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2008 Cadillac CTS - Autoweek

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2008 Cadillac CTS
Broad stripes for a bright star
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By NATALIE NEFF | Link to Original Article @ AutoWeek | Published 07/19/07, 2:30 pm et


AT A GLANCE:
ON SALE: August
BASE PRICE: $32,990
DRIVETRAIN: 3.6-liter, 263-hp, 253-lb-ft V6; rwd, six-speed manual
0-60 MPH: 6.8 sec (est)
FUEL ECONOMY: N/A

In 2002, Cadillac rallied its troops for another march into the heart of German-occupied territory. The CTS represented a second-straight assault on a market segment in which Cadillac had bombed with its previous attempt, the Catera, which was countered by a seemingly insurmountable defense thrown up by BMW, Mercedes and Audi.

With the CTS, however, the General’s luxury marque flanked the Germans with an all-American design, a line of attack that called for chiseled edges and sharp corners and lots and lots of ego. And with a goal of moving just 30,000 to 40,000 units a year, Cadillac wasn’t looking so much to win the war as to establish a toehold with the CTS and hang on.

The tactic more than worked. The CTS eclipsed its sales goal by the second year on the market and, at its peak in 2005, found its way into more than 60,000 garages, falling just a few hundred short of beating Cadillac’s perennially best-selling DeVille/DTS. More significantly, that same year, the CTS outsold every German midsize luxury sedan save the BMW 3 Series, including the BMW 5 Series, the Mercedes C-Class and E-Class and the Audi A4 and A6.

Given the success of the original CTS campaign, Cadillac smartly stuck with the same tactic for the 2008 model—only more so.

The new model should be trickling into showrooms as you read this, familiar in design but easily told apart from the outgoing car by its more distinctive body and face. The car is almost two inches wider overall, with flaring fenders over wheel wells now filled with rubber; the current car, by comparison, looks like a Baja truck, there’s so much space between tire and fender.

In fact, everywhere you look on the CTS’ body, the gaps have shrunk. Even on the preproduction models we tested, the fits looked as tight as anything hailing from Europe or Asia. Cadillac says to expect to find no more than three millimeters of space around any door, fender, decklid or light.

Up front, the car does a take on the popular Cadillac Sixteen concept’s grille, giving the face an element of depth, of three-dimensionality, not seen in the current car, with horizontal bars that sink into the egg-crate background as the eye moves toward the oversized crest in the center.

An additional air scoop sits below, echoing the grille’s detail, even extending it below the bumper as together they form a virtual V shape. On each side of the lower intake sits a fog lamp and a brake cooling duct within an elongated bright bezel, which does well to temper all the vertical, characteristically Cadillac cues with a measure of visual width.

Cadillac improved the rear view of the CTS even more than the front—even though little has substantially changed from a styling standpoint. Where the old car looks too tall, narrow, even pinched from behind, the ’08 car resolves all that with a properly proportioned rear end. The added width certainly helps; the track grew two inches right along with the width. Minor changes can be seen in the tailpipe and license-plate surrounds.

The most significant styling missteps Cadillac made with the first-generation CTS have been wholly rectified for 2008.

The press pilloried the car for its expensive-to-build but ungainly interior, focusing most of its ill opinion on the giant center stack, a bungle of automotive styling that leaned more toward a utilitarian, antidesign ethic favored by the likes of Compaq than the traditional elegance we’ve long associated with the wreath and crest.

Cadillac salvaged almost nothing from the current car’s stoic interior in building the new one, and we’re thankful. The interior of the ’08 CTS feels completely fresh yet entirely like a Cadillac, and it looks as elegant as anything on the road.

Cadillac reshaped the entire environment inside the car. To list every individual difference would miss the bigger point: In stark contrast to the cold, utilitarian, faux-Teutonic nature of the current car, the interior now feels inviting and warm, particularly if equipped with the ambient-lighting feature that casts a subtle glow around the cabin from below the wood-trim line.

The most notable changes were made to the center stack, which now blends almost seamlessly with the dashboard and delineates the occupant area while maintaining a sense of airiness. The wood and brushed-metal touches mix nicely, while the interior overall strikes a perfect balance between traditional elements, such as the analog clock, and modern technologies, such as the optional navigation screen rising from the top of the stack.

That nav system (as well as the optional audio system) comes with a host of features aimed at technophiles, including a 40-GB hard drive that allows you to upload and store music from CDs and even rewind a live radio feed. There’s also a direct USB jack built into the center console—great news for all the iPod addicts out there.

It feels roomier inside, too, though it’s not really. While everyone benefits from a bit more wiggle room widthwise, rear passengers get 0.3 inch more headroom in exchange for less legroom by more than an inch—and that’s even with Cadillac’s highly touted “Thin Seat” technology. Perhaps credit goes to the available double-sized sunroof, which lets all passengers enjoy a view of the sky.

The CTS gets one of two 3.6-liter engines of identical block but sporting different fuel-delivery systems. The base engine, familiar from the outgoing car, uses a sequential port fuel-injection (PFI) setup and a four-cam variable valve timing system to turn out a slightly higher 263 hp at 6200 rpm (up 8 hp) and 253 lb-ft of torque at 3100 rpm (up 1 lb-ft) in this application.

The big story underhood comes from Cadillac’s new direct-injection V6. Injecting gasoline straight into the combustion chamber results in a more thorough combustion process, cleaner emissions, better economy and an increase in output—in this case, to the tune of 304 hp at 6300 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque at 5200 rpm, and on regular fuel to boot.

Either engine can be had with one of two gearboxes: a carryover six-speed manual or a new six-speed automatic that replaces today’s five-speed box. In place of the two chassis setups on the ’07 model, buyers now have their choice of three, called FE1, FE2 and FE3. And for the first time on the CTS, Cadillac has made all-wheel drive available.

A short run in a car equipped with the PFI engine, all-wheel drive and the FE2 setup revealed a decent ride and pickup and lively handling. Not surprisingly, however, our favorite combination matched the DI engine with the FE3 chassis setup (available only in rear-drive). Even though the FE2 is tuned to provide a bit more compliant, less enthusiast-oriented ride than the top-trim FE3 setup, we found the sportier chassis did a better job of minimizing the harshness at impact over broken surfaces even while delivering a slightly stiffer all-around ride characteristic.

The main differences between the chassis choices come down to tires and the individual suspension tuning each requires. Base FE1 cars get 17-inch 235/55 all-season rubber (the outgoing CTS makes do with 16-inchers), FE2s get V-rated 235/50R-18s, and the FE3 comes with high-performance 235/50ZR-18s. The base car also lacks the limited-slip differential found on the other two trims and has smaller-diameter antiroll bars fore and aft. All cars get StabiliTrak stability control with brake assist standard.

When seriously pushed, the FE3-equipped car eagerly responded. We found body motions well controlled. The added width results directly in a wider track, with 1.8 inches more space between the wheels in front and 2.0 inches in back, and the wider overall stance definitely translates into improved road manners, with the standard underhood strut-tower brace adding body rigidity. But the steering proved to be the most-improved aspect of the car’s handling. The lower steering ratio is immediately noticeable. Turn-in is crisp and quick, and the steering is communicative throughout.

The wide-ratio six-speed automatic makes for easy cruising at just about any speed, but it hampers efforts at quickly finding the fat part of the torque curve, often requiring at least one or more downshifts to get the revs back up to where the car pulls with any authority. The manual tranny works well, even if it, too, requires frequent downshifting to get back on the cams. It also tends to shift somewhat stiffly, lacking the smooth-if-rubbery action of a BMW box.

Even so, the CTS displays plenty of straight-line speed. Cadillac says the car should run from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, which pushes the new CTS closer to the last CTS-V’s territory. The V car, which we last tested in 2004 (“Flying V,” AW, May 10, 2004), turned in a 5.35-second run to 60 mph.

Of course, Cadillac left plenty of room at the top for a new V-series model, expected to join the standard lineup this fall and rumored to include a supercharged small-block turning out upward of 500 hp (This Week, AW, June 25).

Meanwhile, pricing on the standard 2008 CTS is what’s making the news. It will start at $32,990 for the PFI and manual-equipped car. That’s actually $540 less than the outgoing model, not even accounting for all the additional standard content such as the tire-pressure monitoring system. Moving up to the DI engine will cost less for the automatic ($35,290) than with the manual ($36,970), but only because of the additional content you must opt for to get the shift-it-yourself version.

That’s the kind of pricing news we think many Americans will appreciate—perhaps more of them than the CTS has even known.
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Great read, this car is on my shopping list but not right away maybe around 2010 or so, I'll have to see when the time comes.

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Interesting they note the roominess. The CTS has only 1 inch more rear legroom than the 3-series, even though the CTS is about 12 inches longer overall. I am still not sold on the interior, the metal center cluster looks too much like plastic and I despise analog clocks, pop-up navigation I am not a fan of, but that is an option so I can save money and not get that, and be happier. 5.9 is too slow for me though, I want 5.5 0-60 or better, and I won't buy a pushrod every again so I won't be getting a V. I am really hoping for a 400hp DOHC V8 that gets over 20 mpg (Lexus has 381 and 19/27 mpg), that might get me to buy one.

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Interesting they note the roominess. The CTS has only 1 inch more rear legroom than the 3-series, even though the CTS is about 12 inches longer overall. I am still not sold on the interior, the metal center cluster looks too much like plastic and I despise analog clocks, pop-up navigation I am not a fan of, but that is an option so I can save money and not get that, and be happier. 5.9 is too slow for me though, I want 5.5 0-60 or better, and I won't buy a pushrod every again so I won't be getting a V. I am really hoping for a 400hp DOHC V8 that gets over 20 mpg (Lexus has 381 and 19/27 mpg), that might get me to buy one.

:rolleyes:

Yeah. The metal in the center cluster looks like plastic metal. Analog clocks are hard to understand. 0.4 sec makes all the difference. Pushrods are all bad, regardless of how good the motor.

You make one valid point about the interior space. Everything else is BS.

Mark

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:rolleyes:

Yeah. The metal in the center cluster looks like plastic metal.

It is plastic, but it doesn't look like it.
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Interesting they note the roominess. The CTS has only 1 inch more rear legroom than the 3-series, even though the CTS is about 12 inches longer overall. I am still not sold on the interior, the metal center cluster looks too much like plastic and I despise analog clocks, pop-up navigation I am not a fan of, but that is an option so I can save money and not get that, and be happier. 5.9 is too slow for me though, I want 5.5 0-60 or better, and I won't buy a pushrod every again so I won't be getting a V. I am really hoping for a 400hp DOHC V8 that gets over 20 mpg (Lexus has 381 and 19/27 mpg), that might get me to buy one.

i have a suggestion. don't buy one! and while you're at it don't post pointless nitpicking that is inconsequential of the overall car. 5.5 versus 5.9, ya only you care that it's not that fast. if you are looking for ultimate performance, go BMW, the Caddy is about style, bold looks, and luxury while offering a strong performance ethic.

you're missing the point of this great car.

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Interesting they note the roominess. The CTS has only 1 inch more rear legroom than the 3-series, even though the CTS is about 12 inches longer overall. I am still not sold on the interior, the metal center cluster looks too much like plastic and I despise analog clocks, pop-up navigation I am not a fan of, but that is an option so I can save money and not get that, and be happier. 5.9 is too slow for me though, I want 5.5 0-60 or better, and I won't buy a pushrod every again so I won't be getting a V. I am really hoping for a 400hp DOHC V8 that gets over 20 mpg (Lexus has 381 and 19/27 mpg), that might get me to buy one.

Yeah, pushrods are evil despite the fact that there are some excellent engine...the bias is spewing out of you like a drunk bitch at a party. Who cares about a couple tenths of a second difference? It's not a race car, it's a sporty luxury car. How can you despise a small, round instrument with chrome around it and a couple little hands...can you not read an analog clock? There's always the digital one if it's too much for your mind to handle. If you're buying the car then you're driving, so who cares if the backseat isn't the size of a Maybach? As for the center stack, I dunno if it's metal or plastic, but are you planning to fondle it?

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Great performance with the high performance version, but the looks aren't my cup of tea. The front headlights ruin the car for me enough, I have a hard time looking past the front end.

The CTS-V is a heckuva driving machine.

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Interesting they note the roominess. The CTS has only 1 inch more rear legroom than the 3-series, even though the CTS is about 12 inches longer overall. I am still not sold on the interior, the metal center cluster looks too much like plastic and I despise analog clocks, pop-up navigation I am not a fan of, but that is an option so I can save money and not get that, and be happier. 5.9 is too slow for me though, I want 5.5 0-60 or better, and I won't buy a pushrod every again so I won't be getting a V. I am really hoping for a 400hp DOHC V8 that gets over 20 mpg (Lexus has 381 and 19/27 mpg), that might get me to buy one.

This post is a load of crap. I bet the CTS has more trunk space, probably more front seat space, and probably a longer hood as well. That would explain "only" 1 inch more rear legroom. You complain about the interior... name something for the same price that's better. You can't. You really think you can feel much of a difference between 5.9 and 5.5? Sure, there may be some, but if you're that worried about it then throw on an exhaust system and a couple other mods and you're probably there.

Your pushrod statement is ridiculous. The LSA is going to be an amazing engine. You probably base your opinion of pushrods on some 20-year-old engine, not a new technologically-advanced design.

It sounds like very little will suit your wants.

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