2011 Cadillac CTS

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Short Take Road Test: 2008 Cadillac CTS

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2013.
By Jared Gall of Car and Driver

Cadillac's sharp, wedgy "art and science" design theme has fully matured on the latest CTS, and an aluminum, dual-overhead-cam V-6 with variable valve timing and direct fuel-injection finally brings the marque's engine room onto the same high-tech plane as the styling department.

The 304-hp direct-injection V-6 gets all the attention for now while the automotive community eagerly awaits the appearance of the supercharged V-8-powered CTS-V. Meanwhile, the 258-hp base engine is basically a carry-over from the previous-generation CTS, in which it was the optional V-6. A six of equal size to the direct-injection engine—3.6 liters with port fuel injection and variable valve timing—the now-base mill checks in $2300 cheaper than the higher-tech (and higher-power) engine.

Down 46 horses and 20 pound-feet on the DI engine, the indirectly injected base mill still brings a hearty portion of power with 258 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque. With the test gear strapped on, our six-speed automatic CTS managed a 7.0-second 0-to-60-mph romp en route to a 15.4-second quarter-mile at 91 mph. The more powerful uplevel engine (with a six-speed manual) achieves the same marks in 5.8 and 14.6 seconds at 97 mph.

Sane and Responsible Drivers, Enjoy. But What Are You Doing Here?
On the conservative side of the more-power debate, the base engine gets an EPA-estimated 1-mpg-better fuel economy around town—18 versus 17 for the direct-injection engine—and the two tie at 26 mpg on the highway. While in our hands, the optional engine returned 17 mpg to the base engine's 20. Both are perfectly content to run around on regular 87-octane gas.

From the driver's seat, an extra 1.2 seconds in a full-throttle blast to 60 are glaringly obvious, but in more measured driving, the difference between the two engines is purely statistical. Both sound fantastic for V-6s, both pull hard all the way to their 7000-rpm redlines without noticeable straining, and both have sufficient power for commuter duty.

When coupled with the six-speed automatic, the base engine returned two-lane-friendly 30-to-50- and 50-to-70-mph passing times of 4.1 and 4.9 seconds, respectively. It's not the sort of carefree passing power that allows a driver to whip into the left lane and tuck back in front of traffic before he's had time to exhale, but it's certainly enough to keep passengers from white-knuckling their armrests in all but the most questionable situations.

Not Quite a Sports Sedan, but Still Sporty
In other dynamic arenas, the '08 CTS achieves similar successes. The nicely weighted steering wheel responds to requests with the slightest of delays off-center, provides real feedback about what's going on with the front end, and tilts (without the annoying detents of past GM products) and telescopes to accommodate any size driver. Wearing 18-inch Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 tires as part of the $3300 Performance Collection, our tester gripped the skidpad for 0.84 g, compared to 0.89 g for a BMW 335i we tested recently. A rowdy stomp on the brake pedal will haul the CTS to a stop from 70 mph in 166 feet, nine longer than the Bimmer. Considering the Caddy's extra pounds, those numbers aren't too shabby.

Figures slightly better than those are likely with the top-shelf FE3 sport suspension, which is not available with the weaker engine. Our tester had the mid-grade FE2 package. Other than the snappier suspenders, though, anything one might want in a CTS can be had with the base engine, including, for 2008, all-wheel drive.

Here in this hard-headed, lead-footed C/D stronghold, we favor the direct-injection 3.6 on principle and power alone, but out in the real world, it's an extra $2300 for horses that will likely remain corralled and fewer miles between jerky breaks on each tank of unleaded. If someone says, "CTS-V," and you say,"Whazzat?" then save your pennies and enjoy the base engine. With it, the new CTS is still a sharp sedan.

Performance Data

C/D Test Results:
Zero to 60 mph: 7.0 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 18.8 sec
Zero to 120 mph: 30.9 sec
Street start, 5–60 mph: 7.3 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 15.4 sec @ 91 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 166 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.84 g

Fuel Economy:

EPA city/highway driving: 18/26 mpg
C/D observed: 20 mpg

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BB01 - 8/30/2014 5:39:45 PM