The entry level luxury car class is one of the most competitive segments in the automobile industry. To many consumers the purchase of a vehicle in this category represents a pivotal moment in life. It is akin to finally reaching the top of a treacherous mountain and seeing a lush and beautiful valley waiting for you just down below on the other side. To most luxury car manufacturers, being successful in the entry level luxury class is crucial in proving your metal on the world stage. The way auto execs see it, the point at which a consumer is financially able to purchase a vehicle based on the test-drive rather than a bargain-basement sticker price, is also the point at which a consumer starts developing brand loyalty. Therefore, first impressions, which are usually made at the entry level, are critical to gaining repeat customers and eventually a reputation for creating world class vehicles.
Cadillac was well aware of the aforementioned ideas when they created the 2008 CTS sports sedan. In fact, the CTS was developed by engineers from all corners of the globe to ensure no market would be left wanting more. Based on GM’s high-tech Sigma chassis, the CTS was thoroughly tested on the world renowned NÃ¼rburgring race track in
The Achilles Heel of previous generation CTS’s was its poorly designed cockpit layout. Not only did it feature a center stack modeled after
At the center of this new infotainment system is a new eight inch retractable touch screen monitor that displays navigation, audio, and weather information. Unlike the retractable screens used by its competitors, the CTS’s screen is still functional when in its retracted position. Therefore, a driver can use more basic functions of the system, such as listening to the audio system, without having to peer around the eight inch monitor jutting out of the dash. When navigation assistance is needed, simply press a button on the center stack and the monitor extends into its full screen mode. It is by far the best designed system in the industry from an aesthetic standpoint.
When ordered with the optional 40 Gig hard drive, the system can not only be used as a music server but can also work as a kind of Tivo on which you can pause, rewind, and fast-forward live radio broadcasts. Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 are also available for those interested in watching DVDs. Ipod integration on properly equipped CTS’s is also a step ahead of most of its competitors. After the system scans your Ipod for ID3 tags, which could take a while depending on how many songs are in your Ipod, the system works just like your Ipod allowing you to scroll through by playlist, artist, album, song, genre, or composer via the 8 inch monitor using either the steering wheel controls or the center stack mounted control knob.
Of course the only way to see if the new CTS is truly a world class sports sedan is to find out how it handles at its limits. It was no surprise that GM’s R&D dollars were well spent developing their sports sedan on test tracks all over the world. The suspension and chassis do such a good job of keeping the little Cadillac buttoned down through undulating switchbacks that the relatively slow and light steering effort of our all-wheel-drive tester becomes a blessing rather than a bane as it is with cars using inferior chassis. Instead of having to muscle the car through the winding back roads, you can be just as successful one-handing it with a big gulp in the other. However, if you desire a more European feel, opt for the rear-wheel-drive FE2 or FE3 suspension packages and the lightning quick steering ratio that accompanies them. The character of the car becomes Mr. Hyde to the all-wheel-drive’s Dr. Jekyll.
In Sport Mode, the six-speed Hydromatic transmission does a respectable job of keeping the engine in its sweet spot when you feel like ditching the 1960s Mustang in the rear view mirror. Unlike the manumatics in most other sports sedans, the CTS’s transmission even learns to downshift under hard braking. Once the road straightens out, you will have the opportunity to hear the new 3.6 liter Direct Injection V6 at full song. Unlike the more demure and polite engine notes of Japanese contenders like the Lexus IS 350, the Cadillac’s engine emits a healthy growl at medium rpm which eventually builds to a goose bump inducing howl at its rev limiter. It’s enough to bring a grin to the face of any patriotic American.
The only thing that keeps the CTS from sucking the doors off its competition is the fact that it is the largest and heaviest car in its price class. Even with 304 ponies on tap, our roughly 4,100 lb. all-wheel-drive Crystal Red CTS 4 was fast by all meanings of the word, but it’s zero to sixty and quarter mile figures nevertheless run towards the end of the pack. However, that being said, the CTS’s extra size, give it the interior space to compete with a $50,000 BMW 535i. Not bad for a vehicle costing around 40 grand nicely equipped.
Indeed, the 2008 CTS represents Cadillac’s return to the forefront of innovative engineering and technology. It not only brings us back to a time when Americans were proud of their vehicles, but also casts a powerful projector beam towards a promising future. Furthermore, the CTS has proven that it has what it takes to become a world class sports sedan. With this Caddy at their side, GM has certainly scored a Hole in One.
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