2018 Cadillac CTS Sedan Review

Loaded with new tech, we put Cadillac's 355-hp mid-size sedan to the test

Technology is integral to modern cars at every price point, controlling everything from engines with fuel-saving direct injection to commonplace safety features like stability control.

But nowhere do buyers expect above-and-beyond technology more than in the luxury-car segment. In upscale vehicles, the tech behind infotainment systems and active safety features is now at least as important as the way a car drives, or what kind of leather is stitched onto the seats.

Despite its past reputation as a brand catering to a rather mature driver demographic, Cadillac seems aware of the importance of high-tech features and functionality to the modern luxury car experience. We got a taste of that awareness in a recent drive of its mid-range sedan model, the CTS.

Then again, there’s always the insane 2018 Cadillac CTS-V Glacier Metallic Edition with only 115 units available.

That our latest Cadillac experience came in a sedan is notable, given how many auto-related headlines reference this body style’s falling popularity, a phenomenon blamed on the industry’s current affinity for crossovers and SUVs. A sedan’s best chance to stand out is by packing in high-tech features aimed at making the driver’s job easier.

2018 CTS Sedan’s New Tech & Features

Cadillac’s Rear Camera Mirror

To that end, GM fitted our test car with one of its newest tech features, an option it calls the rear camera mirror. This puts a second camera on the trunklid (in addition to a traditional backup camera) that constantly transmits a view of what’s behind the car to a special rearview mirror that discreetly doubles as a display screen.

2018 cadillac cts sedan review rear camera mirror
Cadillac’s rear camera mirror puts a second camera on the trunklid (in addition to a traditional backup camera) that constantly transmits a view of what’s behind the car to a special rearview mirror that discreetly doubles as a display screen. Pic: Cadillac

Cadillac is among the first automakers to put such technology in a production car, and while it fulfills Cadillac’s claim of eliminating typical blind spots created by the body’s pillars and seat headrests, it’s not perfect. Its primary shortcoming is a poor nighttime image that is often completely washed out by the headlights of following cars.

It’s a neat trick once your eyes are used to the camera’s unusual perspective and judging distances between your car and those behind; it’s just not ready for prime time. Cadillac clearly knows that, because the flip of a lever turns it into a traditional rearview mirror. Honestly, though, the small side mirrors annoyed us more in our day-to-day use of the car.

Updated Cadillac CUE Infotainment System

Last year, Cadillac revamped its CUE (Cadillac User Experience) infotainment system to make it easier to use, and we did find it was more intuitive than in past Cadillacs we’ve tested. Still, it had a couple of meltdowns when we asked it to play music from the Apple smartphone we connected to the car’s USB input.

Other Tech and Safety Features

Other useful tech in our CTS Luxury-trim tester included a surround-vision exterior camera system and rear cross-traffic alert (both of which compensated for not-great rearward visibility in tight parking situations), tire-pressure monitoring (this alerted us to the left-rear tire being punctured by a screw and developing a slow leak), lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitor with lane-change alert and forward-collision alert. Forward automatic emergency braking was included as part of the driver assist option package, which also added adaptive cruise control and forward and reverse automatic braking.

If you want more power, the CTS V-Sport uses a turbocharged version of this motor that cranks out 420 hp and 430 lb-ft and feels even more potent than those numbers suggest.

Our favourite Cadillac safety feature continues to be the way the driver’s seat vibrates when one of those systems has something to tell you. We like it better than audible alerts, which we find more distracting as drivers.

But even with technology playing such a large role in modern luxury cars, an upscale vehicle like the CTS still needs more than that to make a good impression.

2018 Cadillac CTS Performance & Handling

Under the Hood: 335-hp 3.6L Engine

Under our CTS tester’s hood was a 3.6L engine that makes 335 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque. General Motors uses this engine in a lot of its cars and crossovers, but it feels particularly well-suited here. What it lacks in low-end grunt compared to the turbocharged six-cylinders favoured by Cadillac’s German competitors like the BMW 5 Series, it makes up for with strong high-end performance. Find a stretch of open road and the motor rewards a heavy right foot with strong pull and a decent soundtrack.

If you want more power, the CTS V-Sport uses a turbocharged version of this motor that cranks out 420 hp and 430 lb-ft and feels even more potent than those numbers suggest. Here are 8 things you need to know about the 2018 Cadillac CTS-V.

Or you can step up to Caddy’s larger sedan with the 2019 Cadillac CT6 V-Sport – a 550-hp sleeper sedan.

2018 cadillac cts sedan review rear
Under our CTS tester’s hood was a 3.6L engine that makes 335 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque. General Motors uses this engine in a lot of its cars and crossovers, but it feels particularly well-suited here. Pic: Cadillac

CTS Transmission

An eight-speed automatic transmission that’s standard in all CTS variants is good at managing the engine’s power, but it sometimes feels clumsy at low speeds, especially when the engine’s automatic start/stop function is active and it has just fired up after being stopped at a traffic light.

Working together, the engine and transmission delivered average fuel consumption of 8.4 L/100 km over several hundred kilometres of relaxed cruising along central Ontario’s two-lane Highway 7. That’s an impressive figure, and a touch better than Cadillac’s 8.6 L/100 km highway driving estimate for this car.

Cadillac’s magnetic ride control suspension

Our test car came with Cadillac’s magnetic ride control suspension, which tightens up the ride in sport mode and prioritizes comfort in touring mode. Even in the softer setting, the high-tech chassis controls body motions well over rough pavement and lends this big sedan good handling.

Inside the 2018 CTS Sedan: Interior Impressions

But for all that the CTS casts a substantial shadow, you’d never know it from inside the cabin, which is surprisingly snug. Front seat space is good, but the rear quarters feel like they belong in a compact car, with tight headroom and legroom we’d only describe as useful.

We (still) dislike the CTS’s touch-sensitive secondary controls, which are a challenge to use without looking away from the road. The point of an infotainment-equipped car having redundant climate and audio controls is to eliminate that distraction.

2018 cadillac cts sedan review interior front dash
Cadillac revamped its CUE (Cadillac User Experience) infotainment system to make it easier to use, and we did find it was more intuitive than in past Cadillacs we’ve tested. Still, it had a couple of meltdowns when we asked it to play music from the Apple smartphone we connected to the car’s USB input. Pic: Cadillac

A smaller annoyance is the centre console storage bin. It’s hinged on the passenger side, which we assume was a well-intentioned decision to make it easier for the driver to access its contents, including the USB input we mentioned above.

However, it’s a design choice that makes it more difficult for your front-seat passenger to get in there, and that can be a distraction while the car is moving. Hinging the cover at the back, as in most cars, or using two smaller side-hinged doors would make for a better design.

Takeaway: Our 2018 CTS Sedan Review Conclusion

Ultimately, Cadillac is in the unenviable position of fielding a five-year-old design — that’s nearing its sixth birthday — in a vehicle segment fighting for the attention of luxury-car shoppers and in which it faces serious competition, notably from BMW’s latest 5 Series, which was completely redone just two years ago.

That’s a shame, because while we’d argue the BMW is better at being luxurious, the CTS still looks good and drives the way a sport sedan should. Ironically, what holds the CTS back is that its maker is trying to keep the car relevant in a changing marketplace. But this American sport sedan is still holding its own, fusing impressive power with bold exterior styling.

Learn more: CTS US | CTS Canada

2018 Cadillac CTS Sedan Specs & Price:

  • Engine: 3.6L V6
  • Power: 335 hp
  • Torque: 285 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
  • Brakes: Four-wheel disc
  • Steering: Electric power-assist rack-and-pinion
  • Suspension: MacPherson strut (front); Multi-link independent (rear)
  • Fuel economy, ratings (l/100km, city/highway): 12.1/8.6
  • Fuel economy, observed (l/100km): 10.0
  • Price: US$46,495 – C$52,460 starting MSRP (C$73,520 starting MSRP as tested)
Chris has been writing professionally about cars since 2004, in print and online. He lives in Ottawa with his wife and two feline tyrants. In rare quiet moments, he can be found travelling or playing one of his way-too-many guitars. Chris is also a journalist member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).