2009 Cadillac CTS

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Key Specs
Our Take
Road Test
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Key Specs

of the 2009 Cadillac CTS. Base trim shown.

  • Body Type:
  • Combined MPG:
    20-21 Combined MPG
  • Engine:
    263-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain:
    Rear-wheel Drive
  • Transmission:
    6-speed manual w/OD
  • View more specs

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Cohesive styling
  • Rich interior
  • Acceleration with either engine
  • Handling with sport suspension
  • Runs on regular gasoline
  • Innovative infotainment features

The Bad

  • Front-seat comfort
  • Few standard features for a luxury car
  • Backseat headroom
  • Clunky manual gearshift
  • No backup camera
  • Poorly executed panoramic moonroof

Notable Features of the 2009 Cadillac CTS

  • Available AWD
  • Choice of suspensions
  • Available real-time traffic reports
  • Manual or automatic transmission
  • Remote start

2009 Cadillac CTS Road Test

Kelsey Mays
Editor's note: This review was written in September 2007 about the 2008 Cadillac CTS. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's changed for 2009, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.

Sporting creased lines and track-tuned handling, Cadillac's original CTS led the revival of a brand many had perceived as stodgy. The second-generation model, new for 2008, doesn't have quite as tall a ladder to climb, but it still needs to make inroads among import shoppers, including fans of the BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G35, Audi A4 and several other sport sedans.

After two days of hard driving across California, I think the CTS has a good shot at converting some of those shoppers. The cabin is marvelous, the driving dynamics are first-rate and the amenities are useful for real drivers, not just technophiles. The sedan is not without faults, but overall it's a solid choice — competitive where it counts and distinct in a lot of good ways.

Exterior & Styling
The CTS' appearance is not nearly as shocking as its predecessor's was, in part because the rest of Cadillac's lineup now has similar lines. If anything, it looks softer than before, with wider fenders, brighter headlights and less of the outright severity that characterized the original. In person, the front end can come off as a bit busy: Between the fog-light insets, two-tone grille and bumper extensions below each headlight, the...

Editor's note: This review was written in September 2007 about the 2008 Cadillac CTS. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's changed for 2009, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.

Sporting creased lines and track-tuned handling, Cadillac's original CTS led the revival of a brand many had perceived as stodgy. The second-generation model, new for 2008, doesn't have quite as tall a ladder to climb, but it still needs to make inroads among import shoppers, including fans of the BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G35, Audi A4 and several other sport sedans.

After two days of hard driving across California, I think the CTS has a good shot at converting some of those shoppers. The cabin is marvelous, the driving dynamics are first-rate and the amenities are useful for real drivers, not just technophiles. The sedan is not without faults, but overall it's a solid choice — competitive where it counts and distinct in a lot of good ways.

Exterior & Styling
The CTS' appearance is not nearly as shocking as its predecessor's was, in part because the rest of Cadillac's lineup now has similar lines. If anything, it looks softer than before, with wider fenders, brighter headlights and less of the outright severity that characterized the original. In person, the front end can come off as a bit busy: Between the fog-light insets, two-tone grille and bumper extensions below each headlight, there's a lot to sort through. Give it some time — by the end of my second day with the car, I had grown to like the look.

Going & Stopping
Cadillac's 3.6-liter V-6 serves as the base engine. It produces 263 horsepower and 253 pounds-feet of torque. An optional direct-injection version allows higher cylinder compression and improved fuel delivery, resulting in 304 hp and 273 pounds-feet of torque; more impressive, it retains nearly the same gas mileage and runs on regular unleaded gasoline.

One key note: The V-Series performance variant, the CTS-V, takes the 2008 model year off before returning in second-generation form.

A six-speed manual or six-speed automatic is available with either engine. Rear- or all-wheel drive is available, though the all-wheel-drive CTS comes only with the automatic. Despite the extra weight, gas mileage doesn't drop in all-wheel-drive models.

Drivetrains Compared
Standard V-6Direct-injection V-6
Size3.6 liters3.6 liters
TransmissionSix-speed auto (AWD or RWD); six-speed manual (RWD)Six-speed auto (AWD or RWD); six-speed manual (RWD)
Horsepower (@ rpm)263 @ 6,200304 @ 6,300
Torque (lbs.-ft. @ rpm)253 @ 3,100273 @ 5,200
Gas mileage (city/highway, mpg)18/2617/26
Recommended fuelRegularRegular
Source: EPA, automaker data

Many sport sedans have base engines that leave drivers longing for more. That's not the case here; the entry-level V-6 moves the CTS swiftly, with plenty of low-end torque and a burly exhaust note when the pedal is down. The uplevel engine feels about the same from a standing start, but it gets palpably stronger than its sibling as the revs build, and passing on the highway is fairly effortless.

Credit a lot of the power to the six-speed automatic. It's remarkably adaptive, moving smoothly through gears at lower speeds and snapping off lightning-quick shifts under hard acceleration. I noticed some gear hunting when I kicked the pedal down on the highway, but once it picks a gear — likely third or fourth — there's no shortage of acceleration, even with the base engine.

In Sport mode, the transmission engages a Performance Algorithm Liftfoot feature, which directs it to hold gears — avoiding power-robbing upshifts — during aggressive maneuvers. It took 10 seconds or so to kick in but then performed well, holding gears when I was off the gas and blipping the throttle for quick downshifts when I moved to the brakes. Bravo.

There's a manual-shift mode should you decide to govern the gears yourself, but it's fairly unexceptional. Prodding the accelerator hard prompts a downshift whether you want it to or not, and upshifts come at a leisurely pace. My advice: Keep it in auto with the sport mode engaged. Its intuitiveness will surprise you.

The CTS also comes with a six-speed manual, which I drove briefly, teamed with the direct-injection V-6, at California's Laguna Seca Raceway. The stick shift allows the uplevel engine to shine: Hold a gear all the way down a straightaway, and there's no trailing off of power or hoarse exhaust note — just abundant acceleration that never seems to run dry.

Less impressive is the gear shifter. It's thick but tall, lacking the short, delicate throws of a G35 or the smoothness of a 3 Series or A4. Reverse gear is left and down of the first/second gate, and it's easy for the shifter to catch in the leftward notch when you downshift from third to second.

The optional all-wheel drive uses an active transfer case that can send up to 100 percent of the power to the front wheels. The system defaults 75 percent of the power to the rear. I drove an all-wheel-drive CTS with the stronger V-6, and though the system adds around 250 pounds in that car, the extra weight never felt debilitating.

Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard. Optional performance brakes add larger discs all around. With either setup, the pedal feels a bit grabby but delivers strong stopping performance.

Ride & Handling
For either engine, buyers can choose between three different suspensions. The base setup employs stabilizer bars for both axles. Move up to the midlevel suspension, and you get thicker stabilizer bars, firmer shock absorbers and a limited-slip differential. It also includes a tighter steering ratio and swaps the base 17-inch wheels and P235/55R17 tires for 18-inchers and P235/50R18 rubber. A high-performance sport suspension, which comes only on rear-wheel-drive cars, offers summer tires, beefier brakes, and even firmer, load-leveling shocks.

I drove all three suspensions on the CTS. The base setup feels something like a sporty family sedan; it's reasonably taut, but there is noticeable body roll when you take to a corner. Cadillac expects most buyers to choose the midlevel suspension, which is probably a good thing. The steering wheel turns with less effort than that of a 3 Series or G35, but give it a tug and the CTS changes course immediately without any of the lackluster turn-in you get with the base steering system. There's also less body roll, giving the CTS a healthy dose of cornering confidence. I found myself tossing the car from one turn to the next. Even with elevation changes and rattle-inducing bumps, the wheels remained grounded and the chassis never lost its composure. In similar maneuvers, the base suspension came off sloppy.

Most drivers probably won't need the high-performance suspension. It pays dividends on the track, but on regular roads it doesn't offer much stiffness beyond the midlevel setup. All three suspensions yield relatively similar ride quality, though I did notice a little less road noise from the base 17-inch tires at higher speeds. Otherwise, the CTS is set for the long haul, with a compliant ride and excellent straight-line stability.

The Inside
At first glance, the new interior looks risky. There are wood inlays and hand-stitched panels, and everything seems to intersect at odd angles — a great recipe for unsightly gaps — yet the CTS pulls it off. Wherever one panel joins another — the dashboard and doors, for example — there are tight fits and well-crafted details. Even the harder plastics have interesting textures, and the wood and metallic trim seem respectable for this price range. At night, an optional interior lighting package adds soft-white LEDs along the door handles and dashboard. Very cool.

GM would do well to spread the center controls from the CTS to its other cars. Though the panel looks a bit cluttered (I counted 40 buttons and three knobs in one) the controls are straightforward and expertly tailored, which I prefer over the one-knob-fits-all mayhem you get from BMW's iDrive, Audi's MMI and the like.

The optional navigation system motors up from the center of the dashboard, close to the driver's line of sight. When lowered, the top inch or so remains exposed as a touch-screen display for audio presets and other basic functions. If you don't need to see the full map, leave the screen down and keep track of essentials on the smaller display.

The navigation system has all the usual toys, with an auxiliary input jack, full iPod connectivity, and real-time traffic and weather reports. Available with or without the navigation system, an uplevel Bose stereo includes a 40GB hard drive that can rip songs off CDs in the in-dash player or media devices plugged into the USB port. It also records AM/FM radio and XM Satellite Radio in real time — think TiVo for the radio. Users can rewind, pause and fast forward over a period as long as 60 minutes; change the station, and it starts from scratch. It records even if the engine is off, so you can pause a baseball game to run an errand and come back to hear what you missed. Another nifty touch: XM Radio stores placeholders at the beginning of each song or commercial, which the rewind and fast-forward buttons automatically seek. The AM/FM feed defaults to 30-second snippets.

As small sport sedans go, the CTS doesn't lack space. Much of that is due to efficient design. The front seats have "thin-seat" technology to enhance backseat legroom, the doors have sculpted cutouts for elbows, and the center armrest is low and narrow. These innovations have their drawbacks. The front seats are short on padding; sit down hard, and you can feel the entire chair flex. The side bolsters are relatively relaxed, yielding enough comfort but less cornering support than I expect in a sport sedan. Pinned low between the front seats, the center console storage compartment won't fit much more than a Blackberry and a few CDs.

That said, the seats themselves offer ample room. The driver's seat powers far enough back to fit anyone short of an NBA center; I'm 6 feet tall, and even with the optional panoramic moonroof, I had leg- and headroom to spare. The rear seat is a little short on headroom, but legroom is manageable.

Interior quality takes a modest dive in back — the doors retain the upscale stitching and soft-touch materials, but the middle air vents sit below some cheap plastic and sizeable hinge gaps, and the tiny head restraints feel like they were installed as an afterthought.

The trunk holds 13.6 cubic feet of luggage, which marginally beats most competitors. A 60/40-split folding backseat is optional.

Safety
Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system are standard. The six standard airbags include side airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags for both rows. Optional adaptive headlights swivel up to 15 degrees in the direction of a turn to illuminate corners.

As of this writing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash tested the 2008 CTS.

Trim Levels & Pricing
Without the destination charge, a CTS with the base V-6 starts at $32,245. Standard equipment includes an eight-speaker Bose stereo, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power driver's seat, vinyl upholstery and 17-inch alloy wheels.

All trim levels start with the base suspension; note that the high-performance suspension is unavailable on all-wheel-drive models. Eighteen-inch wheels and fog lights are included with both packages.

Most basic luxury cars include a power passenger seat and leather upholstery. In the CTS, both of those features are bundled into a seating package for more than $2,000; the package also includes heated seats. At the very least, they ought to be included when you step up to the pricier engine or all-wheel drive. No such luck.

Other options include ventilated front seats, high-performance brakes, a power-adjustable steering column and rain-sensing wipers. Rear ultrasonic parking sensors are optional, but a backup camera and front sensors are not.

Cadillac expects the average CTS to go for $38,000. Check all the options, and a fully loaded model totals around $50,000.

CTS in the Market
Confident styling, an upscale cabin and innovative features should win the CTS plenty of buyers. As an all-out driver's car, it isn't quite as compelling as a 3 Series or G35, but it isn't far behind — and in many ways it feels more livable day-to-day than either of those. Whether Cadillac can sway shoppers from the import fold remains to be seen, but this car certainly has a fighting chance.

Send Kelsey an email 



2009 CTS Video

Cars.com's Joe Bruzek heads down to sunny Georgia to get some time behind the wheel of the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V. This American muscle sedan goes head to head with the likes of the BMW M5 and Mercedes E63 AMG.

Latest 2009 CTS Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.9)
Performance
(4.8)
Interior Design
(4.8)
Comfort
(4.7)
Reliability
(4.7)
Value For The Money
(4.7)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

the first new car i have owned

by nick from Idaho Springs on August 9, 2018

its the top of the line the nicest car i have owned my friends still cant believe its mine its got a/c and thats nice Read full review

(5.0)

My dream car I finally own it and I love it

by JLo from Largo, fl on July 23, 2018

Since Cadillac came out with the 2008 CTS design I wanted this car since the day I saw it. I did prefer the mesh grill over the regular Grill but the styling of this vehicle is just one that I have ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2009 Cadillac CTS currently has 5 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2009 Cadillac CTS Base w/1SA

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranties

Backed by Cadillac
New Car Program Benefits
  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    48 months / 50,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 100,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    60 months / 100,000 miles

Certified Pre-Owned Program Benefits
  • Maximum Age/Mileage

    Less than 75,000 miles

  • Basic Warranty Terms

    12 months/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper (2012-2017 models)

  • Powertrain warranty

    6 years/100,000 miles (2012-2017 models)

  • Dealer Certification Required

    172-point inspection

  • Roadside Assistance

    Yes

  • View All Program Details

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The CTS received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker