Cadillac CTS has found itself and it’s a great find

By Jim Meachen

Cadillac officials think they’ve hit a home run with the all-new second-generation CTS sedan. Talk to an engineer or a marketing type and they’re bubbling over with enthusiasm. There’s excitement at General Motors’ Cadillac Division. And there should be.

The Cadillac group thinks the new CTS can stand on its own against any entry-level mid-sized luxury sedan in the world. The automotive press for the most part is in agreement. Even the brainwashed BMW magazine crowd has given some measure of endorsement to 
the newest Cadillac.

We also think the luxury-sedan-buying public will soon start voting for the 2008 CTS with their pocketbooks. General Motors is getting more things right these days and the CTS is one of the latest best examples.

Starting at $32,245, the CTS is Cadillac’s high-volume car and it was imperative that Cadillac get it right. It’s designed to compete with the BMW 3-Series, the Infiniti G35, the Mercedes C-Class and the Acura TL. But in actuality it can just as convincingly compete with the BMW 5-Series, Lexus GS and Mercedes E-Class.

The CTS is an irresistible combination of cutting-edge power and handling with a considerably upgraded interior over the first generation. It has in-your-face styling that takes on a more mature stance for 2008.

Yes, the car is as sexy as Grey’s Anatomy star Kate Walsh, behind the wheel of the CTS, asking in a TV commercial, “When you turn your car on, does it return the favor?”

Arriving in 2002 as a 2003 model with the so-called “art and science” design, the first CTS showed the future of Cadillac with more edgy luxury. That design was bold and distinctive.

Thick, intersecting lines gave the original CTS an appearance like no other entry-level luxury car. The 2008 CTS retains the basic concept, but in a more rounded — some may say a more mature — package. From the side, it has an appealing raked European look with short front and rear overhangs. To our eye, the controversial portion of the styling is with the bulky looking front-end treatment consisting of large headlamp enclosures and a expansive, familiar Cadillac egg-crate grille. When it appears in your rearview mirror you will take notice.

You’ll take notice behind the wheel, too, particularly in the 3.6-liter direct-injection V-6 version that pumps out 304 convincing horsepower.

We drove the winding and twisting roads of Monterey Bay taking a mid-afternoon “break” to tackle the exotic twists and turns of Laguna Seca race track that includes the famous “Corkscrew” and a 300-foot elevation change.

Our best evidence of just how adept the new Caddy is at its cornering limits came in the passenger seat with an experienced driver tackling the nearly two-and-one-half miles of entertainment.

We found the car extremely well balanced as we negotiated the winding, barely two-lane northern California blacktops at speeds a bit too fast for ultimate comfort.

Our seat time came with the most aggressive FE3 high-performance suspension package.

The FE1 is designed for the softer side and is available only in the base 3.6-liter 258-horsepower engine. The FE2 setup, which can be ordered with either engine and offers a good compromise between supple ride and handling acumen, will probably satisfy all but the most aggressive automotive personalities.

The new direct injection V-6 mated to perhaps the slickest shifting six-speed automatic in the General Motors kingdom, feels good from a standstill into triple digits, but it’s hampered by a rather heavy load. The CTS weighs in at around two tons, which gives competitors such as the BMW 335i an edge from 0 to 60 and through the quarter mile.

The automatic can be shifted manually for those who want to take the tachometer up to redline. A six-speed manual is optional for the upscale engine, but we didn’t get the opportunity to test it. The manual transmission is standard equipment with the base engine.

The CTS is terrifically entertaining getting to the ubiquitous 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and completing the quarter in 14.5 seconds just under triple digits.

Part of the entertainment comes from the interior surroundings, one of the best renditions of a modern cockpit in American passenger car history. High-quality plastics flow nicely with heavily stitched leather on the dashboard and door panels. The navigation screen fits 
neatly into the dash and pops out on command.

A satan aluminum finished center stack houses a classy looking analog clock, audio controls and climate controls. There are numerous look-alike black buttons, but generally the layout is fairly intuitive. Bright metallic accents surround the gauges and air vents to add pizzazz to the upscale look.

The 10-way power seats brought comfort to both front-seat occupants during a week-long test drive. Rear passengers get slightly more legroom than in the precious car thanks to a slimmer front seatback design. We found legroom in back adequate and the seats comfortable.

Rear air and heat, reading lights, storage pockets and cupholders make life easy on passengers.

We found the base 3.6-liter V-6, which generates 258 horsepower, satisfying. We emphasize this because it was the top engine in 2007 starting at $33,530 with the manual transmission. The same setup for 2008 begins at $32,990 and with the exception of the sporty suspension can be outfitted similar to the sedan with the more powerful engine.

You don’t have to dig much deeper into the checking account to get the 304-horsepower CTS starting at $35,290 especially when you consider that the automatic transmission is a $1,300 option in the base car and standard equipment in the up-level edition. The price difference is just a bit over a thousand bucks. Seems like a no-brainer.

All-wheel drive is available in both setups, running $3,200 with the smaller V-6 and $1,900 with the bigger engine.

Options are many and a wise consumer will watch the check-marked extras carefully balancing wants against needs.

Our test car carried the base price of $35,290 including destination charge. Options included a $3,300 performance package and a $1,000 audio upgrade that includes 10-speaker surround sound and a 40-gig hard drive that stores music. Total price of our CTS was $41,080.

This is the Cadillac that Cadillac has strived to produce the past half dozen years. It’s an American-made sedan we’d be proud to have living in our garage.


Base price, $32,990; as driven, $41,080

Engine: 3.6-liter V-6

Horsepower: 304 @ 6,300 rpm

Torque: 273 pound-feet @ 5,200 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Drive: rear wheel

Seating: 2/3

Wheelbase: 113.4 inches

Length: 191.6 inches

Curb weight: 4,032 pounds

Turning circle: 36 feet

Luggage capacity: 14 cubic feet

Fuel capacity: 18 gallons (premium)
EPA mileage: 26 highway, 17 city

0-60: 5.8 seconds (Car and Driver)

Also consider: BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class, Infiniti G35

The Good

• Modern V-6 engine

• Sport-tuned suspension available
• All-wheel drive option

The Bad

• Options can easily run into five figures

The Ugly

• New CTS is diet-challenged weighing in at more than two tons