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1997 Cadillac Catera

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1997 Cadillac Catera
Available in 1 styles:  Catera 4dr Sedan shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

18 city / 25 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 10
1997 Cadillac Catera 3.1 7
$ 750-750
May 24, 1997

In the past, Cadillac has been very good at kicking dust in its own face.

As its customers die off, there have been fewer to replace them because more buyers seek imported brands.

Cadillac's response has been less than stellar.

Their first response was a good one. The original 1976 Seville was a nicely designed car. When it went for baroque in the early '80s, Cadillac responded with a gussied-up Chevrolet Cavalier called the Cimmaron. This was followed by the Allante, a high-bucks two-seater convertible built by Pininfarina of Italy.

Sadly, by this late date, many people don't believe that Cadillac can build a car that a younger crowd can love.

Enter the Catera.

As Bullwinkle J. Moose would say, "This time for sure. Presto."

Of course, where Bullwinkle fails, Caddy succeeds.

Although the styling of the Caddy that zigs resembles a Saturn sedan, the driving experience matches that of its Asian and European competitors. It drives and handles unlike any car built by GM in North America. But that would make sense, considering the car is built in Germany.

That's right, Germany.

The Catera starts life as an Opel Omega MV6. This car competes directly against such heady competitors as BMW and Mercedes. It's built in Germany, but Cadillac has come in and made some refinements for the American market.

While keyless entry, automatic climate control and power seats are uncommon in Europe, any luxury car has these features. So the Caddy folks added them. What they didn't take out was Catera's ability to sustain high-speed driving at autobahn-like speeds.

What they have done is limited top speed to 125 mph so all-season tires could be fitted for better foul weather traction. This is of concern, since the Catera is rear-wheel drive. While little snow fell during the test drive, a day of drenching downpours did little to upset the car. It had better wet-weather traction than some front-wheel drive sedans.

But then, great handling is expected from a German road car, and thankfully this car drives like one as well. Steering and braking is progressive, with good road feel through the wheel. The speed-sensitive steering is a little numb at slow speeds. Cornering is flat and the tail stays planted until you'd like to twitch, at which point it becomes your obedient servant.

Motivation comes from Opel's 3.0-liter V6, a double overhead-cam, 24-valve power plant that delivers 200 horsepower. Power is adequate until about 15 mph, at which point this Catera sings a pretty performance tune.

While it's not the fastest sedan around, there's enough power around to run with the wolves. On the highway, this car excels. But that's what you'd expect from a car bred for 140-mph autobahn speeds. The four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock stopped the car just as quickly.

Inside, Catera delivers more space than its entry-level competitors. It feels roomier than the Merced es C-Class, BMW 3 series or Lexus ES-300. The trunk is bigger as well, measuring a generous 16.7 cubic feet.

The bucket seats are firm and comfortable, and not so form-fitting as some competitors. They still hold you in place during spirited cornering.

The rest of the interior is modern luxury car in the Asian mold, but told with a European accent. There are some unusually designed items, like the lighted power window switch toggles located on the center console. All the controls have an excellent tactile feel, firm and well-built.

All the luxury amenities are present, as are the safety ones, the only exception being the lack of side-impact airbags. Also, the Catera is not wired for Cadillac's excellent OnStar system, but that could be available.

The only real question is this: If the Catera is a different kind of Cadillac, is it a Cadillac at all? It certainly doesn't feel like one. It doesn't look like one. And if you're a traditional Cadillac customer, y u won't like it.

But if you've never thought of owning a Caddy, give this new duck on the luxury car pond a drive.

Unlike the commercial, it's far from a foul experience.

Cadillac Catera Standard: 3.0-liter double overhead cam V6, four-speed automatic transmission, speed sensitive steering, 16-inch cast aluminum wheels, cruise control, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock, keyless entry, twilight sentinel, traction control, power door locks, wiper activated headlamps, power heated outside mirrors, dual climate controls, eight-way power driver's seat, air-conditioned glove box, express power windows, air filtration system, split folding rear seats with pass-through, AM/FM cassette audio system, leather-wrapped steering wheel with fingertip audio controls. Options: Leather seats, eight-way power passenger's seat, memory function for driver's seat and inside/outside mirrors, theft deterrent system, cast aluminum wheels, eight-speaker Bose AM/FM cassette audio system. Base price: $32,995 As tested: $34,073 EPA rating: 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway Test mileage: 19 mpg

    Expert Reviews 2 of 10

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