2012 Cadillac CTS

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Review: 2008 Cadillac CTS

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2013.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

The redesigned CTS is even more of a European sedan fighter.
Pros:
  • Fast with new V6
  • Athletic moves
  • Luxurious
Cons:
  • Narrow rear-door openings
  • Costly option packages
  • Narrow pass-through cargo opening

Cadillac had no really enticing cars for younger buyers until its first CTS sedan arrived as a 2003 European-style sedan. The car gave it a decidedly sportier image and indeed did draw younger buyers, some from BMW's hot entry 3-Series model line.

The first-generation CTS had chiseled, polarizing styling that set it off dramatically from other Cadillacs. Although it looked rather tall and narrow from the rear and more power was needed, the first CTS was a hit.

A Gamble
The 2003-07 CTS was a gamble for generally conservative Cadillac, but it exceeded sales expectations to become the automaker's top-selling model. Nobody knows how many people bypassed BMW 3-Series models for a CTS, but the most important thing was that many CTS buyers were younger than traditional Cadillac buyers.

The CTS was the first Cadillac to use a new General Motors rear-wheel-drive platform because Cadillac knew the CTS wouldn't be considered a genuine European sedan fighter without a rear-wheel-drive design.

Such a design allows a more "balanced" car because the front tires need not be overworked by having to steer and apply power to the road at the same time. Also, front-wheel drive causes a car to be nose-heavy. You won't find a front-wheel-drive BMW or Mercedes-Benz.

Race Track Development
Cadillac now is aiming the CTS, built in Lansing, Mich., at both BMW and Mercedes entry-level sedans. It said the first CTS was partly developed on Germany's demanding Nurburgring race track, used by European automakers to develop fast cars, and notes it also used that track to help develop the 2008 CTS.

The new $32,245 CTS is a solid sports sedan that may do better than the first-generation CTS. It has evolutionary, rather slab-sided styling but looks more distinctive. The larger, in-your-face grille has an oversized Cadillac emblem and a better proportioned rear end with improved taillights and a wider track (distance between tires on the same axle).

Larger tires and wider rear and front tracks are covered by pronounced, sporty looking fender flares. Such tires and tracks enhance stability and handling. Even the chromed front fender vents are functional, allowing engine compartment heat to escape instead of being just decorative items, as they've been on many cars.

Longer and Roomer
While the wheelbase remains the same, the new CTS is a little longer and roomier in the rear-seat area. The interior is quieter and has been radically upgraded. Four 6-footers comfortably fit, and front seats are supportive during hard driving.

However, getting in and out of the rear seat area would be enhanced by larger rear door openings.

Large Trunk
The trunk is large, with a low, wide opening. And rear seatbacks flip forward and sit virtually flat to enlarge the cargo area—although the pass-through opening between the trunk and rear-seat area is rather narrow.

The 2008 CTS has a more powerful 3.6-liter V6, which produces 263 horsepower (up from 255) with a regular fuel injection system. A same-size V6 with 304 horsepower costs $1,000 extra. It has a more efficient direct-injection system, which squirts gasoline directly into combustion chambers. Direct injection both increases horsepower and lowers cold-start emissions, which are the worst.

Fastest Version
The CTS has good acceleration with the regular V6, but is especially fast with the 304-horsepower engine, which loafs at 2000 rpm at 65 mph. The CTS does 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds with the direct-injection engine, which allows fast merging and passing. Top speed is reportedly 150 mph.

The regular 3.6 delivers an estimated 18 mpg in the city and 26 on highways, while the direct-injection V6 delivers nearly the same figures: 17 and 26. Both engines can use regular-grade gasoline.

A 6-speed manual transmission is standard. Optional is a $1,300 6-speed automatic that replaces a 5-speed unit and has a manual-shift feature that can be easily used.

Available All-Wheel Drive
The CTS is available with a $1,900 all-wheel-drive (AWD) system for maximum traction. But AWD must be ordered with the automatic transmission. A CTS with AWD weighs a hefty 4,090 pounds, against 3,845 pounds for the rear-wheel-drive CTS.

Even the rear-wheel-drive CTS is heavy because it has many standard comfort, convenience and safety features, including front-seat and side-curtain airbags.

While all-wheel drive provides the best grip, it's questionable if it's needed for the CTS if the car isn't driven in areas that have heavy snowfalls because it has standard traction and stability control systems.

Steering is quick, with the right degree of power assist, and revised front and rear suspensions allow quick moves and a supple ride. Offered are FE1, FE2 and FE3 suspension setups.

Different Suspension Setups
FE1 provides the softest ride and FE3 the firmest one, but the best handling. FE1 is standard; the other two are optional. I'd opt for FE2, although it allows a somewhat jerky ride on some roads.

The anti-lock brakes have good pedal feel and are impressive.

Costly Option Packages
However, desirable option packages are expensive. For instance, my test CTS had the $8,015 Premium Collection package, which contains an upgraded sound system, "Ultra-View" double sunroof that covers nearly the entire roof, heated/cooled seats, power tilt/telescopic wheel, machine finish aluminum wheels and rear park assist.

The car also had a $1,740 package with the FE2 suspension, 18-inch aluminum wheels with wider tires, limited-slip differential and high intensity discharge headlights.

My test car's crystal red premium paint looked especially rich, but costs $995 extra.

Also available is a 40-gig hard drive that lets you store thousands of songs, although it might take cross-country trips to hear all of them. On the other hand, the new CTS would be a good car in which to make those journeys.

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BB06 - 8/27/2014 8:16:34 PM