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2006 Cadillac CTS reviews

January 7, 2006 11:28 AM 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.

Excellent handling, potent 3.6-liter engine, spacious cabin, wide array of available features.

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

What's New for 2006
The Cadillac CTS receives only minor trim and package revisions for 2006. Most significantly, there's a new 18-inch performance tire-and-wheel package available for 3.6-liter V6-equipped cars. Like the 17-inch wheel package it includes HID headlights, a sport-tuned suspension, and stability control, but also has a tire-pressure monitoring system and stronger brakes. Other changes include a new XM Nav Traffic feature and enhanced driver control for the automatic transmission. See 2005 model

The first car to employ Cadillac's new design philosophy, the CTS was a bold step forward for a division trying to regain its status as a top-tier luxury carmaker when it debuted in 2003. Competition in the entry-level luxury sport sedan segment remains fierce, however, and getting the attention of buyers shopping prestigious class leaders like the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G35 and Mercedes C-Class hasn't always been easy. With the CTS, Cadillac is hoping to attract value-minded customers by offering sport sedan performance combined with the room and comfort of a midsize vehicle. The CTS's rear-wheel-drive platform is substantially stiffer and lighter than previous Cadillac designs, allowing for more precise tuning and better overall performance. During the car's development, extensive testing of the car was undertaken by Cadillac engineers on Germany's famed Nurburgring test track to give 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 car's 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. High-tech gear includes Bose audio components, the OnStar communications system and an optional DVD-based navigation system. There's also more room than in most of the Cadillac's competitors so four adults can fit quite comfortably. Materials quality is still a step behind the competition, though, and the cabin's layout, despite a generally upscale ambience, 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 entries like the Acura TL and Audi A6. Overall, though, the CTS is a compelling combination 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. 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 in a single trim level but numerous option packages enable buyers to add varying levels of additional luxury- and sport-oriented features. Standard equipment includes leather seating, side and head-protecting side-curtain airbags, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat, dual-zone climate control, a CD player, the OnStar communications system, ABS and traction control. Upgrades through the Luxury package include items like a power passenger seat, a two-driver memory package, heated front seats, HomeLink and wood trim on the steering wheel and shift lever. Additional options include a sunroof and an upgraded Bose audio package with a DVD-based navigation system and satellite radio. There are also two sport packages available. The 17-inch wheel package includes a sport-tuned suspension, restyled wheels and tires, a limited-slip differential, and the StabiliTrak stability control system. The 18-inch wheel package has these features plus stronger brakes and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

Powertrains and Performance:
Two engines are offered: a 2.8-liter V6 with 210 hp and 194 lb-ft of torque and a 3.6-liter V6 rated at 255 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque. Power is directed to the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual or an optional five-speed automatic transmission.

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 more easily seats 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 and Japanese 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. Those looking for hard-core performance, however, will want to check out the high-powered CTS-V model.

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