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Expert Reviews 1 of 3
By Jim Flammang
September 26, 2003
Vehicle Overview Launched as an early 2003 model, the entry-luxury CTS (Cadillac Touring Sedan) was built on a new rear-wheel-drive platform. A 220-horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6 engine that teams with either a five-speed manual or an automatic transmission is installed.
CTS sedans equipped with a five-speed-automatic transmission have a new 255-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 for the 2004 model year. The smaller V-6 is limited to models that feature the manual shift. Suspension revisions and interior changes for 2004 are intended to soften the ride and reduce noise.
The styling themes for the CTS are rooted in Cadillacs Evoq concept car. In fact, the automaker says the CTS reaches back to Cadillacs glory days, which began in 1927 with the arrival of legendary designer Harley Earl at General Motors. The CTS was touted by Cadillac as the first 100-percent application of Cadillacs art and science approach to passenger-car design.
Cadillac describes the CTS body as bold and chiseled, incorporating sharp edges and crisp intersecting lines and a short front overhang. Measuring 190.1 inches long overall, the CTS rides a 113.4-inch wheelbase. Integrated, traditionally styled vertical headlights and taillights are installed. The large, shield-shaped, louvered eggcrate grille is reminiscent of Cadillacs dating back to the 1930s. Cadillacs wreath-and-crest symbol is incorporated into the grille, which has a V-shaped bottom.
Cast-aluminum wheels hold 16-inch tires. An optional Sport Package includes Cadillacs StabiliTrak electronic stability system, a sport-tuned suspension, a load-leveling rear suspension and 17-inch polished wheels. Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights are optional.
Five people fit inside the CTS sedan. Wood is used only in areas where it will come in contact with occupants: on the three-spoke steering wheel, gearshift knob and door pulls. The seats are upholstered in Nuance leather. The standard cassette/CD stereo includes Radio Data System (RDS) technology. GMs OnStar communication system is standard. Heated front seats are optional. XM Satellite Radio is available in models equipped with the Bose stereo and a navigation system. Trunk capacity measures 12.8 cubic feet.
Under the Hood
A 220-hp, 3.2-liter V-6 engine develops 220 pounds-feet of torque and teams with a Getrag five-speed-manual gearbox. The new 3.6-liter V-6 produces 255 hp and works with a five-speed-automatic transmission. A button for the automatic selects Sport, Winter and Economy modes.
Six airbags are installed: dual-stage front airbags, seat-mounted side-thorax airbags and roof-mounted side curtain-type airbags. Antilock brakes, all-speed traction control and LATCH child-safety seat tethers are standard.
Cadillac is launching a super-performance offshoot of the CTS during the 2004 model year. Called the CTS-V, it will rank as the most powerful automobile in the companys history. Rather than the relatively mild-mannered V-6 engines that go into regular CTS sedans, the CTS-V gets a 5.7-liter V-8 which is borrowed from the Corvette Z06 and whips up 400 hp and 390 pounds-feet of torque. The CTS-V accelerates from zero to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds. Only a six-speed-manual gearbox will be offered.
Competitors include the BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C32 AMG. The CTS-V is the first of several planned V-series models, which are developed by GMs new Performance Division. Differences between the CTS-V and the regular CTS include a unique front fascia and a tightened suspension.
Controversial CTS styling might be considered either alluring or alarming, but theres less to argue about when it comes to this Cadillacs excellent driving characteristics. Subtle but bountiful performance is helped by an excellent, quick-shifting automatic transmission.
For the most part, drivers can expect the feel of a European sport sedan, but the CTS isnt quite as refined as an Audi or BMW. Exceptionally stable on the road, the CTS is easy to drive around town. Steering response is on the sporty side.
The controls are somewhat unorthodox. The drivers seat has a long bottom and is especially comfortable and adequately supportive. Headroom, elbowroom and legroom are abundant up front.