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Review: 2005 Cadillac CTS

July 28, 2005 12:00 PM EST | Cadillac , Sedans | Email to Friend


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Sharp reflexes and a powerful V6 make the CTS a viable choice among entry-level luxury sport sedans, but it still can't match the class leaders when it comes to overall execution and fun behind the wheel.

Pros
Excellent handling, spacious cabin, wide array of available features, alternative look.

Cons
Interior still can't match the class leaders, larger size keeps it from providing nimble feel of its competitors.

What's New for 2005
The base 3.2-liter V6 engine has been dropped; a 2.8-liter V6 will become the base engine later in the model year. A six-speed manual transmission is now standard regardless of engine choice. Package contents have been shuffled, and "synthetic leather" will be added to the options list later this year.

Introduction:
As the first car to employ Cadillac's new design philosophy, the CTS is a bold step forward for a division that is trying to regain its status as a top-tier luxury carmaker. Competition in the entry-level luxury sport sedan segment is fierce, currently dominated by the likes of BMW's 3 Series, Audi's A4 and Mercedes' C-Class. Cadillac is hoping to attract customers by offering sport sedan performance combined with the room and comfort of a midsize vehicle. The CTS is a clean sheet design based on GM's all-new "Sigma" vehicle architecture. This new rear-wheel-drive platform is substantially stiffer and lighter than previous designs, allowing for more precise tuning and better overall performance. Extensive testing on Germany's famed Nurburgring test track against benchmark cars like BMW's 5 Series gives the CTS a confident, tossable feel. The CTS also offers a sport suspension package that provides stiffer tuning, speed-sensitive steering and high-performance brake linings that complement the powerful four-wheel disc brakes. The interior is as cutting-edge-looking as the exterior. Sharp angles peacefully coexist with soft-touch materials to keep the cabin modern but comfortable. There's more room than in most of the Cadillac's competitors so four adults can fit comfortably. High-tech gear includes Bose audio components, the OnStar communications system and an optional DVD-based navigation system. Materials quality is still a step behind the competition, though, and despite the cabin's generally upscale ambience, its layout feels awkward compared with the more cohesive designs in similarly priced peers. Priced against the usual stable of European and Japanese competitors, the CTS is sized a notch bigger. While this is great in terms of cabin space, it keeps the car from exhibiting the same nimble feeling that BMW's 3 Series has honed to near perfection. Move it up to the less athletic midsize category, and the CTS gets overwhelmed in the luxury department by beautifully crafted cruisers like the Audi A6 and the Lexus ES 330. For those looking for a car that deftly manages to blend the sporty handling of its smaller rivals with the comfort of their larger, less athletic siblings, the CTS is a compelling combination. It may not be the class leader in any one category, but it certainly holds its own.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The CTS comes equipped one way, but two option packages are offered to add varying levels of luxury and sport. Standard equipment includes leather seating, side and head curtain airbags, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat, dual-zone climate control, an AM/FM cassette stereo with a CD player, the OnStar communications system, ABS and traction control. Upgrades include a power passenger seat, an audible theft-deterrent system, two-driver memory package, HomeLink and wood trim on the steering wheel and shift lever. Additional options include an upgraded Bose audio package with a DVD-based navigation system, heated front seats, HID headlamps, a power sunroof and machine-finished aluminum wheels. A stand-alone sport package is available that includes a sport-tuned suspension, restyled 17-inch wheels and tires, speed-sensitive power steering, high-performance brake linings and the StabiliTrak stability control system.

Powertrains and Performance:
A 3.6-liter V6 rated at 255 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque is standard on the CTS. An entry-level 2.8-liter V6 (210 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque) will become available later in the model year. Power is directed to the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission.

Safety:
The CTS offers standard four-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction control, seat-mounted side airbags for front occupants and side curtain airbags that protect both front and rear passengers; stability control is optional. In tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the CTS earned four out of five stars for driver and front-passenger protection in frontal impacts. Side-impact tests resulted in a four-star rating for front passengers and a five-star rating for rear passengers. The IIHS named the CTS a "Best Pick" after conducting its 40-mph frontal offset crash test.

Interior Design and Special Features:
Although the CTS competes in the entry-level luxury sport sedan category, its physical dimensions more closely resemble that of larger midsize luxury sedans like BMW's 5 Series and Audi's A6. The result is a spacious cabin that easily swallows five adults. The bucket seats in front are supremely comfortable, offering a wide range of movement, supportive side bolsters and a power lumbar adjustment. Still, the CTS can't match its European competitors for overall design elegance.

Driving Impressions:
Anyone expecting a soft, cushy ride from this Cadillac is going to be surprised. The CTS is a true sport sedan, with a tightly controlled ride and sharp steering. The six-speed manual's shifter has a solid feel to it, and the 3.6-liter V6 gives the CTS some serious punch. Ride quality isn't quite as refined as that of some competitors, but even so, the CTS makes for a swift and entertaining conveyance that should appeal to entry-luxury buyers looking for something a little different. If you want hard-core performance, however, you'll want to check out the high-powered CTS-V model.

Article source: Edmunds.com - Reprinted with permission

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