In its earlier years, Cadillac had little interest in making smaller cars. When market conditions finally convinced the company's managers that the brand had to have them, the resulting products elicited little favorable reaction from consumers. The modern Cadillac CTS, however, is one entry-level Cadillac that has bucked that trend.
With a cutting-edge design and extensive development work on Germany's famed Nürburgring test track, the CTS sport sedan is aimed squarely at the class leaders in one of the industry's most competitive segments. It's also a bit larger than many of the cars that it competes against in terms of price and design philosophy.
There have been two generations of the Cadillac CTS. Despite some obvious shortcomings in terms of interior design and quality, the first CTS went on to be one of Cadillac's most popular models as well as the only main domestic entry to truly compete against the top European and Japanese entry-level luxury cars. It's worth a look as a used or pre-owned model. For the second-generation CTS, Cadillac made substantial improvements to interior design and materials quality. It's an excellent luxury sport sedan, and consumers interested in this type of car should give it serious consideration.
Current Cadillac CTS
Offering a well-sorted blend of all-American style and European-inspired tuning, the popular Cadillac CTS has made a name for itself amongst the many established players in the entry-level luxury sedan segment. Two V6 engines are available. Standard power comes from a 3.0-liter direct-injection (DI) V6 generating 270 horsepower, while the available 3.6-liter V6 puts out 304 hp. Both engines can be equipped with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. The CTS is also offered in both rear-wheel and all-wheel-drive (AWD) configurations, though AWD models are limited to the base engine and automatic transmission.
Standard equipment for the Cadillac CTS is decent, and a full complement of the latest safety technology is standard as well. There are a variety of luxury options, including leather seating, a premium audio system and a hard-drive-based navigation system that can store digital music files. Two sport suspension packages are also available to further the CTS's handling capabilities. For those looking to make the most out of each gallon of gasoline, the Eco Lux Collection option (available on the base 3.0-liter V6 only) alters aerodynamics and tires to achieve 30 mpg on the highway -- a gain of 3 mpg.
Overall, the upgraded interior and spirited powertrains have pushed the CTS into top-tier status for a luxury sport sedan. While it might not qualify for "Standard of the World" status just yet, Cadillac's entry-level model has evolved into a much more capable car all the way around and can now more than hold its own against the best cars in this segment both in terms of luxury appeal and driving prowess. There is a CTS SportWagon available and it is covered in a separate review.
Used Cadillac CTS Models
The second-generation Cadillac CTS sedan debuted for the 2008 model year and compared to the original CTS, the new model is more refined and powerful. Overall body dimensions are similar to the original CTS, but there are an additional 2 inches of track width to give the sedan a more powerful stance. The first CTS's lackluster interior was remedied via a substantially higher level of quality and a more attractive design.
There have been changes made since this generation's introduction. Prior to the 2010 model year, the base engine was a 3.6-liter V6 that made 258 horsepower -- slightly less than the current 3.0-liter direct-injection motor. Fuel economy was also lower for the '08 and '09 models, but only by about 1 mpg. The SportWagon was not available prior to '10.
The first-generation Cadillac CTS was sold from the 2003-'07 model years. When it debuted, the CTS was one of Cadillac's first cars to fully emphasize the brand's modern, angular styling themes. It was also a significant departure from traditional modern Cadillacs because of its rear-wheel drive, available manual transmission, stiff body structure and sport-oriented handling dynamics.
The car's larger-than-average exterior dimensions translated to a roomier cabin that could accommodate five adults. A fair number of features came standard, including antilock brakes and side curtain airbags. Upscale features were typically bundled as part of optional packages. Common options included a premium Bose audio system, a DVD-based navigation system, xenon headlights and a sunroof. A sport package provided a sport-tuned suspension, bigger wheels and tires, and stability control.
In its first year, the Cadillac CTS came only with a 3.2-liter V6 good for 220 hp. This was joined in 2004 by a more desirable 255-hp 3.6-liter V6. At the time, the base V6 was available with a five-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic. The larger V6 came with the automatic only. In 2005, however, the 3.2-liter engine was dropped in favor of a smaller, 210-hp 2.8-liter engine. Cadillac also upgraded the manual transmission to a six-speed unit and made it available for the 3.6-liter V6 as well.
Previous to the CTS, Cadillac's entry-level vehicle was the Catera. Based on Europe's Opel Omega, it was offered from 1997-2001. This model was not particularly popular with consumers or Edmunds.com's editorial staff, and it's recommended that used-car shoppers consider other vehicles in this segment.