Catera...misunderstood and often maligned.
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Cadillac Catera and Cimarron Forum Discussion, Catera...misunderstood and often maligned. in Past Cadillac Vehicle Discussion; Although I've only joined recently, I've been reading though this site for some time now. I've always admired Cadillac and ...
  1. #1
    jjportia is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Catera...misunderstood and often maligned.

    Although I've only joined recently, I've been reading though this site for some time now. I've always admired Cadillac and have owned many over the years. Some great cars others not so. I never bought a Cimarron because a test drive, and after that, spending the day with one on loan from a local Cadillac dealer I was not impressed. It still felt like the 'J' car of that era, no matter how much I liked the look of the car. But that is not why I'm writing this thread. After owning about 16 Cadillacs over the years I can honestly say not all were reliable and trouble free. That said, there have been many other makes of automobile I've had repeat ownership of and the same can be said. I've worked in the car business for almost all my life for European brands both German and British. Every car company has strong points and weak points with their cars, all of them. I've worked with techs that came from Japanese car companies as well and they all had stories to tell as well. Now I come to my point of this thread. The Catera.

    I remember seeing the Catera for the first time and finding the look of the car very understated, especially for Cadillac. The interior very German looking, the body very unlike any Cadillac, but overall tastefully executed. Now that's my opinion, but then I'm not overly in love with the Cadillacs of today either, again that's just me. My first drive in one solidified what my eyes told me. German through and through. The solid feel, the comfortable controlled ride(not mushy), and the size while not small, was just right. I thought, as I'm sure GM's execs did as well, this is sure to be a hit. Then the outside world had it's influence. You see the buyers that this car was aimed at wanted and still do til this day the status the German brands have. Yes, even the then fairly new to the market, Japanese luxury cars. Cadillac's image was a bit different. Although Cadillac had been working it's way towards that direction, a few blunders along the way kept them from achieving that image. The Catera should have worked....after all it was German built, it rode well, it handled well, performance was not that far from it's target, if you actually compare it to what it was going up against in the market. Some of the automotive press really maligned the car unjustly. Compare the numbers, it's not really inferior to it's competition of the same period. Then the early ones were plagued with reliability issues. This often happens with new models, it's just a fact of life. When it happens early on though the only thing that can save a new model is how well the company responds to the problems. GM didn't respond the way they should have, it seems they never do. The images of fairly recent Cadillac blunders aided in the demise of the Catera, too bad, with proper maintenance and a little understanding it really is a pleasant car.
    DHS man and mrauser like this.

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  3. #2
    investor74 is offline Cadillac Owners Enthusiast
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    Re: Catera...misunderstood and often maligned.

    **********************Uh Oh Kaustein alert!****************************************

  4. #3
    kaustein is offline Cadillac Owners Enthusiast
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    Re: Catera...misunderstood and often maligned.

    The car was a pos. Awful reliability. Poor mpg. Over weight and under powered. Slushy handling. And an electrical nightmare! However I was a car for the interstate. Very smooth and nice to drive long distances...unless something went wrong!

  5. #4
    elvin315's Avatar
    elvin315 is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: Catera...misunderstood and often maligned.

    Welcome to my world jjportia. We share the same opinion of the Catera. I have a 2001 Sport. You can read my write-up, if you haven't already, on the Forumotion.com site. It contains some maintenance and upgrade tips you may not know about. Please post some pictures, I never grow tired of seeing a Catera in the wild. She's a rare animal. Ignore Mr. Kaustein, he's a malcontent who, though no longer an owner, still feels the need to troll here.

    http://cateraowners.forumotion.com/t...vin-rivera#967

  6. #5
    jjportia is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Catera...misunderstood and often maligned.

    In Naples Florida I still see a few running around the streets. I'll try to catch some on my camera. I only have some pics of mine when I bought it, it looks better now but since it's in RI (at my families' home) and I'm here in FL, I'll have to get some more recent shots of it. Then I'll post them. As for former owners that have little good to say about the car, I say oh well....as I stated in the opening of this thread every brand has it's shortcomings. Some of the most reliable (read no maintenance) car makes are BORING to drive. If that's your thing so be it. I've had those too, but hated to go beyond the grocery store with it, let alone on a road trip. The Catera drives like most mid size German sedans of it's time, which is quite competent. Yes it was/is heavy for it's size(about 300-400 lbs more than some others in it's class) but the power level is quite adequate for the car. After all it has a V-6 not a V-8 or V-12, check out other sedans of the time with a 3.0 litre 6 cylinder and you'll find the Catera is pretty close or matches 0-60 acceleration times. Yes it had reliability issues, most where on the early models. But that is true of many manufacturers' first runs. I can remember while working for a German car dealer during a Pre-delivery inspection on a brand new model, a rear window regulator broke while lowering the power window for the first time!! It's part of life in the car business, that's why new cars have warranties!

  7. #6
    elvin315's Avatar
    elvin315 is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: Catera...misunderstood and often maligned.

    The Catera drives like most mid size German sedans of it's time, which is quite competent. Yes it was/is heavy for it's size(about 300-400 lbs more than some others in it's class) but the power level is quite adequate for the car. After all it has a V-6 not a V-8 or V-12, check out other sedans of the time with a 3.0 litre 6 cylinder and you'll find the Catera is pretty close or matches 0-60 acceleration times.
    I chose to buy a Catera over the Lincoln LS because it was based on an Opel. I've never owned any other German sport sedan so I can't say for sure but I assumed they'd be similar in handling and performance. I've spent more to upgrade its suspension than I have ever spent on repairs. She had the usual fails ie:
    • Crankshaft Position Sensor
    • Heater Bypass Valve
    • EBTCM
    • Radiator
    • Transmission Rebuild
    • Rear Toe Adjuster Rods

    Other things that I consider maintanance items like:
    • Camshaft Timing Belt & Tensioner
    • Brake Discs & Pads
    • Suspension Bushings, Tie Rod Ends, & Anti-Sway Bar Links
    • Camcover Gaskets

    The upgrades include:
    • Polyurethane Suspension Bushings
    • Koni Sport Struts & Shocks
    • GTO Springs (F&R)
    • GTO Front Brake Calipers & Hoses
    • Slotted Discs (F&R)
    • C5 Corvette Front Pads
    • Special Edition Alloy Wheels
    • Cooper Zeon ZPT Tires
    • K&N Air Intake Kit

    My Catera Sport is a joy to drive. I loved the stock handling of my car but I wanted to take it further. She handles the turns with less body roll, stops shorter, and turns in quicker than before and while she's heavier and underpowered compared to its German competition she can hold her own on the mountain twisties I travel. She's a pig in the snow so I have been thinking about getting a Subaru Legacy 3.0R. I'd hate to give my Catera up so I might keep her as a track day or auto-cross car. She might not win races but that's not my goal, having fun is.
    DHS man likes this.

  8. #7
    kaustein is offline Cadillac Owners Enthusiast
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    Re: Catera...misunderstood and often maligned.

    Not a troll, just being honest and informative. I have found the Craptera on three "worst car" lists. That says it all.

  9. #8
    jjportia is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Catera...misunderstood and often maligned.

    While you may consider your view of "honest and informative" those "three worst car lists" are more than likely both biased and subjective. Over the years I have read countless road tests, reviews(by both "professionals", "experts", and "owners"), and online comments on MANY automotive makes. Now I'll address the bias and subjective portion. When it comes to the professionals and experts each tester and automotive journalist has deep inside a personal preference for the way a car feels and performs. In the German market for instance a BMW driver/enthusiast will prefer a BMW's feel over a Mercedes or an Audi. Even though on paper the comparison in performance, acceleration, braking, handling etc...may be close or equal, to that person the BMW would seem the superior vehicle. Likewise with the other makes. My brother prefers BMWs, yet I prefer a Mercedes when it comes to the overall vehicle. As far as owner reviews they have to be taken with a grain of salt. Owners reviews are even more biased due to factors such as lack of maintenance, mechanical knowledge or lack there of. By that I mean, with little mechanical skills or knowledge the owner is at the mercy of the honesty of their mechanic/service person for any repairs. British cars for years have been branded as unreliable, poor quality, and just not worth owning by many owners. After owning Rolls-Royce, Jaguar, Triumph, MG, and Land Rover products I can honestly state, that is in fact FALSE. My first Jaguar certainly lived up to the reputation Jaguar had gained over the years, while subsequent ones did not! There are inherent problems with ANY manufacturer, yes even the Asian cars, and I've owned some of those over the years. Just because a vehicle has mechanical flaws doesn't make it CRAP!! I'll deal with a few shortcomings over a BORING car any day and smile with every mile!!
    elvin315 and DHS man like this.

  10. #9
    elvin315's Avatar
    elvin315 is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: Catera...misunderstood and often maligned.

    I'll deal with a few shortcomings over a BORING car any day and smile with every mile!!
    My feeling exactly! I couldn't have said it any better.

  11. #10
    kaustein is offline Cadillac Owners Enthusiast
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    Re: Catera...misunderstood and often maligned.

    Lipstick on a pig, you still have a pig. The car is under powered and handling to match. Very unreliable. Both can be proven with numbers. The car was never built to be a sports sedan. It was very good for long interstate trips...as long as you had no breakdowns. The radio system was pretty good. I had the trunk mounted CD player and worked well. The car is an electrical nightmare. Ever notice that the same problem exist on each and every year. Heater control valve, rear springs, leaking water pump an so on. GM did nothing to improve the reliability of the car. Any wonder why it only lasted 5 years. I have a 2001 Toyotat with 106K on it and the ONLY thing other than maintenance items and wear items were two O2 sensors. That is it!

  12. #11
    IvoryWhiteCatera's Avatar
    IvoryWhiteCatera is offline Cadillac Owners Fanatic
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    Re: Catera...misunderstood and often maligned.

    Haven't been on here in a while. As a former Catera owner, I loved the car, but hated it's poor reliability. It was plenty quick and had some nice luxury features (BOSE, heated mirrors, power everything, sunroof, etc.), but in my last few months with the car I was always waiting for something to go wrong, which almost always happened. They were wonderfully different, and I love the rear wheel drive, but the car could have done with a more powerful and reliable powerplant. Like everyone here, my dream was to drop in an LS1 or maybe a 2JZ turbo from a '96 and up Toyota Supra. I'm still pondering whether to go back to one, but as it is, I am very happy (and at peace) with my newly acquired '97 Honda Civic HX. Manual is great, 35mpg is better, and sensibly packaged engine bay is best. Not to mention parts that are readily available through Autozone, O'Reilly's, etc. instead of waiting overnight because they have to be special ordered.

    Bottom line: pretty, decently quick, and luxurious but plagued with reliability issues. The latter did not fit my lifestyle (or budget) as a broke college student

  13. #12
    makeitsnappy is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Catera...misunderstood and often maligned.

    hello forum folks, I would like to make a comment here because we have a 98' and we've had it since 06'its not my dream car but I like the feel on these long smooth roads out here in the long star state. Sure the catera isn't the greatest in performance but at least I can pass a ford focus getting on the freeway without having to disengage the ac compressor and quite a lot of other makes and models for that matter. And for repairs and maintenance this car has me pimped out in this department but I've learn how to work on it myself and stop letting so called mechanic shops from robbing me and tearing it up even more I've been down that route so many times. Nobody knows how to work on them and they don't want to they just know American made not Cadillac bastards. Because they're not efficient and proficient in repairing Catera's they cant make any money so they quote you there home mortgage payment to get rid of you while there just waiting to see if your foolish enough to bite that hook line and sinker. And where would first generation CTS's be now days if it hadn't been for opel cause we've all seen through history Americas junky automotive ingenuity up to the point when Cadillac brought in some germen engineering into the equation.
    DHS man likes this.

  14. #13
    ZaneKaminski is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Catera...misunderstood and often maligned.

    Catera's look, while not distinctly Cadillac, is good. I guess the car was criticized when new for being too plain, but I think that's served it well in the intervening decade or two since the Catera was new.

    It's also easy to drive. The car is a good size, not too big, but not small either, and with a big trunk too. The loose feel is something I'm not fond of, however. The brakes, steering wheel, accelerator, they're all loose and relatively unresponsive. I much prefer a tighter feel. But like I said, nice size and feels maybe even a little smaller than it is.

    The interior is well put together, and the stereo and its controls are really solid. I like the door-mounted pockets, but their soft-touch finish's propensity to become gross and sticky almost ruins them. The car is lacking in ergonomy, too. I'll give an example. When I get in my Catera, I generally open the cupholder and stick my water bottle it. Now when I park on an incline and go to use the parking brake, I can't pull it enough without retracting the cupholder. As a matter of fact, it's quite difficult to pull the Catera's brake enough to stop it from rolling down an incline that's more than 20 degrees, and even more difficult to release it when it's been pulled all the way. A center console which opens and I can store stuff in would be nice as well, but that, as I understand, is more difficult to implement in a RWD car because of the location of the transmission and driveshaft.

    I like the HID headlights. I've got the Silver Catera Sport, and the blue of the headlights contrasts nicely with the silver body. The sorta Mercedes AMG style monoblock 5-spoke rims on the Catera Sport are nice looking too, but they attract a lot of dirt.

    And of course, while the Catera is heavy and relatively lacking in the torque department, its performance isn't bad, and the car does handle well. Much better than my 2011 Accord V6. Fuel economy isn't great in the city, but I can get 28-30 highway on long trips with a light load.

    Okay but I'll cut to the chase. Catera is just not worth it. I inherited my 2001 Catera sport, and it's got 43k miles. I'm not sure how much money I've spent on repairs in the past 4000 miles... $2500 at least, with more to come soon. I could perform the repairs myself, but it's difficult to find time, and at the end of the day, I'm tired and don't want to troubleshoot this dumb car. Before the latest breaking down incident, which may be the death of my Catera, I think it was worth about $3k. So for the luxury, it's a good deal. But it'll cost you a lot, and your money is better spent towards something cheaper to maintain. A friend of mine just bought a 2006 Acura TSX for $10k, with 105k miles. That's a nice car! Really stands up to new cars in terms of drivability and ergonomy. Sure, it's FWD, but it handles well, and Honda knows how to make a powerful inline-4. 205hp and 170 ft-lb of torque, and the car only weighs 3300lb.

    I'd like to put an LS V8 in the Catera though, that'd be great.

  15. #14
    caddyshack78 is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Catera...misunderstood and often maligned.

    I'll chime in here. I bought my 2001 Catera Sport new in 2002. I cross shopped the BMW 325, Mercedes C class, Lincoln LS, Lexus Is300, and even looked at a Bonneville SSEI, and a Chrysler 300M. My local dealer knocked $7,500 off list for mine, basically that's the reason I bought it, plus it had a TON of features for the money. After 110,000 Miles and 12 years here whats gone wrong.

    - Alignment, alignment, alignment! its been an issue on this car since new. It's gotten worse, front tires last barely a year. I'm done spending money here.
    - Alternator twice
    - Heater control valve
    - Heated seat- fixed under warranty
    - Front struts
    - Maf? sensor
    - Had the timing belt done under recall at 25k, did it again at 85k along with fixing several oil leaks--$3788 spent
    - A/C pump
    - O2 sensors twice
    - Power sunroof hasn't worked since 06
    - Tie rod ends, control arm busings, and one brake job (I drive 80% highway)
    - One burned out HID lamp (got new one off ebay)
    - Factory bose head unit went kaput, replaced with a junkyard unit.
    I might be forgetting stuff, have to wade through my Catera receipt file lol.

    Not bad, but not great I guess. This car idles funny sometimes and has done it for as long as I care to remember. Other than that it still runs well and has never left me on the side of the road. I tried to trade it in on a new SUV in 2006, but the dealer offered next to nothing for it so I kept it. Catera ownership has not soured me off Cadillac, I still enjoy the car. And the rather bland styling still looks good today (a trait I find with non aggressive designs is they age well) I understand how "imports" can cost a fair bit more to maintain and I've allowed that with the Catera. Id give the car a 7.5/10 overall. More power would have been nice, and the front end needs work to keep tires on this car.

  16. #15
    jjportia is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: Catera...misunderstood and often maligned.

    Okay I need to add a little more here. I have seen many times the Catera has been compared to the M-B C class, and the BMW 3 series just to name a couple of cars. The comparison to those cars I assume are based on price. If you actually look at dimensions and weight, the car compares more to the M-B E class and BMW 5 series in dimensions and weight. Check it out if you like, but I worked for both of those dealerships and I can tell you that is the case when it comes to comparing an apple to an apple. If you check the stats you will see more similarities on acceleration and weight. Yes the Catera is a bit slower, about a second slower 0-60 but it weighs in about 100-200 lbs more. The interior dimensions are also close to those two vehicle mentioned. While the Catera certainly was/is not the most reliable of cars, it surely is not the worst either. As is the case with MANY German cars the parts prices are not cheap. I know because between my brother and I, we have owned many M-B, BMW, and Audis over the years and none are cheap to own as they get older and out of warranty. This doesn't make them bad vehicles, but if you like the way they drive and feel it comes at a price. I've owned some very reliable cars over time, but they were BORING to drive. If you like a quality car around you expect to pay to maintain them. I've had every model from Cadillac except the Cimmaron prior to the Catera, and I must say the Catera is more fun to drive. My brother currently has a DHS(as well as a M-B S-Class) and I must admit, I enjoy driving that too, but the Catera makes me smile when I'm behind the wheel. Not every car I've owned can make me say that.
    elvin315 and DHS man like this.

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