The first time I rode in a Cadillac was in the late 90's, can't remember what model it was because Cadillacs from that era aren't very memorable, also I was 13 or 14 at the time. I do remember the '68 Firebird collecting dust in the garage at my friend's house where we were picked up in the Cadillac and I remember that it was his uncle's car. Three of us piled into the backseat which felt like the comfiest damn sofa you've ever sat on. The seats were cloth, I remember because it was summer and you don't forget leather seats in summer, no matter how long its been. Not sure where we went that day, I think it was a birthday party, laser tag I believe, we all wanted paintball but this was post Columbine and parents must have felt lasers were somehow better than paint filled bullets.
Disclaimer: Cadillac did not want me to drive the new CTS VSport. I had to beg, borrow and steal to get my foot in the door with GM. They took a chance on me which is pretty crazy seeing as I'm just another car nut with some nice cameras and the ability to turn a phrase. I don't know when my luck will run out but as long as they keep giving me cars, I'm gonna keep working my ass off to create unique content revolving around them.
The point is I remember all these things but I don't remember the model of that Cadillac we rode in for an hour and a half to the party and back. Could have been an El Dorado, Seville, DeVille, hard telling not knowin as my friend says. Sure as shit wasn't a Catera, I can tell you that much. From the time I went to that birthday party until my friend got a 2008 CTS I didn't ride in a Cadillac, I didn't think about Cadillac, I didn't care about Cadillac. The last generation CTS was a step in the right direction, one that led to the production of one of my bucket list rides, the CTS-V wagon. It seemed that Cadillac was going to try and beat the Germans at their own game. Many people wonder how the CTS-V wagon was ever approved, especially with a 3 pedal option. It's simple really, Cadillac wanted to show the world they weren't mucking about, they wanted to world to care. The 2014 CTS VSport has not only made me care about Cadillac, it has changed the way I feel about American luxury for good.
Details. They're what separate the great from the good and what stick with you when the bigger picture starts to fade away. Where as the only detail I can remember from my friends uncle's Caddy were the cloth seats, the 2014 CTS VSport has a number of details that I know will stick with me for years and years to come. However, details are not always good, in fact for many people, details of a bad situation or experience will be remembered for more easily than a positive experience. Ah, such is the human condition.
The things that I disliked about the CTS VSport were few and far between but as with even the greatest cars, there are a few flaws. If I didn't point them out how would you know if I was writing this objectively and not as a fluff piece for Caddy? You can't know either way but it is my sworn duty as a Jalop and as an aspiring automotive journalist to point out at least a few things I didn't care for, so here goes.
CUE: Not good. It's slow, glitchy and overall a pain in the arse. Should be better for the price point, especially since GMC's system is so good. Cool startup screen though.
Illuminated Door Handles: The way forward is performance/value not gimmicks. Leave that shit Japan/Korea.
Lumbar Support: This was the big one, the thing that annoyed me even when I had my foot to the floor. Though I could get myself into a very, very comfortable driving position, I could not get the lumbar support right. My 2002 Impreza had two lumbar settings controlled via a handle, both were great. This is a $70k American icon in the making, get the damn seats right!
The Transmission: Cadillac's first 8 speed, yay Cadillac! You did it? Why? Why'd you do this? Can you undo this? Shifts are clunky, especially between 7th and 8th. Wow, there's a sentence I never thought I'd write. In my mind cars still have 5 maybe 6 gears, preferably operated with both legs. Sport and Track mode are unnecessary, the ride is harsh enough as it is with the run flat Pirelli's, though they do look good & smoke good. I'm pretty sure the buyers who can afford this Caddy ain't gonna be lookin to hit the Streets Of Willow but if you wanna hang with the Germans, ya gotta go overboard.
Turbo Lag: Maybe it's because I had just driven the new Stingray but even with two turbos I felt like I had time to tweet at DeMuro before the VSport took off. Once it goes it goes like hell but there is a noticeable lack of hutzpah down low, much like my cousin Mike*, ZING!
Now that you know what I didn't like, let's talk about the good stuff, those details I was mentioning earlier. The VSport has a-lot of them, inside and out. The body lines are the best a Caddy has had since the 60's. The LED lighting lets people know you've arrived from the future and you're a goddamn boss. The posterior of the car is pure Cadillac, I guarantee you that Tony Soprano would totally Instagram it with the caption "dat ass doh".
The wheels are beautiful, seriously, I caught myself getting lost in them more than a few times. This VSport was equipped with the 18-inch wheels which I applaud. 19-inch wheels are available but you don't want those unless you're a dolt. The Brembos behind VSport fast enough for Uncle Al to loose his toupee and unless you've been living under a rock you know how good the magnetic shocks are. If you have been living under a rock all you need to know is that Ferrari licensed the technology from GM for the 458. That sentence is for you Cadillac fanboys, enjoy your moment in the sun.
The interior of the CTS VSport is where I feared things would off the rails. I was pleasantly surprised to find that GM had finally given the cockpit the attention it deserves seeing as that's where you are when the car is you know, moving. In the past GM vehicles have suffered from either/or syndrome, as in they're either great on the outside or the inside, never both. Recently they've been better about it, the new Vette is a perfect example. I'm happy to say that the interior of the VSport is on par with it's exterior and doesn't feel tacky compared to it's German competitors. There's finally an American luxury car that has proper ergonomics, has an elegant, restrained feeling and uses quality materials. The digital gauge cluster is easy to use, looks great and isn't over the top in its presentation. The steering wheel is a perfect thickness, its controls laid out in just the right places, provided you don't have giant hands. The paddle shifters are long, aluminum and made a nice click when you change gears.
All the tech that you'd expect in a new luxo-liner is there but it's not especially memorable. I'm 28 years old, I have 20/20 vision, I enjoy driving hence I do not need active blind spot monitoring, park assist (which I couldn't get to work) safety alert seats or rear cross traffic alerts. The adaptive cruise control was fun to try out while sitting in stop and go traffic but it's a little too smart for its own good. It's more than a bit herky jerky and honestly I do a pretty damn good job of feathering the pedal myself. One other extremely annoying safety feature was the automatic seat belt tightening. It startled my girlfriend every time and made me laugh. This is not a good thing, as many of you well know, laughing at the discomfort of your significant other never ends well.
Appropriately this black diamond tricoat, super flake 2000, clad VSport's interior was jet black with jet black accents, aka. fake carbon fiber. Not sure why they're still doing this but they are and it would seem they have no plans to stop. If it were up to me interiors would be covered in alcantara (there are bits of suede posing as god's fabric in the cabin) and/or the diamond stitched leather found in the S8 but it's not up to me so, fake carbon fiber for everybody! My real issue is that the interior of the new CTS is about the size of the last gen 5-series and murdering it out only makes it feel smaller. Yes there's 35.4 inches of rear leg room or in street terms, 1 DeMuro**, but the backseat doesn't feel like a Cadillac backseat. It's not a terrible place to be, but it doesn't have that couch feeling I remember so well. There are however little metal V's attached to all the seats, those suck and should be done away with. Emboss them if anything, don't tack something on as an afterthought, that's malaisey(see what I did there?!).
So all these details added up to a impressive tactile experience, but what about the visceral experience? What about how it drives and how it sounds? Does it make you want to wake up early and take it out for a cruise? Will it make every trip memorable, no matter how small? To me that's what a Cadillac should do, what the ones from the 50's/60's/70's did. They made a trip around the block an event, a mundane task a statement. In the 5 days I spent with the VSport I found myself looking for reasons to go out. I made late night laps around LA on the freeways, Sinatra pouring from the excellent Bose system. I pushed it hard in the canyons of Kardashian country, windows down blaring Metallica. I cruised at street level, seat tilted back, 2Pac on blast, not a care in the world. For a technology laden luxury car, this Caddy has a-lot of soul.
Big, bold and badass, that's what a Cadillac was. That era ended on a sour note, things got pretty dark for awhile but here we are in a new golden age of the automobile and Cadillac has a horse in the race. The 2014 CTS VSport feels like the perfect marriage of past and present. It retains the things that make a Cadillac uniquely American, while borrowing the best qualities from it's foreign competitors, like power and drivability. In it's segment I think the CTS VSport is the clear choice. The A6 is pointless because of the beauty of the A7. The 5 Series has grown into a bulbous machine, a far cry from the E39 models I'm so fond of. Mercedes' E-Class isn't bad looking but again, it's older generations were so good I'd rather have 3 or 4 of them instead of a new one. I don't think of Lexus or Infiniti as even being the conversation because they're wandering the desert as far as I'm concerned. So it is Cadillac that has the full size luxury sedan market on lock. For the first time in a long time buying a Cadillac doesn't mean settling, it means you're paying attention, you're plugged in, you get it. Hat tip to the crew in East Lansing, you've restored an American icon. Now hurry up and release a new V/V+ we keep hearing rumors of and please, don't forget the wagon.
* I do not have a cousin Mike.
** DeMuro references automatically add an air of legitimacy to any article.
Photos are my own. They were taken with the Sony Nex-7 digital camera equipped with a Canon EF lens adapter and Sigma 70-200 lens.