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Eric
02-23-2008, 10:22 AM
As Darth Vader once told Obi Wan Kenobi, "the circle is now complete." When Cadillac began its arduous climb out of the pit of vinyl-roofed, fake wire-wheeled mediocrity and back into the ranks of the top tier luxury brands, it was, as Vader said of himself, merely a learner.

But now Cadillac has become the Master.

Or at the least, a force to be reckoned with. The heavily updated '08 CTS - Caddy's entry-level luxury-sport sedan - is an impressive piece and absolutely the peer of anything its class.

Maybe more.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

For '08, the CTS gets a new optional engine - a very potent 3.6 liter V-6 that produces V-8 power (304 hp) with six-cylinder economy (26 mpg on the highway) and 0-60 times in the mid-low sixes through a six-speed manual transmission.

The high power/efficiency is at least party due to the use of Direct Injection (DI), one of the first production applications by GM of this technology. Instead of air/fuel mixing together in an intake runner before being drawn into each cylinder to be burned, fuel is shot directly into the combustion chamber. This allows extremely precise metering of fuel, increasing efficiency but without the usual trade-off of diminished performance.

To get an idea of just how much of an improvement is possible with direct injection, look at the specifications of the CTS' standard engine. It is the same basic 3.6 liter engine - only without DI. It produces far less power - 263 hp - yet is only slightly more fuel efficient. With an EPA rating of 18 city/26 highway, it delivers virtually the same 17 city/26 highway as the DI version of the 3.6 V-6 engine - despite identical displacements and despite the fact that the DI 3.6 liter V-6 develops 40 more horsepower.

Either engine may be ordered with a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic with Sport mode. The CTS is rear drive - with an AWD system available optionally.

However, if you want a clutch, the high-horsepower DI engine and AWD you are out of luck. Caddy has decided that AWD will only be available with the lower-output 3.6 liter engine and requires the six-speed automatic.

There are several performance-related enhancements available, including high-capacity cooling, upgraded brakes. limited slip rear axle and an FE2 and FE3 performance suspension package with 18-inch rims and "summer" speed-rated performance tires, etc.

HANDLING & RIDE

The fact that the CTS is built on a rear-drive platform (as opposed the FWD platforms of some competitors in its price range, like the Lexus ES350 and Audi A4) gives it an inherent advantage both as a luxury car and a performance car. FWD cars are nose-heavy and while this may be tweaked via suspension and other fixes, the typical FWD car's 60-40 weight split (front to rear) becomes more and more noticeable the faster you drive - or corner. Ride quality also typically suffers relative to a similar car built on a RWD chassis.

This is one of the big reasons why Caddys of the early-mid '90s (which were mostly FWD) were never able to compete on equal terms with RWD BMWs, Benzes and so on.

No such issues with the '08 CTS, which has a nice feel to it; specifically - the feel of a rear-drive luxury-sport sedan. You can kick the tail out and steer with the throttle if that kind of thing is your bag. Or (if you've got the automatic) switch off the traction control for some power-braking fun. One can do a burnout in a FWD car - but this tasks the same set of wheels with the same function (acceleration and steering) and isn't nearly as controllable or, frankly, fun. Plus, CV joints tend not to last long when abused in this manner - while you can usually flog a RWD car with virtual impunity for years before things start to break.

Caddy engineers improved on the basic goodness of the RWD layout by building a wide track into the '08 CTS, which also has a long (113.4 inch) wheelbase relative to competitors like the BMW 3-Series sedan (108.7 inches), Mercedes-Benz C300 (108.7 inches) and Audi A4 (104.3 inches).

The extra few inches between the axles (both length-wise and width-wise) you get in the Caddy give the impression of a substantial, expensive-feeling larger car more in the middle-luxury range than the entry luxury range. The difference is most noticeable compared to the Benz C300, which feels like a compact despite its $30-$40k price range.

Though the CTS is not yet the equal of the BMW in terms of reflexes (especially steering feel and response, a BMW high point) it is damn close in terms of what you can do with it on a track - or windy back road. And it rides at least as well as any of them.

Better than several, in my opinion.

"Ride" is a very subjective thing, but I would describe the CTS as being an 8.2 out of 10 on my own scale of "just right" firmness - with a BMW 3-Series rating a 9 and a Benz C-Class a 7.8.

STYLING & UTILITY

The CTS returns to Caddy's roots (the good ones) of the 1930s, '40s and '50s - when Cadillac was the "standard of the world" and its cars were provocative totems of affluence and industrial art. Love it or hate it, the CTS is noticeable in the way a Series 62 Eldorado Biarritz or V-16 Phaeton was. It looks like no other car on the road and is very aggressively American in form. Hard pleats and intense angles define the exterior shape - with vertical stacked headlights, wide and low deepset grille and "chopped" roofline some of the stylistic high points.

Inside, you'll find an equally sharp looking cabin with a center console that forms into the wings of a "v" as it meets up with the dash - a multi-section piece finished off in contrasting leather, metal and wood trim appliques. It is legitimately beautiful (to my eyes) and also features numerous clever design touches such as the twin (driver and passenger) LCD controls for the seat warmers built into the lower base area of the console - and the pop-up display for the GPS/audio/information system.

Unlike other systems that recede completely into the dash, the Caddy system tucks away - but not all the way. A top bar remains when the unit is not fully deployed, so you can still see what radio station you're on, as well as other functions. Very snazzy - and functional, too. The unit also houses an optional 40 gigabyte hard drive that lets you pause, rewind and and replay live radio broadcasts - just like TiVo.

Rear seat room is a little tight and the roofline adds to the issues there, but the fact is most entry-luxury sedans suffer from the same ergonomic woes and the CTS is not significantly worse than similar cars in this class. However, it does have a substantially larger trunk (about 14 cubic feet) than several of its competitors such as the Benz C-Class (12 cubic feet), Audi A4 (13 cubic feet) and BMW 3-Series (12 cubic feet).

QUALITY/SAFETY

This car comes across as high end in every respect; first-class workmanship, materials and attention to detail everywhere. We'll have to wait a few years to see whether the engineering is as good as the initial impression you get from driving the CTS - but everything sure seems high and tight. GM's 3.6 liter V-6 is already receiving accolades, including having been recently picked as one of Ward's "Ten Best" current production engines.

All models come standard with traction and stability control, ABS with EBD as well as side-impact air bags.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

Cadillac is clearly moving away from the Viejo-mobiles that for about three decades characterized the brand. The CTS is a car a 35-year-old feels good in - but which would make the typical 60 year-old feel uneasy. Too much speed, too many buttons and gadgets. Too sharp.

It is a heavy car (about 4,00 lbs.) relative to the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4, but to me that is a good thing, so long as the power isn't lacking and the suspension handles the weight - which it isn't ... and does.

Compared on the numbers to most of its target competition, the CTS just looks better and better.

For instance, the BMW begins at $32,400 but only offers 230 measly hp from its inline six-cylinder engine. At least you can get a stickshift - and a more potent engine with the BMW. And even AWD. But it'll cost you. A rear-drive 335i with the more powerful turbo'd 3 liter six is still less powerful than a CTS DI, bringing an even 300 hp to table but demanding $38,900 to get it. Want AWD too? You'll need $40,800 to acquire the 335xi.

Audi's A4 starts out cheaper ($28,900) but that'll only buy you a 200 hp four cylinder and front-wheel-drive. V-6 versions of the A4 - with CVT transmission - start at $36,300. The Benz C300 is offered with a manual gearbox and AWD, but its 3 liter V-6 offers up a kinda sad 228 hp and its base price of $31,600 isn't exactly a bargain.

It's also worth mentioning that you cannot get a manual transmission in the Lexus GS350 - which is also massively more expensive at $44,150 to start vs. the Caddy's base MSRP of $32,745. What's more, the Lexus only offers 303 hp - exactly one horsepower less than the Caddy's 3.6 liter DI V-6, which comes not only with a clutch (if you want) but also costs just $35,045 - almost $10k less than the auto-only Lexus.

Probably the strongest CTS rival, in terms of driving feel, power - and basically, what you get for your money - is the superb Infiniti G35. It offers a 306 hp 3.5 liter V-6, manual gearbox and available AWD. Prices start at $31,850. It also happens to be the closest to the Caddy wheelbase-wise, at 112.2 inches. And it is equally bold in appearance and attitude and acceleration/performance (on the latter score it is quicker and faster).

Bottom line, the CTS is at last, a contender - and Caddy deserves praise as well as your business, if you're looking for a truly top-notch entry luxury sport sedan.

It's been a long time since you could say that with a straight face.

And that says a lot about today's Cadillac.

END

chiph
02-23-2008, 10:50 AM
Typo:

standard of the word

Chip H.

swamprat
02-24-2008, 12:40 PM
Awesome article. Awesome car.

I have long liked the Cadillac CTS since it first came out in the middle of 2002 as a 2003 model. It is good that GM decided to continually improve it instead of letting it die like Ford does to its cars.

I would love to drive one.

Eric
02-24-2008, 12:49 PM
Awesome article. Awesome car.

I have long liked the Cadillac CTS since it first came out in the middle of 2002 as a 2003 model. It is good that GM decided to continually improve it instead of letting it die like Ford does to its cars.

I would love to drive one.





Thanks amigo!

I agree; the CTs is kicking.. the CTS-V ought to be even better. It's the first Cadillac in years I could see myself driving...

Disco Man
02-28-2008, 11:26 AM
Kudos on the article, very well done. I second what Henry said glad Cadillac improved the CTS, its a great overall package:

Here's a link to this article with pictures on the main page:


http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/images/stories/automotive/cadillac/cts/08cts-b.jpg


http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=469&Itemid=10848

Eric
02-28-2008, 12:48 PM
Kudos on the article, very well done. I second what Henry said glad Cadillac improved the CTS, its a great overall package:

Here's a link to this article with pictures on the main page:


http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/images/stories/automotive/cadillac/cts/08cts-b.jpg


http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=469&Itemid=10848




Thanks as always for the kind words!