport ($61,200) gains a twin-turbo V6 plus a variety of other performance enhancements (sport-tuned steering and a magnetic suspension, upgraded Brembo brakes, summer tires, an electronic limited-slip differential and a special Track mode for performance driving). It’s otherwise equipped similarly to the Luxury, apart from its standard self-parking system and the unavailability of a sunroof.
The V-Sport Premium Luxury ($71,300) essentially adds all the extras from the regular Premium Luxury trim level.
Finally, there’s the CTS-V ($86,500). It essentially builds upon the V-Sport’s content with a supercharged V8 and an even higher pedigree of performance elements. It too can have most of the Premium Luxury’s items, although they’re available through a mix of packages and standalone options. You can also specify special Recaro sport seats and a Carbon Fiber package, which adds a variety of carbon-fiber elements to the exterior.
The Cadillac CTS comes standard with a full complement of safety equipment, including electronic traction and stability control, side curtain airbags and a backup camera. All but the base trim comes standard with forward-collision warning, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems, as well as a lane-keeping assist system. The Premium Luxury trims enhance these features with forward and reverse automatic emergency braking.
In crash tests carried out by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the CTS earned a perfect 5-star rating in all categories, including rollover. The CTS-V scored slightly lower, with 4-star overall and frontal ratings. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it the best possible rating of Good in most crash tests, but it only the received a Marginal rating (third best of four) in the small-overlap front crash test. It also got a Poor headlight rating. Its forward-collision warning and automatic braking systems received a rating of Superior.
Behind the Wheel
The standard 2.0-liter has sufficient power, but it’s obviously not quite as responsive as the V6 — even if you play with the adjustable Drive Mode Control feature. Indeed, we think the 3.6 is the right engine choice for the CTS. Handling is also spot-on, as is feedback from the steering, though our test car’s optional 19-in wheels and run-flat tires delivered a pretty jarring ride. Instead, we might suggest sticking with the stock 18-in wheels.
While we were thrilled about the muscular V-Sport, that model became old news thanks to the CTS-V. With 640 hp and excellent performance upgrades, the CTS-V is a rip-roaring American muscle sedan in a fine suit. We’re especially impressed with its ride quality, which offers tracklike handling or cushy luxury, depending on which you prefer. Chalk that up as a benefit of GM’s amazing magnetic ride control system. The fact that the CTS-V is so much cheaper than its high-powered rivals makes it even more appealing.
Inside, the CTS delivers a big dose of Cadillac luxury, with an attractive interior design complemented by available semi-aniline leather, a beautifully sculpted dash and contrasting suede and wood inserts. However, overall material quality and construction isn’t up to what you’d get in an Audi, BMW, Mercedes or Volvo, and despite some very welcome updates, Cadillac’s touchscreen tech interface can still irritate.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class — All-new last year and with additional models being introduced this year, the E-Class is an exquisitely luxurious sedan that challenges its S-Class big brother for opulence and refinement. Its AMG E 43 and E 63 S variants are key challengers to the CTS’ performance variants, but are pricier.
2018 Lincoln Continental — The other midsize American luxury sedan. The Continental may boast an available 400-horsepower engine, but unlike the CTS, it has no performance pretenses. It’s about luxury first, and although far from perfect, it may make more sense for those looking for a more traditional luxury-sedan experience.
2018 Volvo S90 — For those looking for a luxury sedan that provides a tasteful appearance, comfortable ride and a stylish, impeccably crafted cabin, the Volvo S90 needs to be considered. It’s specifically not trying to be a performance machine, and should be a better choice for many as a result.
Used Cadillac CT6 — The CT6 is Cadillac’s bigger, more luxurious and generally more advanced luxury sedan. Apart from the CTS-V, it’s generally superior to the CTS. It costs more new, though, so considering a used one is recommended.
The CTS is often heavily discounted, the result of it not being the most popular luxury sedan. As such, look to get the most CTS you can for the money. Specifically, keep an eye out for a V6-powered version. We appreciate the base 2.0-liter’s punch, but a Cadillac will forever be better with a meatier engine. And if you can swing the CTS-V, which is already a performance better, go for it.