2012 Cadillac CTS

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Tech Review: 2008 Cadillac CTS

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2013.
By Doug Newcomb of MSN Autos
Rating: 9

Bottom Line:

Cadillac's revamped CTS includes one of the best entertainment and navigation systems at any price.
Pros:
  • Cool 8-inch touch-screen that lifts out of the dash
  • Hard-disc drive for storing music and recording radio programs
  • Ability to store and quickly recall navigation "favorites"
Cons:
  • Buffered radio content is cleared when switching channels
  • No Bluetooth capability
  • Lacks adaptive cruise control

While the all-new Cadillac CTS can keep up with the competition in the entry-level luxury category, its high-tech center-stack towers over higher-end rivals.

To paraphrase LL Cool J: Call it a comeback. When Cadillac introduced the CTS in 2002, it simultaneously ushered in the legendary American marque's "art and science" approach to design. The aggressively angular exterior styling of the CTS signaled GM's flagship brand was ready to shake off its stodgy image and make a bold move to attract the hip, high-end car buyers. It paid off, as the sedan became a hit.

Although the follow-up to that hit isn't as radical a departure design-wise, the all-new 2008 CTS's skin is tighter and more chiseled, the front grille more assertively prominent and the fenders more audaciously flared. While all this adds up to a ruggedly handsome vehicle, it's what's inside that really separates this new Caddy from its daddy.

Stellar Center Stack
For the new CTS, Cadillac put together one of the most advanced, feature-filled and yet logically designed center stacks of any carmaker. It's crowned by an 8-inch widescreen display that lifts out of the top of the dash at a touch of a button.

In its fully raised position, the display functions as an easy-to-use, touch-screen controller. When it lowers back into the dash, a sliver sticks out to show basic information, such as radio-station or CD-track info, and control is delegated to the buttons in the center stack and on the steering wheel. Even given the entertainment system's plethora of media options and gobs of features, the combination of controls makes it very straightforward to operate. Call it the anti-iDrive.

The CTS I tested came with an optional and phenomenal Bose 5.1 Cabin Surround Sound audio system that sports a single-disc CD/DVD-Audio player and AM, FM and XM tuners. The center console houses both a USB port for accessing music files on a USB drive and an auxiliary input for jacking in a portable media player. An optional USB cable available from Cadillac also allows full control of a MP3 player through the audio system.

Rip and Roll
There's also a 40GB hard-disc drive (HDD) onboard that can be used to store music files from CDs or a USB drive. Unlike Chrysler's HDD-based MYGIG system, in the CTS you can simultaneously listen to the tunes while ripping them to the HDD, and you're not limited to adding only pre-recorded CDs.

A built-in Gracenote database tags music files with artist, song, album and genre info to identify tunes in your music library, and to organize them into specific categories. A "More Like This" feature also culls on-the-spot playlists of music similar to whatever tune you happen to be listening to. If you prefer more erudite entertainment, audio books downloaded from audible.com can be loaded onto the HDD via the USB port.

The most innovative feature of the entertainment system, however, is the ability to "time shift" live radio. At the press of a button, up to an hour of AM, FM or XM programming can be recorded onto the HDD, and you can rewind and record a song, a commercial or sports scores you may have missed. And even when the car is parked and the engine is turned off you can capture up to an hour of radio on the HDD. The only downside is that once you change stations, the memory buffer that constantly stores the programming is cleared.

Favorite Places
The HDD is also used for storing the navigation database and operating software, which makes for faster routing. The nav system can be combined with a subscription-based XM NavTraffic service to provide real-time traffic info, as well as weather reports, multiday forecasts and severe-weather alerts. The 8-inch touch-screen towering over the dash makes it a snap to scope out directions without impinging on visibility and the system uses 3D icons of landmarks to help you get your bearings.

You can also store and recall favorite Points of Interest (POIs) the same way a radio tuner lets you store station presets. If you're a Starbucks junkie, for example, you can choose that ubiquitous java joint as a favorite. Like a lab rat, any time you're craving caffeine you can hit a favorite button, and the system will lead you to get your fix. If you're already on a route and decide you need a double espresso, the system will guide you to the next Starbucks enroute—not the one off the freeway exit you just passed.

Power and Chassis to Match
While the impressive electronics take center stage in the 2008 CTS, the 3.6-liter 304-horsepower direct-injected V6 under the hood isn't just part of the supporting cast. Although not as torquey as the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter in the BMW 335i sedan, or as spirited as the normally aspirated 3.5-liter in the Infiniti G35, the CTS powerplant can certainly hold its own among this competitive crowd.

It's also the first CTS to feature AWD, and the All-Season Tire Performance Package on our test car includes 18-inch aluminum wheels, sport suspension, performance cooling and a limited-slip differential. The 2008 CTS performed with characteristic Cadillac grace on the highway. But in the twisties, two quick taps of the Traction Control button on the dash engaged the Competitive Driving Mode and transformed the car into an asphalt eater.

Tweaks to the 2008 Cadillac CTS put it firmly in the league with its rivals in the European and Japanese entry-level luxury camps. I was surprised to see that some of the basic accoutrements found on competitive vehicles, such as hands-free Bluetooth and adaptive cruise control, were conspicuously absent on the CTS. And that's with the $8,000 Premium Luxury Collection option package pushing the sticker total to $48,585. However, none of the Caddy's competitors—or even their far more expensive siblings—can boast of having an infotainment system as powerful, elegant and as easy to use as the one in the new CTS.

Doug Newcomb has been writing about car electronics since 1988, as editor of Car Audio and Electronics, Car Stereo Review, Mobile Entertainment, Road & Track Road Gear and as a freelance writer. His new book, Car Audio for Dummies, is available from Wiley Publications. He lives in Hood River, Oregon.

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BB02 - 7/25/2014 4:35:27 AM