2003 Cadillac CTS


2005 Cadillac CTS Review

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2007.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Viable alternative to foreign sports-luxury sedans.
  • Lower base price
  • New 6-speed gearbox
  • Sizzling CTS version
  • Controversial styling
  • No CTS automatic transmission
  • Rather tight rear seat area

Cadillac has attracted new customers with its edgy looking midsize CTS sedan since it arrived for 2003, and is trying to keep this sporty sedan popular by lowering its base price and giving it a new engine and 6-speed manual gearbox for 2005.

Cadillac is especially happy that many CTS customers are younger than buyers of its other cars, considering that its autos mainly have attracted older folks. Nearly all automakers want younger buyers because most will live longer and thus are more likely to be repeat customers, if satisfied with their vehicles.

Lower Base Price
Cadillac has lowered the list price of the base CTS by about $1,500. But that version still has a good amount of standard equipment and has been given it a new engine—a 2.8-liter 210-horsepower V6. It replaces a 3.2-liter V6 with 220 horsepower. The CTS lists at $32,440 with a carryover 3.6-liter 255-horsepower V6 and adds such items as leather upholstery.

Aimed at hot car buffs, the sizzling 163 mph CTS-V costs $49,490 with its 5.7-liter, 400-horsepower modified Chevrolet Corvette V8. It only comes only with a 6-speed manual gearbox, but has so much power and torque that it should be offered with at least an optional automatic transmission, which wouldn't affect acceleration much.

New Manual Transmission
Both the 2.8- and 3.6-liter V6s come with a standard new 6-speed manual gearbox, which replaces a 5-speed unit. The 3.6-liter V6 is being offered for the first time with a manual transmission. The new gearbox has a short throw, but is somewhat notchy.

The CTS-V's 6-speed manual unit generally shifts OK, but also is a bit notchy—it needs a more precise shift gate because a driver occasionally can get lost between gears and thus end up in the wrong one, especially during downshifts. Also, engaging reverse gear can take a couple of tries. The transmission works with a clutch that is rather heavy but has a progressive action that allows smooth take-offs.

Both V6 engines can be had with a $1,200 5-speed automatic transmission, which Cadillac says is ordered by most CTS buyers. However, the automatic has no manual shift gate, which seems peculiar in such a sporty car.

Staying Fully Competitive
Why bother offering a manual with the V6 when so many CTS buyers opt for the automatic? To make it more comparable with BMW's early 2006 3-Series sedan.

That BMW sedan has a standard 6-speed manual. It's part of BMW's top-selling 3-Series line. (A new 3-Series coupe and convertible are scheduled for later this year.)

Developed on Race Track
All versions of the rear-wheel-drive CTS are enjoyable because even the first CTS was partly developed on Germany's long, challenging Nurburgring race track. Steering, handling and braking of the V6 versions are quite good—especially with the $1,875 Sport Package.

That package contains a sport suspension, variable-assist power steering, upgraded brakes, anti-skid system and wider (17-inch vs. 16-inch) wheels and tires. A solid structure allows the CTS to deliver a good ride despite the stiffer sport suspension.

The CTS with the 2.8-liter V6 provides decent performance, especially with the new 6-speed manual transmission. But the 3.6 liter V6 is needed to provide stirring acceleration, with either manual or automatic transmissions.

Estimated fuel economy is 17 mpg city and 27 highway with either the V6 or manual transmission. The figures are 18 and 27 with both engines and the automatic. Only unleaded regular fuel is required.

The CTS-V delivers 15 mpg city, 23 highway. It runs best on premium gas, although Cadillac says such fuel is "recommended but not required."

Ultimate CTS
The CTS-V is by far the ultimate CTS and costs less than many V8 foreign competitors. It's the first model in Cadillac's new V-Series of "luxury performance" vehicles. The "V" denotes extra performance in the automaker's 21st-century alphanumerics.

The CTS-V does 0-60 mph in just 4.6 seconds and steers, handles and stops like a world-class sports-luxury sedan. This hot rod received even sharper suspension modifications at the Nurburgring track.

The CTS-V has modified steering, added structural rigidity, a heavy duty driveline and high-performance shock absorbers, springs and stabilizer bars. There also are huge brakes, anti-skid and traction control systems and enhanced aerodynamics.

The CTS-V's wide 45-series run-flat tires are on 18-inch wheels and have a tire-pressure monitoring system. The specially designed wheels allow extra cooling for the race-style Brembo brakes.

Despite its ferocious performance, the CTS-V is quite civilized, with a quiet interior and a taut-but-supple ride that isn't punishing when roads become rough.

Aging Well
Styling of the CTS remains controversial, but the car hasn't become dated-looking. The CTS-V has styling that some may find harder to like because of such things as its more aggressive looking front end.

Compared with the standard CTS, the CTS-V has a larger lower air intake and dual brake cooling ducts to ensure proper engine and brake cooling. They're beneath a distinctive stainless steel wire mesh grille. Lowered rocker panels under doors provide more of a low-slung look, and the dual exhaust outlets are oversized.

Inside, the CTS-V has big front bucket seats with special inserts that help hold occupants in place during hard driving.

Nice Interior
The upgraded interior of all 2005 CTS versions doesn't match standards set by automakers such as Audi and Lexus, but is generally handsome. Gauges can be quickly read, and major controls are nicely positioned.

No matter what trim level, the high cowl of the CTS reduces forward sightlines, although front occupants can sit high after adjusting the power seats. (A power front passenger seat is standard on CTS-V, optional for the other versions.)

Four tall adults fit, but the rear seat area should be roomier, considering the car's rather large size.

Large Trunk
The big trunk has a low, wide opening and a lid with dual struts that moves up smoothly and well out of the way. Folding rear seatbacks are standard on the CTS-V and are optional for the other two trim levels. They sit flat when flipped forward and appreciably enlarge the cargo area.

Standard safety features include anti-lock brakes, front-seat side airbags and side-curtain airbags.

The hood opens smoothly on a single strut to reveal conveniently placed fluid filler areas.

The Cadillac CTS is a good alternative to foreign sports-luxury sedans, and the three different versions of the car make it suitable to a variety of drivers.


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BB02 - 9/23/2014 7:33:06 AM