The Truth About Cars » CTS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:27:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » CTS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com General Motors Digest: July 3, 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/general-motors-digest-july-3-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/general-motors-digest-july-3-2014/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 13:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=858049 General Motors headquarters in Detroit, Michigan

In today’s General Motors digest: GM recalls a recall; the automaker gains market share in spite of itself; its bankruptcy judge believes it may have committed fraud; the U.S. Senate gets ready for a second February 2014 recall hearing; and Anthony Foxx vows to keep the heat turned up on GM.

Detroit Free Press reports the automaker’s recall of the 2013 – 2014 Cadillac CTS over an ignition switch issue similar to the one affecting the 2010 – 2014 Chevrolet Camaro, as well as the issue that kicked off GM’s recall parade back in February, only affected 264 coupes and wagons assembled before the redesigned sedan left the factory floor; the sedan was incorrectly listed among the 8.4 million vehicles recalled worldwide Monday.

In spite of said recall parade, Automotive News says GM gained market shared in the first six months of 2014, jumping from 16.9 percent in January to 18.8 percent in June. Further, June 2014 sales climbed 1.2 percent to 1.42 million units — instead of falling 2.6 percent as some analysts had predicted — fueled by new models entering the showroom and more lease deals. In turn, the annualized selling rate rose to 16.98 million, the highest rate seen since July 2006, and one higher than 2013′s 15.9 million in the same period. GM hopes to keep up the pace by offering Cobalt owners and owners of other recalled vehicles a $500 incentive to trade-in for a certified used vehicle, and employee pricing on new models; so far, 21 percent of Cobalt owners have taken the automaker up on its offer between March and May 2014.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber, who presided over the automaker’s bankruptcy proceedings in 2009, may have to haul GM back in on fraud charges if evidence is found, pointing to then-CEO Fritz Henderson’s possible knowledge — and obfuscation — of the ignition switch problem. Should the evidence be there, Judge Gerber could force the automaker to pay billions of dollars to any of the plaintiffs in the 90-plus lawsuits now waiting for his approval to proceed, which could come as soon as September 15.

Over in the Beltway, Reuters says a consumer protection and product safety subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee will hold a second hearing on the February 2014 recall July 17, though no announcement has been made as to who will be invited to testify as of this writing.

Finally, The Detroit News reports U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration both vow to “keep putting the screws on [GM's safety efforts] until it gets right.” The agency, who is monitoring the automaker for the next three years as part of the latter’s settlement with the federal government, will look into the newest recalls to determine if GM issued them in a timely manner, though Foxx thinks the automaker is acting in good faith.

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Review: 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-cadillac-cts-2-0t-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-cadillac-cts-2-0t-with-video/#comments Fri, 27 Dec 2013 14:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=686066 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-001

It’s been decades since Cadillac produced the “Cadillac” of anything. However, when car buffs dismiss the only American luxury brand left, they fail to see Cadillac’s march forward. 2002 brought the first RWD Cadillac since the Fleetwoood. A year later the XLR roadster hit, followed in 2004 by Cadillac’s first 5-Series fighter, the STS. Not everything was rosy. The original CTS drove like a BMW but lacked charm and luxury fittings. The XLR was based on a Corvette, which made for excellent road manners, but the Northstar engine didn’t have the oomph. The STS sounded like a good idea, but the half-step CTS wasn’t much smaller and ultimately shoppers weren’t interested in a bargain option. That brings us to the new ATS and CTS. Ditching the “more car for less money” mantra, the ATS has been created to fight the C/3/IS leaving the CTS free to battle the E/5/GS head-on. Can Caddy’s sensible new strategy deliver the one-two punch fans have hoped for? I snagged a CTS 2.0T for a week to find out.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

I found the outgoing CTS a little discordant, but 2014 brings an elegant more aggressive refresh. GM’s Art and Science theme has matured from “cubism gone wrong” to shapes that flow and jibe with a larger grille and softer creases. The 5-Series continues to go for elegant and restrained, I find the XF and A6′s design a mixture of plain-Jane and snazzy headlamps while the Infiniti Q5o and Lexus GS are going for flowing elegance.

The demur side profile continues with a simple character line to draw your eye from front to rear. One thing you’ll notice during that eye-movement is the distinct RWD proportions that separate the CTS, E, 5, GS, XF and Q50 from the long-nosed Audi A6 and near-luxury FWD options. Out back the CTS’ rump is a bit less exciting but employs all the latest luxury cues from hidden exhaust tops to light piped tail lamps. I was hoping Caddy’s fins would be further resurrected,  but the “proto fins” on the XTS are absent. Pity. Obvious from every angle is an attention to build quality absent from earlier generations with perfect panel gaps and seams.

Structurally, the CTS has jumped ship to a stretched version of the Alpha platform the smaller ATS rides on. Thanks to the automotive taffy-pull, the CTS is now 2.3 inches longer than a BMW 5-series. However, because of the Alpha roots, the CTS has actually shrunk for 2014 by 3 inches in length while getting 2 inches wider and a 2 inch roof height reduction.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-006

Interior

GM has proven they are able to create a car that drives competitively and looks sexy on the outside, but interiors have always been a mixed bag. The last gen CTS felt as if it was built with a mixture of custom parts and Chevy hand-me downs. No more. Like the ATS, the Caddy shares little with the rest of GM’s mass market-rabble. It is hard to find fault in the CTS’s dashboard’s combination of injection molded soft touch plastics, leather, faux suede, real wood, carbon fiber and contrasting stitching. Cadillac continues their dedication to shiny touch buttons on the dash and no luxury sedan would be complete without a little gimmicky drama. The CTS’s motorized cupholder lid ties with the XF’s automated air vents for the feature most clearly designed to brag about. I’m not sure how long that little motor will crank away, but it can’t be any less reliable than Jaguar’s theatrical air vents.

Because of the way Cadillac chose to stretch the CTS’ donor platform, cargo and interior space aren’t the primary beneficiaries. This means that rear legroom actually shrinks for 2014 to the smallest entry in this segment by a hair. Trunk volume also drops from a competitive 13.6 cubes to 10.5 which is a 20% reduction compared to the Lexus and BMW and 30% smaller than the Mercedes. The CTS makes up for some of this with comfortable thrones all the way around and when equipped with the optional 20-way front seats the CTS ranks #2 in the segment just behind BMW’s optional 24-way sport seats in comfort. Taller drivers and passengers beware, dropping the CTS’ roof height made the profile sexier but cuts headroom to the lowest in the segment.

2013 Cadillac ATS Instrument Cluster

2013 Cadillac ATS Instrument Cluster

There is one glaring flaw. The decidedly dowdy base instrument cluster is shared with the ATS (pictured above) and the XTS. Our Facebook followers were so put-off by Caddy’s base dials, the fervor spawned a Vellum Venom Vignette. While the ATS is saddled with the four-dial layout, the CTS and XTS have a savior: the most attractive LCD disco dash available. (My tester was so equipped.) Perhaps it is this dichotomy that is so vexing about the base CTS models. If you don’t fork over enough cash, you’ll constantly be reminded that you couldn’t afford the Cadillac of displays.

The 12.3-inch cluster offers the driver more customization than you fill find in any other full-LCD cluster. Unlike the Jaguar and Land Rover screens that simply replicate analogue gauges, you can select from several different views depending on whether you feel like analogue dials or digital information and the amount of information overload you prefer. (Check out the gallery.) My preferred layout contained a high res navigation map, digital speedo, fuel status, range to empty, average fuel economy, audio system information with album art and track information and the speed-limit on the road I was traveling on.

2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-001

Infotainment

I have been critical of Cadillac’s CUE system but 2014 brings some important software fixes resolving the random system crashes and demon possessed touch controls I experienced in the ATS and XTS. After driving the CTS for 852 miles, the CUE system proved rock solid in terms of reliability. Unfortunately, little has been done to address the sluggish response to inputs, unintuitive menus and old-school nav graphics. Despite the still flaws, I have to stick by my words when MyFord Touch landed: I’d rather have slow infotainment than none at all. BMW’s iDrive still ranks 1st for me because the interface is intuitive, attractive, responsive and elegant. BMW continues to add new features to their system and, unlike other systems, the new features in general operate as smoothly as the rest of the iDrive interface. You may be surprised to know that CUE ranks second for me.

CUE’s graphics are more pleasing to my eye than MMI, COMAND, Sensus, MyLincon Touch, Enform or AcuraLink. COMAND’s software should have been sent out to pasture long ago. The graphics are ancient and trying to load any of the smartphone apps is an exercise in frustration. Instead of reinventing their software, Lexus reinvented the input method taking their system from most intuitive to least in a single move. Senus isn’t half bad but Volvo’s screens are small and the software lacks the smartphone integration found in the competition. MyLincoln Touch is well featured but lacks CUE’s more modern look and the glass touchscreen.

2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-006

The scratch resistant glass touchscreen and proximity sensors used by Cadillac are part of what give the system a clean modern look. Most systems use resistive touchscreens which are pressure sensitive and require that the surface of the screen actually move to sense your touch. This means they need to be made of a ductile plastic which is several layers thick. The consumer comparison is to think of your iPhone or Android phone vs a color Palm Pilot from years past. Cadillac uses the screen to allow intuitive finger-sliding gestures and the proximity sensor to reduce visual clutter when your finger is away from the screen. Move you hand closet to the screen and the less critical interface buttons reappear.

Cadillac continues their relationship with Bose, giving the base model an 11-speaker sound system that brings everything but navigation to the party. Our model was equipped with the up-level 13-speaker Bose sound system, navigation software and the optional single-slot CD player hiding in the glove box. Compared with BMW’s premium audio offerings, the Bose systems sing slightly flatter and lack the volume capable in the German options. However compared to Lexus’ standard and optional systems the Cadillac holds its own.

Ecotec 2.0L I-4 VVT DI Turbo (LTG)

Drivetrain

Thanks to the new GM Alpha platform, all three engines sit behind the front axle which is ideal for weight balance. Base shoppers get the 2.0L direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder worth 272 ponies and 295 lb-ft of torque, besting BMW’s 2.0L by 32 HP and 35 lb-ft. On “Luxury” trim and above you can opt for GM’s ubiquitous 3.6L V6 (321HP/275 lb-ft) for $2,700, but I’d probably stick to the 2.0L turbo if I were you. Aside from being lighter, the turbo delivers more torque at lower RPMs and has a more advantageous power delivery which make it a hair faster to 60.

Shoppers looking for more shove and willing to part with $59,995 can opt for a 420 horsepower twin-turbo V6 in the CTS V-Sport that cranks out 430 lb-ft. Despite sharing thee 3.6L displacement of the middle engine, GM tells us that only 10% of the engine components are shared. Sending power to the pavement in the 2.0T and 3.6 models is essentially the same GM 6-speed automatic transmission BMW used to use in certain models of the 3-series until recently. Optional in the 3.6L and standard on the twin-turbo V6 is an Aisin 8-speed automatic that is essentially shared with the Lexus LS.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-014

Drive

Unfortunately, the first thing you’ll notice out on the road is the coarse sound from under the hood. GM’s 2.0L engine is no less refined than BMW or Mercedes’ four-bangers, but the difference is you can hear the engine in the CTS. In fact, based on the overall quietness of the cabin (a competitive 67 dB at 50 MPH), I can only conclude that Cadillac designed the engine to be heard. I don’t mind hearing the 3.6L V6, but most luxury shoppers would prefer not to be reminded they chose the rational engine every time they get on the freeway. On the bright side, because GM does not offer start/stop tech, shoppers are spared the inelegant starts and stops that characterize 528i city driving.

While I’m picking nits, the 6-speed found in the 2.0T and most 3.6 models lacks the ratio spread and shift smoothness of the ZF 8-speed automatic found in most of the competition. While I prefer GMs 6-speed to the somewhat lazy 7-speed automatic in the Mercedes E-Class, the rumored 8-speed can’t come soon enough. The 8-speed used in the V-Sport (optional on the 3.6L) solves the ratio and marketing issue, but the Aisin unit feels just as up-shift happy and down-shift reluctant as it does in the Lexus LS 460. As a result when you use the shift paddles, your actions feel more like suggestions than commands.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-013

The reason I label those flaws as mere nits is because of how the CTS accomplishes every other task on the road. Acceleration to 60 happens a 4/10ths faster than an E350, a half-second faster than the 528i,  a full second faster than a GS350, and practically years ahead of the A6 2.0T. Part of this has to do with the engine’s superior torque curve and higher horsepower numbers, but plenty has to do with curb weight. At 3,616 lbs, the CTS 2.oT is 200lbs lighter than the BMW or Lexus, 400lbs lighter than an E350. The comparable Audi A6 would be the front-wheel-drive 2.0T model with the CVT at 3,726. If you think that’s an unfair comparison, the 2.0T with Quattro is 3,900lbs and does little to correct the A6′s front-heavy weight balance.

As a result of the CTS’s near perfect 50.3/49.7 % weight balance and the light curb weight, the CTS feels more agile and responsive on winding mountain roads, especially when you compare it to the V6 competitors. The steering is as numb as anything on the market thanks to electric power steering, but you can get faint whiffs of feedback now and then and the steering weight is moderate rather than strangely firm in the 528i. Admittedly we’re splitting hairs here when it comes to steering feel, as there is precious little difference between the CTS, GS and 528i. Even the hydraulic system retained in BMW’s 550i doesn’t feel as crisp on the road. Helping out the handling is a standard moderately firm spring suspension or an optional MagneRide active suspension as our tester was equipped. The adaptive dampers feel more refined than in previous versions, despite them not changing the vehicle’s personality much from regular to sport mode. The CTS never felt out of sorts on rough or uneven terrain and despite being moderately firm, never felt punishing. This places the CTS right in line with the modern Germans. Toss in standard Brembo brakes and the CTS is far more willing to hike up its skirt and dance than the establishment competition.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-007

For 2014, Cadillac added $6,035 to the MSRP and put “value” on the back burner. At $45,100, the CTS starts $4,400 less than the 528i and $2,600 less than the GS350. Of course the Caddy’s base model has fewer features, so an apples-to-apples comparison brings the delta up to around $1,500 less than the BMW. That’s a much smaller window than there used to be, and it’s not surprising when you consider the CTS’ interior is finally equal to or better than the Germans. The pricing deltas get more interesting as you go up the ladder. The CTS 3.6 is a few grand less than a BMW 535i. In that mash-up, the BMW provides superior thrust but when the road gets winding the CTS is more enjoyable. Then we get to the CTS V-Sport. The V-Sport brings a twin-turbo V6 to a twin-turbo V8 fight. At 420 HP and 430 lb-ft the numbers are stout to be sure, but trail the 443 HP and 479 lb-ft from BMW’s 4.4L V8 and most importantly, the V8 delivers a far superior torque curve delivering all of its torque 1,500 RPM earlier. Still, the Cadillac is 325 lbs lighter, handles better, is $4,830 cheaper and by the numbers gives up little in terms of straight line performance.

The two sweet spots for the CTS are a nearly loaded 2.0T with the LCD disco dash and a moderately well equipped V-Sport. The 2.0T offers the best road manners of its direct competition at a reasonable value. The V-Sport on the other hand offers BMW shoppers an interesting alternative. At an $1,800 up-sell over a comparably equipped 535i and $4,800 less than a 550i, the V-Sport is probably the best value in the luxury segment for 2014. After a week with the middle child Cadillac, GM seems to finally be on the right path with their luxury brand. As long as the XTS is replaced with a large rear driver sedan soon I might even say that the American luxury brand is on a roll. While I can think of a few reasons to buy a BMW 5-Series over a CTS (the base CTS instrument cluster is a good reason), shoppers have no reason to dismiss the CTS as they might have done in the past. Although the CTS is still 20lbs of sound deadening and an 8-speed automatic away from being the Cadillac of mid-size sedans, it is a truly solid competitor.

 

 GM provides the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.3 Seconds

0-60: 5.9 Seconds

1/mile: 14.36 Seconds @ 97.5 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 24.8 MPG over 852 Miles

Sound level at 50 MPH: 67 dB

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Piston Slap: Too Cool, or Dex-Cool? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/piston-slap-dex-cool-or-just-too-cool/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/piston-slap-dex-cool-or-just-too-cool/#comments Mon, 06 Aug 2012 11:57:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=455524  

 

Nate writes:

Ok, you asked for input and I’ve got a question about my 2003 Cadillac CTS. I figure I’m more likely to get a reliable answer from you and the best & brightest of TTAC than the goof balls at Car Talk (this letter is from February-SM), so I’ll ask.

I bought this CTS back in November. It had 135,000 miles on the odo, came from a private owner and apparently had significant engine work accomplished a year or so ago apparently as a result of a timing belt failure after it wasn’t replaced on schedule. Before being able to get the car licensed, I paid to have the thermostat and temp sensor replaced as I had a CEL and a P0128 code and the car wouldn’t pass inspection with a CEL code. The code came back after just about 1 week.

The CEL will clear if the ambient temps move up above 45-50 degrees but returns when the temps get back down to Utah normals for winter. I’ve been unable to find an online solution. I’ve considered installing a temporary partial radiator block, (cardboard & duct tape) to see if that old school fix brings the temp up. The car doesn’t have a temp gauge- thanks for nothing GM; but seems to warm up the cabin appropriately if not exceptionally fast.

Am I going to have to reset the codes each December before taking this in for emissions inspection or is there a real fix?

Sajeev answers:

Much like LSX swaps for people wanting to make a slow car fast, much like Panther Love for someone wanting a cheap and durable ride, I pretty much always think Dex-Cool is the problem when certain vintage GM products have temperature control problems.  As this paragraph shows, Dex-Cool is not my friend…and I am somewhat less goofy than the Car Talk peeps.

On the plus side, others are in your situation and they agree with me. Let’s face it: the timing belt proves that this car was neglected.  It’s a safe bet that Dex-Cool was never changed either, possibly topped off with non Dex-Cool compatible fluid too.  So there is a TON of the stuff you see in the photo below. And above. So I suspect that the 1 week grace period you mentioned was the time necessary to re-clog that temperature sensor and cause the P0128 to trip yet again.

I’d recommend a closer look at your cooling system, probably replacing the radiator too.   Just be careful how aggressively you remove Dex-Cool from the cooling system, you could flush it all out and get a ton of Dex-Cool “snot” stuck in the heater core. Which means you no longer have a heater. Which means…well, have fun removing the interior to get the heater core out. In a Utah winter. Damn, Son…

Sorry, I wish I saw another way out.  Maybe the B&B can help.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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In The Fierce Battle With Morgan For German Sales Supremacy, Cadillac Relies On The Heavy Artillery http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/in-the-fierce-battle-with-morgan-for-german-sales-supremacy-cadillac-relies-on-the-heavy-artillery/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/in-the-fierce-battle-with-morgan-for-german-sales-supremacy-cadillac-relies-on-the-heavy-artillery/#comments Mon, 30 Jul 2012 14:15:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=454686

“Two questions.” Our European contributor, Mirko Reinhardt, wants to test my knowledge. “First question: Last month was a pretty big month for Cadillac in Germany, relatively speaking. How many Cadillacs did GM sell? And second question: Which model sold best?

Oh, man.

“To answer your first question, I want to be all sarcastic and say a hundred units or something snarky and haterade-ish like that, but maybe it was more like a thousand?”

“Sorry, you’re wrong. The answer is: Eleven. Cadillac sold eleven units. That’s actually more than their monthly average for the year. Now, one particular Cadillac model sold 10 out of the 11 sold. Which one was it?”

“Um, was it the one that Scott Burgess called ‘The Cadillac of compact cars,’ the Burgerkingring-conquering ATS?”

“No.”

“Maybe it was the one that Scott Burgess called ‘The Cadillac of coupes’, the almighty CTS Coupe?”

“No.”

“I’m guessing at this point that it was the one that Scott Burgess called ‘The Cadillac of sports sedans,’ the super-awesome CTS-V?”

“No.”

“I give up. What was it?”

“The Escalade.”

“Oh! The one that Scott Burgess called ‘the Cadillac of Cadillacs.’ No, wait, that’s the hybrid. In another review, he called it ‘the Cadillac of hybrids.’ So it’s the Cadillac of Cadillac hybrids. I think. I wonder why he never called it the ‘Cadillac of Tahoes’? But the Germans aren’t stupid enough to buy Escalade Hybrids. Has to be the regular version, right?

“Yes. Morgan sold 13 cars, just for perspective.”

“That’s, like, 20% ahead of Cadillac! Morgan is beating Cadillac! They must be even more autobahn-ready than the Cadillac of German Cadillacs, also known as the Escalade.”

“Lamborghini sold 12. Wiesmann, 7. That’s a very exclusive group Cadillac is in. Ferrari did 78
Don’t want to drive a Ferrari like everybody else? Buy a CTS. The one Cadillac that the company sold last month that wasn’t an Escalade was a CTS.”

“Of course! Naturally the Germans would love the CTS. Former TTAC staffer Jonny Lieberman called his CTS-V ‘the best German car sold today’, or something like that. There must be a Motor Trend reader in Germany, right?”

“Well…”

“Maybe somebody checked the wrong box on the order form, otherwise it would have been 11 for 11 on the Escalade tip. What do you think Cadillac can do to catch Morgan in this month’s sales race?”

“It’s past my bedtime.”

It turns out the Germans aren’t particularly convinced by Cadillac’s ostensible domination of the Burgerkingring. When they buy Cadillacs, the Lords Of Der Autobahnen Und Schtuff want what the rest of us want: a real Cadillac. Body on frame. Plush. Bouncy. In your face. Proper size. The hell with an Escalade. We know what Germans like. We know what Krauts want.

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Vellum Venom: 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/vellum-venom-2012-cadillac-cts-v-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/vellum-venom-2012-cadillac-cts-v-coupe/#comments Mon, 23 Apr 2012 10:49:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=441164 A few years after I left Detroit, doing my best to forget my heart-wrenching decision to give up on car design, a similarly disheartened automaker named Saturn made something called an Ion.  I saw it at the Houston Auto Show circa 2002.  Wounds from Detroit still fresh on my mind, I had absolutely no problem with the Saturn Ion shown behind a velvet rope.  I honestly thought it was a design study commissioned by Playskool, not a production ready vehicle from General Motors.

I mean, it was that awful. So imagine my surprise when the General’s peeps come up with something nearly as ugly…and this time it’s a Cadillac.

 

But this ain’t no Saturn Ion.  It’s better in many ways and even more of a shameful waste of sheet metal in others.  That said, the nose is pretty cool if you avoid the detailing.  Well, the grille is quite handsome, even if I wish the badge was about 30% smaller.

 

Do badges really need to dominate a design?  This part of the CTS-V Coupe does quite well by itself.  Nobody’s gonna mistake it for a Honda, so chill out already!

 

The cyborg headlights are cool enough to let me fixate on other horrible elements on this form, namely the dumpy afterthought headlight washers.  I expected flush mount/pop up cleaners for a car wearing the Cadillac name.  Because this brand used to represent the best of the best, not a cheaper alternative to an uber-zoot German machine. Did someone benchmark a BMW M-series outside of the Nurburgring?

 

I love power-dome hoods, except when I don’t.  This is a Caddy!  Make that bulge start at the grille and flare out from there!  The ghosts of a million pimp-daddy DeVilles demands it! This looks like a cheap afterthought!

 

The Terminator was a great movie.  So was the sequel.  But whatever the hell this is, it belongs in a movie, not on a Caddy.  Plus, the choice of black plastic makes it look like an extra in a low-budget B-movie.  Totally not Caddy worthy.

 

The details do blend a little better from a few feet away.  But still, Cadillac is trying too hard to shed an image that was actually quite appealing.  This is the Pontiac Grand Prix of luxury performance coupes.  Believe it or not, I meant that as a compliment.  If Pontiac still existed.

 

This is one of the worst fender-to-A-pillar-to-door parties ever.  While I adore the strong edge from the fender’s vent to the beginning of the A-pillar, the muscular wedge that goes to the door is too big…or the vent is too small.  Not to mention the character line from the hood to the bottom of the A-pillar feels like an afterthought.

M.C. Escher, eat your heart out.

 

I despised this badge when it first hit the scene. That awful color palette in jarring, rhombus-like containers isn’t befitting of a top dollar, world-beating, Grand Tourer.  I admit it has aged well, so maybe branding conquers all.

 

Deplorable fitment aside, the sheer number of parts making this door handle is depressing.  The almost square thing above the door release is the biggest offender. It shouldn’t exist: why not make it integral to the rest of the quarter panel’s sheet metal? Inexcusable for a Cadillac and just un-frickin-believable in general.

 

 

But at least the quarter window is mighty faaaast!  The CTS-V coupe is certainly a…coupe!

 

Or is it a hatchback?  I wonder if the late-70s Buick Century Aero Coupe was ever considered during the CTS coupe’s initial renderings. Nah, that Buick was never this contrived by design. Not so with the Caddy, it’s obviously suffering from ADHD.

Details aside, this is pure BUFFALO BUTT. And that’s never pretty.

 

This is what happens when an AMC AMX gets beaten by Pablo Picasso’s Ugly Stick.

Marinate on that.

 

Let’s be clear, Cubism is a wonderful thing.  But this monstrosity of a machine is not. If your tail light extends to the rear glass, you made a crime against the natural order of luxury-performance vehicles. Epic fail.

 

The sheer volume of non-functional red CHMSL plastic shown makes me choke on my morning coffee.  Combine it with the fact that this part will turn chalky after a few years of buffing and oxidation, and you have a shameful interpretation of Cadillac style. Don’t believe me? Find a 1999 Mustang that’s had a less-than-charmed life and tell me how that CHMSL looks.

 

I will admit this is a seriously cool angle.  But I only like the decklid when you crop out the majority of bulk, or every line (cough, taillights) that fights the pointy beak presented here.

Then again, is a pointy posterior a good thing? Maybe someone in Detroit has a thing for the Porsche 928 in reverse.

 

The central exhausts are wicked cool, the round forms play well with the strong centralized character line.  Too bad the CTS-V Coupe’s ass is too tall and massive, you must squat down to actually appreciate this.

 

More shameful cheapness here.  Note to Cadillac: if you want an invite to AMG and M’s house parties, don’t break the ice with a Tupperware party at your crib.  You’ll get the Corvette, muscle car and LSX-FTW loyalists instead. Which isn’t a bad thing…as those peeps do buy cars.

Their money is still green!

 

On to some abhorrent detailing: the character line from the quarter window needs more definition, and more depth. This gives the illusion that the CTS-V isn’t as tall as a CUV, and has the fender flares of a car worthy of such impressive underpinnings. Instead we get bulk and flab. How I miss the days of fuselage inspired Cadillac quarter panels!

 

 

Next abhorrent detail: if you have to smear a round gas cap over an obscure fender slope, your design needs a re-think.  Or maybe I need some slimy, sloppy eggs to go with the coffee I recently choked on.

 

 

I know, I know…I already complained about the door handle. But look at how the B-pillar mates with the rest of the design!  Can someone trim the door to match this absolutely crucial hard point on the body?  How much is this car again?

Long live the Ghost of the Saturn Ion. On to you, Best and Brightest.

 

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Super Piston Slap: Loving “The Cadillac of Tomorrow” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/super-piston-slap-loving-the-cadillac-of-tomorrow/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/super-piston-slap-loving-the-cadillac-of-tomorrow/#comments Sat, 16 Jul 2011 16:09:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=402850  

Sajeev rambles:

Damn that Jack Baruth and his uncanny ability to awaken the latent spiritual needs and carnal passions sorely missing in my life.  I’m talking about the love of owning a 99-cent Caddy Limo from a strong bloodline, sporting a nearly perfect black leather interior.  With 25 years of historical flaws in full sight, this 3800lb lightweight is still a charmer in the Cadillac Tradition. The designation as “The Cadillac of Tomorrow” holds true, have you driven the latest poseur sedans to wear the Wreath and Crest? Torqueless V6 motors, tall buffalo butts and Euro-wannabe interiors only above that of a Hyundai Sonata.  I can hear it now:

“LULZ OMG you are nuts because the CTS-V is awesome and that thing’s a POS. The new Caddies even come in a wagon with a stick!  Who wouldn’t want a Cadillac that can do all that?”

My bad, they still make one coupe/sedan that’s somewhat worthy of the Fleetwood 75′s halo effect, but don’t be talkin’ that Euro-Caddy station wagon mess to me.  This Houstonian spends too much time watching southern hip-hop music videos with proper American Iron getting the respect it deserves.  Where else can we embrace the best remnants of Detroit in popular media? But I digress…

Sajeev writes:

So, a coupla years back, I got “us” an almost free Cadillac Limo. Hell, it even inspired my only GM Deathwatch Article where I dubbed it the “Turd Blossom” in honor of…well that’s not important.

Unfortunately, little changed since I got it:  a brilliant rebuild on the Delco/BOSE cassette deck aside, the 1986 Cadillac Fleetwood Series 75 Formal Limousine (F75) still won’t run.  Won’t you give us a hand?

After a newer (junkyard) TPS sensor was installed and the throttle body was de-coked with a bit of carb cleaner (as per TTAC commentator skor’s recommendation) the car drove better.  That ingenious little self-tester on Cadillac’s HVAC-cum-Mission Control panel now registered far smoother numerical transitions from idle to WOT in TPS testing mode.  Lumbergh from “Office Space” would be proud.

Of course, that’s only when the F75 would run. Sometimes it runs, then dies when put in gear.  Re-crank.  Run on 4 cylinders then die.  Re-crank.  Run on all 8 smoothly. Then die again when going into gear. After significant Caddy forum analysis and a little junkyard prodding, the F75′s distributor is definitely the problem.  There’s more “non-committal slack” in its rotor than a carefully worded speech by (insert the politician you most hate here).  So I was going to order a new distributor to fix its problematic gear design.

The F75/Turd Blossom was well on its way to being my Judgemobile for every LeMons race. The mean muggin’ from my fellow judges meant approval.

But here’s the rub: no way I can install a new dizzy now that the frickin’ hood cable won’t release. The grille won’t pop out and its impossible to get the hood latches removed from the body.  Sort of punching a hole in a perfectly good hood or grille, I am completely dumbfounded.  So what do you recommend?

You have a mission: to save the F75/Turd Blossom from itself.  Thanks and have a great weekend.

 

 

 

 

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Mission Creep, Weight Problems, Compromise Haunt GM Alpha Platform http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/mission-creep-weight-problems-compromise-haunt-gm-alpha-platform/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/mission-creep-weight-problems-compromise-haunt-gm-alpha-platform/#comments Tue, 17 May 2011 14:52:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=395124

Yesterday we gave GM kudos for addressing its lingering vehicle weight issues by redesigning the head of its popular 3.6 liter V6, and shedding 13 lbs in the process. It was, we noted, the kind of news that showed GM is staying focused on the nitty-gritty of product development, sweating the details. But, according to a fascinating piece by GMInsideNews, new-product development at GM still has its issues. Specifically, Cadillac’s development of a new BMW 3-Series fighter, known as ATS after its “Alpha” Platform, has faced more than its fair share of what GMI calls “drama.”

Turf battles, unnecessary “wants” on checklists and ultimately a severe case of “Mission Creep” have created a vehicle that now needs a crash diet, according to GMI’s sources both within GM and at suppliers working on the Alpha/ATS program. For a vehicle that’s taking on an institution like the BMW Dreier (not to mention costing a billion dollars to develop), these are troubling signs indeed.

GMI starts with some history of the Apha program, it’s roots as “Kappa II” which Holden showed as the TT36 Torana Concept back in 2004, before development took a long hiatus. As originally intended, Alpha was to be lightweight and enthusiast-oriented, built only for four-cylinder engines. No wonder it went nowhere inside the RenCen until Cadillac adopted the platform as the basis of a forthcoming small sports sedan. But, as it turns out, Cadillac’s “wish list” for Alpha sowed the roots of its runaway complexity and bloat issues. Cadillac may have saved “Kappa II,” but it also killed off its original promise. Here’s how GMI tells the story:

…as Cadillac became involved with the Alpha program, a sense of deja vu came with it. Much like Cadillac’s initial involvement with the Sigma platform, Cadillac had a long wish-list for the new Alpha platform. This long list quickly turned a light, sporty platform on it’s head, including stops on development several times over the last few years.

Initially Alpha was going to be a four-cylinder only chassis for small premium cars, so naturally development focused on optimizing the Alpha platform for four-cylinder mills in a very light package. Well, Cadillac’s first condition was that Alpha be re-engineered to package a naturally aspirated V-6 engine – and that was non-negotiable. This about-face on engine selection would become the first of at least two engine requests that led to a re-engineering of the Alpha chassis to accommodate the new requirements. More changes (read: more mass and cost) were required for the addition of all-wheel drive.

What started out as a great handling, small RWD program, began it’s mission creep from being very focused to being all things to all people. And as it evolved, certain “hard-points” from previous development were locked in, even though the base program had transformed itself. For example, Alpha was designed with a very sophisticated multi-link front suspension with near perfect geometry for the car as it was developed at that point. That geometry was “locked in”. As the car grew and became heavier with more features and content, that original geometry was no longer optimal. Our sources tell us that GM is now attempting to mask this sub-optimal geometry with chassis tuning rather than doing the right thing and actually fix it.

Now, class, if you were developing a BMW 3-Series competitor, how important would the issues of weight and front suspension geometry be? Very important? Sort of important? Existentially important? Meanwhile, what about AWD? How important would that be? GMI may be reminded of the Sigma’s development, but GM’s history is rife with vehicles that started with a bold, simple vision, only to be re-engineered into mediocrity. A line of driver-oriented, four-cylinder-only, rear-drive small luxury cars is an intimidating step to make… but it could have been distinct, downright unique. And it would have easily handled the CAFE issue that Lutz worried about as ATS development was beginning in earnest in 2008. Heck, BMW is putting a three-banger in its next-gen Dreier… so why was Cadillac so worried about bigger engines and AWD, while glossing over the “locked-in” sub-optimal front suspension?

Regardless of why ATS development has taken the turn that it has, the effects are already clear.

According to sources familiar with the Alpha program both internally at GM and the supplier level, GM has made several other additions to the requirement list of Alpha beyond engines. Among the additions were: a new electronics system and aerodynamic shutters (similar to the Volt).

Each addition has caused another issue to engineer around, thus causing the Alpha program to exceed GM’s mass requirements for the car by nearly 500-pounds. It is unclear how heavy Alpha products will be, but every independent Alpha source GMI has communicated with has indicated that the final curb weight could push 4,000-pounds unless GM puts the program on a mass reduction plan before launch.

So, never mind about all that “GM is focused on weight gain” praise we were lavishing around yesterday. A BMW 335ix with AWD and an autobox only weighs 3,824 lbs… if Cadillac’s ATS comes in “pushing 4,000 lbs” it won’t be a Dreier-fighter, it will be a CTS with less interior room. Which, it turns out, is actually part of the problem.

Another issue the Alpha program has been strapped with is the addition of Alpha+ about halfway through development. The Alpha+ chassis is a larger variant of Alpha, intended for use with the next-generation Cadillac CTS. Naturally, Cadillac has another list of requirements for Alpha+, including the need to accommodate twin-turbo V-6 engines. This has added another layer of complexity to the Alpha program, driving up both costs and mass.

Maybe, just maybe, GM has worked some kind of magic with this Alpha platform that will yield equally exciting Camaros, ATS’s and CTS’s… but that’s a lot of work for one platform. Compromise is almost inevitable. As I wrote on the Alpha prorgam over a year ago now,

Weight and expense problems? Trying to develop a single platform that’s capable of competitively executing every RWD application across several brands? Compromising mainstream variants in order to justify the insane engine requirements of low-volume halo versions? Does any of this sound like a new day for GM’s RWD reputation to you?

Don’t get me wrong: a sub-Zeta RWD platform is a great idea (in Cadillac’s case, probably an existentially necessary one), and my inner enthusiast thrills at the idea of both budget RWD treats and tiny, loony supersedans. But the last thing I want to see is GM spending taxpayer money developing a platform that tries to fill too many niches, only to end up a dud of a compromised-to-death mess.

But it seems that the “all things to all enthusiasts” approach has ruled Alpha platform development, and as a result, well… we’ve got signs of “not good” everywhere. GMI concludes:

Recently GMI has spoken with sources–both internal and supplier–that are working on the Alpha program. According to those sources the Alpha program has been a near constant stream of drama and problems for GM, all of which were compounded by the company’s June 2009 bankruptcy. Even today, as the program nears its final stages of development, problems are still being worked out of the Alpha cars.

GM is now struggling to reduce Alpha’s mass by a quarter-ton. One source indicated that GM is willing to throw all sorts of new composite technologies at the body, structure and powertrain to achieve that goal. Those materials are being thrown at both the Cadillac Alpha cars and the sixth-generation Camaro.

At last report the Cadillac ATS is still slated to launch in mid to late 2012 as a 2013 model-year vehicle.

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Cadillac CTS 3.6 Loses Manual Transmission For 2012 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/cadillac-cts-loses-manual-for-2012/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/cadillac-cts-loses-manual-for-2012/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2011 20:34:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=391822

Cars like Cadillac’s 556 HP, rear-drive, manual transmission-equipped CTS-V SportWagon are the kind of offering that enthusiasts lust after, even if a relative “value-price” of $70k-ish keeps it in aspirational territory. And by offering a CTS “Performance Edition” with the option of mating a six-speed manual to GM’s well-liked 3.6 liter V6, Cadillac gives enthusiasts an appealing opportunity to bask in some of the V’s reflected glory. But apparently not many enthusiasts are interested in pursuing this opportunity, as InsideLine reports that the manual transmission option will be dropped from the 2012 CTS 3.6.

Manual transmissions will continue to be available on all versions of the CTS-V, as well as the base-edition CTS sedan. Unfortunately, this entry-level CTS is saddled to a 3.0 V6 that is widely derided for flaccid performance and poor fuel economy compared to the 3.6. In fact, the 2011 CTS 3.6 with manual transmission gets 16/25 MPG from the EPA, while the 3.0 manual gets 16/26, a fuel economy advantage just one MPG highway. Wait, didn’t we just go through this with the SRX?

Rather than beating GM over the head with the underachievement of its 3.0 V6, we’ll ask all you manual-loving enthusiasts out there why you haven’t been buying enough manual-equipped CTS 3.6s. Is the CTS simply an underwhelming enthusiast option, when not tuned to its maximum V potential? Does the transmission involvement matter less in a vehicle of the CTS’s size (I never missed it when I drove an autobox V, but 556 HP helps with that)? For all the work Cadillac has done to promote the CTS-V as a brand halo, it will want to understand why that halo isn’t helping sell enthusiast-oriented, non-V CTS models.

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Review: 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/review-2011-cadillac-cts-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/review-2011-cadillac-cts-coupe/#comments Mon, 21 Jun 2010 18:11:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=359207

What is luxury? In the American car market, that question doesn’t have an easy answer. Driver-focused performers like BMW’s 3-series sell well here, but so do feature-loaded versions of mass market sedans, like the Lexus ES. Blinged-out baroque still has its adherents, but as the Napa Valley hotel where the Cadillac CTS Coupe was launched proves, a more subtle, sophisticated version of luxury is gaining popularity as well, differentiated by the use of recycled materials and environmentally-friendly technologies. So where in this fragmented and changing category does the CTS Coupe belong?

The last time Cadillac sold a traditional coupe, it bore the heritage-laden Eldorado nameplate which, by its last year of sales in 2002, was grasping at the tatters of a long, once-proud legacy. The Eldorado name may not have launched the “Personal Luxury Coupe” segment (this honor goes to the Ford Thunderbird), but by the dawn of the new millenium, it was keeping the old-school, front-drive, waft-all-day luxury coupe flame alive. Barely.

In the eight years since the Eldorado got lost in the shuffle, the CTS nameplate has ushered in a new era at Cadillac. With the return of rear-wheel-drive and concessions to performance and dynamics, the brand seemed desperate to leave its legacy of large, squishy touring coupes behind. Unfortunately, this meant abandoning the coupe segment altogether, leaving a fundamental element of the brand unrealized for nearly a decade.

Until now. After a few bankruptcy-related false starts, the CTS Coupe that debuted at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show is now sitting in the forecourt of a $450/night hotel, looking nearly unchanged from concept form, and entirely at home. Which is to say, it looks good. In dark colors, it’s Darth Vader meets Don Draper: a symmetrically-creased exercise in sleek, bunker-windowed coupe-dom. From the shortened overhangs, to the faster windshield, to the langheck echoes of the gracefully curving C-pillars, Cadillac has taken the CTS design to what feels like its logical conclusion.

And though Cadillac aptly calls its Coupe the “ultimate expression” of its Art-and-Science styling, there are some pleasing echoes of Cadillac’s past baked into the design. The proportions are classic “Personal Luxury” coupe: kicked-back cabin, long doors, bold face, clean rear-quarter. Viewed side-on, there’s even a hint of Mitchell-era Eldorado about the angular C-pillar, and the rear-deck’s three peaked taillights (the middle of which apparently generates downforce) are as close as a Cadillac’s come to having tailfins since Mitchell took over. Only the shortness of the front and rear overhangs, and the almost cartoonish ratio of steel to glass give the proportions a more purposeful, modern feel.

The promise of this neo-classical look is, of course, that this Cadillac Coupe will do things that no two-door Caddy has done before. Though the two-inch lower roof and sharply-raked windshield are purely aesthetic changes, the shortened overhangs and one-inch wider rear track are meant to do more than introduce a pugnacious profile and gentle, organically-swelling rear fender bulges. Along with a revised axle ratio (3.73:1 replacing the sedan’s 3.42:1) and thicker rear stabilizer bar, these changes were made in hopes that the odd auto journalists might rehabilitate the old “Caddy that Zigs” tagline.

But before getting the chance to test the Coupe’s zigging ability, you have to get into the thing. Touch-button locks keep the exterior looking clean, and work well once you’re used to them. Inside, the interior is unchanged from the CTS sedan, meaning there’s a lot of design, a lot of materials, and a very adequate sensation of luxury. Here, more than anywhere else, Cadillac has a few things to learn from its choice of launch hotel, which managed to make reclaimed wood and rusting steel seem luxurious, and the Caddy’s interior seem downright garish.

Interior dimensions are predictably hampered by the Coupe’s crisply-tailored suit. At about six foot one, my head resolutely grazed the headliner until the driver’s seat was at its lowest setting. Even then, spirited driving over bumpy roads caused the occasional annoying head-tap. The rear bucket seats are surprisingly spacious… below shoulder-height. Hip and leg room are more than adequate, but head and shoulder room are non-existent for the post-pubescent. But then I don’t seem to remember Don Draper or Darth Vader ever volunteering their personal luxury coupes for carpooling duty.

Fire up the standard 3.6 liter V6, pop the shifter into drive, and the Coupe pulls into traffic with ease. The lower axle ratio is immediately noticeable when pulling away from stops, but probably only if you just got out of a CTS Sedan or Sportwagon. Don’t expect noisy burnouts though: the difference is manifested more as a slight annoyance with the sedan than a sense that the Coupe is a drooling, snarling beast. In fact, cruising through the small towns and curving roads of California’s wine country at the speed limit is a quiet, refined experience. The only thing missing from the smooth, revvy V6 is some soft V8 burble. Otherwise, this coupe has more horsepower (304) and only 27 lb-ft less torque than the old Eldo’s Northstar, and makes a great wafting companion. Things have changed in eight years, but Cadillac Coupes are still best when cruised graciously from luxurious destination to luxurious destination.

And what if a few curves appear? Slide the shifter towards the passenger to activate sport mode, and “turn off” the traction control, and the CTS loses its bourgeois decorum faster than a sorority girl at Señor Frogs. Though Cadillac does not re-map engines for sport-mode, the transmission changes alone are downright surprising. Not only will it hold a gear until you’ve wrung every last raspy gasp from the V6, but it’s far more aggressive in its downshifts than you’d expect. In fact, once in this so-called “competition mode” the drivetrain absolutely insists that you abuse the right pedal, punishing half-hearted pokes at the throttle and brakes with deep downshifts and soaring revs. Nail it hard, and it will stay right with you, keeping a low gear gear coming out of a corner, when other “sport modes” would have short-shifted mid-corner. Technically there are paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel, but most owners will either never know, or quickly forget that they’re there at all.

Unfortunately, the drivetrain’s playfulness is never quite matched by the steering and handing. In fairness, the steering is better weighted than other GM products, and the chassis (tested with FE3 sport suspension) is generally competent at both cruising and cornering. But with the engine and transmission begging for a spanking, it’s all too easy to find the CTS getting flummoxed. There’s grip aplenty from the optional summer tires and uprated suspension, but there’s no respite from the physics of nearly 4,000 pounds trying to hold onto the road. Thanks to the wider rear track, there’s little scope for tail-wagging, and you’ll probably find the Coupe pushing on its front tires as often as it slips its rears. Grab a line and power through a sweeper, and you’ll want for nothing from this loaded example. Try to string several smooth corners together, however, and unless you’re a truly seasoned driver, you’ll end up with more tossing and thrashing than you’ll get out of certain competitors. Weight, visibility and damping deficits keep this Cadillac firmly in the “competent” category of cornering coupes.

And somehow that’s quite alright. Sure, Cadillac wants to be perceived as the equal to a BMW or Mercedes, and clearly this Coupe could do more to flatter the driver around tight roads. But the CTS-V Coupe is being launched later this summer, and its extra 250-odd horsepower and adaptive suspension should fulfill the performance promise of a range-topping luxury coupe. Meanwhile, the standard CTS Coupe is available at a base $38,990, with prices ranging to our loaded tester’s $51,825. Like the Buick Regal we tested recently, the CTS Coupe shows GM’s new approach to luxury: Ride and handling that are refined for commuting duty yet up for some occasional fun, wrapped in a distinctively-styled, modern body.

Unlike the Regal, however, the CTS Coupe hits its styling cues to perfection, and manages to fuse the brand’s future to its past in terms of both style and abilities. It’s a car that makes a distinctive and undeniable fashion statement that you either love or hate. This is the kind of Cadillac that you’d buy after landing a big client, or crushing a nascent rebellion… and if it had been launched in the midst of a go-go economy, it would doubtless sell like hotcakes. In today’s brutally-competitive luxury market, however, it’s neither extra-refined and luxurious nor a therapeutic joy to fling around a windy road. As such it has the same work cut out for it that the CTS sedan still does, some 8 years after it was first launched.

Cadillac paid for our airfare and accommodation for this new product launch, including several delicious meals and an open bar. Since it took place in California’s tony Napa Valley, none of it was cheap.

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Chrysler Stuck With Stuck Gas Pedals. From CTS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/chrysler-stuck-with-stuck-gas-pedals-from-cts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/chrysler-stuck-with-stuck-gas-pedals-from-cts/#comments Sat, 05 Jun 2010 16:19:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=358223

Chrysler is sending out recall notices to owners of 25,000 Dodge Calibers and Jeeps. The reason: Accelerator pedals could become stuck and cause unintended acceleration, Chrysler said according to a report in Reuters. Sound familiar? Wait, there is more …

Five weeks ago, the NHTSA opened an investigation into potentially sticky accelerator pedals in Chrysler vehicles, based on five consumer complaints, says the report.

The interesting part: The pedals were made by CTS, the same company that was a the center of Toyota’s pedal gate.

According to Chrysler, the accelerator pedal for the Caliber and Compass is a “completely different” design and is manufactured with different tooling than the Toyota pedals.

Chrysler said they don’t have to reflash their computer with brake override, because it already has that feature.

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GM Alpha Platform: All Things To All Enthusiasts? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/gm-alpha-platform-all-things-to-all-enthusiasts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/gm-alpha-platform-all-things-to-all-enthusiasts/#comments Tue, 20 Apr 2010 17:20:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=353379

First developed by Holden in 2004, GM’s Zeta platform now underpins vehicles as diverse as the Statesman/Lumina/G8/Caprice sedans, and the Chevy Camaro. Originally designed for full-sized , rear-drive Australian sedans, Zeta was downsized as far as it could be for the Camaro, which reviewers largely view as overweight and rather too ungainly for true sportscar status. Accordingly, GM has been developing a new rear-drive platform known as “Alpha,” which will form the basis of GM’s performance and luxury RWD models for the considerable future. Last we heard about Alpha was last August, when Bob Lutz swore there was no development underway of the platform he compared to BMW’s 1-/3-series. According to Motor Trend, work on the Alpha platform has begun… but there are already signs of trouble.

MT’s big scoop is that GM is “flexing” the Alpha platform. So what the hell does that mean in Ed Whitacre industry-novice-speak?

we’ve learned that the platform is being “protected” for a variety of engines, including four-cylinders, supercharged or turbocharged V-6s, and the small block V-8. By “protected,” we mean the bodies are designed to allow for proper fitting of the various engines, whether they are offered with all the engine choices or not. You don’t “close off” the design to make it impossible to add a different engine or transmission initially unplanned. While four-cylinder engines are smaller than sixes and eights, of course, the cars also must accommodate active engine mounts to account for less inherent refinement and smoothness in the fours.

On the surface this seems like a hefty dollop of awesome. By building flexibility into its new platform, GM will be able to offer cheap, efficient four-bangers in budget enthusiast models (the next-generation Camaro will be based on Alpha) and big V8 power in extreme V-series versions of the Alpha-platform Cadillac, known as the ATS , as well as the next-gen CTS which will also be based on Alpha. Scratch a little deeper though, and some of the problems with this strategy reveal themselves.

The major issue with making Alpha capable of a full engine range is the perennial bane of the Zeta platform, namely weight. In fact, weight concerns were the very reason Hyundai decided to ban V6s from its new Sonata sedan. As Hyundai NA president John Krafcik explains in this video, by not having to engineer V6 and four-cylinder hardpoints, Hyundai’s developers were able to trim significant amounts of weight and mass from the Sonata. And with recent breakthroughs in direct-injected, turbocharged engine technology, they’re giving up little to nothing for the added lightness.

The problem for GM is that it’s invested so much in its power-mad Cadillac V-Series badge that it can’t develop the platform that will underpin the next CTS-V without at least leaving room for a “breathed-on V6.” Which, as MT explains, means they might as well just make it capable of rocking a small-block V8 as well:

Breathed-on V-6s need engine bay accommodation for the blowers or turbos, and for intercoolers. This makes it easy to protect for a small block — overhead valves are more compact at the engine’s top than dual overhead cams with four valves per cylinder. Therefore, they fit more easily than the breathed-on sixes.

Meanwhile, there’s another problem:

These plans are fluid. GM is said to be in a quandary over the transmission designed to accommodate these cars. It’s developing an eight-speed automatic for its V-6s. The question is, will the eight-speed be designed for front-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive?

Before you say, “both, of course,” be aware that new transmissions are very expensive. Adapting an eight-speed for both FWD and RWD can double the already healthy cost of doing it for just one configuration. And while BMW and Lexus eight-speed automatics so far serve only RWD-based cars, if GM decided to design it for transverse mounting, it would serve a much higher volume of cars and trucks.

If it designs the transmission for RWD to better compete with BMW and Lexus, it probably would have to add the transmission to trucks and big SUVs in order to get enough volume

Weight and expense problems? Trying to develop a single platform that’s capable of competitively executing every RWD application across several brands? Compromising mainstream variants in order to justify the insane engine requirements of low-volume halo versions? Does any of this sound like a new day for GM’s RWD reputation to you? Don’t get me wrong: a sub-Zeta RWD platform is a great idea (in Cadillac’s case, probably an existentially necessary one), and my inner enthusiast thrills at the idea of both budget RWD treats and tiny, loony supersedans. But the last thing I want to see is GM spending taxpayer money developing a platform that tries to fill too many niches, only to end up a dud of a compromised-to-death mess. Sure, platforms are becoming more flexible but so are engines. With the Pontiac Solstice GXP’s Ecotec DI four-pot already making 260 horsepower, and with downsized, direct-injection turbo engines poised to become the short-term future of the car industry (to say nothing of CAFE), GM could make the Alpha platform four-cylinder-only and make up the performance difference with the reduced curb weight and engine technology. Too bad it probably won’t.

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Review: Cadillac CTS Sportwagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/review-cadillac-cts-sportwagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/review-cadillac-cts-sportwagon/#comments Mon, 22 Mar 2010 14:48:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=349922

I’m too young to remember the 1970s, but I have recollections of a Cadillac-based abomination known as the “Castilian Fleetwood Estate Wagon.” Perhaps the recent success of Cadillac-based trucks made someone at the RenCen give the Cadillac Wagon a second look. Yet the CTS Sport Wagon isn’t a cobbled-up engineering afterthought, though it reeks of branding desperation: the American icon formerly known as the pinnacle of everything now goes for entry-level luxury success in a station wagon. And that’s why this mirage hailing from the days of Motorized Malaise has some ‘splaining to do.

But wagons have their purpose, especially in Europe. Not so much in America, though using the far-from-ungainly CTS sedan could change all that. Too bad this Estate’s hindquarters are more aesthetically challenged than a Cy Twombly retrospective. Taking the CTS’s bulky proportions to new heights, the Sport Wagon’s short and “fast” roofline sports a pointless quarter window and massively “slow” looking D-pillar. And much like half melted dinner candles in a gothic dungeon, the crystalline tail lamps are an asymmetric eyesore on an already overwrought posterior. Conversely, any wagon sold in the USA is inherently desirable to some. So the CTS Sport Wagon is indeed cool.

And the hits keep on coming, as the CTS Sport Wagon’s interior is the same as the sedan. The front seats are near perfect, while dash materials and buttonage are first rate at this price point. All the requisite wood grain bits and electronic gadgets are accounted for, OnStar or otherwise. GM should be proud of this interior, so let’s get to the heart of the beast.

The business end of any wagon lies south of the B-pillars. The backseat is large enough for two average adults, but the tall beltline and narrow doors add an undue amount of claustrophobia. The cargo area has enough right angles for box friendly loading, albeit not large enough for items held by yesteryear’s wood paneled wagons. And while there’s not enough real estate for an E-class like rear facing seat, the carpeted floor sports elegant metal accents and a shiny sill plate: rivaling the CTS’ dashboard for mid-market luxury supremacy.

No matter, fold the seats and luggage volume becomes a reasonable 58 cubic feet: not exactly striking fear into the Volvo V70, but other European Estates in this price range have some competition. Even the CTS Sport Wagon’s rearward visibility “looks” far better than the blocky pillars and sparse glass imply.

Sadly, relative to boosted Volvos, Audis, and V8 Benzes and Bimmers, the CTS Sport Wagon’s dynamic demeanor is downright uninspired. With the direct injected V6 in play, the CTS Sport Wagon feels downright sluggish until the tach swings above 4000 revolutions. And with no manual transmission option, the sloth like motions of the standard six-speed automatic make for a powertrain that’s like a hibernating bear woken up by a foolish hiker. Hit the gas when the light turns green and there’s a big snore underhood, followed by an explosion of accelerative mediocrity.

If today’s Cadillac can’t muster up class leading acceleration, at least the Germanic chassis and taut suspension are done right. Sporting the somewhat-famous “FE3” suspension moniker, the CTS Sport Wagon has more grip than any street going wagoneer ever needs, and keeps things flat and drama free in the suburbs. Push harder on highway sweepers and the estate still remains flat. Understeer is out there, somewhere, but reaching the CTS Sport Wagon’s upper limits takes dedication and blatant disregard for public safety: this wagon is made for the Nürburgring.

Even better, the Caddy’s steering feel is omnipresent and boundless, making the CTS Sport Wagon feel far smaller and lighter than the 4200lb curb weight suggests. Get some steam in the motor and this whip is an absolute hoot to drive. Just stay on smooth pavement.

Like every other brand with visions of BMW conquests, Cadillacs lose their composure when things get bumpy. FE3 fettling be damned, the 19-inch rolling stock cause more in-cabin jolt than an AMG E-class wagon, with not enough cornering prowess to compensate. If bad roads are a normal part of your commute, get the base suspension. Or wait for a Magnaride option.

No, really. The good stuff isn’t available on a normal Cadillac: Buick’s half-dead Lucerne gets a torque monster V8 and Magnaride, buyers of GM’s top brand must ante for the V-series. So the CTS Sport Wagon is another import wannabe struggling to find its raison d’être: while the components for success gather dust on GM’s shelves. Instead of making the best sedan on the market, Cadillac made a (limited production) station wagon.

Respectable performer or no, this is one more mistake in a series of the wrong moves: why not reincarnate the Cadillac Hearse next time, underwriting a Ghostbuster’s sequel for its introduction?

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The Complete Guide To Toyota Gas Pedals: Teardown, Pictures, Toyota’s Fix, Analysis, And Commentary http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/the-complete-guide-to-toyota-gas-pedals-teardown-pictures-toyotas-fix-analysis-and-commentary/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/the-complete-guide-to-toyota-gas-pedals-teardown-pictures-toyotas-fix-analysis-and-commentary/#comments Wed, 03 Mar 2010 18:27:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=344038

Here’s TTAC’s and the web’s only complete guide to Toyota’s gas pedals (so far), with tear downs, pictures, analysis, explanation, the shim fix, and commentary, all consolidated into one portal:

Part 1: Exclusive: TTAC Takes Apart Both Toyota Gas Pedals: Tear down of both the recalled CTS pedal assembly and the non-recalled Denso pedal assembly. Note: Assumptions and conclusions in this initial tear down lack the more complete understanding of the importance of the friction arm aspect of the CTS unit.

Part 2: Toyota Gas Pedal Fix Explained – With Exclusive Photos: Describes Toyota’s proposed fix for the recalled CTS gas pedal assembly, with detailed photos and graphics. Explains the significance of the friction arm assembly and its limitations.

Part 3: Toyota Gas Pedal Fix Simulated – Friction Reduced, By Too Much?: TTAC simulates the fix prescribed by Toyota for the recalled CTS pedal assembly, and notes how the fix changes the degree of friction, and the possible unintended result. With detailed pictures

Part 4: Why Toyota Must Replace Flawed CTS Gas Pedal With Superior Denso Pedal: Detailed analysis with pictures of the two pedal assemblies, an explanation as to why the Denso design is superior, and a call for having all CTS pedals replaced with the Denso pedal.

Part 5: TTAC Does The Toyota Pedal Shim Fix:  Stop Gap Solution At Best: Toyota’s solution is carried out here with detailed pictures, the whole Toyota document detailing the fix, and our commentary.

Part 6: Toyota Floor Mat/Gas pedal Recall Includes Computer Reflash And Trimming Of Gas Pedals: Info on the details of the floor mat/gas pedal interference recall.

Part 7: Toyota Recall  Creates Unintended Accelerator Consequences: As predicted in Part 4 (above), the CTS shim fix reduces the carefully designed amount of friction required for comfortable and smooth pedal action to the point where pedal action may now be jerky and potentially unsafe.

(Thanks to you-know-who-you-are for access to these parts and info)

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Denso US Office Raided By FBI http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/denso-us-office-raided-by-fbi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/denso-us-office-raided-by-fbi/#comments Wed, 24 Feb 2010 20:12:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=346579

Reuters reports that the Detroit offices of Denso, a major Japanese automotive supplier, has been raided by the FBI as part of an on-going investigation into alleged anti-trust violations. Denso spokeswoman Bridgette Gollinger said the investigation was “absolutely not” related to ongoing recalls by Toyota. Denso supplies accelerator pedals (see above) and other components to the automaker. “We are cooperating with the investigation,” Gollinger said. The FBI raid was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which said that federal investigators had also searched the Detroit area offices of two other Toyota suppliers, Yazaki and Tokai Rika. Curious coincidence of timing as this happens while Akio Toyoda testifies on Capitol Hill.

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TTAC Does The Toyota Pedal Shim Fix: Stop Gap Solution At Best http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/ttac-does-the-toyota-pedal-shim-fix-stop-gap-solution-at-best/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/ttac-does-the-toyota-pedal-shim-fix-stop-gap-solution-at-best/#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2010 23:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=344089

Update: a portal to all of TTAC’s articles on the subject of Toyota gas pedals is here:

Toyota has sent instructions and the shims for the field fix of the recalled sticky CTS gas pedals to dealers as of today. We have obtained the instructions (pdf here) [Hat Tip: Roxer], shims, and carried out the fix on a new CTS pedal accordingly. Follow along as we carry out the fix, and how we arrived at our unhappy conclusion.

The CTS pedal has a friction arm that is designed to generate a certain degree of friction necessary for the proper functioning of the electronic gas pedal. In our earlier tear down and analysis, we pointed out that the CTS design is inferior to others, such as the Denso unit also used in Toyotas. The friction arm is subject to wear and contamination that increases friction to the point of creating a sticky gas pedal.

The friction arm is a pivoted fulcrum; the end with the “friction teeth” rides in two grooved channels in the pedal assembly. Both these parts are made from plastic. The other end of the friction arm is held in place by the return spring, which exerts the pressure necessary to generate the friction. As the friction teeth wear, the gap on the other end increases in relation to the housing. Toyota’s shim is inserted in this gap in order to reduce/limit the amount of friction, and to compensate for wear.

The gap is to be measured by a feeler gauge (photo above), which determines the thickness of shim that is then inserted in the gap. The shim then limits the travel of the fulctum on the spring end, thereby reducing the amount of friction on the teeth as they ride in the grooves.

The next step is to open the gap by inserting a narrow-shank screwdriver, so that the correctly-sized shim can be installed. The unit has been turned upside down to facilitate that.

The shim (gray steel)  is now slid in, and positioned behind a lip that serves to retain it. The shim is kept in place by the pressure of the return spring on the fulcrum, but we wonder whether a strong jolt might not be able to dislodge it. If it did become dislodged, it could potentially cause serious  problems. No one would ever design a unit like this with a loose metal shim that was held in place by spring pressure only.

The next picture shows the shim all the way in place behind the lip. It’s a good thing that lip exists, otherwise this fix would not be possible.

The photo above shows the inside of the unit, with the friction arm extending forward. The shim is clearly visible as the shiny gray rectangle. The pivot axles extending out on both sides of the fulcrum/friction arm are visible as two small white/gray pieces, just below and to both sides of the shim. The friction teeth are visible  towards the front of the unit, riding (now higher) in their grooves.

This photo above was taken previously of the same pedal. It’s difficult to tell exactly from the slightly different angles whether the teeth are riding higher with the shim, but it does appear so. And a subjective impression was that the pedal had somewhat less friction. So the fix may well reduce the friction below a dangerous level, but for how long?

The only way we interpret the necessity of measuring the friction arm gap and choosing an appropriately sized shim is that the older units with more wear will have a smaller gap than the new(er) ones. The shim will compensate for that wear, but in a static, not dynamic way. As soon as the continued wear on the friction arm changes its size or other friction characteristics, the pedal is potentially back to the same sticky situation as before.

The shim’s effect on reducing the amount of friction will presumably slow down the wear process, but intrinsically, this is not a permanent fix to a very critical part, from a safety point of view. This is why the CTS-type pedal design is flawed, because it is subject to changes in the amount of friction it generates due to wear and other factors.

The only other explanation for the varying gap size and different shims is that the manufacturing tolerances are so great, that this is necessary to compensate for them. That’s that hard to imagine, for such a critical part. But if so, it raises other serious questions about this unit. Either way, it reinforces our position that Toyota needs to replace all the CTS pedals with Denso pedals or another proven pedal design, as soon as they are available. The shim fix is a Band Aid, and does not inspire the confidence that Toyota urgently needs to instill in its customers and the market place at this critical time.

Update: Given that Toyota has acknowledged that these pedal assemblies cost them $15, it would obviously be cheaper (and more reliable) to swap out the CTS units with the Denso unit rather than this fussier and riskier fix. The problem is time; it could take many months if not a year or more to change tooling and produce 2.3 million units. Meanwhile, making these shims was obviously something that a stamping manufacturer could do in days.

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Lentz: Don’t Like The Gas Pedal Fix? Insist On Replacement! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/lentz-dont-like-the-gas-pedal-fix-insist-on-replacement/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/lentz-dont-like-the-gas-pedal-fix-insist-on-replacement/#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2010 14:04:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=343808

One of the lingering concerns over the Toyota recall is whether Toyota’s “precision steel” shim fix to the recalled CTS gas pedal assembly will be a reliable long-term solution. Our analysis indicates that these questions might be well-founded, and we’re not the only ones concerned about the viability of Toyota’s proposed fix. In an interview with Toyota’s Jim Lentz yesterday evening, NPR asked why Toyota was using a redesigned pedal for new production, but only offering the shim fix to existing customers. Lentz insisted that the repaired pedals would be as good as the redesigned pedal, that the costs of repair and replacement were about the same, and that the main reason Toyota was repairing rather than replacing recalled pedals was the desire to “get customers back on the road… as quickly as we possibly can.” That’s when NPR went for the jugular.

NPR asked: “if I’m a Toyota owner subject to this recall and I say ‘I don’t want a repaired accelerator pedal, I want a new one.’ Is that an option?” To which Lentz replied: “it will be looked at on a case-by-case basis.” When NPR asked for Lentz to clarify what he meant by “case-by-case basis,” he said “It’s really up to… between the dealer and the customer. We would like to see customers get this fix done with the precision cut steel bar and see how that is. I think the customers are going to be very satisfied with overall quality of the pedal and the feel of the pedal.”

In short, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If you’re paranoid about the quality of Toyota’s “precision steel” shim repair, ask for a new pedal. And tell ‘em Jim Lentz sent you. Of course, there’s no guarantee that your Toyota dealer will have new pedal assemblies, as they’re being sent to plants for installation in newly produced cars. Nor is there any guarantee that the “redesigned” assembly isn’t simply the same CTS unit with the shim pre-installed.

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Canadian Suit Alleges Toyota Electronic Throttle Control Defect http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/canadian-suit-alleges-toyota-electronic-throttle-control-defect/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/canadian-suit-alleges-toyota-electronic-throttle-control-defect/#comments Mon, 01 Feb 2010 22:41:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=343732
According to a PR Newswire release, a class action suit has been filed against Toyota and supplier CTS, alleging “inherent design defects,” specifically a “lack of failsafes” in Toyota’s ETCS-i (Electronic Throttle Control System-intelligent), in use since 2001. As in not the pedal assembly. A similar suit was filed in the US last November. Today, Toyota’s Jim Lentz was emphatic that electronics were not the issue with the ongoing recall, but shortly after the US suit was filed, Toyota quietly announced that an electronic brake override system would be installed on certain vehicles with automatic transmissions. Is that as good as an admission of guilt? You can bet the lawyers are already saying so. The full release is available after the jump.

TORONTO, Feb. 1 /PRNewswire/ – A national class action has been commenced on behalf of all Canadian owners, operators, lessors and/or passengers of Toyota vehicles with the ETCS-i throttling system.

The claim seeks compensation for losses and injuries as a result of the purchase or use of numerous Toyota vehicles. The defendants named in the lawsuit are Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., Toyota Motor North America, Inc., Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc., Toyota Canada Inc., Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. and CTS of Canada Ltd., CTS of Canada Holding Co., CTS of Canada GP Ltd., CTS of Canada Co. and CTS Corporation.

The claim, filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, alleges that Toyota and CTS Corporation knew or ought to have known of inherent design defects in the ETCS-i System and its component parts that have been used in models of Toyota vehicles manufactured since 2001. The consequences of these design defects, including the lack of failsafes used by other auto manufacturers, have resulted in numerous reports throughout North America of uncontrollable unintended accelerations, including cases of collisions involving severe injuries and death to drivers and passengers of these vehicles.

Joel P. Rochon, a partner at Rochon Genova LLP said: “This is a complex problem spanning several years and many models–we are concerned that the recent announcement of a “fix” appears not to address the ETCS-i Systems itself, nor the issue of a lack of failsafe which would permit the driver to regain control of the vehicle in the event of an unintended acceleration.”

“Having only purchased a brand new car a few weeks ago, I simply cannot believe that Toyota would have sold me this vehicle”, said the proposed representative plaintiff Steven Hamilton. “I can’t even resell my car now–I am seeking a full refund.”

The allegations raised in the claim have not yet been proven in court. The plaintiff and the proposed class members are represented by the firm of Rochon Genova LLP.

SOURCE ROCHON GENOVA LLP

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Toyota Gas Pedal Fix Explained – With Exclusive Photos http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/toyota-gas-pedal-fix-explained-with-exclusive-photos/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/toyota-gas-pedal-fix-explained-with-exclusive-photos/#comments Mon, 01 Feb 2010 18:16:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=343679

Update: A portal to all of TTAC’s related articles on Toyota gas pedals is here:

Toyota has released their official “fix” for the sticky CTS-made gas pedals on the recalled models affected. From their graphic, it’s difficult to understand what parts are involved, and how they work. Thanks to our recent tear-down of the CTS pedal, we have the pictures and familiarity with the unit to explain it in detail.

The pedal is designed to have a certain amount of friction or hysteresis built in. This is done so that the fatigue of pressing the pedal continually is not onerous or becomes fatiguing. It also replicates the friction that would normally be present in a conventional throttle cable as it passes through its housing. A throttle assembly without the correct amount of friction or hysteresis would be very difficult to control smoothly.

Obviously, the exact amount of friction designed into the unit is very critical, so that the pedal returns as soon as the pressure is removed or reduced. The relationship of the spring pressure and built in friction must be stable and consistent. Toyota has stated that that is not always the case with the recalled CTS units, and that the degree of friction can increase over time due to wear and/or condensation, to the extent that the friction is greater than the pressure from the return spring. This would potentially cause a gas pedal to return slowly, unevenly, or not at all from the point where it was released.

This problem would not be the cause of “unintended acceleration” to the extent that the pedal would only stay open as much as it was before being released, although it could well be experienced as such. If the car was being accelerated briskly as on an on-ramp or hill, and the pedal stuck in that degree of openness, the car could well feel like it was accelerating on its own after the target speed was attained and the foot pressure reduced.

The affected part is in the lower center of the photo above (A), and in more detail in the one below. It is integral to the part that retains the return spring. The friction area is seen as the small “teeth” or “ears” protruding to the left at the very bottom of the picture. These two teeth ride in the two grooves of the pedal assembly (B), and are held against each other when the spring assembly is locked into position.  The area of friction is seen as the grayish worn area on the teeth just beyond of the (crude) arrow.

From Toyota’s graphic (below) and from my experience handling the unit, it appears that there is a certain amount of free play of the spring retainer/friction block unit. In Toyota’s graphic below, it shows that unit tilting slightly, perhaps due to too much free play or wear of the plastic components. The steel reinforcement bar (red unit below) is apparently intended to stabilize the angle of the spring retainer/friction block unit, to ensure that the degree of friction is either more consistent or is compensated for the wear that has occurred.

We intend to secure a pedal unit and the steel reinforcement bar as soon as they are available for further examination and evaluation.

Update: see follow-up story on replicating the “fix” here. And the final piece comparing the Denso with the CTS unit, and our conclusion and recommendation is here.

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Exclusive: TTAC Takes Apart Both Toyota Gas Pedals http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/exclusive-ttac-takes-apart-both-toyota-gas-pedals/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/exclusive-ttac-takes-apart-both-toyota-gas-pedals/#comments Sat, 30 Jan 2010 21:26:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=343512

Update: To see all of TTAC’s related articles on the subject of Toyota gas pedals, go here:

In yesterday’s post , we offered a bounty for anyone to open up both the CTS (bottom) and Denso (top) Toyota gas pedal assemblies. No one took us up, and no one anywhere else has done it, so we took it upon ourselves . Here they are, both e-pedal assemblies taken apart and examined, in our quest to understand if and what the significant differences are, and how Toyota’s possible “shim” fix would work.  On initial observation, it appears that the CTS may be perceived as being the more solidly engineered/built unit, in that the pedal pivots on a traditional and solid steel axle whose bearings are brass or bronze sleeves. The Denso’s whole pivot and bearing surfaces are relatively flimsy-feeling plastic. But that can be deceptive, and we’re not qualified to judge properly if it is indeed inferior or superior.  So the question that goes beyond the analysis of these e-pedals is this: are these units really the full source of the problem, or are they scape goats for an electronics and/or software glitch? Pictures and tear down examination and analysis follows:

Update #2: It’s clear to me now that the CTS unit I took apart already had the side cover plates (sheet metal) removed before I examined it. One can see where they fit, and are obviously intended to protect the exposed axle pivot and bushing seen above and below:

(Update #3: Also see our follow-up stories on Toyota’s fix and our replication of the fix and its results)

Lets take a close look at the CTS unit:

We drove out the pivot pin with a C-clamp and screwdriver. It’s a very traditional design, like millions of plain-bearing (non roller-ball bearing) non-lubricated devices used in a huge variety of devices for decades, if not even centuries. The softer brass or bronze acts as relatively low-friction bearing. With the substantial pressure from the springs, it seems relatively unlikely that this would lock up, but that seems to be the concern. It’s possible that there is a greater potential for binding due to the tighter tolerances in the axle/sleeve assembly. A close up of the axle and bearing:

A big question for us was if there are dual springs, in the case one fails. Here is the CTS unit apart. Note that the pointed metallic part on the bottom of the pivot is the magnet that passes between the sensors in the case of the unit, which is how the sensor sends the throttle position signal to the engine controller.

The outer red spring surrounds the inner black coil spring. It seems that the possible “shim fix” that Toyota is considering would be a spacer on the bottom of this spring assembly, which would increase the pressure on it and presumably reduce the likelihood of the pedal sticking. I’m not an expert on springs, but the spring is already pre-loaded (compressed) to some degree when it is assembled, and unless these are variable rate springs, I wonder whether that would actually increase the working resistance of the spring unit. Since I had no problem taking the pedal/pivot unit apart which also houses the spring unit, and reassembling it as well, it would appear that if that route is taken, it should be easily done in a few minutes at the dealership.

To understand that part more clearly, here is a shot of the CTS unit assembled, with the main cover off, showing the pivot arm with the magnet and how it passes past  the sensors (Autoblog has a video explaining how the CTS sensor works, but no teardown):

Lets examine the Japanese Denso unit (below, which comes apart by removing the side cover held on by five screws. It is already apparent from the outside that there is no axle pivot that runs through this unit.

The Denso is a dramatically differently designed unit. The pivoting unit (green) is a plastic “bearing” that just sits inside the two outer units. One can see what it bears against in the side cover. The magnet is the square unit in the middle of the green pivot, and the sensor appears to be the round unit inside the side cover.  The numerous small bright metal protrusions on the side cover are not identified. I thought they were the sensors, but nothing runs over/past them. Here is a closer look at the spring assembly still installed and the plastic pivot “bearing” surface:

Here’s another view of the Denso unit:

The Denso spring unit, also a double coil unit, has a protective “sleeve” over the inner spring to reduce binding between them, since the Denso unit’s spring is in a substantially curved position inside the housing. The CTS does not have this feature, but it appears that its spring is less curved when installed.:

Subjective impressions of taking these two units apart are the opposite of what one typically would assume. The Denso unit feels “cheaper” in that the whole pivot bearing area is all plastic, and feels relatively more flimsy (that doesn’t necessarily mean it actually is). The CTS unit relies on very traditional steel and brass sleeve bearing that took some effort to take apart. The CTS pedal has no play or wiggle when assembled.

The big question is why Toyota completely redesigned the CTS unit from the older Denso unit. Perhaps they were actually trying to design a sturdier assembly because the Denso unit was in question. Perhaps the Denso unit is actually inferior in certain ways, but Toyota didn’t want to pay for new tooling to bring the Denso unit up to the newer CTS design? Source have told me that the Denso unit is likely to be recalled shortly, and the LA Times is reporting that there are known claims of pedal issues with the Japanese Denso unit.

From our perspective, it seems possible but rather highly unlikely that condensation is somehow causing the very solid CTS bearing pivot to lock up, given the spring tension and the units solidity. CTS claims it has only experienced a very limited degree of stiction at or near the idle point on a very few examples.

A key question is which unit was designed first. The CTS unit was used in Avalons since ’05 MY. Apparently Denso units have been in use before that. The question being: why did Toyota design two such fundamentally different units, and is the latter one designed to address any deficiencies of the older one?

Both units are surprisingly simple and obviously cheap, yet they feel robust when assembled. I believe Toyota has stated that the unit cost is $15 per pedal assembly. The retail price is about $120.

The overriding question is if these pedals are really the predominant or sole cause in any true (non-floor-mat caused) unintended acceleration, or whether electronics are the real 800 lb gremlin in this whole affair. Toyota has not acknowledged that…yet.

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Toyota Update: CTS Blames Toyota, Already-Produced Vehicle Retrofitting Could Take Years http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/toyota-update-cts-blames-toyota-already-produced-vehicle-retrofitting-could-take-years/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/toyota-update-cts-blames-toyota-already-produced-vehicle-retrofitting-could-take-years/#comments Thu, 28 Jan 2010 18:32:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=343331

Supplier CTS, who produced the gas pedals now under recall from Toyota, tells Automotive News [sub] that it “built parts to the automaker’s specifications and says it has no knowledge that its parts were responsible for any accidents or injuries.” Sources at CTS tell AN that although they are working on a fix with Toyota and that new pedals have been tested and are shipping to Toyota plants, “this is their recall.” That would seem to contradict the facts of the case, as Denso, Toyota’s gas pedal supplier for Japanese-built models, has not been involved in the recall. According to Inside Line, the issue with pedal return damping that has plagued CTS-supplied, US-built Toyotas has not turned up in Denso-produced gas pedals.

Separately, AN [sub] reports that blueprints for the redesigned pedal were finalized earlier this week, and are now being shipped to Toyota plants. This will help Toyota restart production quickly at its CTS-supplied plants in Indiana, Texas, Kentucky and Canada. But due to the size of the Toyota recall, retrofitting already-produced models will be expensive and time consuming. The two million+ pedals Toyota needs to replace recalled units account for more than CTS’s annual pedal production, meaning dealers could be stuck with unsaleable models for an extended period.

Accordingly, analysts tell AN [sub] that publicly-traded dealer groups could lose up to $1.5m gross profit per week because of the recall. Matt Nemer of Wells Fargo Securities says groups like AutoNation, Penske and Group1 could see per-share losses of 2 cents per week, putting downward pressure on their stock prices. Already Group1, which is one of the most import-dependent of the bunch, has seen its stock slide over 6 percent.

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Chinese Ford Transit Production Halted Over Pedal Concerns http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/chinese-ford-transit-production-halted-over-pedal-concerns/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/chinese-ford-transit-production-halted-over-pedal-concerns/#comments Thu, 28 Jan 2010 16:34:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=343319

Though Toyota is getting the brunt of the attention for what are apparently faulty gas pedals, the fact that the problem has been traced to supplier CTS means that Toyota isn’t the only OEM that’s shutting down production until a fix for the pedals is found. Bloomberg reports that Ford’s JV with Jiangling Motors in Nanchang, China has halted production of the Ford Transit commercial van, after switching over to CTS-supplied pedals in December. “We think it’s pretty isolated, but we are aggressively running it to ground,” Ford’s Alan Mulally told analysts in today’s financial results conference call. No other Transits are said to be affected, and Jiangling says that they have not received any reports of unintended acceleration for its Transits.

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GM Cutting Prices, Upping Ad Spend For Once-Hot Malibu, CTS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/gm-cutting-prices-upping-ad-spend-for-once-hot-malibu-cts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/gm-cutting-prices-upping-ad-spend-for-once-hot-malibu-cts/#comments Sat, 09 Jan 2010 00:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=341219 But who saves the savior? (courtesy:mtforums)

When someone pays tax, they generally like to think it’s going to towards something that will benefit society. Maybe it might be a repaired road? Or funding towards a crumbling school? I doubt they would want the money to go towards shifting a supposed CamCord killer or an alleged 3 series rival, but that’s what’s going to happen. BusinessWeek reports that executives at “New” General Motors are going to cut prices and rework adverts to boost flagging sales of the Chevrolet Malibu and the Cadillac CTS; two saloons considered critical to meeting Ed Whitacre’s target of a profitable 2010. That’s right, “New” GM are going to cut prices (A.K.A “Cash on hood”) to make more sales. Sound familiar?

GM’s North American president, Mark Reuss, are hoping that these plans will reduce the excess inventory at dealerships. Inventories were at five months’ supply, more than twice the industry average. “The CTS is going to be fixed, now,” said Mark Reuss. “We’re going to be right on the back of that working on Malibu. We’ve got to have Malibu selling a lot more than we do right now. We’re looking at what we should be doing with the car versus where we’re at.”. Steve Shannon, executive director of marketing at Cadillac said that CTS prices were cut by as much as $3000.

Business Week also reports that 3 people, familiar with Ed Whitacre’s plans, say that one of his criterion is to maintain U.S market share at 20%. However, the 3 people asked not to be named because the plans are not public. The GM CEO and Chairman wasn’t commenting on his plans. So much for transparency at GM.

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LA Auto Show: CTS Coupe Launch http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/12/la-auto-show-cts-coupe-launch/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/12/la-auto-show-cts-coupe-launch/#comments Wed, 02 Dec 2009 19:14:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=337648 Don Draper, your coupe has arrived.

TTAC was invited to Cadillac’s CTS Coupe wine-and-dine event yesterday, held in that prime habitat of the modern Cadillac: the hood. OK, so it was a trendy club located in an LA slum… same diff. The CTS coupe took center stage with the new SRX, CTS wagon, CTS-V and Escalade filling out the lineup. Where were the ugly-stepsisters the DTS and STS? Not invited said a Cadiilac rep. Upon first (long distance) glance the CTS Coupe looks entertaining, but it’s only when you get up close that the true weight of this beast hits you: this is one BIG coupe. Which is funny, considering the CTS Sportwagon next to it looks remarkably small for a wagon. But there’s the rub, Caddy is trying to do everything possible with the CTS with the minimum of effort (read: cost). The proportions of the CTS belie it’s uselessness: the rear seats have the leg room and width to coddle two linebackers but sadly only enough headroom for an oompa-loompa. The art and science design team gave the CTS coupe the most defined rump of the Cadillac lineup, a dramatic chevron which culminates in a steeply triangular rear bumper and trunk lid. And yes folks that’s a trunk lid, not a useful hatchback as we might have preferred. All in all, this is one square jawed Caddy, in the mold of the classic personal luxury coupe. ctslaunch3 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ctslaunch5 ctslaunch21-thumb CTSlaunch1 Don Draper, your coupe has arrived. ctslaunch6 ctslaunch4

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: The Search For Eldorado Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/12/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-the-search-for-eldorado-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/12/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-the-search-for-eldorado-edition/#comments Wed, 02 Dec 2009 16:25:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=337611 More on the CTS Coupe unveiling forthcoming....

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Review: Cadillac CTS Sportwagon AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/review-cadillac-cts-sportwagon-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/review-cadillac-cts-sportwagon-awd/#comments Mon, 30 Nov 2009 15:58:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=337335 cadctswagonThere was, back in the 70s, a Saturday morning cartoon in which the heroes could push a button on the dashboard of their van and turn it into a fire truck, dune buggy or stretch limo – whatever they needed. They don’t really make this vehicle. I know because I’ve looked. I need one. On most weekdays I start my commute in a the small bus, spending time sitting and wishing for softer, more plush environs and ultimately – when the traffic thins – become desperate for a street legal club racer. Now, finally, after 40 years, I may have found my car.

cadctswagonrearThe Cadillac CTS Sportwagon joins a market others are abandoning, and I think it’s one of the smarter moves the brand can make. CUVs are wagons on stilts. If you don’t need to rock climb – and most of these can’t anyway – the closer the center of gravity is to the ground, the more fun you’re going to have driving. So, if you want to haul dogs, hockey equipment, or sky diving gear and enjoy the task, the sport wagon is the way to go.

Sadly, sport wagons have been going to way of the Woody. In American, at least. Mercedes likes ‘em tall. Volvo’s R is now just a style. Audi and BMW have very competitive offerings in this class, but Cadillac has them beat when it comes to, of all things, balance.We’re not talking optimum weight distribution for acumen on the track; the CTS Sportwagon is balanced for real life.

The test car was a black 3.6L V6 Premium with all-wheel drive. That means a 304 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, which is decent, usable power despite the two tons of steel and glass you’ve got your hands on. A 3.0 V-6 is also available. The variable valve timing has become requisite in this class, so it probably doesn’t deserve a mention, except that this engine is, overall, so sherry-oak smooth. The push between 5 and 6 thousand RPMs is rewarding, inspiring heavy-footed antics behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, the chassis’ emphasis on competence over thrills doesn’t. With the optional sport suspension, the car trims the road nicely nicely enough, and there’s just enough rear-wheel bias and front play [Ed: foreplay?] to make the word ‘sport’ more than a marketing term. There is some roll and not enough juice to kick the back out, especially when configured with AWD. The tester had 19″ all season tires, so I’m thinking the chassis has more to offer. Comparable Audi and BMW models are probably more track friendly, but between church and the donut shop, you’re not going to notice. cadctswagonint

What you will notice is the ride. The CTS sucks up the road’s imperfections like a much bigger vehicle. Cadillac has turned the settings slightly towards comfort – away from handling – and it feels like a very nice compromise. While trying to woo customers with European taste for rear storage, they have not forgotten they are Cadillac, and the Sportwagon is a rightfully comfy car.

The six-speed transmission is merely competent. It wasn’t over active, like some others that have grown a cog, but it didn’t always jump down when I wanted. I guess that’s why they make a manual mode. Still, I’m not convinced that I should know better than the computer.

My major quibble is with the brakes. They had a lot of play and didn’t follow the same application-of-force curve of every other modern vehicle I’ve driven in the last two years. They stop the wagon. They even stop it well. They just don’t stop it when you think they will. I eventually got used to the flatter curve, but I can’t say I ever liked it. Not necessarily a deal breaker, just odd.

The exterior is the best use yet of Cadillac’s box of knives design language.Like a Photoshopper extending a model’s legs to make a Tod’s ad more appealing, the wagon body’s lengthening of the roof and hip lines makes the CTS design more elegant, without losing any of its punch. This is Cadillac’s best looking car. In 30 years, anyway.

2010 Cadillac CTS Sport WagonLikewise, the interior doesn’t let the rest of the vehicle down. Much. The wood trim does seem dowdy, but the alternative fake carbon fiber is alternatively fake. Otherwise, you’re in the kind of airport lounge no one has anymore: silvery bevels, sumptuous leather and worthy plastics. I like the air vents integrated into the center column and the navigation screen that gets out of the way. The wagon in question has a couple of features the notched brethren lack. The tailgate opens to about seven feet and closes with the touch of a button. The wagon bed has rails and knobs and ties and nets so you can configure the space for whatever it is you bought this thing to accommodate in the first place. Rear seats up, you’ve got 25 sq. feet of cargo area (more than the competition). Seats down gives you 53, which is mid-pack.

The estimated mileage is 18 city, 26 highway, 21 average. Also mid-pack, considering the horsepower advantage. Write up your order a different way (i.e. without the AWD and 3.6) and your mileage improves. And don’t say you don’t care. In my experience, people who buy wagons do care about such things, even if they are positioned to shell out 50 large for a barge.

Or not. The prevailing thought may be that wagon owners are a bit more practical than the coupe and sedan crowds, but I think wagoners are simply impatient. They don’t want to switch cars to do different things. They want one car that can do everything – plow down the highway with two bales of peat, seats heated, and ten speakers blaring. The CTS Sport Wagon can. It can’t exactly turn into an ice cream truck or hover craft with the flip of a switch, but close enough.

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