Review: 2008 Cadillac CTS
This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2013.
By Mike Meredith of MSN Autos
A Cadillac at Laguna Seca?
Heading to the racetrack may not be your first thought when talking about this storied luxury brand. But that's exactly what Cadillac was thinking when they invited us to experience the all-new 2008 CTS for the first time. Our intro to the 2008 CTS included several hours of lapping at the famed northern California circuit.
The reason? When it comes to performance and balanced handling, the 2008 Cadillac CTS is simply that good.
The original Cadillac CTS—which debuted in 2002 as an 2003 model—was a game-changer for Cadillac. At a time when the automaker's product lineup was aging and losing appeal, the CTS not only offered a fresh design, but appealed to a whole new segment of buyers. Featuring a brash exterior and driving dynamics to challenge in the ultracompetitive segment dominated by the BMW 3-Series, it could be said the CTS brought Cadillac back from the dead.
The CTS was the first salvo in what is now a totally revised Cadillac product lineup. At first glance, the 2008 CTS may not be as polarizing as the original, but closer examination reveals a dramatic exterior, and an interior that takes the CTS to a whole new level of refinement.
Power and Handling
Both of the transmissions work well. The 6-speed manual is easy to shift, and precise enough to make it fun, while the 6-speed automatic delivers quick, smooth gear changes. The automatic has a very aggressive Sport mode, downshifting when the driver brakes for turns. This mode will also continue to hold the lower gear even when the driver backs off the throttle. It is probably too aggressive for most situations on the street, but the regular shift mode responds so quickly that it may be equivalent to the Sport mode in other vehicles.
Built with a two-inch-wider track than the previous version, the new CTS also has Bilstein shocks, high-precision ZF Servotronic steering and a revised suspension geometry developed with computer modeling and experience gained from the high-performance CTS-V. New 17- or 18-inch wheels are provided, depending on which of the three different suspension packages are ordered. The new chassis moves the CTS forward in terms of handling, putting it on par with European and Asian competitors. Don't take that statement lightly—that's where the racetrack comes in.
The development work became obvious on the first section of twisty Northern Californian pavement we encountered. On our drive to Monterey, the CTS proved to be tight and responsive in corners and very well balanced overall. Carving through turns in a decisive manner, it provides precise steering and excellent side-to-side transitional response when lacing together a series of apexes.
Most of our road-time was in a CTS equipped with the FE2 suspension, the direct-injected engine, and a 6-speed automatic—a very nice package and probably what we would choose for the street. The FE2 suspension includes performance all-season tires—a good choice for everyday use. The standard 263-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 should not be overlooked, but since GM has placed only a $1000 premium on the direct-injected engine, it'll be hard to pass up.
As good as the CTS is on the road, surprisingly, it is even more impressive on the track. All of the track cars were equipped with the optional FE3 suspension with sticky Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires. The FE3 setup is intended for the serious enthusiast, and also includes load-leveling rear shocks. Even when pushed hard on the track, the FE3-equipped CTS remained balanced and controlled with minimal tendency to understeer, even allowing steering input mid-corner. The StabiliTrak stability control system is minimally intrusive, enabling deft drivers to provide some steering via the throttle.
Design Moves Forward Again
Gone are the harsh creases of the first-generation car; however, the new design is actually more aggressive due in part to the wider stance. The front is dominated by a larger, more vertical grille similar to that of the Cadillac Sixteen concept car. The grille is flanked by vertically stacked headlights, with fog lights and brake ducts to each side of the lower air intake.
While still crisp, the overall design is less blunt with a smoother, more sloping roofline. A shorter decklid tapers into an ever-so-slight boat-tail shape, and houses the signature vertical taillights. Chrome air extractors are added high on the front panels, and tie in with chrome window moldings and chrome exhaust tips.
Inside, the CTS delivers one of the most beautiful interiors ever from General Motors. A combination of luxury and sport, it's supported by flowing shapes and high-quality materials. The center stack dominates the design,flowing up and out to surround front-seat occupants, cockpit style.
To emphasize the attention to detail and luxury, the upper dash and door panel surfaces are hand-cut, then sewn and wrapped by craftsman. The exposed French stitching is also used for the seats and shifter boot to add to the fine detail. The console and center stack have a satin metallic finish, and all of the interior materials have a quality feel, addressing the area that was most criticized in the original CTS.
The door pulls and foot wells house subtle backlighting and clean, white, LED light pipes are recessed between the upper and lower instrument panel to add more indirect light. The analog instruments are housed in three binnacles surrounded by chrome accents, all surrounded by a single hood.
In the tech department, the new CTS offers an available Infotainment system with a touch-screen that rises up from the dash, a 40-gig hard drive, and state-of-the art navigation system with real-time traffic data via XM Satellite Radio.
The best news of all: The new CTS, with all its added performance and refinement, arrives with an MSRP starting at $32,990—$540 less than the 2007 CTS.