t was a grimace I’ll never forget. It was 2013 and I had just driven our Four Seasons Cadillac ATS, a shining revelation of GM chassis tuning and steering feel, from Ann Arbor, Michigan to visit my family in Philadelphia. My brother was fascinated by the ATS and its true 3 Series-fighting chops. But by the end of my visit, he found the CUE infotainment system so maddeningly fussy and frustrating that he couldn’t wait for the ATS to leave. If not for CUE, he said, he would have seriously considered buying the spritely Caddy.
While it might be too little too late for my brother, who is now the proud owner of a Volkswagen Golf GTI, Cadillac has fully overhauled CUE. Critical updates to the system were rolled out quietly and without any big fanfare in CTS models that began arriving in showrooms in early March. From the ground up, the system architecture is all-new.
“We looked at feedback from all over the spectrum,” says CUE engineer Tony Kraatz. “The result is a system with better functionality that’s easier to navigate. It’s been simplified to be more like a smartphone.”
For starters, the entire home screen has been redrawn with more iPhone like apps and icons. Graphics are crisper and cleaner and fonts are easier to read. There’s a new “quick launch” bar at the bottom for your favorite apps (navigation, radio, climate control), which is always there — a big improvement over the last-gen system where they’d only appear when you hovered your hand in front of the screen. There’s also a new “summary view” that splits up several operations within a single screen, in a fashion similar to Ford’s Sync 3 or BMW’s latest iDrive.
Overall the infotainment system is cleaner and easier to work through, requiring fewer steps to do basic things like muting voice directions or canceling your route. Critically, the system is actually responsive to inputs and exhibits only very minor delays in response.
There is completely new software at work behind the scenes, with a new updated database for connected services and traffic. The system also learns your habits; if you often search for vegetarian restaurants and are in a new city looking for a bite to eat, CUE will kick herbivore-friendly eateries to the top of your leaf-munching list.
Another improvement is the addition of various driver profiles. Each driver can return to the vehicle with their respective settings loaded, including radio favorites, previous destinations, and climate settings. This’ll be a big deal once Book by Cadillac — the rental service where you can drive any Cadillac for a monthly fee, changing rides whenever you wish — expands. When a new car arrives in a Book customer’s driveway or at work, they’ll just load their profile and be good to go.
Although the new CUE is just in the CTS for now, it will migrate to the ATS and XTS next year and then proliferate throughout the Cadillac lineup. Another step in the right direction is that in the future, center stack design will more reflect what we now see in the XT5 and CT6, rather than the imprecise thumbprint-fest that’s currently in the CTS and ATS. Eventually this system will also spread to GMC and Chevrolet — and, presumably, Buick.
When asked whether future systems are necessarily touch-only, or if knobs and buttons could make a comeback, Cadillac spokesperson Steve Martin said “All options are on the table.”
That’s good news indeed. When that day comes, I’ll be sure to tell my brother.