2016 Cadillac CTS 3.6L AWD Review

American Luxury Without Compromises

It’s time to stop with the tired cliché.

No more quips about Cadillac returning to form, becoming a real luxury player or catching up to the Germans. Cadillac’s renaissance occurred several years ago and is complete. There’s no reason Cadillac shouldn’t be spoken in the same breath as BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

As such, Cadillac’s vehicles need to be evaluated and regarded as key players in a segment and not the feel-good, up-and-coming American underdog story. No longer can Cadillac get away with trying, improving and being almost there. The brand needs to be on par with the best Japan and Germany has to offer if Cadillac wants continued success.

Substantial, Constant Improvement

They key to a winning formula is continual improvement and innovation. The third-generation Cadillac CTS came out in 2014 and grew to be a proper mid-size luxury sedan. It had all the technology, equipment and style to fit right in alongside the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series. It even came with innovations like eschewing a V8 engine in favor of a 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that made similar levels of power.

But the world of luxury cars is a cruel mistress. Today’s headliner is tomorrow’s washed-up relic. To remain relevant with fickle luxury car consumers, updates, improvements and attention grabbing details need to be administered quicker than a vehicle’s usual five to six-year life cycle.

It looks like the message has been received at Cadillac. Just two years after its introduction, the CTS receives an all-new engine, a new standard transmission and a ton of new technology.

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More Power

The big news for 2016 is the addition of a new V6 engine. Replacing the previous 3.6-liter V6 is an all-new 3.6-liter V6 powerplant. Despite what appears to be identical displacement size, the new engine is actually just shy of 100 cc larger than the outgoing unit.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Cadillac CTS-V Review

Power is pegged at 335 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque running on regular gas. Yup, that’s right; all 335 ponies are in attendance on regular grade gasoline. Not only is that 14 hp improvement over the old V6 engine, but it’s also more power than the Mercedes-Benz E350 4MATIC and BMW 535i xDrive.

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Improved Efficiency

For improved efficiency, the new engine incorporates direct injection, start/stop technology and cylinder deactivation. When cruising under light loads, the V6 will turn off two cylinders and become a V4 to save fuel. This is good for official ratings of 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway for the 2016 Cadillac CTS 3.6L AWD. That’s an improvement of 1 mpg city and 2 mpg highway compared to the 2015 model.

Part of the improved efficiency comes courtesy of an eight-speed automatic transmission that’s now included on all versions of the CTS, not just those with the twin-turbocharged V Sport engine.

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A Strange Warble

With the extra gearing, the CTS feels more powerful than the extra 14 hp would suggest. It’s still not V Sport levels of power, but the gap seems less cavernous. The eight-speed automatic clips through gears effortlessly under acceleration and is quick enough to downshift when performing passing maneuvers. It’s all the power this car really needs and not once did I ever feel the car wasn’t moving quick enough for my liking.

There is an issue though. Sometimes during low speed, low acceleration driving either the engine or transmission begins to warble and chug a bit. It pulsates in an unrefined, jerky behavior. Stopping the car or adding more throttle pressure cures this problem, but it’s an annoying trait that happened quite a few times. It doesn’t match how refined and luxurious the rest of the car is. Was it a one off in the particular car I was driving? I do not know, but I would love seat time in another CTS to see if this issue replicates itself.

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A Proper Luxury Car

The 2016 CTS still looks attractive from the exterior, despite how long the “art and science” look has been around. Cadillac has done a good job making the car instantly recognizable, while keeping it modern and classy.

The 2016 CTS 3.6L AWD weighs in at just 3,913 lbs, which is significantly lighter than the E350 4MATIC or the 535i xDrive. And with a 50/50 weight distribution, the CTS is quite responsive for a regular luxury car, especially in sport mode where the magnetic ride suspension firms things up and reduces body motions. The all-wheel drive system is flawless, even in messy, slippery conditions, where I never felt a wheel slip or the system hunt for a tire with traction.

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Stylish Interior Smothered with Technology

The luxury theme continues inside with a nice, fluid design thats fitting for the class. I really like the open pore wood that, combined with the brown leather seats and fake suede accents, gives the CTS a distinct American luxury feel. People who are fans of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi may not like the CTS’s interior, but there’s no denying its quality.

SEE ALSO: 2014 Cadillac CTS Review Video

What’s not quality is passenger and cargo space. With just 35.4 inches of rear legroom, back seat passenger space is a bit tight. The trunk also is also on the small side, offering up just 13.7 cubic feet of cargo room.

The CTS can come optioned with nearly every modern car convenience out there. Included in my tester was a 360-degree camera system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, lane keep assist, cooled seats, adaptive cruise control and of course General Motor’s 4GLTE on-board WiFi system. It truly had everything I would want in a luxury car.

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The Verdict: 2016 Cadillac CTS 3.6L AWD Review

Minus one bizarre engine quirk, the 2016 Cadillac CTS proves to be a proper luxury car. There’s no debate or question to its premium status. The old saying goes that a luxury car should make you feel like you’ve arrived and the 2016 Cadillac CTS does that, even in mid 3.6L level trim. Cadillac’s biggest issue is getting more luxury car buyers to discover this fact – something the brand has been chipping away at for the past decade.

For a while, it has been the V models, and more recently, the V Sports, that received world class accolades while the regular models felt a step behind. With the 2016 CTS 3.6L AWD, that is not the case. If you want an American luxury car, it’s not a matter of settling for the CTS, but rather choosing a car that’s wholly in the game.

Discuss this on our Cadillac CTS Forum

  • Circa79

    The 2015 V6 cars had an 8 speed auto with RWD, but not AWD. The V sport wasn’t the only model with 8A transmission.

    I’m glad someone noted that Cadillac has been making these kinds of cars for over a decade so its time to stop acting like a RWD Cadillac with good handling is some sort of surprise. That is getting a bit old now. Also trunk space is about the same as the 5 series- thats par for the course for RWD midsize sedans. They generally don’t have large trunks.

  • SUQSID

    Tiny windows, tiny doors, Cadillac CUE, no LED headlamps, all of which turned me off when I visited a Cadillac dealer. Getting into or out of the rear passenger space is easy only for small, thin people. No matter good the car is for the driver, for the passengers it’s a different story.

  • Circa79

    tiny doors in the front? That makes no sense to me. LED headlights are available as pricey options on many luxury cars. I can’t believe you would base your decision on that. And if you had checked the internet you would’ve known the CTS lacked LED headlights before going to the dealer. The windows on this car are no smaller than modern vehicles like the 6 series, A7, S coupe, etc. If you want a traditional looking upright luxury car the Hyundai Equus is a good choice.

  • Mike Schlee

    Good points. You’re correct, rear-wheel drive luxury cars in general have small trunks.

  • windel Vernon

    I love the exterior of the car, especially the front and rear lights. They’re distinctly Cadillac and exude more luxury than the competition. The profile and sheet metal is smooth and flowing unlike the competition. In my humble opinion, it has passed the appearance test and based on the writer’s report, it’s power compares well with those in it’s class. I like it.

  • Rochester

    The ergonomics in this car feel wrong, and they always have. Front seat, dashboard, backseat, etc. And no matter how many times you say Caddy has already “arrived” in competition with German and Japanese luxury brands, it doesn’t make it true, even if Dora the Explorer says it three times over. This car is overpriced by $20k USD.

    Overpricing cars by putting lipstick on a pig… that is something quintessentially Cadillac.

  • angry

    I own a second generation CTS, and I’m not excited about the price increases to the third generation vehicle. But, I don’t think you can find a vehicle comparable to the third generation CTS for $20k less than it. If you can, please let me know what it is because I want to check it out.

  • Circa79

    You sound ignorant and biased. Typical closed minded import luxury brand buyer who is incapable of giving credit where it is due. If you think this car is $20k overpriced you aren’t credible. Also, since you seem unaware I will inform you that generally speaking the Japanese luxury brands are fighting for respect just like Cadillac in terms of sports sedans. While Lexus is amongst the top luxury sellers (in the US only) it’s success is largely based on its FWD products (especially the RX350), not it’s German challenging RWD products. Lexus nor Infiniti have managed to make much of a dent in the sales of German luxury sedans.

  • Harry_Wild

    The current CTS is smaller inside the the current Honda Accord Touring and BMW 535 ix! It does drive well but the rear quarter panel is bulky looking and does not fit the style of the rest of the car! The best value everything considered is the Accord, follow by 535ix and the smaller CTS!

  • Circa79

    FWD cars are always more space efficient than RWD cars of similar exterior dimensions. That doesn’t mean something is wrong with the CTS, it’s just the nature of a RWD car. There is a reason most mainstream family cars are FWD.

  • Rochester

    Attacking me instead of defending your Chevy. How immature, but exactly the kind of personality Cadillac caters to.

  • Circa79

    I don’t have a Chevy. Thanks

  • Michael Zizzo

    The 2016 CTS is a very very nice automobile, but i do believe that it is a bit overpriced and under imaged. When you are in the $75K range for this type of vehicle, it opens the door to other models that on a status basis appear to be the better buy. I think the sales figures (-40% from 2013) prove me out. That said, IMHO what Cadillac needs to do is to offer this V6 vehicle at a lower than competitive price point, whereas the quality and distinction image is solidified among the other brands and Cadillac is not only the clear leader in performance and Quality but also in value. It is part of a very long Branding process, that is too early in this stage to start raising prices. BTW 2 more cents, Cadillac should not offer such a premium car (base) with a 4 cyl engine (turbo or not), period.

  • Roscoe

    I Love the look of my 2014 CTS. What I don’t like is factory GPS. I’d rather have a Garmin (easy to operate). The trunk is too small, the glove box is too small, the plastic dash needs dusted daily. I think it is the best looking car on the road & could buy anyone I want.

  • Circa79

    well its 68k in US money- which is still pricey but not out of line with the class. This must be a fully loaded car. In an era when a well equipped 3 series approaches $60k I don’t know how the CTS is considered overpriced. The 5 series and E class have been priced into the 60k+ range for many, many years.

  • johnls39 .

    The Accord is not in the same class like the rwd sport-sedans.

  • johnls39 .

    The CTS is not over-priced. This is a Premium Collection model, the highest option and Collection, on the CTS. I’ll take this car over the competition any day of the week.

  • Folke Frykhammar

    That’s not true, take a look at the new Volvo s90 🙂

  • Troy Power

    The performance collection is a better value offer, it starts at $66K, add in the gauge cluster and performance seat pkg and the V sport pkg. after the $2K credit in Canada you are at $70K. There are additional discounts that should net a final price of about $67,500. Try that in a BMW loaded 5 series that gets far worse gas mileage and does not handle as well as this Caddy with MRS…I’ve just finished test driving relavent competition, CTS AWD 3.6L Performance with those additiional packages is what I went for, needed a comfortable classy daily commuter (no strange warbles btw).

  • Greg Morgan

    Tis a shame, these cars are expensive junk. When I saw the Cadillac CTS on the list of the 12 cars that depreciate the fastest with the CTS coming in at #10 it proves the theory. Cadillac is no more. An automobile should not depreciate $13,351 in its first year of existence nor should a car model be recalled every year since its inception. Cadillac needs to do some serious re-thinking to their products or they are gonna end up going belly-up like Oldsmobile and Pontiac. And it’s a shame, the former “Standard of the World”…is no more!