2004 Cadillac CTS
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The extreme styling of Cadillac's CTS European-style sports sedan was widely criticized when the car debuted as an early 2003 model, but it's been a hit. Strategic changes enhance the appeal of the latest version, bringing it closer to rivals such as BMW.
Cadillac is no stranger to bold styling—just look at the huge tailfins on the iconic 1959 Caddy. In fact, distinctive styling allows Cadillacs to be easily identified from the late 1940s through the 1970s—although styling generally became more conservative, starting in the 1960s.
Cadillacs looked bland in the 1980s, except for the distinctively styled Seville sold early in that decade, and the blandness hurt sales. After a long slide, Cadillac no longer held the top luxury car sales slot by the end of the 1990s.
Clearly needed was dramatic styling, so Cadillac went ahead and gave its new CTS a sharp-edged design that jolted upscale car buyers into paying attention to it. To its delight, Cadillac saw the CTS draw much needed younger buyers to showrooms.
The new engine costs $1,700. It only comes with a 5-speed automatic transmission, which occasionally provides erratic downshifts, but is generally smooth. The new V6 also is in a rather pricey $5,235 Luxury package, which also contains heated front seats, power front passenger seat, and wood interior trim.
Interior refinements include a body colored center armrest, color-keyed center console, instrument cluster temperature gauge, bright white lighting, and (would anyone really care?) chrome accents on the ashtray. There's also a newly available power adjustable lumbar support for more comfort on long trips.
Estimated fuel-economy with either engine is 18 mpg in the city and 26-28 on the highway.
Desirable Sport Option
Options easily can cause the $30,140 list price of the CTS to escalate. For instance, there's a $9,950 package that has features of the Sport package and such items as a power sunroof and Bose AM/FM radio with in-dash 6-disc CD changer.
CTS buyers need not necessarily go the option package route. For instance, some items in the packages, such as the sunroof, can be ordered separately. Stand-alone options also include a $1,750 navigation system.
Safety features include anti-lock disc brakes, traction control, front-seat side and side-curtain airbags and General Motors' OnStar telematics assistance system.
The midsize CTS is fairly quick with the standard V6 and manual transmission. The smoother new V6 provides quicker merges into fast traffic and a better 65-75 mph passing time on the highway. It loafs at 2400 rpm at 70 mph.
Fun to Drive
The dashboard has a businesslike layout, but gauge numbers should be larger for a quicker read. Front console dual cupholders are conveniently located to help prevent spills.
Rear visibility is impeded from the driver's seat by thick back roof pillars, but outside mirrors are large. Rear windows don't lower all the way.
The trunk is large, with a fairly low, wide opening, and its lid has space-saving hydraulic struts. Many economy cars have a standard split-folding rear seat to enlarge the cargo area, but it's a $450 option for the CTS.
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