By on November 19, 2007

x08ca_ct011.jpgEver sit around on a Sunday around noon with your buddies and say "I could go for some Domino's or Papa John's." You know that obviously neither of the two is up to Michelin guide standards, and in fact neither one of them is even real pizza. But damn man, they really hit the spot. Well that's the new Cadillac CTS. It's snazzy looking, it's fun to drive, it's got all the toppings you could ask for. It's just not a Cadillac.

The CTS’s exterior has all the trappings of a modern luxury car. It's dripping with shine and sparkle– like it just stepped out of some kind of chromium-shower. The massive grille overtakes the entire front of the car, sporting a brash design language. You might just call the car vulgar and gaudy, like a pair of rhinestone-covered Gucci sunglasses. Or you could say that it's resolutely nouveau-riche.

x08ca_ct006.jpgBut step back and admire the profile and the back end, and the CTS is undeniably elegant. The first generation CTS, Cadillac's exercise in "ultra-modern" styling, mimicked the F-117A stealth jet (which entered service in 1983). But it was starved for details. The “new” CTS rights the old wrongs. I'm ashamed that I like the thin chrome vent on the fender because its fine lines balance the slab-sided sheetmetal. Same goes for the C-Pillar. Yes, it's as abrupt and sharp as stiletto glinting in a dark alley. But the pillar gives the car's angled motif new definition and meaning.

The deal sealer/deal breaker: does the CTS stand out on the road? In 1959, you'd have to be blind [from snacking on lead paint chips] to confuse a Cadillac Eldorado with anything else. By this metric, the Cadillac CTS comes up short. While it's far more than another generic sedan, it fails the "mom" test. Would Mom know, on sight, that the CTS is a Cadillac? Even when considering a wider demographic, the odds of the CTS garnering quintessential Caddy props are none to slim.

caddycts-interior.jpgAnd then there's the interior. When peering into a CTS through the window of an example parked outside the geriatric specialist's office super cool young person nightclub 7-11, the cabin looks exceptional. In both appearance and execution, it's GM’s best effort in decades. The pleather covering the CTS' dash, finished with "French-stitching," and the charming chrome chevron symbols on the seats embody the interior’s tasteful elegance. The design is miles ahead of most competitors, and the build quality is a lot more than merely adequate. If this was an interior from another manufacturer, we'd be all set.

But it’s a Cadillac. It's supposed to embody and project superiority. The press kit boasts that "world-class was the target. There was no plan B." So why do some of the buttons feel Impala flimsy? Why does the analog clock look only slightly more classy than a Chinatown Fauxlex? What's up with the 1992 font on the buttons and shift-gate?

x08ca_ct173_01.jpgWhen it comes to driving, the CTS is the un-Caddy. Fire-up the silent spinning 3.6-liter six. Mash the gas and the 263-horse base engine growls with accelerative intent. Click the shifter into manual mode, hold those revs, and the needle races to redline like a Civil War veteran sprinting the final 100 yards to his homestead. Let loose the dogs of Detroit, explore the outer reaches of the torquey powerband, and the CTS simply annihilates the asphalt. Unless you've got Stirling Moss in your family tree, this is not your grandfather's anything. 

Without the sports-package, you get a King David suspension, neatly walking the line between luxury pampering and corner-carving hoonery. The CTS will soak-up most of the nasty stuff under foot and then romp through the twisties like a sharp-toed greyhound. The steering strikes a similar balance. The CTS isn't a Lotus Elise (a rabidly unfair comparison), but neither is it a one-finger driver.

x08ca_ct024.jpgIn sum… This is where things get uncomfortable. The CTS is 96 percent there. The question is, where? What is this thing? Before you hit the comment box suggesting I take some Valium and crank-up the Pink Floyd, hear me out. The CTS is an almost perfectly executed automobile. But the bigger issue (if the smaller percentage) is the car's identity crisis.

Is the CTS a luxury car? A sports sedan? It's great at both but magnificent at neither. So we're left with a good looking, comfortable, fun-to-drive American sedan. A solid sales hit. But a car brand can't sustain itself (or keep buyers coming back for more) without some kind of identity. As GM's great hope for the once triumphant, archetypal Cadillac brand, the CTS needs to be more than 96 percent something. It needs to be 100 percent Cadillac. And that it ain’t.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

112 Comments on “Take Two: Cadillac CTS Review...”


  • avatar

    Nice work, Justin: you feel the same way I do. Standard of the World? Not quite yet. Especially when a lowly Impala SS has a monstrous 5.3L V8 for way less coin. There should be no compromises with a Caddy, and you shouldn’t get schooled by an Impala on your powertrain skills. (not that I’m recommending the Impala, I just know its motor belongs in an American RWD luxury sedan)

    But the CTS’ base engine sure has the torque thing down: IIRC its torque numbers are similar to the DI 3.6L but the peak comes at 1000revs lower. Definitely more Cadillac-like. Nice.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    I think Cadillac is in a tough spot. They needed to reinvent themselves because people no longer accepted the “land yacht” concept of the 80′s to mid 90′s. The competition offered vastly superior driving dynamics in addition to better build quality and more efficient packaging. To me the CTS represents Cadillac’s attempt to deliver those qualities, but they’re still struggling to find where they fit in among BMW, Mercedes et al. Yes, their cachet came from such cars as the Eldorado, but the market has changed since the 60′s. So how much “heritage” do they keep as they reinvent themselves? That’s a difficult question and it seems to me that GM has been trying hard to find the right answer. Their biggest sin is that they’re not delivering on build quality. I agree that cheap-looking-anything doesn’t belong in these cars if Cadillac wants to succeed. With the Germans faltering in reliability, now would be a great opportunity for Cadillac to become the “standard of the world” by offering brickhouse solidity and attention to detail that drove customers to the likes of Mercedes in the first place.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    The problem with this CTS is the exterior looks dated already. It looks too similar to the previous gen CTS. Then there is the rear end; the previous CTS has a more aggressive looking rear end. This CTS has a rear end that looks like it came from some 1982 Cadillac. It’s big, square and blocky. Hardly what I would call modern.

    The CTS like the new Malibu has a big problem; it’s competitive but it’s not class leading. To win conquest buyers you need to have class leading vehicles and GM isn’t delivering that.

  • avatar

    Maybe we need a Take Three…

    I’ve driven the new CTS a few times at this point. The base suspension is way too soft. The mid-level FE2 is far better.

    Some people absolutely love the front end. I know, because my father (whose taste tends to be quite good) just ordered one–his first GM car since a 1983 Pontiac 6000 STE. And he did this because of the styling, inside and out.

    The grille might be large, but it’s much better integrated into the design than, say, Audi’s.

    I think you’ll find that once a few of these are on the road, it’ll have no problem with the mom test.

    A car that certainly fails the mom test: the Infiniti M. I took my father to test drive one after we drove the CTS. We ended up not even driving the car because the exterior styling is so pudgy and anonymous.

  • avatar

    Through TrueDelta I’m hoping to provide a quick reliability result for the new CTS. If you know someone who buys one (or buy one yourself) please send them here:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    JJ

    Then again…

    Is there still a market for “a real Cadillac”?

    And by that I mean apart from 70+ pensionados and (maybe) rappers. To focus on that group doesn’t really seem like a good long-term strategy to me either.

    Like clothes and other products, it seems to me that Americans car buyers have finally seen the light and turn to cars tuned to European tastes or simply European cars. Especially at the high end.
    So Cadillac HAS to adapt and built better handling cars, for instance tuned at the Nordschleife. This CTS seems a reasonabily competitive product in that case.

    Maybe they their new brand identity should be “the European car made by Americans”.

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    I think at the lower end of the “high end” car market there is really only 1 design archetype to which all others aspire and it’s the 3-series. I don’t think Cadillac had much choice but to join the rush for a 3-series equalizer.

  • avatar
    GMrefugee

    Justin, I think you answered your own question as to what is a Cadillac these days:

    “…CTS a luxury car…A sports sedan..It’s pretty good at both…So we’re left with a good looking, comfortable, fun-to-drive car. I love it.”

    Sporty enough without needing a kidney girdle. Plush enough to feel pampered and rewarded. Cool enough that you can take pride without further explanation…features enough to use your other gadgets.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    It’s not 1959 anymore (fortunately). Wax nostalgically about the ridiculous tail fins, but a 1959 Mercedes sedan was the much better car than the wallowing, under-braked, fuel-hog Caddy barge. And the Mercedes model of car building won. It’s a new world for Caddy, and the standard of comparison are its competitiors, not ridiculous and irrelevant ghosts of another era.

  • avatar
    mgrabo

    Great review & carving a believable identity is really tricky for Cadillac. I have not yet driven a CTS (1st gen or this one), but I do find the updated styling striking and (relatively) unique out on the road. I intend to get to a dealer during the holidays to see & drive one in person – maybe my fondness for it will be dampened.

    I think Cadillac’s biggest identity challenge is that the rest of their line up is not yet synced with the CTS & lesser extent Sclade. One of BMWs most striking qualities is the continuity of the experience they impart across their line-up (put iDrive frustrations aside). Even though the HxWxL of their products changes, the basic BMW-ness of them is there (X3 assembled in Austria has arguably the weakest link). Until Lutz & Co get the STS resolved & render a decision whether to extend the Caddy offering down into the “small car”, 3-series footpritn, I think it’ll be impossible to forge a differentiated, American identity anchored to just two diametrically opposed competitive products…

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    “It needed to be 100 percent Cadillac. And that it ain’t.”

    Indeed. This is a tough segment to not have a compelling reason for existence. When I think of Cadillac, I think of mobsters or gangsters and I think that has been their most marketable image. How does an entry sport sedan fit in with that? A Cadillac should be big, fast in a straight line, smooth, elegantly styled, and able to withstand any and all abuse including semi-automatic machine gun fire without noticeable wear.

  • avatar
    f8

    “Is the CTS a luxury car? A sports sedan? It’s great at both but magnificent at neither. So we’re left with a good looking, comfortable, fun-to-drive American sedan.”

    It’s a sporty entry-level luxury sedan, and it’s billed as such by Cadillac as well (as evident by their commercials and marketing for CTS). What exactly is the problem with classifying it? Seems rather obvious

    And what in god’s name is a 100% real Cadillac? Is there a big book of brand consistency guidelines that all manufacturers absolutely have to adhere to? “Okay, Cadillac…you guys have to make huge luxurious land barges that handle like a barn. Next!”

    The truth is, there aren’t any concrete guidelines on what constitutes any automotive brand. There are just our preconceptions based on a marketing philosophy that car company embraced in the past, and when a company decides to modify its approach to fit the market or their goals, they are met with cries of “brandicide” or any other buzzword made up for that occasion. Porsche makes the Cayenne? Heresy! Never mind that Cayenne is actually a pretty solid luxury vehicle and makes money for Porsche so that they can make fun cars.

  • avatar
    beken

    So here I am standing at my local Cadillac dealership looking at the 07 CTS and the 08 CTS right next to each other. I can say the 08 CTS looked so much better, that I had to take a closer look.

    I am in the market for a family car. We’ve so far, looked at the BMW3, Audi A4, MB C300, Acura TL, Honda Accord V6 (loaded), and have decided to give Cadi at least a look, even though I kept telling myself I’ve already bought my last GM car. Of all of the cars we’ve driven, my wife likes the Audi. She sat in the CTS and said “this isn’t too bad, but it’s too busy looking”. Still, this is good, not alot to criticize. Then she got out and closed the door. The first thing we noticed was the weather stripping between the door creases was warped. The were not absolutely perfectly formed to fit…as sign of cost cutting. In this price range of car, it needs to absolutely perfect or the smallest of things is going to naw at you. In this case, Cadillac hasn’t qutie learned the lesson yet. The CTS is close, and having spent so much of my life only looking a GM cars, I so wanted the CTS to be an option, we walked away.

  • avatar
    umterp85

    JJ: “Maybe they their new brand identity should be “the European car made by Americans”

    So true…and for better or worse (I haven’t decided yet) it appears Lincoln is going for “the Japanese car made by Americans”.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    The criticisms of the CTS failing to live up to its Cadillac heritage can be said of any ‘old-world’ luxury carmaker, save for Rolls-Royce. New Jaguars are nothing like the old Jags, Mercedes-Benz has sacrificed a reputation of rock-solid German engineering and lost itself in a gaggle of electro-wizardry and excessive gadgetization, and Lincoln is just an empty shell of itself.

    It’s been many years since Cadillac has been reagarded as world-class, much less competitive. So many years that target buyer will remember old Cadillacs as big boats with floaty-flighty ride quality and acceleration more leisurely than the QE2. When you take that into account, the CTS is not world-class by 1959 standards for sure (when the only competition they needed to worry about was Lincoln and Rolls-Royce), but its ‘Arts & Science’ theme stands out and provides more brand identity than the jellybean on wheels/melted candy bar look that everybody seems to have been mimicking since the 1986 Taurus.

    And what is ‘class-leading’? It’s a numbers game meant to appease the marketing team. It’s mere bragging rights so when automaker A says, “my car has XX horsepower!” automaker B can say, “oh yeah, well my car has XX+1 horsepower!” When it comes down to it, this car is different enough to make people want to get one.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    Boy, this is pretty dyspeptic stuff. First everybody reams Cadillac for being an irrelevant corpse of a brand. Then they come out with a car that breaks their old mold (pun intended) in a way that gets EVERYONE’S attention, and they get reamed again for making a car too dissimilar to a ’98 Sedan DeVille.

    By the way, the first CTS writeup enticed me into a Cadillac showroom. Of course, two of the five cars in the showroom had wide whitewalls and the other senior-citizen trash on them. But there was a CTS, front and center. A rather elderly, rather scowling salesman literally limped up to me and struck up a conversation, showing a relative ignorance of his own cars as well as a gratuitous swipe at Japanese cars for using thinner inferior steel.

    Oh yes, about the car. I was impressed by the quality standing still, but the ultra-wide console practically drilled me in the right knee. It was so bad, it was a deal-killer all by itself. Just me?

  • avatar
    26theone

    No need to over analyze the CTS. The CTS and Escalade IS Cadillac. The art/science styling is working for them and defining Cadillac.

  • avatar
    SLLTTAC

    Too bad that the rear accommodations are so disappointing. The seats, the tiny windows, and the floor pan all make for an unpleasant experience. The rear doors make entry and exit awkward. The trunk is surprising small for such a long vehicle. In contrast an Audi A6 and an Infiniti M35 of the same length both have more spacious rear compartments. The CTS is advertised as a four- or five-passenger vehicle and should measured against that benchmark.

  • avatar
    NN

    I’m thinking the CTS fits the bill for it’s intended market. Cadillac needs a vehicle in this most popular of luxury car markets, and needs to have a good handling, well built, modern sport sedan. Maybe not a traditional “Cadillac”, but they need this just to prove to the naysayers that they can build a decent competitive vehicle, so they can once again be considered by people other than gangsters, athletes, and the elderly.

    But now that they have it (and can improve on this with the next gen STS), they need to go upmarket and bring back the American luxury car in the form of the Sixteen. They can use GM’s new 2-mode hybrid for an enviro-option, and obviously GM has plenty of great engines to stuff in the vehicle. Now that they have the build quality, interior quality, and handling down…they can bring back the proud American luxury sedan that we all want to see.

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    Not enthralled with this review. It sounds like you looked for ways to pick it apart, came up short, and fell back on a devil’s advocate argument about what Cadillace ‘ought’ to be.

    The CTS is now the best car that GM makes. It lacks engine grunt, but only relative to the smaller, lighter cars that ostensibly comprise its class. It size, it’s almost identical to the current E60 5-series, far better-looking, and nearly $20K less expensive when compared to the 535i.

    The interior is near the head of the class, and it handles. What more does GM have to do before you’ll actually recommend the car?

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    KnightRT:

    I do recommend this car. Whole-heartedly. It’s great. I just think that wearing the Cadillac badge *should* mean something more than just “really competitive in this class.” That doesn’t mean it’s not a hit, and it doesn’t mean people should not buy one.

  • avatar
    Jason

    I think the most telling thing about this review is…the car is so very good the only thing you’re worried about is it’s “identity”.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    It’s been forever since Cadillac meant anything to anybody who can remember their glory days. Trying to bring that back would backfire just as surely as Mercedes attempt to resurrect the Maybach line.

    Better that they start with a clean sheet and redefine what Cadillac means instead of trying to bring back hints of greatness that is completely irrelevant to the people they’re trying to sell this car to.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    Yes, Cadillac is undergoing an image “re-engineering”, finally. And peoples’ understanding of what “Cadillac” means will be changing over time. The geriatrics who are buying their last DTSs are still in the picture, but the rappers and sports stars who love their Escalades means that there are already new (younger!) converts to the marque. This CTS, like the last, is aimed at people who shop the Lexus GS at one end of the spectrum and the 5 Series at the other. It is a segment Cadillac has to be a player in. And it sounds like they are actually competitive here at last.

  • avatar
    tengears

    i would take this cadillac over the bmw and mercedes period. ps i wanna recommend couple of good stories here http://www.tengears.com

  • avatar
    willbodine

    Appropos of the fluidity of a car’s identity, one might consider that of BMW in the early 60′s. Maker of rare, expensive exotica like the 507s and air-cooled rear-engined motorcycle twins like the Isetta and 600-700s. The front engine 1500s and the archetypal 2002s were quite different from what had come before but they went on to define what BMW means. So my question is, who would be most likely to respond favorably to a new 750i, a 1971 Sedan de Ville driver or a 1971 2002 owner? I think I know the answer…

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    Style is an essential part of Cadillac’s identity. The CTS’s style both inside and out is its unique selling proposition. That’s what differentiates it from the other players in the segment, and it should be enough.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The interior is near the head of the class, and it handles. What more does GM have to do before you’ll actually recommend the car?

    GM and its supporters would be vastly better off if they would get out of this permanent defensiveness mode in which they dwell, and take the branding criticisms to heart. Branding helps to sell vehicles, so it’s foolish to ignore it.

    If you take the review at face value, it sounds as if the car is taking a middle ground approach that produces a compromise that is too fair-to-middling to close the deal for a lot of buyers. Those who want luxury have more definitive, better choices, and those who want sportiness also have better choices.

    Instead of creating an American identity that could be unique and evolved into something iconic, the vehicle tries to be Asian and German without being either one. That’s a problem, as those who want Asian will just buy Asian, while those who want German will buy German.

    I don’t know what Cadillac should be, but as of now, it is ultimately competing on price, a 5-series sized car at a 3-series price. But luxury marques aren’t supposed to compete on price, that is precisely the opposite of how luxury goods are supposed to be positioned.

    If and when the car proves to be a lackluster presence in the market, you might want to remember reviews like this and comments like mine. Instead of blaming the Asians for GM’s woes, blame product decisions like this for cutting a middle path that not many want to follow.

  • avatar
    geeber

    GM is selling the CTS as a near-luxury car, but a big part of the appeal of cars in that class is their relation to the respective brand’s super-expensive models, and Cadillac isn’t a credible player in that league anymore.

    Lots of BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Classes ride out of the showroom on the coattails of their big brothers. Sharing showroom space with the CTS are…the DTS, the STS, the XLR and the Escalade.

    Four very different vehicles, that reflect GM’s “mix ‘n match” approach to vehicle development more than they do a coherent stairstep model lineup and branding strategy.

    Even worse, not one of them is universally recognized as the “top dog” in its respective segment. Well, maybe the DTS is, but it long ago ceased to appeal to true luxury car buyers. The DTS sells to an elderly, largely old-school customer base that buys as much on price as anything else.

    No doubt the CTS is a nice car, but it won’t mean anything until the Cadillac nameplate means something. The brutal truth is, people who want prestige will continue to buy Lexuses, BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes, while those who want “value” or “more bang for the buck” probably won’t look at this car in the first place.

  • avatar
    brownie

    Ditto to all the comments above on the bizarre brand criticism – maybe they’re not trying to be the Cadillac of old (modern day Bentley, perhaps?), but at least they’re trying to be something. And that “something” is achievable. It wouldn’t be credible for a Caddy to compete with the Continental Flying Spur today. But they can build an American adaptation of a European entry level luxury/performance car and take some customers back from BMW and Audi. From every review I’ve seen it seems to hit a nice middle ground between performance and comfort.

    I’m a 30 year old professional, and I am part of the Big 3′s lost generation – old enough to have money to spend, young enough to have no memories whatsoever of a decent American car. The CTS is the first domestic car – ever – I have given even a second thought to. If I am representative of their target market, and I think I am, they’ve succeeded with this car.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    If they really wanted it to have the aura of an all-American car, then they should have named the upholstery “Freedom-stitching”. (Just joking).

    …Another great Berkowitz review that makes me want to drive the car.

    I have to beg to differ about the exterior. It may not be particularly pretty, but it sure doesn’t look like anything else. Kudos to Caddy for that, and for their other quite uniquely-styled models.

    I think there is a pretty good test to whether Cadillac is serious about being world-class. If they truly believe in themselves, then they should utilize the historically weak Dollar to sell Cadillacs here in Europe big time. Never a better time, never a better product — but I doubt that GM management really wants to go the last mile.

  • avatar
    gamper

    Sorry for not taking the time to read through 3 pages of comments before posting mine.

    My question is: Why does the CTS have to be anything but itself? Everyone wants to compare it to the 3 series,…..no wait, its too big, how about the 5 series, or a C-Class, or E-Class.

    Not having highly credible players in the game for so long gives Cadillac edge so to speak. I am not just talking about the beautiful razor sharp “art & science” design theme. I am talking about the fact that Cadillac has produced a luxury car with great driving dynamics, beautiful inside and out, and it is the only such car with an American interpretation of American luxury and driving experience. Even if it was tuned on the ring and benchmarked an Audi interior. It is something American and entirely unique.

    Perhaps you should stop trying to compare the Caddilac to everything else and admit that nothing compares to the CTS.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    @gamer:
    Quote: It is something American and entirely unique

    That’s the problem, actually. It’s not entirely unique. I don’t want to compare it to anything else, but when they make it a cloned 3-Series, we end up having no choice.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    Lets have a look at Cadillac’s heritage and design and styling traits of yester-year; big gwady chrome grills, wire wheels, white walled tires, wheel well covers or hub caps, landau roofs, carriage lights, two-tone paint schemes, and that is just the exterior. Now lets look inside; tuft pillow velour bench seats, fake wood tirm, fake chrome tirm, single bar graph speedo with no other gauges, column shifters, no center consoles, tacky script writing all over the place, etc.

    Now lets look at the engineering, body on frame chassis, live axles, leaf springs, over-sized under-powered ohv iron carburated engines, drum brakes, and three speed trannys.

    That was Cadillac of the late 1970s, the period in which Cadillac lost its viablity as luxury brand for the majority of Americans.

    My point: THERE IS NO HERITAGE OR PRESTIGE REGARDING THE CADILLAC BRAND NAME!

    If we use watches as an analogy we can see that Cadillac could have best been described as a cheapo dime store watch dipped in a thin layer of plate gold with a bunch of Cubic Zs glued all over it. This crap was competeting with competition like a MB 450sel, kinda like comparing a chinatown jewely store watch to a Rolex.

    What happened back in the 70s was Americans woke up and realized just how tacky our taste in automobiles actually was. This is when and why Caddy developed a reputation as an “hick-car”. The meaning of luxury became, “technical sophistication” as opposed to the “rolling sofa”.

    So were can Cadillac go with the concept of American Luxury? Since Americans have proven that THEY reject this concept how can Cadillac make use of it. I am too young to have an expreince with Caddy older thant he late 60s but honestly NOTHING Cadillac has made in my lifetime was special. By the time of my birth in 1969 Caddy was already living off of reputation and NOT excellence.

    Today Cadillac is truly the new kid on the block yet GM refuses to accept this fact. Before Caddy can compete with the likes of MB and BMW Caddy need to surpass Acura, Infiniti, and Lexus. Comparing a Caddy and Lexus today I must give Toyota credit in that their Lexus cars reflect over 20 years of engineering excellence and sweated details yet the Lexus brand is not even 20 year old. Cadillacs on the other easily show off the fact that GM let its engineering slip to damn near nothing during the 1980s. It is clear that Caddy is trying to find and rebuild itself, the products show it. But they also show a lack of any real former heritage that they can draw on.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    I agree that this car should not be compared to the traditional Cadillac. Sure, the caddies of the 60′s are the prototype Cadillac in most people’s minds. The huge cruiser “that seats about 20″ with huge tail fins, but compare those cars with the other cars of the time and you can see the similarities and the differences that made them Cadillacs, made them something to be aspired to. Now look at the luxury car market today, the market that Cadilac belongs in, and what are the quintesessential luxury cars that they should aspire to beat? The Mercedes and BMW mid and full size sedans would seem to be the obvious answer to me. While I don’t like the exterior styling of this cars rear-end, I do think that I get what they were aiming for, a hint at teh styling cues of past Cadillacs, a way to both differintiate it from the crowd and harken back, at least subconsciously to the brand’s heyday. I do like the front end styling. Personally, I think that the large grill both differentiates it from the crowd and screams American car (in a good way). Not having driven a new Cadillac, I have no idea if the car’s interior and performance deliver on the goal that Cadillac should have of beating the Germans in the luxury car market. I will say though, that given all of GM’s divisions, I think it is ridiculous for Cadilac to sell anything more than a mid-size sedan, a full size sedan, and a convertible. To me that would be a return to their roots of premium luxury cars and classy convertible cruisers. If I want a truck, SUV, or sports car, I’ll go to the Chevy dealer (assuming I’m buying GM). At least that’s what Cadillac means to this classic car lover.

  • avatar
    partsisparts

    It just won Motor Trend’s “Car of the year”.
    And I think it is well deserved. It is about time the automotive press put down the Toyota/Honda Kool-Aid!

  • avatar
    Howler

    Some very interesting points revealed here
    The thing that strikes me as being absolutely correct about the article is that of establishing identity. I have seen the comments made about what is a Cadillac many can comment on past associated ideas. The point to me is that none of Cadillac’s past identities are relevant today, as the market for vehicles has obviously changed. I have in my lifetime seen Japanese manufacturers invent new marques such as Lexus and Infiniti and become very successful, this is something I never thought would happen mainly because I still believe that these cars are only marginally great. My dreams and expectations in the 70′s and 80′s as a kid for what cars would be like in the year 2007 has been destroyed by all cars on the market today. To myself if one was to say the new caddy was a 110% great car i still wouldnt consider it. We see how American manufacturers talk allot of hot air and have been for years this has destroyed their reputability. I have also been in one too many occasions in an airplane making small talk to a Caddy exec that happened to be sitting beside me informing of their products quality. The reason for this is I don’t believe Americans have a real idea what quality or taste represents. Here is the best article I have seen describing this problem. http://www.paulgraham.com/usa.html

    One of many points in the essay I entirely agree with “I just got an iPod, and it’s not just nice. It’s surprisingly nice. For it to surprise me, it must be satisfying expectations I didn’t know I had. No focus group is going to discover those. Only a great designer can.”

    Here are 2 scenarios in my opinion that could save any American marque and put them on the worlds best map.

    A) (Most possible scenario imo) Cadillac is the most exquisitely esthetically crafted and guided car made in the world this is the result of at least 10 leading industrial/car/fashion designers in the world (for example 1 from apple computer) and they are behind the design 100% Add to this that the car is the most revolutionary “different” design proposed in 30 years, on top of this its mechanicals have been sourced and designed for fitment to this application by the most respected engineers of engine technology in the field i.e. BMW Mercedes. After which for many years of documented to the public development, this car remains benchmark design for 5+ years not 2-3.

    B) (Least possible scenario imo) Cadillac is the most technically advanced car in the world with regard to performance designed reliability and technical innovation. This is the result of a 3-4 year documented to the public exercise in design and engineering excellence. The car has reasonable contemporary aesthetics i.e. Lexus Infinity. After which for many years of documented for the public development, this car remains benchmark design for 5+ years not 2-3.

    I think the costs associated with both scenarios are similar but with option B you run the risk of never catching up. Another option to both scenarios would be to drop the Cadillac name and start over, is that really so hard to do?

    And also if you have time or are still interested another spot on related article http://www.paulgraham.com/taste.html

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    “Instead of creating an American identity that could be unique and evolved into something iconic, the vehicle tries to be Asian and German without being either one.”

    What’s an “American identity?” For that matter, what are the Asian and German identities?

    At this point, it’s extremely hard for a car to stand out in any class. They’re all at the bleeding edge of powertrain and chassis development, and contrary to the rags, there aren’t heaps of difference between a 3-series, an IS350, a G35, or any of the other front-runners.

    In short, the days of easy gains are long gone.

    For Cadillac to be “the standard of world” would require a level of expertise that GM doesn’t have. The accumulated knowledge among all makes is so vast that to be merely competitive implies great achievement.

    The comments about “forging a new brand identity” sound to me like the actions of a company that can’t compete with the existing status quo. The entry-luxury formula has been refined for the last ten years, and any trait that would allow a car to “stand out” is probably not an asset. Even the stereotypes about divergent German brand identity are largely the figments of marketing imagination.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    @partsisparts
    What Honda/Toyota kool aid? It certainly hasn’t afflicted Motor Trend, which you mentioned. Motor Trend has only had a single “Car of the Year” award since 2000. Out of the 9 awards they have given, 5 went to American cars. The remaining awards went to Toyota (2), Honda, and Nissan.

    2008 Cadillac CTS
    2007 Toyota Camry
    2006 Honda Civic
    2005 Chrysler 300C
    2004 Toyota Prius
    2003 Infiniti G35
    2002 Ford Thunderbird
    2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser
    2000 Lincoln LS

  • avatar
    CarShark

    That’s the thing. When you say that there is an “American luxury car” and a Japanese one and a German one, you exclude those defining characteristics from other countries cars. Robert, in the podcast, said that the CTS was a “Euro-sport sedan wannabe”, to which I say, who says that America can’t make a sport sedan? Sportiness is not an inherent German quality that no other countries can touch. Likewise, techno-wizardry is the sole property of the Japanese, and ride comfort isn’t only an American gig. When you separate things like that, that’s how you end up missing out on good cars.

    The whole branding series strikes me as hiding an argument in the abstract.

  • avatar

    The tighter the brand, the more powerful it is.

    A sports sedan is a not a luxury car. Or if it is both, as the CTS is, then it’s not as powerfully branded as one that picks a side.

    And can we all move a little further back in Cadillac history? As Paul Neidermeyer pointed-out, the brand’s downfall really began after the Depression.

    Those pre-Depression Caddies, well, my God.

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    Out of the 9 awards they have given, 5 went to American cars.

    Motor Trend is the most red, white, and blue of all the magazines, and its COTY awards are bought and paid for with advertising dollars. Ford Thunderbird in 2002? Are they kidding?

    A sports sedan is a not a luxury car. Or if it is both, as the CTS is, then it’s not as powerfully branded as one that picks a side.

    By that logic, TVR should be the most powerfully branded company in automobile history. They had such strength of brand that they went bankrupt in 1965, and nearly so again in 2004. Even specialty manufacturers can’t afford to be uncompromising, and plenty will prefer Cadillac’s blend of luxury/performance to BMW’s blend of performance/luxury.

    Carshark’s comment above mine speaks of the kind of brand bigotry that Lutz is talking about. If you can’t let this history go, there’s no way you can properly evaluate a car.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    My wife and I own a 2003 CTS. We bought it used and have driven it for 50,000 miles. We plan to buy a used 2008 sometime within the next two years.

    This comment ties together a couple of the recent articles on TTAC. Yes, depreciation sucks if you buy new. But what the CTS represents is a certifiable bargain in the used market. We got far more car than we would have with a BMW for the same price. Ours has been very reliable, fun-to-drive and economical. And it helps that we really like the way it looks. Frankly, I have no first-hand experience driving recent BMWs so I can’t make a comparison.

    The new CTS appears to address every one of the previous model’s shortcomings: interior, engine (the old 3.2 while reasonably powerful and responsive sounds awful) and fit and finish (which is actually pretty good for a 5 year old car).

    Here’s where it gets emotional: No matter how good the new Infiniti G37 is (and I’m sure it’s a slightly better driver’s car than the new CTS), I find it hard to love. It’s hard to distinguish from so many other cars. The CTS (of either vintage) is distinctive while still evoking one of my favorite classic Caddies, the ’68 Eldorado.

    This has been my first GM car. I’ve owned classic muscle cars, sports cars, trucks, and Japanese sports sedans (4 Maxima SEs all with 5-speeds). I was well-treated at the Caddilac dealer and am convinced that one can buy a great car from GM. Sure, the CTS isn’t for everyone. But you see an awful lot of first-gen CTSs on the road and I fully expect to see a lot of the new ones too.

    Finally, for all of the negative stuff written about GM here on TTAC, it’s reassuring to me tp see that the CTS appears to have gotten a fair review.

  • avatar
    sk8inkid

    Is the CTS a luxury car? A sports sedan?

    Let me help you out there buddy. The CTS is neither. The interior is nice? Looks kia cheap if you ask me. I’d rather drive a friggin dawoe than this car. Your review is way off mark. Caddy killed themselves a long time ago and its time to let the brand die. American interiors can’t come close to Euro interiors. And seriously, who in their right mind would want to be seen in a Caddy??? I would be embarrased to even be driving with my friend in one. Talk about a stupid brand. Caddy, you had your time and you ruined it. Now get off this planent, cause you carry no prestige, and you’re not wanted anymore. Your bodly laughed at in your best attempts Cadilac.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    bunkie:

    I do not own the CTS, but rented one for a weekend and overall loved the car. Like you, I would never buy one new. The depreciation is just too great, but I would certainly consider a used one. I view a used CTS-V as one of the great sport car bargains out there.

    Like you, I’ve also had a hard time warming up to the styling of the Infiniti G35. Bulbous and nonedescript. The coupe is a little better, but not much. The CTS is distinctive.

  • avatar
    Quo Vadis

    I agree with the preceding comments about waxing poetic about Cadillac’s history and identity. I also like the CTS.
    As far as I am concerned, Cadillac has had a serious identity crisis since the late 60s and a developing crisis since about 1929. It has also been a metaphor for the American (auto) industry in many ways. I think this is history playing itself out in that American automakers enjoyed the excesses of the pre-depression era. The cultural ambiance exuded wealth and a larger than life mentality and then, suddenly, came crumbling to a halt with the Crash. Really, for many American industries, this seems to have taken a psychological toll until well after WW2. Now, among other things, with many industries unionized for several decades and somehow still “protecting the worker from employer abuses” (even though times have improved), many auto manufacturers appear to live bound to the same mentality that came about (or was reaffirmed) as a result of the Depression. It is sort of a contrast between “eat, drink and make merry for tomorrow we die” and trying to make up for the fact that they were once the abused brother in the poor house.
    Secondly, Cadillac, for the first time in (my) history, is starting to actually make cars that live up to its folkloric nameplate. It is not the nameplate that we think of when we think of Cadillac either, because I would suggest that we are tainted by the “good old days” mentality – which forgets about our parents’ divorce, a death in the family and Uncle Richard’s problem… (Maybe the good old days weren’t all that or we didn’t go back far enough to find the “really good old days”.) Rather, Cadillac appears to be actually defining what they want to be. Can you remember their last 40 years? – 4-6-8 V8’s, horrible V8 diesels, 5000+lb FWD cars, FWD everything, Cimarron… the list goes on. Finally, we are getting cars that will be remembered in a decent light; cars that actually might have a chance of defining a generation of automobiles – not sitting rusting in repo lots wondering what history did to them.
    I think that Cadillac is finally outliving its trodden identity and history and making a fresh start at becoming truly legendary – and not just in the figment of our collective imagination. Here’s hoping.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    sk8inkid: I’d rather drive a friggin dawoe than this car.

    really?

    the CTS is rear wheel drive, has a six speed manual, looks pretty good, and is reasonable inexpensive, cheaper by 3.5 grand than the similar BMW, Lexus or Acura and 4 grand than a c class merc according to micheal’s truedelta site and still some people bitch about it.

    the only thing that would make it better would be the girl from the Mercury ads giving out blow jobs in the backseat.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    My point: THERE IS NO HERITAGE OR PRESTIGE REGARDING THE CADILLAC BRAND NAME!

    Yes and no. The brand as it stands today is certainly tarnished. But the fact that it once had a strong brand can serve as the foundation for rebuilding a new one. The fact there was once positive name recognition is enough to provide a starting point. It would be far easier for Cadillac to do it than would an entirely new brand that has no name recognition.

    A revived Cadillac doesn’t have to be reinvented in the exact same image of the old one. Rather, GM could conceivably play off of the general positive stereotypes of classic American cars, which has to be some blend of performance, comfort, gadgets and styling. They don’t need to copy the styling or exact characteristics, just the vibe that defined the brand.

    The quest should be to carve out a niche, establish an identity within it, and own the space. BMW has done this with the 3-series, and they offer a good lesson of how to do it.

    You have to look to icons for your case studies. About the only American icons on the road these days are the Corvette, Mustang and, to a lesser extent, the 300. The fact that you can’t buy an import anything like these helps to establish their American identity.

    Cadillac needs to figure out how to make a car that is both desirable yet unique simultaneously. That is not an uncommon branding challenge. Many industries face it, and they’ll have to figure out how to do it. But I don’t have high hopes for GM management figuring out how to find this ball and run with it, Lutz and Co. are far too busy pointing fingers at Consumer Reports to get their hands dirty and to clean house.

  • avatar
    CarShark

    @KnightRT

    I don’t see how my comment was “import bigotry” (the new buzzword on these boards), as I was saying that Robert and Justin seemed to be saying that American luxury cars can’t be sporty. Also, I meant “technowizardry IS NOT sole property of the Japanese.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    ” In sum… This is where things get uncomfortable. The CTS is 96 percent there. The question is, where? What is this thing? ”

    Being a designer for Cadillac has to be frustrating. Because they know it’s going to be compared to some 1950s boat. Asking “what is this thing” is as silly as asking for the definition of the word “is.” We now expect more than extraneous design, in part, because there is also much more refined competition coming from nearly every continent.

    Tailfins and fuzzy dice and other peacock feather fanning designs have no foundation for comparison with new Cadillacs today. If that is the kind of fertility chant you’re into, there’s always the “flame surfaced” BMW 6 series with video game console on the dash and junk-in-da-trunk rear end. Or a Mercedes phallic SLR. There is still lots of bad taste to be had for a price. Thankfully, just not tail fins and other silliness are not available at any price on a Cadillac.

    So while some auto reviewers want to send Caddy to an ashram to discover itself, I think they made a much better move when they decided to build really great cars. Based on the success of the previous CTS, customers have indicated that whatever this “thing” is, they like it. And Cadillac appears to have improved upon it with the new one.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    “The CTS is 96 percent there”

    96% of what?

  • avatar
    Kman

    This new CTS is causing me an identity crisis of my very own!

    I’m completely smitten by its interior, a spectacularly gorgeous design. And I place a lot of value on the interior, as this is where I spend most of my time! (e.g. I normally choose my interior color before selecting the exterior).

    I actually feel desirous of a … a… a Cadillac!!!! Who am I? How can I be seen in a Cadillac? When I am asked “what do you drive” by a layperson, will I actually be able to mouth “Cadillac”???

    It’s a real toughie. Then you get into actually putting the money down on one, and you see you’re in the same area as the equally gorgeous (on the exterior) M-Benz C-Class. As much as I am smitten by the CTS’ interior, would I be able to take those same dollars away from a C-Class and get a… a… a Cadillac?

    Likely not, but fortunately, I am not in the market for new wheels at this point, so I don’t have to face up to this identity crisis I am having.

  • avatar
    f8

    Kman:

    Yeah, when someone tells me they drive a Cadillac, I automatically assume they’re either 1) old or 2) too cheap to get an actual luxury car. CTS-V is badass though, and this CTS isn’t bad, but the perception that Cadillac isn’t as prestigious won’t change soon

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    Carshark:

    It was probably just a bad use of that phrase. I was saying that what you said is what Bob Lutz means, not that your comment is wrong in some way.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    No, no, no!

    This discussion is too much about: was Cadillac world-beating in 1979, 1959, 1939?

    It doesn’t matter whether Cadillac ever was the very best car in the world. What matters to me is what Cadillac used to stand for, and whether the CTS fits into that template.

    Ask any limo driver and they will tell you that (for example) the 1990s DeVille was the best car you could get for a few simple qualities: space; quietness; ride; high-mileage durability.

    No Mercedes (save the 1960s 600, which cost about 500% more) could ever compete with Cadillac on that quality mix.

    It was for that reason that the Florida Seinfeld cohort coveted a Cadillac above any other car. (I say this without irony). Those simple qualities are straightforward and to me, sound truly American.

    With the CTS, Cadillac ignores these brand values at its own peril.

    To me, Cadillac should produce cars that have those class-leading qualities — PLUS be at least competitive in all other areas (non-chintzy design, interior build and materials, handling, brakes, etc).

    Oops — I’ve just described Lexus!

  • avatar

    For what it’s worth, Motor Trend just named the CTS the Car of the Year.

  • avatar
    shaker

    It’a a good effort; maybe this “baby Cadillac” should be the standard bearer for the larger models — just soften the design a bit, but keep the improved quality and attention to detail.
    The grille is a bit too prominent, though. (Not unlike other makes who use oversized “corporate” grilles on their higher-end cars). But at least it’s not glaring in the rear-view.
    Edit: Certainly a more worthy COTY recipient than the T-Bird… congrats!

  • avatar
    BEAT

    This car is better than the Mortgage Prime rate.

    It might help the Almighty dollar a little boost for been so low value for months.

    We need more Arabs to purchase Cadillacs but bad mouthing a true American car can damage Our Economy and pay $4.00 more on a gallon next year.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    Since neither a pure [magnificent] luxury car (whatever that would be) nor a pure sport sedan would garner anywhere near the sales of a good compromise, Cadillac has hit the sweet spot with this car.

    Show me any no-compromise car (M5 or Maybach), and then show me the annual sales volumes. See what I mean?

    Besides you are not allowing for any upgrded versions in the future, as in the V8 model or a V.

    Pretty slim criticism, methinks.

    “Oops — I’ve just described Lexus!”… almost, you forgot to mention extreme boredom.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    By the way I vote Cadillac tv commercial one of the best in 2007.

  • avatar
    86er

    Martin Schwoerer

    Ask any limo driver and they will tell you that (for example) the 1990s DeVille was the best car you could get for a few simple qualities: space; quietness; ride; high-mileage durability.

    I agree with you, but do you not mean the 1990′s Fleetwood Brougham?

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    86er: Agreed, the FR layout Fleetwood was tops, but I have also enjoyed numerous soothing rides in K platform Cadillacs. I knew a private airport limo operator who worked from JFK who used them.

  • avatar

    I’ll tell you what the CTS is

    Its the modern Jaguar

    Pace & Grace

  • avatar
    86er

    86er: Agreed, the FR layout Fleetwood was tops, but I have also enjoyed numerous soothing rides in K platform Cadillacs. I knew a private airport limo operator who worked from JFK who used them.

    Man, I could sure go for a Fleetwood Brougham, with an LT1, please.

    Now that was a Caddy, too bad they had to build Yukons and Tahoes and killed the B/D platform.

    I agree with Sajeev’s comment that a Cadillac should be a no-compromises vehicle, preferably loaded with goodies not available on any other GM brand. It’s called exclusivity, guys.

  • avatar
    shortthrowsixspeed

    forgive me.

    i ALWAYS read all the comments before posting. but this review really bothers me.

    “the CTS is undeniably elegant” / BUT fails “the ‘mom’ test”?!?!?!?

    “the cabin looks exceptional”, “The design is miles ahead of most competitors, and the build quality is a lot more than merely adequate” / BUT it’s a cadillac”?!?!?

    “the CTS simply annihilates the asphalt”, “walking the line between luxury pampering and corner-carving hoonery” / BUT the car has an identity crisis?!?!?

    “the cts is 96% there” / BUT “it needs to be 100% cadillac”?!?!?!?

    what the hell. this is a review that seriously suffers from the writer singing the siren song of the cadillac of old instead of giving us the truth about the cadillac of today. from what i’ve seen, being 100 percent cadillac today would garner a 2 star review from most editorials. Justin, you praise the look of the cts (i love the stiletto in a dark alley line) and then end up whining that it doesn’t enter a room like an eldorado. styling that is miles ahead of the competitors IS cadillac-esque. don’t complain that it’s not perfect. remember that this is a car that is made by the same poeple pushing out all the crap you hate so much. The fact that this is better than most anything they’ve done recently should be good, but that it can hold a candle to what others are doing is exceptional.

    Finally, the cadillac is a luxury sports sedan. which to me means that it necessarily must compromise somewhere. it’s trying to be a rolls, lotus, and camry all rolled into one. cadillac had to keep it up-scale or you’d be even more pissed that it wasn’t luxury like a cadillac, but they need to focus on driving dynamics since that’s what sells cars. people want cars that can slalom like hell even though they never do anything like that in real life. so the fact that it can walk the line between luxury and sport while seating four in a classy cabin IS spectacular. if the cady only compromises 4% in a class defined by compromise, then it gets my vote hands down.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    As soon as a V8 finds its way under the hood, I’ll pull out the checkbook.

  • avatar
    rashakor

    As a european I would like to ad a little perspective to the image that Cadillac has or has had.

    Cadillac was always “nouveaux riche” even in the pre-oil crisis world. And that image was incresingly reinforced in the following decades (seville, deville from the 80, Northstars etc… and ultimately the blingstastic Escalade). What make the difference with MB or BMW was that these brands (and even more RR, Bentley and the other Brit brands…) were always about “old Money”.

    It is now or never for Cadillac to finally brand itself as elegant luxury. I think the CTS is a step in the correct direction. Eldorado is dead… long live the new caddies!

    I also love the new ads with the Grey anatomy gal!
    Turn me on, baby!

  • avatar

    I posted this in the 11/19 podcast, but it belongs here too. Its not that the CTS doesn’t deserve sales success, its role as a Cadillac and its impact on Pontiac-Buick’s long term strategy are a concern:

    I still wish the CTS was a Pontiac. Not literally, but that Pontiac occupied the luxo-sports market. I’m talkin’ 1960s Pontiac: back then it was 8-lug wheels, real wood trim, class leading powertrains, independent rear suspensions…all the stuff that Pontiac used to stand for is what they SHOULD stand for right now.

    Those who think Cadillac should occupy their current (branding) spot aren’t remembering the glory days of GM. More importantly, the unassailable days of pure profit.

    Brand degradation didn’t start with the CTS, nor the Cimarron–it was probably the entry level Calais models of the late 1960s–but Cadillac is holding itself back with the CTS.

    Until Cadillac moves up, Buick and Pontiac are doomed to even more overlapping products and poor performance. At some point the downward spiral will hit rock bottom for those two brands.

    Oh, if nothing else, it needs a V8. Don’t tell me they couldn’t install a GEN-III small block for less money and offer a butt-whooping package with Cadillac style and American Muscle.

  • avatar
    ca36gtp

    I disagree. Cadillac can stay right where it is and Pontiac could still strike out into the performance market if GM gave a damn about Pontiac’s future.

  • avatar

    ca36gtp: Maybe I’ve stared at too many kidney grilles, but I think Pontiac could (and should) be a low volume, niche model line that could make a contender to the performance sedan market. The G8 is a start, but I see the CTS–even at its higher price point–stealing its glory.

    Question for you: how can Pontiac strike out in the market with Cadillac, Saab and even plastic-fantastic Saturn stealing their glory?

    We aren’t even discussing the non-GM brands that pretty much dominate the market. GM’s brand delineations (or lack thereof) can’t make it happen. The CTS is no Cimarron, but its the Grand Prix that Pontiac used to make.

    Cadillac has no place here, even if Pontiac is a dead brand walking. Caddies are about no compromises, and no parts swapping (mundane 3.6L engine) from lowly GM products of questionable American heritage. Again, no compromises with a Caddy.

  • avatar
    ca36gtp

    I agree to a point, but what I guess I’m trying to get at is Pontiac should not fit anywhere in the entry-midlevel-luxury ladder of market scales. It should be one thing: performance. Not compact performance, not affordable performance, not luxury performance. Just performance, and in that respect should span all types of passenger cars as long as they have aggressive looks and a lot to say under the hood.

  • avatar

    I agree with you 100%.

    I just don’t see GM giving them a portfolio of performance products that won’t be stabbed in the back by other GM brands…CTS, 2009 Camaro, any SAAB, Saturn Sky…much less Infiniti, BMW, etc who are the obvious “threats”.

  • avatar
    ca36gtp

    True. GM’s worst enemy is themselves. The fact that Pontiac’s supposed “performance” GXP moniker shares its engines with things like the Chevy Malibu is a disgrace.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    It’s easy for BMW or Mercedes because they each have only one product line. And their engines are shared across that line. And they’re premium brands.

    Now look at GM. Yes, the 3.6 is available in both the Malibu and the CTS. But the same can be said of Lexus whose competitor in this class is essentially a fancy Camry. What matters is if the engine is good. And there are ways to differentiate the brands. The DI version is only available from Cadillac.

    The truth is that all automakers are going to the small-number-of-platforms model. Not to do so is suicide. We can talk about how Cadillac should be a no-compromises brand all day long. But, in the end, it doesn’t matter. What matters for GM is if they are building a car that will sell in large numbers at a profit and that will lead to repeat sales. By that measure, the new CTS is the right car.

  • avatar

    Sure the Lexus ES is just a Camry. But it works for them. You can’t “out Lexus” a Lexus and expect to be anything but a second string player. You have to do better, offer more, and lure people in with a brand statement.

    A Cadillac has to be a Cadillac. Let Buick fight the Lexus ES, let Pontiac fight the Lexus IS. Cadillac needs to fight the Lexus LS. (Quite frankly, it wouldn’t be hard to knock that yacht off its perch.)

    Or GM can let Buick and Pontiac die and force everyone to embrace the new, entry level Caddy theme. TTAC hammers the brand-awareness thing all the time, and if two brands die off to support one, so be it.

    We can talk about how Cadillac should be a no-compromises brand all day long. But, in the end, it doesn’t matter. What matters for GM is if they are building a car that will sell in large numbers at a profit and that will lead to repeat sales.

    The CTS is still an unknown quantity, but it could be that vehicle. We need years to determine that, and if Lexus actually loses sales because of it. And if GM supports the CTS and doesn’t drop the ball for their next “big thing” (see what happened to the Saturn Aura) I can see it happening.

  • avatar

    bunkie:

    What matters for GM is if they are building a car that will sell in large numbers at a profit and that will lead to repeat sales.

    You’re thinking short term. A brand is about a long term commitment to a tightly focused ideal. While the CTS is a great car, what does it represent?

    BMW – Ultimate Driving
    Lexus – Reliable Luxury
    Porsche – Reliable Performance
    Toyota – Reliable Reliability (how focused is that?)
    Cadillac – Ummmmmm

  • avatar

    I like the CTS, but I think the problem is exemplified in those horrendously frigid commercials I see every day. Not only are the male and female versions nearly identical, but they basically just regurgitate the options list monotone and expect the ending catch phrase to explain what the CTS actually is.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    “A brand is about a long term commitment to a tightly focused ideal. While the CTS is a great car, what does it represent?

    In car terms nothing!!!!
    there are 3 things that are important location location location

    in car terms its product product product.
    Germany & Italy did it (France to a much lesser exent) Britain didn’t then Japan then Korea.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    While I’m not crazy about it’s exterior, GM did a very non-GM job of making the interior a place Acura and Audi drivers would enjoy.

    HOWEVER, this stickers for $40k with leather, sunroof, manual and GPS. They also charge you $250 for a donut spare tire. F–k me? No, F–k YOU!!!

    My take: This is a 85% effort, not 96%. 96% effort would be realizing that Cadillac is in a similar place to Acura circa 1986 – a “new” player that needs a strong value proposition to make an impact.

    GM and Cadillac are continuing their comedy act on the sticker price rendering it completely useless.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    “HOWEVER, this stickers for $40k with leather, sunroof, manual and GPS. They also charge you $250 for a donut spare tire. F–k me? No, F–k YOU!!!”

    Don’t buy ‘em then (the manual is free)and spare tyres are cheap in aftermarket

    putting a CTS up against a RL (I may be in the wrong market) chosing every avialible option – the caddy was dtill 6 grand cheaper

  • avatar
    f8

    Robert Farago:

    “Toyota – Reliable Reliability”

    Hahaha, that sums up Toyota well.

    Cadillac doesn’t exactly have a clear tagline that could sum them up as a brand, but then again, they started the whole restructuring thing not too long ago. So far they seem to go for the “stylish, sporty, world-class luxury” title. It may seem like they are going for too many things at once, but they have to hit all of those points to distinguish themselves.

    Style is a huge factor for Cadillac. This is one of their biggest advantages (provided that they get it right) – BMW isn’t exactly on top here anymore, Lexus is rather hit or miss, Acura isn’t bad but is still somewhat uniformly bland in a uniquely Japanese way, Porsche isn’t a direct competitor. Mercedes, Audi, and Infiniti are actually the only good competitors style-wise for the Cadillac.

    Cadillac has to explore the sporty angle as well – that’s what they’re trying to do in the CTS commercials, I think, but I agree with PerfectZero: those ads suck. Still, performance is a good thing to set Cadillac apart from the other brands, or at least make sure it’s on par – every luxury car brand is pushing the performance angle in their marketing campaigns. BMW and Porsche are obvious, but Mercedes, Acura, Audi, and Infiniti all focus their marketing efforts on their sedans’ performance characteristics, and Lexus is doing the same with the IS and IS-F.

    “World-class” for Cadillac seems to simply mean “high quality”. Go to the Cadillac CTS demo site and you’ll see plenty of references to world-class fit and finish. This is an extremely important point for them, since most people don’t perceive Cadillacs as quality cars anymore.

    So I’d say Cadillac is hitting the right points. They just haven’t been at it long enough to drive the point across as well as other brands already have. Still, I remember when Infiniti was all about making upscale versions of Sentras and Maximas instead of actually competitive luxury cars. If Infiniti turned their brand image around with great products, Cadillac can do it.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    Sure, the caddies of the 60’s are the prototype Cadillac in most people’s minds. The huge cruiser “that seats about 20″ with huge tail fins, but compare those cars with the other cars of the time and you can see the similarities and the differences that made them Cadillacs, made them something to be aspired to.

    The Cadillacs of the 1960s were not the huge tail fin cars. Fins peaked for the 1959 model year. The ’60s cars were something else entirely. Today’s Cadillacs are the best attempt yet to recapture the bold but understated, tasteful Bill Mitchell Caddies of the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations. Those Cadillacs were low, long and lean, with tailfins severly truncated to vestigial proportions by 1961, and lost completely shortly after, in favor of a sharp, creased visual demeanor that capped the finely demarcated hierarcy of GM metal with a masculine summit. Similarly, the interiors of the middle years were more clubroom than gauche. Unlike the exuberance of the fifties’ cars, the Bill Mitchell era Cadillacs oozed design confidence and were comfortable places to cross three states in. They also visually telegraphed the big, creamy power of the Cadillac drivetrains under the aircraft carrier hood.

    The Eldorado was the Cadillac with the most arresting presence, both for its sheer size despite being a coupe, and for the understated drama enabled by its coupe proportions. Lincolns of the day probably showed a little more craft, but Caddies had more soul.

    The art & science motif that debuted on the 1st generation CTS established a visual theme that no other car brand emulates, so these cars have more street presence than their size otherwise suggests. It’s considerably amped and refined in the new CTS. While the sides and rear, and even the aerial view are only lightly sculpted for some recapture of that Bill Mitchell restraint, the front is assertive and bold, just like his cars were. At first the grille looked a little too strong to me, especially compared to the just-right CTS-V of 1st gen fame. But in photographs it is exaggerated by the flatness of the medium. On the road, its scale is softened by its dimensionality. It works in the field.

    The current Escalade has gone down the same path of restraint within its size. The STS still holds up and is consistent with the family look while it awaits its update. I still like it, especially in STS-V form. The DTS, while it remains, has also been roped in and it no longer braodcasts its FWD foundation in its proportions.

    What Cadillac needs to pull this together is a true El Dorado — a dramatic, comfortable, assertive 4-place coupe that accommodates adults in the back seat. Not a compact 2+2 ala Maserati Coupe, but an Eldo. Taut, low, lean draped in restrained visual drama, finished to a high standard, and having the best technology integration in autodom. Cadillac can do this; it’s within their grasp.

    The XLR/XLR-V isn’t this car. It’s not large enough. It does pack design wallop, being taut, incisive and a little polarizing. Driving one, I am a daily recipient of acclaim, curiosity and emphatic endorsement of XLR-V’s presence. It may be scarcity is its friend, preserving the XLR-V’s power of projection. You cannot be attention-averse and own an XLR-V. The car is warmly received and people are glad to see something so distinctive on the road.

    True testament to the perception-altering power of strong design: Bentley GT drivers roll up to me, drop their windows and asked if I’m driving a Cadillac; what is it; do I like it; what’s it like to drive? I get spontaneous thumbs-up on the road from Harley and Ducati bikers alike. Almost every day. Mercedes owners are persistently curious. BMW drivers seem compelled to catch up with me on the highway to linger for a look. Women are admiring of the car. Valet attendants whisper its name and assure me my car will be “right here when you’re ready,” and sure enough it’s outside with the Ferraris, Bentleys, Porsches and Maseratis while the BMW, Audi, Lexus and Mercedes owners are waiting in line to hand over their tickets.

    More encouraging for Cadillac as a brand is the way young people react. I have to pass a large high school most days in the morning. The kids seem blind to the usual parade of luxury metal, but the XLR-V turns heads. I get thumbs-up; people stop in their tracks to watch the car go by. At gas stations, adults comment on or ask about my car, but kids approach with a smile and a compliment, and ask to look inside.

    A few days ago I was driving home with the top down. As I rolled into my neighborhood, a couple of ~10 year old boys, one of whom lives in a house where a Mercedes S550 makes its home, were outside. Every time they see my car, they give me thumbs-up, but this time they knew I would hear them shouting: “Mister, that’s the coolest car anybody has, Dude!” Exact quote.

    Another true story. A Bugatti Veyron rolled by me one morning last year on one of our canyon roads while traffic in my direction was stopped waiting for a left turner. But just as it did, some teenage boys on bikes in front of a village grocery story wanted to know what I was driving. I asked whether they meant the Bugatti, pointing to its tail. “Naw, that’s a Veyron, is *that* the Cadillac you’re driving?”

    When I drove a Corvette, many people smiled or commented on the car. The magic of the snake logos on my SVT Cobras always surprised me. A Mustang became an exotic with those Cobra badges and the car’s unmistakable stance and sound. A clean Cobra with its logos intact also got the Ferrari treatment from the valets. But this Cadillac….

    I’m in a city infested with luxury metal. Cadillac’s design theme is waking people up to an alternative. But a two seat sporting GT shouldn’t be the Cadillac flagship. They need to resolve the FWD/RWD basis for the large sedan, but the pinnacle of the pyramid has to be a dramatic and technically-advanced coupe with arresting and tasteful street presence, even if it’s at a price where they sell fewer than a thousand.

    As for the CTS and this review, I understand someone wanting it to be purer, but it is 100% what Cadillac intended: a gap filler in the market that splits the difference between 3 series and 5, delivering a more accommodating American spin on the short-haul (in American terms) sporting sedan. BMWs aren’t luxury cars. Mainline Mercs aren’t sporting cars. Lexus is too numb. If you’re driving from Dallas to San Antonio for dinner, St. Louis to Denver for a reunion, Baltimore to Tampa to see Pops, but want your incisive urban/suburban car too, better in this.

    Phil

  • avatar
    bunkie

    “BMW – Ultimate Driving
    Lexus – Reliable Luxury
    Porsche – Reliable Performance
    Toyota – Reliable Reliability (how focused is that?)
    Cadillac – Ummmmmm”

    As I said, it’s not for everyone, but Cadillac represents a uniquely American approach to a sports sedan. Phill Ressler said it exceptionally well. I, like him, love the cars Bill Mitchell designed and I loved the muscle cars of my youth. The new Cadillacs channel Mitchell beautifully. And, since we’re talking about Cadillac and “what it should be”, doesn’t styling make up a large part of that equation? By that measure the CTS scores a ten. It’s unmistakably a modern Cadillac.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    Phil Ressler:

    That was beautiful. The Evoq concept (which eventually became the XLR) is the car that started my love affair of cars when I saw it on a GM brochure mailed to my parent’s house back in 2000 when I was 16 years old. I now drive the XLR’s brother the Vette, but my love for the XLR remains. One of these days I think I might pick one up

  • avatar
    Qusus

    Phil Ressler,

    Glad you enjoy your car man and I agree the XLR is a sharp-lookin’ car but you’re taking it a little too far.

    Do people really gape at XLR’s when a Bugatti Veyron is driving by? That would be inexplicably shocking as everyone must have seen dozens upon dozens of XLR’s by now. Is that really the only XLR people in your neighborhood have seen?

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    Do people really gape at XLR’s when a Bugatti Veyron is driving by?

    Well, one group of teenage boys did. I wrote it straight. No one was more surprised than me.

    That would be inexplicably shocking as everyone must have seen dozens upon dozens of XLR’s by now.

    I’ve been driving my XLR-V since February 2006. I live in Southern California and to-date I’ve only seen another on the road twice. XLR, more often sure, but it doesn’t have quite the presence of the V, even though the visual differences are subtle. Collectively they add up.

    Is that really the only XLR people in your neighborhood have seen?

    The vast majority of people who spontaneously comment on my car say its the first one they’ve seen up close. Most only know it from photographs.

    Phil

  • avatar
    penftw

    have you guys checked out motor trends car of the year?

    http://www.motortrend.com/oftheyear/car/112_0801_2008_cadillac_cts/

    Btw; it say 300 hp in that review, which number is right?

  • avatar
    AuricTech

    I agree that one major problem Cadillac has is the dilemma of drawing on its past reputation while simultaneously reinventing itself (Pontiac has a similar problem, as do FoMoCo’s Mercury and Lincoln). That being said, I can see an advertising campaign that draws on the Cadillac name’s association with luxury, while distancing the CTS (and other Cadillac models) from the esthetics of the big-tailfin era.

    Imagine a commercial in which Ed Wasser, dressed to resemble his Babylon 5 character Morden, asks people in 1958 – 2008 his character’s signature question: “What do you want?” Each respondent (one per decade) answers “I want a luxury car that also [has whatever desirable attribute fits the Cadillac of the time],” with the 2008 respondent answering “I want a luxury sedan that also drives like a sports sedan.” (This last response would, of course, be tailored to the Cadillac model being advertised.)

    Next, “Morden” asks “But what do you want?” Each respondent, in turn, replies “A Cadillac.”

    Finally, the model in question is revealed, with a voice-over along the lines of “The Cadillac [insert model here]. It’s the car you want.”

    All right, so this idea relies a bit too much on science-fiction geekery. That doesn’t mean that some similar way of bringing Cadillac’s past to the present wouldn’t work.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    The primary problem with this market segment is that there are already so many comparable models that can duplicate 90+% of the daily driving ‘experience’ for about 70% of the price.

    A few models are an exception to the rule… for now. The Mercedes C-Class doesn’t have a cheaper companion in the states. The 3-Series covers such a wide gamut that it practically competes with itself. I would argue that the A4 and A3 provide far different driving experiences as well.

    But the Japanese and American cars? The only one that will make a semi-strong case is Infiniti… and even then I think it mostly comes down to interior materials and insulation.

    Cadillac may actually have the best all-arounder in this entire market. All the other models appear to be ‘the best’ at something while the prior generation Cadillac CTS was actually good at everything (except for some of the interior components). The styling’s definitely not my cup of tea, but as a daily performer this new Cadillac may actually give the best bang for the buck for those who want a ‘little of everything’.

  • avatar
    Qusus

    Alright, I can buy that. I hear there’s not as many Cadillac’s in SoCal. I live in Michigan (where XLR’s are much more common than import cars as you can imagine) and Jersey (where there were a bunch of Caddy’s). The XLR-V is certainly one sharp-lookin’ car. Pardon my Veyron-story skepticism as I’ve never seen one myself.

  • avatar
    Theodore

    This is not the Cadillac of old. It’s not the Standard of the World because GM isn’t capable of building cars at that level, but neither is it the land yacht my grandmother drives (for which let us all give thanks.) It’s something else entirely – something that GM desperately needs – a step in the right direction. Even if it’s only a 96% Cadillac, that’s a damn sight more than any Caddy has been in years.

    Know when I really started to notice the current Cadillacs? When I saw CTS-V race cars running SCCA events alongside BMWs and Audis. If Cadillac wants to get some sporting cred, that’s a good place to start. And I’ve long thought that if any American marque belongs in Formula One, it’s Cadillac. Maybe there they could start to regain that reputation as the Standard of the World.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Personally, I think Cadillac nailed it. In my neck of the woods – normally a hot import market filled with Honda/Acura and Toyota/Lexus (people like to support where they/friends/family work), I’ve seen a HUGE increase in the CTS numbers. Yes, I agree with others that the grill doesn’t really fit the front (and also like others, the Audi front still hasn’t won me over) and the Malibu seems to have the same problem. (Can we also agree that we hope this whole side-vent trend ends after a cycle of model years?) Is the CTS good enough? Yes. Is it 100%? Nope. But what is perfect? According to CR, the Infiniti M-class continues to be the best car they’ve tested – it beat the pre-Bangle BMW 5-series a few years back. But please weigh the facts:

    Is Lexus perfect? No. The LS-series is overweight and the hybrid makes no sense. They have too many guzzing truck-based SUVs that are obvious badgejobs. Their rep for quality is slipping also.
    Is Infiniti perfect? No. It looks like the G-series can be a hit, but the M-series looks bloated and not worth the extra money from a G, the FX is getting a little long in the tooth and there is still the bad taste in the mouths of people who purchased Maxima and Sentra-based Infinitis.
    Is Acrua perfect? No. They canned the RSX for “not fitting the model lineup” but the RL is barely noticed and the TL is due for a refresh any minute now. Much like Infiniti 10 years ago, they need to rethink their identity.
    Is BMW perfect? No. The styling is not for everyone, iDrive is still a nightmare after six plus years, quality scores are in a freefall, and the cost of admission for even the small 3-series makes first-time buyers twitch.
    Is Mercedes perfect? No. They are a very easy target though. They’ve AMG-ed everything including (probably) a go-cart line, resale value due to that is not good, quality is wretched, too many models and they’ve lost the scorecard on German styling. I followed an early-90′s E-class for a while and after looking at it in traffic for a long time, it reminded me what Mercedes was, not what they’ve become. Plus they still need to explain the need for the R-class.
    Is Audi perfect? No. Like Caddy, they seem to be on the up and up, but once again quality scores are low and the stigma of VW calling the shots when VW can’t fix their own lineup might spell trouble soon.
    Is Lincoln perfect? No. I’ll take a crude F-150, put 300 pounds of chrome on the outside and make it a Lincoln. Ditto with an Expedition. This is a dead brand on the side of the road.
    How about the “British” companies? Land Rover has a guzzling product line and Jag needs help ASAP.
    The Swedes are a mixed bag – GM wrecked Saab and Ford seems to have helped Volvo.
    So, does the CTS have to be flawless? Not really, but they do have the perception to demolish. Their ads need to ATTACK the Germans head on and I think the CTS can win. They should play the game of having demo CTS models ready for serious to semi-serious buyers to drive one for a week or so. They should the common folk take one around a parking lot track so people (with families) can sit in one and experience it. If the car is good, word of mouth will do wonders.
    I firmly believe the CTS, the G8, and maybe the Malibu can finally start the turnaround provided GM doesn’t screw up with the dealer orders, price increases, a lack of constant improvement, and poor service and quality. What’s the saying – with a positive experience, one person tells another person, but with a negative experience, 1 person tells 10. That’s a tough cycle to break.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I didn’t feel like reading 10 pages of comments, so applogies if this is repetitious.

    The CTS should be a Buick. The problem GM can’t seem to resolve is that it’s cars still need to fit into a hierarchy. In the past, there wasn’t much if any overlap in price between divisions. Now – well, if I could buy a Malibu LTZ I might well be able to afford this entry level Caddy. It’s only 4 grand difference, and for many buyers, that 4K isn’t a bar. So honey, do we want to plunk our money down on the Chevy or the Caddy?

    IOW, it should never occur to anyone to use the words Cadillac and “entry level” in the same sentence. If Caddy can’t ask and get 40K for this car, then Buick division should get it. (Chevy, at the other end has no business making cars that sticker for 28K)

    This idea that every division needs a car in every segment is what is killing brand ID at GM.

  • avatar
    shaker

    +40HP, Six-speed manual, RWD, available AWD — no Malibu can offer that.
    Caddy has an excellent entry in the 35-45K segment. If they can pull the reliability numbers up, a solid contender against any German iron.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    This may be off-topic, but I looked at GM Europe to see whether they believe in the CTS so much that they are pricing it for serious sales. Do they walk the world-class talk?

    Price in Germany: for the 2.8L V6 211 HP base model, GM is asking 36k Euros. That’s around 53K US$, folks.

    No chance for any success over here at that level. That’s BMW 5-series league, for a car with much less space, serious drivetrain deficiencies, and lousy resale.

    Why do they even bother?

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    Again and again we get this analogy that the “new” Cadillac is on par w/it’s German counterparts. However, due to the fact NOBODY drives these things at speed on the world’s most demanding roads, it will forever remain a pretender. In this segment I want a vehicle that has proven reliability while being abused…er, driven in the sporting manner. Caddy doesn’t have it.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    The XLR is a nice looking car. It just does not remotely look or feel like a $70,000 to $100,000 car. This car is strictly for the Cadillac faithful. Say what you will about such rides like the crappy sc430 but put both an SC and an XLR side by side and the XLR looks like it was put together by a bunch of children using lego blocks.

  • avatar
    f8

    Martin Schwoerer:

    “Price in Germany: for the 2.8L V6 211 HP base model, GM is asking 36k Euros. That’s around 53K US$, folks.

    Why do they even bother?”

    Well, people generally make more money in Europe, and things cost more there as well. I don’t know how much a 5 series costs in Europe, so it’s hard to say if Cadillac can be competitive or not. Plus I doubt Cadillac cares much about that market – what would be the point? It’s an American luxury car, aimed at Americans

    Sammy Hagar:

    “Again and again we get this analogy that the “new” Cadillac is on par w/it’s German counterparts. However, due to the fact NOBODY drives these things at speed on the world’s most demanding roads, it will forever remain a pretender.”

    You know that all CTS and CTS-V models were tested extensively at Nürburgring, right? GM made a lot of noise about that. And if by “most demanding roads” you mean autobahns, you should know that there’s zero difference between an autobahn and an American freeway, except for the whole speed limit thing.

  • avatar
    ronbo456

    This is about the brand, not the car. The car is apparently fine, maybe better than fine.

    But RF’s point about “tight” brand concepts is exactly right. Brands must stand for something distinctive and they must be uncompromising about building whatever that is into every product. What is the Caddy-ness that the CTS exudes?

    I think there are parallels between Cadillac and Maserati. Maserati isn’t a weak brand but it’s not well-known. Given its product line and distribution, Maserati could have committed to positioning itself as an enthusiast’s brand, more exclusive than Porsche but more accessible than Ferrari. Instead, Maser decided to pursue a broader market, perhaps with the goal of becoming the Italian BMW. The problem is, the cars are too extreme for that. Maserati’s solution is to make the cars less Maserati-like, such as by putting a slushbox in the Quattroporte. I’m not sure that strategy is going to work.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    The XLR is a nice looking car. It just does not remotely look or feel like a $70,000 to $100,000 car. This car is strictly for the Cadillac faithful. Say what you will about such rides like the crappy sc430 but put both an SC and an XLR side by side and the XLR looks like it was put together by a bunch of children using lego blocks.

    I can only assume you’ve never been up close to an XLR/XLR-V, nor parked it side by side with their price peers. The Lexus has a certain look of craft to it, but the materials are no better and in some cases are arguably worse. The body panel gaps are a little smaller on the Lexus, but this is mostly due to the XLR having a composite body rather than steel. The Lexus us a unibody car, while the XLR is built on the Corvette’s uniframe.

    The Mercedes SL interior photographs better than it looks and feels up close. Outside, again except for the panel gaps issue intrinsic to the composite body and which isn’t a large difference anyway, the SL is put together like any other reasonably well made unibody car. These are all mass-production machines that when examined up close, are not assembled or finished much differently than today’s $35,000 cars. The leather is nicer on all the touch points. The price difference and the value is in the underlying engineering and performance components, as well as some exotica in the systems.

    I’ve had XLR-V, SC430 and SL550 side by side in the past 10 days for close comparative examination. Look beyond the superficials and you’ll see that plastic is plastic, and none of these three really have advantage in cosmetic build quality over the others. They are very different cars at an engineering and technical implementation level, however.

    “Price in Germany: for the 2.8L V6 211 HP base model, GM is asking 36k Euros. That’s around 53K US$, folks.

    Well, yes and no. A Euro price of E36K is only equivalent to US$53K in exchange rate terms while we have a weak dollar. In 2000 it would have been equal to about $30K. The only thing that matters is what else E36K buys in Europe, not what the car would cost at the exchange rate price in the US. Granted, the weak dollar should allow GM to be more aggressive in pricing but I’m sure they don’t want to be too vulnerable to a rise in the dollar either.

    No chance for any success over here at that level. That’s BMW 5-series league, for a car with much less space, serious drivetrain deficiencies, and lousy resale.

    The 5 series is not a spacious automobile, especially relative to its exterior dimensions. The new CTS will not feel like a car “with much less space” than a 5 series. Can’t say about resale there, but I’ll presume you’re correct. As for the drivetrain, Cadillac would have made a better debut with the 3.6L/6sp drivetrain, with a sharp price.

    What is the Caddy-ness that the CTS exudes?

    The new CTS is visually distinctive, is currently available in relatively powerful V6 configurations, and when you’re in it, it puts you in an environment of craft and comfort. All good Caddy traits. It needs a V8 option, but the DI6 is Cadillac-consistent.

    Maserati’s solution is to make the cars less Maserati-like, such as by putting a slushbox in the Quattroporte. I’m not sure that strategy is going to work.

    The ZF 6 speed in the Quattroporte Automatic isn’t the lazy-shifting slip-swapper in your average sedan of yore. The prior transmission, still available in the Duo-Select, was graceless in all-but open-road conditions, which drove even admirers of the Maser from considering the car. Even the Auto is widely considered the most sporting luxury sedan available. In true Italian fashion, it drives “smaller” than it is when handling counts, but is supple and comfortable. Its interior outclasses anything in its price range, and has that sweet Ferrari mill.

    The Cadillac 4.4L Supercharged Northstar in the XLR-V and STS-V, mated to the excellent GM 6L80 double-clutch automatic has similarly engaging character. Maserati’s strategy of combining expressive visual styling with only-in-Italy interiors and sweet muscular drivetrains that accommodate the luxury car buyer has given the marque a measured comeback in the US. The beautiful new GranTourismo Coupe should further contribute. With the CTS in place, Cadillac’s upper tier should get attention next, rather than a baby sedan, and they must keep the distinctive visual drama coming.

    Phil

  • avatar
    bleach

    Saw one on the road for the first time yesterday and it was the same color as the photos in this review. Between the v shapes in the grill and the slope of the hood, the front looks like it’s sagging. It just wasn’t as attractive in person as in the photographs.

  • avatar
    Lee

    The CTS from Cadillac. Due to quality problems, I’ve not purchased an ‘American badged’ automobile since 1977. With the promise of a newer, better CTS, I thought this just might be the year to trade my GS300 for a Cadillac CTS.
    All the magazine hype was good – the mechanicals seemed right – then came the photos. I couldn’t believe the ugly front end they hung on that car. In addition to that, the plain slab sides were unbelievable. Anyway, my local dealership had one arrive a fews weeks ago – so I went to see it in person – to take a first hand look at the front end – to sit in it – and maybe take a test drive. Inside was ‘maybe’ ok, but the sides and that front end was just too much. Something like I’d expect to see driving down Beale Street by a second tier rap artist. Thank you, but no, I’ll stay with the imports for another year or so.

  • avatar
    dstarrboston

    Interesting review. It lacks a few numbers like compression ratio, weight distribution front vs rear, rear end gear ratio. How about some engine details? I ‘m guessing the engine is the old GM cast iron 3.6 V6 with overhead cams and a mild state of tune, but it would be nice to be told this. A few other details are missing, like is it rear wheel or front wheel? Does it have the on board Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) readout you get on the DeVille? How big a tire will it take? Does it have a limited slip differential?
    What sort of Caddy comes thru with a V6 anyhow? A real Caddy comes with a V8. The Northstar 4.6 liter would make this little sucker truly fly. The 6 speed manual tranny is nice. How’s the clutch feel, and is first gear low enough to get rolling when stopped at a light on a hill?
    GM oughta worry about brand dilution of the Caddy name. They put the Caddy badge on large sedans, SUV’s, crew cab pickups, and two seater sports cars. Now they are adding yet another type of Caddy, the Euro style sports sedan. The Caddy name used to mean a large top-of-the-line sedan, shortly it will mean fancy expensive just about anything. You won’t be able to describe what you drive, what someone else drives, what you want to buy as “Cadillac”. You will have to say “Escalade”,”CTS”,”DeVille”, or Alliante” before anyone knows what you are talking about. GM has more good car names than it has good cars to put them on. They could have named this sport sedan “Pontiac GTO” and saved the Caddy name from further dilution. You notice they created the wimpy and nondescript “CTS” model number ’cause the traditional Caddy names like Eldorado, Fleetwood, and Seville don’t sound very sporty.
    The photos in the review conceal the looks of the car more than revealing them. You probably got ‘em from GM who has been into arty photos that don’t show much of the car. Probably to conceal the pedestrian styling.
    Plenty of people still buy the real Caddy, the “DTS” or Deville. GM would be foolish to stop making ‘em or let them get old and drive the customers to Lexus. GM could use a Euro style sports sedan, ’cause BMW has shown that us Merkins like ‘em and pay good money for ‘em. Not sure if the sports sedan should bear the Caddy name rather than the Pontiac or Olds name.

  • avatar
    peckwell

    I know, I know…a good story needs a twist, a unique take, and your perspective here is of interest. But what’s wrong with un-adulterated praise for a GREAT CAR delivered by General Motors, the Kings of Mediocrity and Corner Slicing? They actualy delivered a product that is desirable, distinguished, and sexy – and it wasn’t a ‘Vette! I think some of the other comments here nailed it: what Cadillac IS on this day, not 40 years ago, is GM best effort at building a luxury automobile. The Germans defined (and continue to define) that market, have dictated to it, and now GM has a very credible – hell, a SWEET CAR, and a GENUINE ALTERNATIVE to BMW, Audi, etc. Thanks for the perspective, and great review. Cheers, Jeff

  • avatar
    jlmartin99

    Hi Justin,

    I read this review and not a very informative counter review of a superb luxury sedan.

    JLM

  • avatar
    peejay44

    They gave you the 263 pony engine and no sports package? Speaks volumes about what Caddy thinks of TTAC.

  • avatar
    jstnspin82

    I like that Cadillac has upgraded the look of the STS. I guess they have do anything since the GM ship is sinking. Speaking of ships – the CTS replaced the STS and SLS which were ok and those replaced the Sevilles and Deviles that were just big giant land yachts. I think GM has the right idea but when they are competing in a sedan world there are three things to think about – 1. BMW 2. Audi 3. Mercedes Benz and maybe a fourth with Lexus although I would like to see Lexus jump into the true sports sedan segment that is Germany. The CTS may look nice and appeal to some but bottom line is the company standing behind it has not had a history of sports sedans and thats where they seem to be aiming bit are falling somewhere short of 1st down. They even through a big V8 in the CTS-V to compete but when matched up against the BMW M5 and Audi S8 it will get beaten 10 times out of 10! Cadillac needs to stick to what they do best and that is a question that to this day I still do not know the answer!

  • avatar
    jstnspin82

    I like that Cadillac has upgraded the look of the STS. I guess they have do anything since the GM ship is sinking. Speaking of ships – the CTS replaced the STS and SLS which were ok and those replaced the Sevilles and Deviles that were just big giant land yachts. I think GM has the right idea but when they are competing in a sedan world there are three things to think about – 1. BMW 2. Audi 3. Mercedes Benz and maybe a fourth with Lexus although I would like to see Lexus jump into the true sports sedan segment that is Germany. The CTS may look nice and appeal to some but bottom line is the company standing behind it has not had a history of sports sedans and thats where they seem to be aiming bit are falling somewhere short of a 1st down. Lets face it the Cadillac Seville is not in the same breed as the BMW 3 Series and 5 Series. The Audi A6 and A8. The Mercedes Benz S Class and C Class, or the Lexus IS or GS. They even through a big V8 in the CTS-V to compete but when matched up against the muscular twin turbo terror BMW M5 it will get beaten 10 times out of 10! Cadillac needs to stick to what they do best and that is a question that to this day I still do not know the answer!

  • avatar
    noreserve

    tonycd :
    November 19th, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    Oh yes, about the car. I was impressed by the quality standing still, but the ultra-wide console practically drilled me in the right knee. It was so bad, it was a deal-killer all by itself. Just me?

    No, it’s not just you. I sat in the CTS yesterday at the Atlanta auto show and was immediately struck by how uncomfortable the center console was on my right knee. I’m an average-sized guy. There is no way that car should have been released with that glaring defect. Sorry Cadillac, that would have been a deal-breaker for me if I was seriously looking at you.

    A couple of other things… Does everyone realize that the best this car could do in the frontal crash test was four stars? Not good for a clean-slate design. I’ve also had enough of the garish chrome everywhere. There is just a bit too much for my tastes. I know that the wheels could be optioned without it, but the vents and such are a bit overdone. Subjective stuff I know.

    I’ve been reading all of the Edmunds blogs on the CTS – what an eye-opener. This thing has failing trim and horribly squeaking seats and interior bits. The cheap feeling brake release is a let-down. Get with the program and use an electric one a-la VW/Audi. That pedal and clunky release handle are very out-of-place in a Cadillac in 2009. Like most Cadillacs (GMs) I’ve sampled, the trim pieces and places where you touch simply don’t have the high-quality feel that they need to. Take the hood, for example, your hand is greeted by a sharp, cheap chrome trim piece that feels like it will last all of 10K miles. Looks like that’s about how long a lot of bits on that car will last, judging by Edmunds.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I have been shopping for a sports sedan and drove the CTS with the DI engine and sports suspension several times.

    In the end, it came in a close third behind the BMW 335 and the Infiniti G37, which I reviewed. I think that speaks quite well for this car.

    While it’s not a road rocket in the idiom of the G37 or 335, the actual performance numbers aren’t that far off (the CTS gives up about .75 seconds 0-60 – not insignificant, but still quite competitive). The feel is what’s different – while the 335 and G37 are bonafide sprinters, the CTS exudes the feel of hushed, subdued power that you normally find in a Mercedes.

    Ditto for the suspension, which has a more deliberate feel, but is still quite willing and competent. It’s worth noting that the ride is also far superior to either the 335 or G37, particularly those equipped with the sport packages.

    While the 335 and G37 feel more spare and purpose-built, the CTS has a more sumptuous, luxurious feel – again, like a Mercedes.

    Last I checked, nobody would argue that being like a Mercedes is a bad thing…

    And since I decided on the 335, only to discover it’s useless as a family car, I might have to take a second look at the CTS.

  • avatar
    jr37mam

    Picky, picky, picky! I am 72 and spent every Sunday at the drag strip in my younger days. I still like to goose it and my 2009 CTS is the best car I ever owned. Yes, it’s even better than my 2006. Lots of zip, good ride & handling and it’s very quiet. So there!!

  • avatar
    revolver1978

    I’m a little late to this commentary, but all “standard of the world” aside, the CTS wagon will be my next vehicle – used of course.  I still can’t believe they went ahead and started selling it here. . . . hopefully it does well enough to live for awhile. With sporty wagons, there really aren’t many to choose from.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • J & J Sutherland, Canada
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India