Quick Honest Review of the NA BMW 3 Series vs. NA Cadillac CTS 4 door "sport sedans"
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2008-2013 Cadillac CTS General Discussion Discussion, Quick Honest Review of the NA BMW 3 Series vs. NA Cadillac CTS 4 door "sport sedans" in Cadillac CTS Second Generation Forum - 2008-2013; I'm fortunate to own a fully-loaded BMW 3 series M-Sport NA 6 spd manual and a fully-loaded Cadillac CTS 3.6L ...
  1. #1
    arachnyd is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Quick Honest Review of the NA BMW 3 Series vs. NA Cadillac CTS 4 door "sport sedans"

    I'm fortunate to own a fully-loaded BMW 3 series M-Sport NA 6 spd manual and a fully-loaded Cadillac CTS 3.6L DI Performance 6 spd manual of similar years and styles. These were the main two "competitors" in our car-decision over the past few years and similarly priced, are likely a point of decision for most buyers. Many buyers seem to buy them as "4 doors sports cars" alike. I also owned a Mercedes E350, but will not review it since it is an automatic-only. The most compelling reason for this review is that I was surprised how many serious points each lacked, as in how different they truly are.

    I had to take a moment to share my experience. I'm a huge GM guy- I own more GMs than most families own cars, and I've owned 28 GM vehicles over the last 8 years. I race a corvette with my wife, and used to race camaros, so there my be a tiny bit of bias... BUT:

    Performance:
    This one goes, no question about it, to the BMW. Better handling, more precise steering, and better throttle response is evident. Lower weight is probably a big cause. I would love to take the BMW onto the track and compete in autocross and have no doubt it will hold its own. The Cadillac feels great in many ways, but when you compare it to the BMW, its like the difference between a sports car and a sports sedan- the BMW drives like a sports car.

    Driving Experience:
    The BMW has the power where and when you need it. The cadillac has a clear flat spot in the lower-mid RPM zone which forces a downshift which feels unneccessary. Its odd because the same motor doesn't seem to exhibit this effect on the V6 Camaro. The BMW really does scream "Drive me hard" and the cadillac screams "I'm sporty, but remember I'm still a 4 door sedan". No question, goes to the BMW.

    Ride quality:
    Likely due to weight, the Cadillac performance suspension feels very planted, but is a little more jarring over road bumps than the BMW M-Sport.

    Braking:
    This is the first one to go to the Cadillac. It may not stop much, if any quicker, but it sure feels like it, really lending to the "sporty sedan" needs and desires.

    Big-Man-Comfort. I'm 6'9" and 300 lbs. I bring this up because it seems like many look at the CTS because it is "bigger". The BMW 3 series is a much better fit because the CTS has the curvature next to the stereo which my leg rides while driving, causing a jarring sensation.

    Little-Man-Comfort. My wife comes in at 5'2" and 102 lbs. Both are able to adapt to her needs perfectly.

    E-Brake:
    The CTS E-Brake is frankly a disaster compared to the BMW's (and most every other manual...). The same foot that operates the clutch has to operate the ebrake. This forces the driver to put it in neutral, set the brake, then put it in gear, as opposed to the alternative. It also causes difficulty on steep inclines or emergency braking maneuvers. While on most manuals, drivers are taught to use the ebrake as they engage the gear, its not possible to engage/release the ebrake and operate the clutch. Borrowing the ebrake from the Camaro would be a plus.

    Keyless Operation:
    On paper this would look like it goes to the BMW. More convenient push button start and touch operating locks which don't require you to actually pull the handle to unlock them. In addition, when locking, touching the door handle shuts the sunroof and closes the mirrors, which is a huge plus when you forget to do them in the car. In addition, a touch sensitive lock is nice. However, this one goes to the CTS for two major flaws with the BMW system. Primarily, even though there is no "key" to lock the door, you still have to touch the "lock" panel when you exit the door- it does not automatically lock, while the CTS locks when you leave proximity. Secondly, when exiting the vehicle, doors do not unlock on the BMW until the point of exit. This means that if you were to put something in the back seat (briefcase or baby), get out of the car, and try to open the rear, its locked, requiring you to either get out the key fob or lock/unlock all the doors manually with the touch panels. The CTS on the other hand unlocks all doors allowing you to access the rear. While the BMW offers some "nice" features such as push button start, and the touch panels to open, lock, and may win on a "on-paper review", in practice it is poorly executed and this one goes to the CTS.

    Cupholders:
    Sounds silly, but the Cadillac- like most GMs- cupholders are awful. Major deterrant if you ever want to have a drink... and shift. BMW does a much much better job of handling the need of carrying beverages. Even the rear cupholders are rough, and can't hold a soda can around a corner. Huge win for BMW. Cadillac should take a note from BMW or Mercedes!

    Brake-Assist:
    I didn't see this mentioned in any review before I bought the CTS, but I was flabbergasted to find out that on such an expensive, premium car, there's no brake-assist for the manual transmission. Most other cars- including BMW, Subaru, and even Hyundai- hold the brake on inclines while the driver engages the gear. The CTS is the only known car in its price point- or anywhere close to it- that does not, which seems like a major oversight.

    Perceived Luxury:
    This one goes to Cadillac. It certainly "feels" much more expensive, and much more luxurious. It has just the right touches. Whether you like the style or not doesn't matter- the materials on the inside and such scream "higher quality".

    Stereo:
    The I-Drive on the BMW takes some getting used to- but even after you get used to it, it just takes too much effort to do basic things. The screen location and display is much better on the BMW, and the CTS requires an awkward back-and-forth between input methods. In addition, the "everything in one place" is a plus on the BMW, while the CTS requires use of the stereo OR the DIC depending on the line-item. When its all said and done however, this goes to the CTS

    Speakers/Sound Quality:
    The CTS sound system is much better than the BMW, hands down. While the BMW sounds "good", the CTS sounds like what you'd expect from a high-end premium system.

    BlueTooth:
    The Bluetooth on the Cadillac feels like an awkward addition which they don't want you to use, which is likely true based on their support of Onstar. It requires voice commands, and offers very limited information on the display. The BMW on the other hand offers full control of the phone, from displaying phone numbers to accessing the phone book right from the screen, this certainly goes to the BMW.

    IPOD Interface:
    The Cadillac is pretty solid. Oddly, the BMW doesn't offer it. Stuck with a basic AUX in, and some limited USB interaction, this one is hands-down to the cadillac.

    Navigation:
    The Cadillac map view is better, and the ability to show directions is a huge plus. Additionally, while most people would "expect it", the BMW does not show POIs on the map without a search. The input-method seems irrationally complicated on the CTS for a system with a touch screen. The voice control on the other hand is smoother with the BMW navigation. The one common- and valid- complaint of the Caddy is the awkward volume control (and non-muting of the stereo source) during voice commands, however, this one goes to the Cadillac.

    Style:
    Completely a personal decision, but we like the CTS a lot more.

    Rear Seats:
    Once again, give this to the CTS. Much roomier, and more comfortable. The BMW feels like the rear seats were thrown in as an afterthought. The CTS feels like they were designed to be used by a human, and I wouldn't mind picking someone up and having them sit back there.

    When its all said and done: Clearly, the CTS was not really designed to be a "sports sedan" like the BMWs. Its simply a luxury car that happens to have some sporty features and a manual transmission. This is certainly disappointing for a company that has the technology of the Camaro's and Corvettes at its fingertips, but not a surprise unfortunately. The BMW simply drives better, although the CTS is more luxurious, feeling more "pampered" in the drivers seat. The CTS wins "inside" the cabin, but out in the engine bay and on the road, it goes to the BMW. Just a few little tweaks would make it go a long way, but the ultimate winner goes to BMW. Its an all-around better "Sports Sedan", even though I may prefer the "CTS" for personal reasons. GM could learn a lot from driving one once and a while!

    Enjoy!
    hauler likes this.

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  3. #2
    Mistercoffee2's Avatar
    Mistercoffee2 is offline Cadillac Owners Enthusiast
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    Re: Quick Honest Review of the NA BMW 3 Series vs. NA Cadillac CTS 4 door "sport seda

    Who are you and why should I care about your opinion? What are your credentials.

    Really, I don't even trust Road and Track.

  4. #3
    MoFex's Avatar
    MoFex is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    I agree with the review. My opinion/feel is very similar.
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  5. #4
    arachnyd is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Quick Honest Review of the NA BMW 3 Series vs. NA Cadillac CTS 4 door "sport seda

    Quote Originally Posted by Mistercoffee2 View Post
    Who are you and why should I care about your opinion? What are your credentials.

    Really, I don't even trust Road and Track.
    You don't have to care about my opinion

    I race track and autocross in the SCCA and Chumpcar. I have been a marketer in the automotive industry for a variety of domestic brands, and a college professor. I'm an author who has written a number of articles and books on the business of the automotive industry. I'm also 6'9" 300 lbs, with a wife which is 5'2" and 102 lbs. While my driving skills may not be any different from a reviewer in Road and Track, my equal investment in both vehicles and intimate day-to-day usage of each could offer some practical insight to a potential buyer, a potential switcher, a curious individual, or to GM.

    I tend not to be a big fan of a lot of the "professional reviews", and since most people are biased towards what they own or prefer, you get a lot of "Fanboy" comments over preferences. As someone who owns both cars though, I had a tough time evaluating the two before I bought them. I just have extensive experience with both of them now, and thought that unique perspective could be of value to others. If someone doesn't care to hear it, they don't have to read it!

    I also find a number of the reviewers to seem biased towards imports, especially germans. I on the other hand am fairly neutral with a slight bias to GM and domestics. Ultimately however, I thought there were a number of points which the professional reviews simply didn't address, and I thought I could add value to the world by addressing them. I would have certainly liked to see them!

    Hopefully that answers your inquiry!
    MoFex and hauler like this.

  6. #5
    snofun3 is offline Cadillac Owners Fanatic
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    Re: Quick Honest Review of the NA BMW 3 Series vs. NA Cadillac CTS 4 door "sport seda

    While I have no disagreement that you are completely correct, the fan boys here will go completely apoplectic that there's something better than a CTS. Just look at the Mistercoffee response. I love the "I don't even trust R&T statement". No doubt every CTS owner is the epitome of auto knowledge The best are the third owner types who put 22 inch wheels on and think they look rad. Gawd.

    I went from a complete POS 08 CTS to a 10 Jag XF, and last week a 12 XF, and the difference is completely night and day. A real luxury car from a builder of classic luxury compared to a luxury car wanna-be - and the usual response (from CADDY owners!), is that Jags are a pos. Funny stuff.

    Anyway, having spent a fair amount of 3 series time, I think you're right on.
    MoFex likes this.

  7. #6
    arachnyd is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Quick Honest Review of the NA BMW 3 Series vs. NA Cadillac CTS 4 door "sport seda

    Cadillac fan-boys don't seem as bad as BMW fan boys frankly! I'll give Cadillac that! Everyone always thinks "Their car" is the best though.

    I think the CTS is a great car. I love owning it, and I prefer driving it as a Daily Driver over the BMW for the interior comfort and ammenities, as well as the looks. The CTS has a lot going for it.

    I like what the Bengals announcer said yesterday (Yes, I'm a Bengals Fan). He said, "There's a lot to criticize the bengals about, but only family can do it. Your a bengals fan, so your family, and there's a lot this family needs to talk about".

    No one wants to hear CTS Criticisms from a BMW owner (or frankly, BMW criticisms from a CTS owner) or mercedes or anything else. However, I wanted to offer this up because "I'm family". Its good to analyze and evauate from the inside. Its how you learn, and its how you improve.

  8. #7
    CTSCHICK is offline Banned
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    Re: Quick Honest Review of the NA BMW 3 Series vs. NA Cadillac CTS 4 door "sport seda

    Other than actual performance stats the rest is personal preference IMO

  9. #8
    99flhr is online now Cadillac Owners Enthusiast
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    Re: Quick Honest Review of the NA BMW 3 Series vs. NA Cadillac CTS 4 door "sport seda

    Not a fan boy but I will opine that the the BMW I-6 is more refined than any V-6 I have ever driven.

    (P.S. I have no "credentials", was unaware they were a requirement to have a subjective opinion)

  10. #9
    jeffc83's Avatar
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    I recently test drove a BMW 3 Series and felt the refinement there. Both cars have their ups and downs...I agree with the OP in many ways. No credentials here except for well, nothing:/ (does IT count?) lol.

  11. #10
    conedoctor is online now Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: Quick Honest Review of the NA BMW 3 Series vs. NA Cadillac CTS 4 door "sport seda

    You don't mention years, what year were the CTS and 3 series, without these the review will not make sense.

  12. #11
    arachnyd is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Quick Honest Review of the NA BMW 3 Series vs. NA Cadillac CTS 4 door "sport seda

    Quote Originally Posted by conedoctor View Post
    You don't mention years, what year were the CTS and 3 series, without these the review will not make sense.
    The generations overlap pretty well. While I compared an 06 BMW 330i E90 to a 08 CTS 3.6L DI , the E90 was from 06-12, and the CTS was from 07-13 (Model year 08), so most of the comments would cover the overlap, which is the comparable cars price-wise on the used market. Most points are consistent for all years. I didn't comment on things like the rainsense wipers which vanished in '10 because it wasn't consistent across the years, although I guess its a fine line because option packages change.

  13. #12
    BreakingThrough's Avatar
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    Re: Quick Honest Review of the NA BMW 3 Series vs. NA Cadillac CTS 4 door "sport seda

    As someone surrounded by co-workers / friends with E90s, I think your review is pretty right on. While this is an interesting perspective, it's a whole new world out there with the ATS and upcoming '14 CTS. The '14 CTS Vsport has been getting excellent reviews so far.

    I've said this in other posts, and I'm not trying to be a blind fanboi, but the progress Caddy is making between generations of vehicles (e.g., gen 1 CTS to gen 2 CTS to gen 3 CTS) is tangible and immediately noticeable. Meanwhile, the generational changes at BMW (F30, new X5 --- eww) are much more subtle, and many say, make the cars less driver-focused. Granted, Caddy had a lot of catching up to do, but they've obviously build momentum, and if they can continue the momentum, they might just eventually pass those resting at the top.

  14. #13
    conedoctor is online now Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: Quick Honest Review of the NA BMW 3 Series vs. NA Cadillac CTS 4 door "sport seda

    I am a GM guy for sure but can see both sides.

    My MIL has an 09 X3 and I think BMW just misses on the inside compared to my wifes 09 SRX, we are going to get a 2011 X5 (e70) and while it has nice stuff it is not a Cadillac on the inside, we think the SRX or CTS is a clear and distant winner on looks. Past looks both have ups and down like you mentioned, we are going to the X5 for towing and it is a great size the GM does not offer.

    The value in the GM line up is very big right now and very unknown for the most part IMO, very exciting things on the way.

  15. #14
    Mistercoffee2's Avatar
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    Re: Quick Honest Review of the NA BMW 3 Series vs. NA Cadillac CTS 4 door "sport seda

    Quote Originally Posted by 99flhr View Post
    Not a fan boy but I will opine that the the BMW I-6 is more refined than any V-6 I have ever driven.

    (P.S. I have no "credentials", was unaware they were a requirement to have a subjective opinion)
    Not required, He had 8 post so I ask, he answered, I'm impressed (seriously). I agree on the BMW I6 but I have no credentials ether

    I'm done.

    ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by jeffc83 View Post
    I recently test drove a BMW 3 Series and felt the refinement there. Both cars have their ups and downs...I agree with the OP in many ways. No credentials here except for well, nothing:/ (does IT count?) lol.
    Since I (regrettably) started the "credentials" thing I will say NO on the IT experience.
    99flhr and arachnyd like this.

  16. #15
    jeffc83's Avatar
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    lol, sorry Mistercoffee2...couldn't resist that one

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