When I first stepped into the Cadillac CTS, I saw the strangest thing poking out of the floor. It was a stickshift. This was a Cadillac with a five-speed manual transmission. How bizarre. But also, how symbolic of the new direction taken by Cadillac to turn its ponderous division away from the cushy land yachts (such as the DeVille that my dad drives) normally associated with General Motors' luxury division. Cadillac's stunning turnaround of late has come with products that seem incongruous: the big Escalade sport utility vehicle embraced by sports figures and chic urban types, and now the CTS, a $30,000 midsize sedan with edgy styling and road manners that approach BMW standards. Next up for 2004 is the SRX, which is a car-based sport utility vehicle, and a gorgeous two-seat roadster called XLR based on Chevrolet Corvette. Recently, Cadillac wowed the Detroit Auto Show with its Sixteen concept car, aggressively styled and powered by a V-16 engine rated at 1,000 horsepower. These are part of Cadillac's efforts to regain its international status as a top maker of luxury vehicles, now eclipsed by Mercedes-Benz and Lexus. Under its recent partnership with General Motors, the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Chandler has started using Corvettes, as one would expect, but also Cadillac CTS sedans to replace Ford Mustangs. The idea of a Cadillac for performance training would have been laughable not very long ago. But CTS is a rear-wheel-drive car that handles like a sports coupe and would work well on the tightly curving Bondurant track. Caddy's previous efforts at marketing a midsize entry-level sedan have been flops. Recently, the Catera was saddled with boring looks and a silly ad campaign that featured a cartoon duck and the sappy slogan, "The Caddy that zigs." Before that was the truly terrible Cimarron, a lackluster piece of 1970s badge engineering that attempted to turn a bland Chevy Cavalier into a Cadillac. It didn't work. The CTS is a whole new ballgame. With sharply creased, angular body contours, CTS stands out from the crowd. To some eyes, its aggressive style is appealing and world-class. To others, it's an ugly mess. No one seems to be neutral, but that's the whole point. Here's a sedan that stirs passions at first glance. And that's a good thing. The interior feels solid and nicely designed, with a modular look more attuned to European style than typical Cadillac. The front seats are very roomy, but it's a bit tight in back. For me, the five-speed enhanced the driving experience, though Cadillac expects to sell only about 5 percent of its CTS cars so equipped. This is a Getrag gearbox with a short-throw shifter that is smooth and precise. Most CTS's will get a automatic transmission, the same brand they put in BMWs. There's just one engine choice, a 3.2-liter V-6 that puts out a convinci ng 220 horsepower. Acceleration is quick, though accompanied by some engine noise. The throttle is a drive-by-wire electronic system, not that the driver would notice the difference. There is talk about the CTS getting Cadillac's formidable Northstar V-8 in the near future. But with the strong V-6 and slick five-speed, as well as responsive rack-and-pinion steering and four-wheel-disc brakes, the current CTS should romp on the Bondurant track. The CTS started at just under $30,000, but a few packages of desirable options quickly boosted the price past $38,000. These included a $3,500 Luxury Sport package with a host of extras, including computerized driver settings, a Talknote recorder (for those on-road inspirations), sport-tuned suspension with load leveling, zebrano wood interior trim, and 17-inch alloy wheels shod with V-rated tires; a $2,700 Bose audio system with GPS navigation; $1,100 for a sunroof; $500 for high-intensity headlights; $400 for heated front seats; and $640 for shipping. Cadillac CTS Vehicle type: Five-passenger, four-door sedan, rear-wheel drive.Base price: $29,350Price as tested: $38,190Engine: 3.2-liter V-6, 220 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, 218 pounds-feet of torque at 3,400 rpm.Transmission: Five-speed manual.Wheelbase: 113.4 inches.Curb weight: 3,509 pounds.EPA mileage: 18 city, 25 highway.Highs:Sharp performance.Sporty image.A new kind of Cadillac.Lows:Love/hate styling.Moderate gas mileage.Expensive options.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Jim Flammang||Cars.com National||January 24, 2003|
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|Larry Printz||The Morning Call and Mcall.com||July 14, 2002|
|Royal Ford||Boston.com||May 19, 2002|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||March 16, 2002|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||December 19, 2001|
|Anita Lienert||The Detroit News||December 19, 2001|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||December 9, 2001|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||December 9, 2001|
|Jason Stein||October 13, 2002|
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