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2012 Cadillac CTS Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Cadillac CTS was new.


Performance: 8.5

There’s very little test drivers dislike about the 2012 Cadillac CTS’ performance. Their only major complaint is that the six-speed manual transmission is only offered with the sedan’s base engine and not the more powerful V6. With a pair of impressive V6 engines, the CTS offers plenty of power. But its best performance comes in the turns, where its tight chassis and available sport-tuned suspension shine. Surprisingly, for such a performance-oriented car, many say it's also a comfortable commuter.

  • "The engine is notably polished, even when pushed." -- Consumer Guide
  • "On the move, the CTS takes to corners with an agility and poise that no other Cadillac sedan in history could possibly match." -- Edmunds
  • "The CTS boasts responsive handling and excellent high-speed stability, yet it's smooth and quiet around town or when cruising at highway speeds. The ride quality strikes a perfect balance between smoothness and handling. … Simply stated, the Cadillac CTS is a very enjoyable car." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "The handling and performance of the CTS is exceptional." -- The Detroit News

Acceleration and Power

The base engine in the 2012 Cadillac CTS sedan is a 3.0-liter V6 that makes 270 horsepower. Reviewers say it offers good passing power and plenty of punch. However, reviewers say it feels sluggish when compared with the 3.6-liter, 318-horsepower V6 engine found in higher trim levels. The CTS Coupe gets the 3.6-liter V6 standard.

The CTS is a rear-wheel drive car, but all-wheel drive is optional on both models. A six-speed automatic transmission is the only transmission available on the CTS Coupe, while the base CTS sedan has a six-speed manual as standard equipment. Cadillac dropped the option to add the manual on higher trim levels for 2012, which reviewers dislike. The six-speed auto is standard on all but the base trim, where it is optional.

The EPA estimates that all-wheel drive CTS cars will get 18/26 mpg city/highway with the 3.0-liter V6, while the 3.6-liter V6 should average 18/27 mpg. Rear-wheel-drive models get 16/26 mpg with the base 3.0-liter engine and manual transmission, while either V6 engine with the automatic gets 18/27.

  • "Power delivery from the base 3.0-liter V6 is sluggish compared to the broad-shouldered 3.6-liter engine. Considering that both engines achieve virtually identical fuel economy, we suggest springing for the bigger V6 if your budget allows." -- Edmunds
  • "With the automatic transmission, the 3.6-liter V6 engine has good low-speed punch and plenty of passing power." -- Consumer Guide
  • "There is some bad news for the enthusiasts though, Cadillac is dropping the six-speed manual option with the 3.6 motor, blaming lack of sales. Thankfully the V-versions will still be available with a manual gearbox, and we hope it stays that way." -- AutoGuide.com

Handling and Braking

Test drivers report that the CTS sets itself apart on winding country roads. They say that even base models handle corners well. The available sport-tuned suspension on the Performance trim ups the ante considerably, though a few reviewers say it is too firm for daily commuting. Test drivers say that the CTS’ brakes are powerful and the optional all-wheel drive helps the car feel more planted on the road.

  • "Regardless of suspension, non-V CTS models approach, but can't quite reach, the high standards set by the BMW 3-Series and Infiniti G37. Steering feel is precise, and lean in corners is well checked, though this Cadillac doesn't feel quite as agile in quick transitions as its rivals. Brake feel and performance are impressive on all models." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The 2012 Cadillac CTS tracks through curves with much more athleticism than you might expect. The steering is precise and well-weighted, making the CTS competitive with its European rivals. However, this road-holding performance comes at the expense of ride quality. Those expecting the luxurious ride of Cadillacs past will likely find the suspension on the Performance trim models too firm for their tastes. Given that, the even stiffer optional sport suspension will likely be far too harsh and unforgiving for most." -- Edmunds
  • "With optional all-wheel-drive waiting to leap in whenever you decide to go a bit too fast through the corners, as we did in central California, the car feels very, very stable and inspires the confidence you need to go faster and faster through those corners." -- New Car Test Drive

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