I went back and forth with the lady at the Budget/Avis counter, going through a list of luxury cars including an Infiniti M35. I told her, “If I’m going to pay extra, it needs to be a Cadillac.” I asked for an STS, but found one CTS available. We agreed upon $99 for the weekend upgrade, in addition to the $158 I paid online for a Grand Cherokee.
First impression: BEAUTIFUL
Second impression: Look at the stitching on the dash!
STYLING: 5/5 - It looks perfect. Despite being a tall and short car, there are enough parallel character lines to make it look reasonably low. The sharply creased edges and decorative LED lights give the CTS an assertive look. Its a bit softer around the wheels, making the 2008+ model look much more upscale than the 03-07.
Picture taken after picking it up from the airport, parked next to the 1992 Seville. The center high mounted stop light doubles as a delicately shaped spoiler, tastefully giving an end point to the trunk lid.
The tail lights meet the c-pillar with a straight intersecting horizontal line, inspired by the 1992 Eldorado.
Parked at Volo Auto Museum.
The front and rear light clusters have vertical piping that simulates a neon tube.
INTERIOR: 3/5 - One huge flaw ruins the interior, and that’s the seating position. I have a long torso and short legs like Hank Hill. Combined, I stand at an average 5’8” height. Unfortunately, the left side of the center console intrudes into my knee space and the dead pedal is unnaturally far away. As a result, my left lower back was in pain after a few hours.
The gauges were beautiful and clear but nothing really special. The deeply recessed needles made it look as if the needles were “live” and not covered by a plastic window. Otherwise, with the blue dials and red needles, they look like something out of an Acura. I prefer the bright three-dimensional optitron gauges in the 1998-2004 Seville, but this is nice.
This door handle/arm rest is poorly designed. They put a nice piece of leather on top and on the side but failed to extend it all the way to the top of the handle. As a result, it looks tacked on and cheap.
While uninteresting, the gauges were soothing and beautiful at night.
The best lighting trick, other than the piping on the head and tail lights, is the strip of LED lighting across the dashboard and in the front and rear door handles. It gives the interior an upscale night club feel.
BRAKING: 4.5/5 - Lots of feedback and smooth modulation. It’s 90% as sharp as a typical BMW. It needs just a little bit more feedback to hit 100%.
I braked pretty hard on I-90 in Chicago as I approached heavy traffic and felt entirely confident in what I was doing. A small SUV came up behind me, squealing and squirming as he came to a halt. Fortunately, a gap opened up in front and I hit the gas before he was able to destroy my luggage and kill my rear passengers.
SUSPENSION: 5/5 - No complaints at all. It felt buttoned down and firm in aggressive maneuvers but very comfortable over poorly maintained Chicago streets. Cadillac achieved that German “magic carpet” ride quality where you can still feel the road but you aren’t bothered by vibrations.
STEERING/HANDLING: 4/5 - I never thought about the steering system until now, which means it performed its job admirably. A little more feedback would have been nice, and it feels a little bit more natural than the 3-series.
Cornering was impressive. Once I got rid of my passengers, the CTS came alive. I had trouble finding the Avis rental return lot, so I found myself scooting around narrow streets and flying up and down small hills near the airport. There’s more body roll than the BMW 3-series, but not enough to kill the fun. This could, if I was able to get comfortable, be the ultimate commuter car.
COMFORT/CLIMATE: 2/5 - As mentioned above, I couldn’t find a comfortable driving position. If I wanted room for my right knee, my left foot was too far from the dead pedal. If I was close enough to reach the dead pedal, my right knee was touching the dash and hitting the keys. Quite a nuisance, and uncharacteristic for a Cadillac.
The climate controls worked well but the temperature control and display was down by my knee, annoyingly requiring me to take my eyes off the road.
Rear passengers had sufficient leg room but the c-pillar made it awkward to rest your head on the door.
ACCELERATION/ENGINE/TRANSMISSION: 4/5 - My rental car came with the base 258hp V6 and I could easily imagine how the 304hp direct-injected engine would be ideal. Without passengers and cargo, acceleration was swift and shifts were immediate.
Unfortunately, with a weekend of luggage and four people (two fat ones), the transmission became sluggish and slow to shift. It never felt slow or underpowered with all that human weight, but I felt like I had to wait too long to shift down and pass. The manual shift mode didn’t make it any quicker.
AUDIO/ELECTRONICS: 3/5 - Everything functioned well but certain features were poorly designed. This was a base model with some kind of Bose-branded audio system and a live XM and Onstar subscription.
I called OnStar. It worked. (What else is there to say?)
XM sounded horrible. I can’t fault GM for this one since SiriusXM aggressively compresses audio on most music channels to make room for sports and talk channels.
other audio functions were reasonably clear but in all, the system was a pile of bass (though deep and powerful) with mids and highs as a complete afterthought. Considering how difficult it might be to replace the OEM system, I hoped for better. The 2007 DTS I rented two years ago sounded perfect, so there must have been changes in suppliers and designs. I suppose the DTS is a more expensive vehicle as well.
The control panel for the onboard computer was placed to the left of the steering wheel on the dashboard with tiny, vaguely defined buttons. I’m a nerd and it still took me a few minutes to figure it out.
The rest of the audio controls are crammed together in a single panel with a knob in the center. None of the buttons feel any different from one another, requiring the driver to take his eyes off the road.
The rainsense feature was the biggest shocker. I tried it before in my BMW 3-series convertible and it was a complete joke, bordering on dangerous. In the CTS, I never had to mess with it once I set it. A knob allowed sensitivity adjustment, but it was otherwise a true luxury feature and not a gimmick -- set it and forget it. In both drizzles and downpours it worked perfectly, never drawing attention to itself.
Fuel economy was impressive! Nothing on the fuel cap or fuel gauge indicated that premium was required. An owners manual was not in the glove box.
At just under 9,000 miles, the Michelin tires were very worn. That could be a cause for concern.
OVERALL: 4/5 - I’d suggest it to anyone with long legs. I’m almost angry that I couldn’t fit because otherwise, this is a nearly perfect everyday car.
I too had issues with the seating position in the CTS I had for a weekend while my Seville was in the shop. After spending a few days with the car I managed to find a seating position that was decently comfortable, but nothing like the Seville or current STS offers.
Great review though Jesda! I love the styling of the CTS, but i'll most likely end up with a newer bodystyle STS when my Seville has had it.
I hate to say it, but I'm a little bit leery of the CTS as well, comfortwise. I remember wondering about that center stack intruding into the right knee. But my only experience was at Cadillac Driving Labs where we were throwing the CTS and CTS-V around a track. At that point, it's hard to focus on driver comfort.
I rented a CTS yesterday when in Miami. I had a full size car reserved through Avis but when they mentioned the CTS for another $20, I figured it would be good to get some normal time behind the wheel. I got a nice White Diamond with black leather interior. A sharp combo...
I don't think I can really alter anything that Jesda already mentioned. I'm a bigger, taller guy so I was able to get my seat far back enough to not have the center stack dig into my knee, but it still wasn't spacious. And I could certainly see it being an issue on long drives, in which I take a lot of. However, I was able to still rest my left foot on the dead pedal with the seat back. The telescoping wheel makes reach a non-issue. I think I need a long day behind the wheel to find this out.
And the climate controls being low is an issue. If there were only temp buttons down there, you could just go by feel but with the seat heater buttons, you have to look down multiple times.
I've been planning on a V2 since the day I saw it at Detroit almost 2 years ago. But I need to get some time before I can commit. And that kind of scares me. I don't know what I'd do if I can't buy the V2...
Agreed on the interior, when I sat in it my right leg was pressed way into the left part of the console. The farther back I had to put the seat to fix this, the more awkward the driving position became for me.
Hmm, I thought I poasted here about my 600 miles renting a CTS. The dash didn't dig into my knee as much as I feared and when I put the seat further back with the wheel back as well, the problem all but went away.
Now I've got 2+ months on my V2 and it's been a total non-issue. I think with the uber-bolstered seat bottom on the Recaros, it keeps your hips and legs straighter and I can keep the driving position as normal and my knees don't even come close to digging into the console.
The only thing I'll say about the interior is that the roofline makes it a little tougher to get in and out in the back. And with my swayde inserts and steering wheel, I can never make a clean entry while wearing a coat. I either catch my leg against the grippy wheel as I stay too far forward or I drag my backside along the grippe seat and get my clothes twisted.