Nothing exemplifies the arms race among German luxury automakers quite like the technology they've poured into their mid-size sedans, turning them into 400-hp dens with Internet access. Those models aren't their best-sellers, but they're the epitome of what a luxury car should be. With the 2014 Cadillac CTS, General Motors aims to close the perception gap between its U.S.-built challenger and the establishment — and on paper at least, that matchup looks too close to call.
For this tale of the tape, we've compared the top-end sport versions of the midsize luxury models — the new Cadillac CTS Vsport that will go on sale this fall, the BMW 550i and the Mercedes-Benz E550 4Matic. The similarities spring forth instantly; all have more than 400 hp, use automatic transmissions of at least 7 gears and come within a fraction of a inch in many dimensions. The differences come down to some hard engineering choices: Cadillac chose a twin-turbo V-6 to replace the displacement that BMW and Mercedes rely on, winning the horsepower war while ceding the torque figures to the Germans. Yet the Caddy claims to be a few tenths of a second faster to 60 mph, largely due to the lightweight chassis that 200 lbs. lighter in base form than the BMW. (Mercedes alone offers a hybrid model in this class.)
Stats only go so far, and many BMW and Mercedes buyers at this level barely care that they're required to use premium gas, as is the Cadillac. The real battle comes down to interiors, a struggle that Cadillac never contended with in the first-generation CTS, but vows to claw back now. The smaller ATS has proven Cadillac can build cars that deserve a look from import owners; whether the CTS can make the same argument to people shopping for a $60,000 car will depend on more than a stat sheet.
Cadillac CTS Vsport vs. BMW 550i vs. Mercedes E550 4Matic
|Model||2014 Cadillac CTS||2013 BMW 550i||2014 Mercedes E550 4Matic|
|Drivetrain||RWD/AWD option||RWD/AWD option||AWD|
|Transmission||8-speed auto||8-speed auto||7-speed auto|
|Engine||3.6-liter twin-turbo V-6||4.4 liter V-8||4.6 liter V-8|
|Turning circle (ft.)||36.7||39.2||36.9|
|0-60 mph time||4.6 seconds||5.0||5.2|
|Base model weight (lbs.)||3,616 lbs||3,818||3,979|