Between the Lines: Car and Driver on the New Cadillac CTS

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
between the lines car and driver on the new cadillac cts

Aside from ad revenue, why would a car magazine want to position itself as a cheering section for General Motors? Well exactly. Car and Driver’s September review of the “new” Cadillac CTS is such a blatant example of boosterism it puts the "sub" in "subsidy." This will come as no surprise to regular readers who’ve watched the buff book slowly sink into a glossy ghetto of pistonhead prostitution. Even so, I feel compelled to use C&D’s CTS review as a re-launching pad for Between the Lines, so that TTAC readers understand what this website stands for. Or, more precisely, against.

By its very title, “Second Wind” pronounces the CTS refreshed, re-energized and ready to take on the transplants (which have been slaughtering it in the sales charts). According to the all-caps strapline, the model also represents a new dawn for General Motors.


“Amazingly, each new product coming down the GM pipeline these days seems to signal that the once-defining beancounter bureaucracy has finally been replaced by a genuine desire to create top-notch products. And this latest CTS is the most comprehensively integrated vehicle we’ve seen yet.”

Not so amazingly, Dave Vanderwerp’s opening salvo fails to consider the “new” Chevrolet Aveo, a car so afflicted with beancounteritis it began life as a budgeting exercise. Anyway, one can immediately sense the author’s discomfort with the task ahead. The appearance of the word “seems” before an otherwise bold declaration of a product-led GM renaissance indicates a tension between editorial integrity and complete horseshit.

To wit: what the Hell is a “comprehensively integrated vehicle?” Do the newish CTS’ parts– suspension, engine, brakes, etc.– form a coherent whole, in a BMW 3-Series sort of way? Or does it mean all the parts fit?

Vanderwerp spends the next three ‘graphs contradicting the "new GM" thesis. He reveals that GM insurance regulations prohibited CTS lead development engineer Rob Kotrak from driving the car during its Nürburgring workouts. “What was that about a bureaucracy?” Vanderwerp demands of himself. Good question.

Literary self-flagellation aside, we get our first critical assessment. Blasting around the Green Hell, the CTS was "planted and predictable and never did anything unexpected.” Like what? Ascend above the asphalt like the cars in the TV ad? NOT overheat? The mind boggles.

Vanderwerp then lauds the CTS’ aesthetic perfection: “There’s no bad view of the new car…” Fair enough, but the author quickly hints that the CTS’ looks “might” have to be enough for buyers contemplating C&D’s favorite ‘Ringmeister.

“The redesigned CTS still might not stand a chance to be as responsive as the smaller and much lighter– by about 400 pounds– BMW 335i, but our favorite sports sedan has nothing on the Caddy’s aggressive looks.”

Apparently, there’s trouble down at the mill. After praising the CTS’ new 304hp V6 for its smoothness, “enthusiasm” between 4000 and 7000rpm, and ability to “run” with a Mercedes C350 and BMW 328i, Vanderwerp points out the new, portlier CTS is only a tenth of a second quicker through the quarter mile than the full-size Cadillac STS.

Hang on; why are we talking about tenths of seconds anyway? I mean, it’s a small Caddy, not a BMW. Who gives a damn?

Cadillac, as evidenced by the fact that GM’s PR flacks gave Vanderwerp a CTS equipped with the FE3 sports package; including super-sticky summer tires and revised dampers. Surely anyone looking for performance from the CTS would opt for the V-Series derivative. And every other CTS rides on more compliant all-season rubber. So… what are we talking about here?

From this point on, we’re talking about excuses and weasel words. Every criticism of the CTS arrives via a pulled punch or an ameliorative aside.

“The upgraded rack-and-pinion steering is linear and now offers more feedback, although its weighting is on the light side of perfection.” The manual “isn’t nearly as fluid as those from BMW” but the new “well-behaved six-speed automatic… will likely be the more popular choice anyway.” “Comfortable seats with surprising thigh and upper back support… will likely please the masses, but during exuberant driving, we wished for more lateral support.”

The CTS’ cabin earns Vanderwerp’s full, unadulterated admiration. THIS is where the aforementioned coherence resides: “Possibly the most dramatic improvement to the CTS is the upscale and coherently flowing interior, complete with classy materials and top-notch fit and finish.” Maybe so, but the author’s conclusion is a lot less credible.

“But with more style, power and features, we think the new CTS– and the new GM, for that matter– is destined to be even more of a winner.”

Yes, well, neither car nor company could be any LESS of a winner, could they? Or could they? One thing's for sure: the answer to that question will not be found in Car and Driver.

[Full C&D CTS review here .]

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  • Ollicat I have a Spyder. The belt will last for many years or 60,000-80,000 miles. Not really a worry.
  • Redapple2 Cadillac and racing. Boy those 2 go together dont they? What a joke. Up there with opening a coffee shop in NYC. EvilGM be clowning. Again.
  • Jbltg Rear bench seat does not match the front buckets. What's up?
  • Theflyersfan The two Louisville truck plants are still operating, but not sure for how much longer. I have a couple of friends who work at a manufacturing company in town that makes cooling systems for the trucks built here. And they are on pins and needles wondering if or when they get the call to not go back to work because there are no trucks being made. That's what drives me up the wall with these strikes. The auto workers still get a minimum amount of pay even while striking, but the massive support staff that builds components, staffs temp workers, runs the logistics, etc, ends up with nothing except the bare hope that the state's crippled unemployment system can help them keep afloat. In a city where shipping (UPS central hub and they almost went on strike on August 1) and heavy manufacturing (GE Appliance Park and the Ford plants) keeps tens of thousands of people employed, plus the support companies, any prolonged shutdown is a total disaster for the city as well. UAW members - you're not getting a 38% raise right away. That just doesn't happen. Start a little lower and end this. And then you can fight the good fight against the corner office staff who make millions for being in meetings all day.
  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )