Cadillac’s New CTS Is Geared To Take On Germany

In an effort to shake off its image as a badge-engineered General Motors (NYSE:GM) vehicle, the company’s luxury subsidiary Cadillac is stepping up its game and introducing a larger, more fuel efficient, and faster CTS model for 2014. Originally introduced over ten years ago, the model helped breathe new life into the brand, which had become stale and was relegated to the senior demographic.

However, by tinkering with its new model, Cadillac is moving the CTS into the firing line of some of the biggest and best names in the business: Audi (VLKAY.PK) and BMW (BMW.DE). As far as mid-range four-door people movers are concerned, the two brands — with Mercedes Benz (DAI.DE) in there as well — have ruled over the luxury performance sedan range for some time. Audi’s A6 model and BMW’s 5-Series are typically the go-tos for that market segment, but now Cadillac is hoping to shake up the paradigm.

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A sleeker look was given to the refreshed 2014 CTS, and the car is GM’s top pick for front runner in leading luxury sales in the U.S. and China, two of the company’s most successful markets.

The new CTS is five inches longer than its predecessor, which found itself in the awkward position of being too large for the compact sedan market, but the runt of the litter in the mid-range to large segments. With more room and more power, the new Caddy is better prepared to take on its German counterparts, which have long trumped the brand in numerous categories.

“We have to demonstrate that we’ve taken it to the next step,” Mary Barra, GM’s product development chief, said yesterday in an interview with Bloomberg. “CTS’s role is critically important.”

Quality and dependability have also come a long way. Originally sore spots for the brand when compared to its competitors, Consumer Reports have recommended the CTS and noted that it is “as capable as its German rivals.”

“It shocked people when it came out,” said John Wolkonowicz, an independent auto analyst based in Boston. “It breathed new life into the brand” and helped, along with the Escalade, to bring the average age of the buyer “way down. Prior to that, Cadillac was a geriatric brand.”

However, the car has a lot to live up to. BMW offers some of the most envied engines in the industry, and the base in the 5-Series is a smooth, 240 horsepower inline six which some see as under-powered for the segment, but is tuned in a way to offer exceptional performance. Audi’s new A6 is a work of visual beauty, offering a streamlined, swooping look, and an equally gorgeous interior.

To better compete with the Germans, Cadillac introduced the ATS, to compete directly with the Audi A4 and the fan favorite BMW 3-Series. The ATS has helped position the brand as a legitimate contender against the companies, and GM is hoping the CTS will keep the pressure on the European firms.

The CTS is offered at around $39,000 as a base, before options. That is about $10,000 more than it cost when released over a decade ago, indicating that the brand has been successful in raising consumer’s perceptions about its worth. However, despite being cheaper at base than its rivals — the A6 will run about $42,000 new, and the BMW clocks in at over $47,000 — the Cadillac won’t skimp on features.

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The car will be offered with three engine choices, including a new twin turbo V-6 that can get 420 horsepower, according to GM, and have magnetic ride control in the base version.

The interior will be offered in eight different styles with wood, carbon fiber or aluminum trim, GM said. New technologies include an optional automated parking assist that can self-park the vehicle in parallel spaces; automated braking that helps prevent collisions; and driver awareness systems that include vibrating pulses to alert of imminent collisions, GM added.

It appears the CTS has the appropriate tools to regain a spot in luxury gig, but only time will tell for sure if it will sway the masses.

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