What is it?

You’re familiar with the Cadillac CTS, a sensible, mid-size saloon that rivals the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class. And if you’re a car fan, you’re likely familiar with the Cadillac CTS-V, a hardcore, firebreathing V8 super-saloon with 640 bhp and a 0-100 km/h time of 3.7 seconds.

The CTS V-Sport sits somewhere between the normal CTS and the crazy CTS-V.

Underneath the bonnet, you don’t get a snorting V8, but you do get a twin-turbo, 3.6-litre V6, which develops a not-too-shabby 420 bhp and 583 Nm of torque. That’s linked to an 8-speed automatic gearbox, with power going to the rear wheels only. Performance figures are 911-baiting – 0-100 km/h is dealt with in 4.6 seconds, and you can do the quarter-mile in just under 13 seconds.

And the changes to the oily bits don’t stop there. As standard, you get Cadillac’s Performance Package for suspension and brakes. That means Brembo vented discs with antilock, and a performance suspension set-up.

The V-Sport may not be the flagship CTS of the range, but on paper, it looks to be a seriously exciting car. That’s shown on the outside with the presence of fat, 275 tyres, twin exhausts, a little rear boot spoiler, and twin exhausts. Inside, you get sportier front seats with more support on the sides, a sportier steering wheel, plus a little extra premium stitching and V badges plastered everywhere.

 

How does it drive?

As well as you’d hope, which is high praise indeed. The twin-turbo V6 pulls like no-one’s business, but the speed isn’t electrifying like it is in, say, a fast BMW. Instead, you waft forward on a tidal wave of torque, meaning its much closer in feel to a fast Mercedes, or even a Bentley – at a stretch. It feels big and heavy under the accelerator, but the way this thing just hauls itself down the road is a revelation.

Part of that is because, while the CTS V-Sport is jolly quick by any standards, it’s still superbly quiet and refined. In fact, the quietness of the cabin really makes it feel like you’re just pootling along when you’re actually doing a million km/h. We wouldn’t have minded a little more noise from the exhaust to really separate the V-Sport from its non-turbo sibling further down the range, but you can’t have everything.

Plus, what the V-Sport lacks in aural drama, it more than makes up with handling dynamics. We’ve said that the standard CTS is more enjoyable to thrash around the bends than an equivalent BMW 5 Series, thanks largely to the fact that its steering offers more feel. The same is true of the CTS V-Sport, which features beautifully weighted steering that really communicates what’s happening with the front wheels.

To get the best out of this car, you have to wrestle with it a little bit – the equivalent German cars are more about fingertippy, delicate handling, while this is more about taking the car by the scruff of the neck and throwing it about. The steering wheel struggles as you smash out of slow bends, meaning you have to fight with it to stay tracking true. Or you can let it go a little, and allow the tail to slide out a little, which is all-too easy in the CTS V-Sport. Either way, it’s a riot.

The best part, though, is that when you’re done fooling around, it becomes a normal (but still very fast) Cadillac. It’s comfortable and easy to drive for long journeys – it’d devour the Dubai-Muscat run with no problem at all. The ride is great, too. Really, the V-Sport provides a brilliant balance between refinement and excitement.

 

Interior quality and tech

This is where Cadillacs have fallen down against the Germans in recent years – and that’s not really good enough, given that these higher-spec Cadillacs command a similar price. The leather seats are wonderful, and there are splashes of leather across the door sills and dashboard. Plus, there’s loads of space, and the paddle-shifters behind the steering wheel are superb.

But elsewhere you just don’t get the same sense of quality that you would from an equivalent German saloon. Some of the switchgear feels cheap and plasticky – the indicator stalk and the gear-select lever, for instance. We also noticed a few rattles and squeaks around the cabin during our time with the CTS V-Sport – not something you want from a premium car, which should feel solid and well-built. And the overall design of the cabin is a little dated, which is unsurprising, given that it hasn’t been updated since 2014. What’s more, the seatbelts that automatically tighten once you’re in second gear make it feel like the car is trying to strangle you.

There’s a similar sense of things being unpolished with tech. Everything’s there, but it just isn’t put together as well as you’d hope. The CUE infotainment system, once a paragon of simplicity, is bloated and slow to respond to touch inputs, and the reversing camera delivers low resolution. And the touchpads for the AC controls, which replace standard buttons, are difficult to master. There is at least good integration with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus a head-up display.

None of this is enough to turn you off the CTS, but they’re little niggles that you wouldn’t expect from a car at this price point. Overall the interior is just about passable.

 

Running costs

Because you’ll be running a V6 in the CTS V-Sport, rather than a big V8, you’ll assume that you won’t be burning through much fuel. That’s wishful thinking, however. You’ll likely get around 13 l/100 km, which means that you’ll empty the 72-litre fuel tank every 550 km or so. Not the worst, but not the best, either.

That V6 will help when it comes to car insurance, though. Expect a fully comprehensive policy to cost around AED 7,000 – not bad for a car that’ll do 280 km/h flat-out.

 

Our verdict

The Cadillac CTS V-Sport has its problems, but it’s got so much charm. It looks great, drives even better, and if you can get past the interior quality issues, offers a wonderfully relaxing drive when you’re not in the mood for fun. Would we choose it over an equivalent BMW 5 Series? You know what? Because of the way this thing handles, we might just.