: Considering a Catera purchase, soliciting advice



svb
01-04-08, 12:20 AM
I've been poking around on this forum for a few days and now I have a few questions I'd like to post about these cars.

First some background; I'm currently looking to buy a car in the $2.5k-$5k range, and the basic requirements are 4 doors, 6 cylinders, around 200hp, around 100k miles, but most importantly, rear-wheel drive. I've been looking at a slew of 3 and 5 series BMWs when I pretty much stumbled across the Catera. I remember these cars from when they came out but the fact that they were rear-wheel drive somehow escaped my knowledge. So now that I've done some more research, I'm considering one, but before I make a purchase, maybe you guys can help me out make sure I know what I'm doing before I do.

First, I'm obviously avoiding the 97 and 98 models.

I have found a 99 I'm going to look at so one question I have is what I need to look out for with these models -- consensus seems to be the 00-01 models are great, and the 99s are mostly good. What's the deal here?

My other questions are more general -- what are the opinions of these cars vs. BMWs in the same price range? What I seem to be finding is that I could get a 3 or 5 series in the same price range, but it would be early 90s and with over 100k compared to a Catera that would probably have less miles. If you were in my position, would you still buy your Catera or would you lean towards a comparable BMW, even with more miles, given what you know now and your experiences?

How is the suspension on these cars? I know they were changed from the Omega suspension for the Cadillac models. As a younger guy (mid-20s) looking for a bit of sportiness, should I plan on just doing a suspension swap if I'm going to buy a Catera at all or is the stock suspension decent enough to handle the twisties? Again, I'm wondering how it compares to BMW -- I know it won't be as good, but does it come close enough in your opinion?

I know this is pretty subjective but any insight & opinion will be helpful to me in my decision-making process.

If my searches have missed any helpful threads that directly answer any of this, please let me know.

EDIT: I should also state that the one thing that's making me lean towards a Catera over, say, a early 90s 525i is the fact that almost every BMW I look at is extremely ragged-out, whereas all the 99+ Cateras I've found appear to have been kept in much better shape.

CateraMV6
01-04-08, 12:30 AM
Again I would recommend the Face lift models as they seem to be stripped down of any major problems, judging from the changes to the engine design and other little changes that seem to have made it simply better.

I never believed that i would see a 2002 but the other day my friend brought over a car that he wants to buy, the dealer gave him the car for a 24hr test drive so he can take it home etc.... and he came over and I looked at it, it looked no different then mine which is a 2001 Sport but when I sat down in it i saw a manual shifter and a clutch and I was like WTF man.... immediately I popped the hood and i saw the 3.2L engine and the only way to figure it out was the stickers for the vacuum diagrams... and I was truly shocked and amazed that such a Catera ever made it here... I grabbed my camera but sadly my batteries were out so no pictures :( I took it for a spin and I fell in love with it, that manual is a thing to die for... so if you can find one of the 238 units that they sold and you will be a lucky man... I doubt many more of these manual cars made it here but who knows... maybe one day I can find another and buy it.

My buddy ended up returning it the next day and he picked up a Subaru Legacy... something...something..., then I immediately tried to contact the dealer and see if it was there and they told me that the car had been sold... I was sooooo pissed, I wanted to trade mine for this one... but I was SOL...

mrplease
01-04-08, 01:30 AM
go with a 2000 Lincoln LS V6. if you get one with around 100K miles you can pick it up for around $5000.

i've got a 2001 LS that has 110,000 miles on it i use for my company car. it is a very reliable car and i have had absolutly no problems with it. NOT ONE! i bought it with 60,000 miles and have put 50,000 miles in 2 1/2 yrs, so i drive the sh*t out of it. having one i hang out in the lincoln forums as well, and i can assure you LS owners don't have anywhere near the problems as the catera owners have over here. i almost bought a catera for my company car but after hanging here and reading the forums i knew that all the miles i drive it that there was now way that i could trust one. in fact i'm down right scarred of them. I still like the looks of the catera very much, but in my opinion it is no where near the car as the LS is (AND I'M A BIG TIME CADDY MAN). not to mention the catera looks and seems like a much older car as they were only made until 2001 as the LS was made until 2006.


http://i253.photobucket.com/albums/hh68/mrpleaseplease/03.jpg

elvin315
01-04-08, 05:20 AM
I have test driven BMWs over the years and even considered a mid 90s 328i for the same money I paid for my 2001 Catera Sport but it had more than twice the mileage and who knows how much insurance cost. I have always been a fan of German cars but I remember when they were true driver's cars, not the poser's fashion accessory. That's the biggest reason for my passing on the Beemers. They're too common.

I ran into Cateras on the internet used car sites and they jogged my memory. I remember liking the Catera from its intro in the magazines and the Steinmetz concept car, but quickly forgot it. Cadillac's stupid Ziggy promotion made a joke of the car before it had a chance to establish itself in the market. Why would I buy a car that wasn't even respected by its builder? Yes it had problems but if Cadillac was serious about selling a competitive sport sedan they could have addressed these issues. They hated this car. Still do. The Catera was forced on them by GM. It was not a homegrown Cadillac project. It's based on the Opel Omega, particularly the Elite and MV6 models. A German car bred to fly down the Autobahn and attack twisting alpine roads. So what does Cadillac do? Detune the engine from 210HP down to 200HP and limit the top speed from 150MPH to 125MPH. They probably softened the suspension a little too.

Don't misunderstand me. I love my Catera. Some call the styling dated and bland. Sue me. I like it. It's soft and aerodynamic compared to the new edgey stealth fighter look Cadillac is pushing today, and the new retro-Japanese style the Germans have adopted with all sorts of accent lines and weirdness. The Catera has a roomy, comfortable cockpit for the driver. I frequently spend 6 hours or more behind the wheel and arrive without stiffness or sore spots. The seats are supportive and bolstered enough to keep my butt planted in the fast twisties I relish. The wheel tilts and places my arms in the right position for good control. The interior styling is clean without Cadillac's traditional bordello plushness. It's still very Teutonic. I prefer the 2000 - 2001 cars for the front and rear exterior treatments and the more logical window & door controls inside.

And then there's the performance. Yes, she's overweight, and, compared to her direct competitors, underpowered but that only counts if you're planning to race her. For normal, and even slightly illegal, street driving she is a joy. The transmission has a Sport setting that lets the engine rev to the redline before shifting to squeeze every horse out of it. And this engine loves to spin. She is thirsty though and drinks 93 octane.

You mentioned a preference for sporty ride and handling. That means you need a 2000 - 2001 Catera Sport. The suspension is stiffer and tuned for the backroads. There is little body roll and the 17 inch low profile tires keep the car planted. The brakes are adequate but I feel they could be better. But there's an easy upgrade. Luckily the GTO and Catera have common ancestry. The front calipers & hoses from the 2003 - 2004 Pontiac GTO are a direct bolt-on. Combine them with dimples & slotted discs and some C5 Corvette performance pads and you'll have all the braking power you'll ever need. There are other suspension upgrades like Eibach springs and Koni or Bilstein dampers for after the OEM stuff wears out. Strut tower braces are also available but from Germany or the UK. Not much performance stuff here for an orphan like the Catera. That includes body kits. Still, we do alright.

The Catera has problems and you can read about them with some searches but BMWs have just as many and I guarantee theirs are no cheaper to fix.



The following is taken from Consumer Guide - Automotive:

1992-1998 BMW 325i/328i/323i Reliability (http://consumerguideauto.howstuffworks.com/1992-to-1998-bmw-325i-328i-323i-2.htm)

Trouble Spots
Consumer Guide's® Auto Editors have scoured repair bulletins and questioned mechanics to search for commonly occurring problems for a particular vehicle. In some cases we also give possible manufacturer-suggested solutions. In many instances these trouble spots are Technical Service Bulletins posted by the manufacturer, however, we have our own expert looking at additional vehicle problems.

Air conditioner: Air conditioners that don't cool well enough may need to have some of the R-12 (Freon) removed if the system was overcharged. (1992-93)

Automatic transmission: The automatic transmission may suffer from delayed engagement after sitting overnight because the fluid drains out of the torque converter. (1992-95)

Climate control: Small flakes may come from the vents or a foul odor may be present when the A/C is operated. (1992-93)

Dashboard lights: The hazard flashers may begin flashing by themselves and the turn signals may flash at twice the normal speed due to condensation shorting out the circuit board. (1992-94)

Doors: If the central locking system unlocks itself after being locked or locks itself after being unlocked, the actuators could be defective or the trunk lock may need to be adjusted. (1992-93)

Rough idle: Vehicles equipped with variable valve timing system (VANOS) engines may suffer engine valve jamming and varnish buildup if oil changes are extended. (1996-98)

Starter: The starter may fail because it keeps running after the engine starts and eventually burns out. The root cause is a sticking ignition switch. The whole lock and switch must be replaced. (1992-94)

Transmission leak: The oil drain plug on Gegrag transmissions will likely leak if reused. A revised plug is available. (1999)

Consumer Guide® Estimated Repair Costs
This table lists costs of likely repairs for comparison with other vehicles. The dollar amount includes the cost of the part(s) and labor (based on $50 per hour) for the typical repair without extras or add-ons. Like the pricing information, replacement costs can vary widely depending on region. Expect charges at a new-car dealership to be slightly higher.

A/C Compressor $970
Alternator $590
Automatic Transmission or Transaxle $1,190
Brakes $260
Clutch, Pressure Plate, Bearing $645
Exhaust System $670
Exhaust System $790
Shocks and/or Struts $980
Timing Chain or Belt $1,265

NHTSA Recall History
1992: Airbag contact-ring locking tab can break without warning, eventually causing broken wiring; airbag would not deploy in collision, and indicator would illuminate.

1992: Failed to meet safety standard for driver chest injury in crash test.

1992-93: Fuel hoses can harden and "set" over time.

1992-94 325i/iS: Brake lights may fail to operate, or be on continuously.

1992-95 325i/325Ci: Plastic bushing for cruise-control and throttle cables could break, causing throttle valve to remain partially open; car then might not decelerate as expected.

1992-95: Malfunction or failure of cooling system component can result in significantly increased coolant temperature and system pressure.

1993-94 325i/iS: Replace front transmission crossmember support.

1994 325iC: Brake lights may fail to operate, or be on continuously.

1995 M3: Brake lights may fail to operate, or be on continuously.

1995-97 M3: Plastic bushing for cruise-control and throttle cables could break, causing throttle valve to remain partially open; car then might not decelerate as expected.

1997-98 M3: Side airbag system is unduly sensitive to certain noncrash impacts, such as large potholes or curbs; could deploy without actual side crash. Battery Safety Terminal could also activate, so engine could not be restarted.



Please don't let my rose colored enthusiasm sway you. The Cat suffers from a leaky heater bypass valve. Same for the oil cooler and cam covers. but we know the warning signs and fixes. More irritating are the computer gliches and sensor failures which happen without warning. Given the level of electronics in cars today and the harsh environment they operate in I doubt the Catera is worse than other cars. Again, we know from experience which symptoms point to which sensor or computer. A failure is never an easy thing to accept but this is the 21st century and electronic controls are here to stay. Thanks to great people like those who hang out here, the answers are available and you can go to your chosen service facility armed with knowledge.

If you're looking for a dependable daily driver, the kind you can ignore maintenance schedules and subject to abuse, the Catera Sport isn't for you. If you want a driver's car that, like a thoroughbred horse, requires some attention .............. welcome aboard.

Elvin

rinverso
01-04-08, 08:03 PM
svb, i brought up two recent threads with your same question. they were posted by '"ondale" and "seabass". read on and good luck, robert:hmm:

svb
01-04-08, 09:10 PM
svb, i brought up two recent threads with your same question. they were posted by '"ondale" and "seabass". read on and good luck, robert:hmm:

thanks for the bumps. I'll be reading up...

z06bigbird
01-04-08, 11:44 PM
You already know this: Stay away from 97s and earlier Cateras.

elvin315
01-04-08, 11:55 PM
I never believed that i would see a 2002 but the other day my friend brought over a car that he wants to buy, the dealer gave him the car for a 24hr test drive so he can take it home etc.... and he came over and I looked at it, it looked no different then mine which is a 2001 Sport but when I sat down in it i saw a manual shifter and a clutch and I was like WTF man.... immediately I popped the hood and i saw the 3.2L engine and the only way to figure it out was the stickers for the vacuum diagrams... and I was truly shocked and amazed that such a Catera ever made it here... I grabbed my camera but sadly my batteries were out so no pictures :( I took it for a spin and I fell in love with it, that manual is a thing to die for... so if you can find one of the 238 units that they sold and you will be a lucky man... I doubt many more of these manual cars made it here but who knows... maybe one day I can find another and buy it.

My buddy ended up returning it the next day and he picked up a Subaru Legacy... something...something..., then I immediately tried to contact the dealer and see if it was there and they told me that the car had been sold... I was sooooo pissed, I wanted to trade mine for this one... but I was SOL...

Holy Crap. I didn't know about the 2002 Catera. The 3.2 engine and the 5 speed? I'm sure you hate yourself for letting that one slip through your fingers. :banghead: The buyer is probably clueless as to the rarity he has in his driveway. If I were you I'd ask the dealer for the buyer's name and ask him for a call when he decides to sell. That, or pay some street punks to steal it for you. At least find the guy and get pictures of it. Until we see it the 2002 Cat may as well be a UFO. :vulcan:

Elvin

elvin315
01-05-08, 12:02 AM
You already know this: Stay away from 97s and earlier Cateras.

Yea, that 1995 Catera really sucked.

Elvin

CateraMV6
01-05-08, 05:19 AM
Holy Crap. I didn't know about the 2002 Catera. The 3.2 engine and the 5 speed? I'm sure you hate yourself for letting that one slip through your fingers. :banghead: The buyer is probably clueless as to the rarity he has in his driveway. If I were you I'd ask the dealer for the buyer's name and ask him for a call when he decides to sell. That, or pay some street punks to steal it for you. At least find the guy and get pictures of it. Until we see it the 2002 Cat may as well be a UFO. :vulcan:

Elvin



Yeah too bad my batteries were dead otherwise I would have snapped some pictures... I did find records that there were some 238 units sold in 2002 and those were probably the last shipment ever brought over and I assume those were for sale after July of 2001, cuz that is considered a 2002, in fact the one he had was made in august of 2001... I will keep an eye on the local dealer and see if it resurfaces one day.

CateraMV6
01-05-08, 05:27 AM
" The 2002 Cadillac Catera is a 4-door, 5-passenger luxury sedan, available in sedan trim only. The Catera production was stopped by Cadillac in the year 2002. Comparable vehicles for 2002 Catera include the Acura 3.2 TL, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and the Volvo S60.

The Catera is equipped with a standard 3.2-liter, V6, 220-horsepower engine that achieves 18-mpg in the city and 25-mpg on the highway. A 5-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard, and a 5-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is optional. The 2008 Catera was Cadillac's answer to the mid-size sports sedan."

I guess this proves that the europeans got a new 5spd ATX for the 2002 model year but why, since production ended in 2003, why on earth would they swap out transmissions for just two years of production... weired..

(http://www.allautoreviews.com/auto_reviews/cadillac/cadillac-catera.htm)

1998catera
01-08-08, 12:22 PM
For all the problems that I've had with my car, I love it and call me crazy, but I'd buy it again. You can find nice ones for a reasonable cost and if you know what can go wrong and are aware of the expensiveness of the vehicle, you won't be disappointed.

ondale
01-08-08, 06:56 PM
I owned a used 1997 Catera for almost 7 years. It was high maintenance, but I really liked the car. The Catera has all the bell and whistles you'd want and a great rear wheel drive feel. After the insurance took my car in a total loss due to a front end mishap, I went out and purchased a 2001 Catera Sport. After everything I knew and experienced with the 97, I still liked the car enough to buy the Sport Model. If you're a first time Catera owner, the little nuisances are going to drive you crazy. You should be content on fixing things with used parts as new parts are way expensive. Granted the Cadillac Catera does not have the same cachet of the BMW brand, but if you find a nice one owner that was cared for, you can't go wrong.

You should check out Elivin315's website of Catera photos. Worth your time. http://www.pbase.com/elvin315/the_catera
Lots of cool pictures of what a Catera has been and could be. (Getting those modification are not readily available)

PS. ELVIN315... I actually preferred the window controls in the center console on the earlier models, I thought it made it unique, pulse it allowed for more knee expansion room. I notice my left knee hits the door in my 2001 Sport 'cause of the window controls. In my 97, the door handle was placed so my knee could rest wider. Also, my 97 had front and rear heated seats, but rear heated seats weren't even available on the 2001 Sport model. My back seat passengers are bummed here in Chicago.

usc2005
01-14-08, 12:32 PM
i have a 97 cat with 61,000 miles on it and had NOOOOOO probelms whatsoever with it. I had to just replace the gaskets and hpv valve but other than that these cars are great!!! The only thing i could tell you is keep up on the maintenance etc. But other than that good luck bro on your car if you get it.

BackStreet
01-16-08, 01:13 AM
"The Catera has problems and you can read about them with some searches but BMWs have just as many and I guarantee theirs are no cheaper to fix. "

All the Cateras probably have average problems for a German car.

Older Cats may seem to have more problems because they are OLDER. Only a few changes were made and I now see a lot on newer facelift cars with the same old problems.

Seems to me most of the problems could be fixed all in a weekend by replacing the heater control valve, seal the oil cooler, valve cover gaskets, plug wires, and radiator hoses. The parts are not too much on eBay. I have a 98 and that is my plan. I may do a timing belt while I'm at it. <$500 and I'm good for another 60K.

PS I floored my Cat today getting onto the highway and blew by everything on the road right up to 100mph. Smooth, quick, and rock steady. No way are these cars slow or underpowered.