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.

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