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2005 CTS
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Discussion Starter #1
Hello, I'm currently looking for a first generation CTS to buy as a daily driver. I was wondering what information you all can give on recommending which year and what options to go for and to stray away from.

One thing I am wondering about is why GM went from the 3.2L to the 3.6L in 2004? Was it an insufficient engine that had problems or is it just because the 3.6 makes more power?

Any information is greatly appreciated. I can't wait to buy myself a CTS. The car I was daily driving (my heavily modified 1998 Chevy Tahoe) blew the transfer case and I'm currently driving my beater 98 Camry and I would like to get out of being seen in it as soon as possible haha.
 

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03 CTS 3.2L (Sold) / 09 CBR 600rr /2014 GMC Sierra
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7,872 Posts
i have the 3.2L 2003.
things to look for to start off with are what options the car has, some have heated seats some dont....
common issues with the 3.2 are rocker cover gaskets leaking oil, usually the bolts just got a little loose and tighten them up and it usually solves the issue.
diferential wine is another issue, i dont know if it is bad or just annoying, just make sure the fluid is changed and proper levels. i had a slight leak...well barely even a leak... at the output shaft seal, dealer replaced the seals and good to go.
other than that just a few sensors here and there.
if you are lookin at a 03 push f1 and f6 and see the check engine light codes current and history i think some 04s can do this too.
others will chime in with more to look for but i think its a great car.
make sure you decide now what suspension you want then look for a car with that. i have the fe3 sport suspension with stock 17s..its a little stiff but i like it, handles great, i test drove a base model(no wood grain is a tip off on that trim package and rim size is usually 16) and wasnt impressed with how it handled.

gl on the search... i would recomend a 05. they seem to be built a little better, but they also have 2 different motors a 3.6 and 2.8 i think the other option is so watch for what one you get.
 

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Sedan de Ville, CTS
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4,764 Posts
3.6 has more umph; I am of the opinion that a large engine does not have to work as hard as the small engine, and it will give you no less gas mileage than the smaller engine. In my opinion go for the 3.6.

I know nothing about the 03 CTSs although I think they are great cars. I am of the opinion that the 04 is even greater. Drive the car in reverse with the wheels turned all the way to the right. Then in reverse to the left. If no chattering, rear is good.

Customers with some 05s and 06s are complaining about stretched timing chains. If you are still in warranty, no problem. If out of warranty, you are in big trouble.

Not sure how common this problem is. As your Caddy service mgr. He will likely level with you.

If not under warranty, repair is expensive.
 

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CTS 03
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1,765 Posts
The 03 3.2 needs a timing belt at 100k miles, about $400 - $500 at the dealer. I have the 03 and I'm happpy with the fuel economy and the acceleration. The 3.6 would be better, I think the 2.8 would struggle in that car. The 3.2 also had the CPS crank position sensor problem, it was nothing big, I replaced it for $60 but it's a know problem. It has been the best car I have ever owned I put 129k miles on it already.
 

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CTS 2,8 l
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230 Posts
Her in Norway we had a 2,6 and a 3,2 on the CTS inn 03 and 04, from 05 that got changed to 2,8 and 3,2. I think this is the Euro versions.
 

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2005 CTS
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14 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for all the info so far guys. One question I also have is that I've seen a lot of CTS's around and one thing that I wonder about is that some have the black plastic piece around the license plate painted body color and some are that matte flat black plastic color thats unpainted. Is this because of a difference in trim levels?
 

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Cadillac CTS 2003
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144 Posts
Bezel that is painted the body color is a replacement for a faulty/leaky black plastic bezel. Do a search on this forum and you can see how wide-spread the problem was.
 

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03 CTS 3.2L (Sold) / 09 CBR 600rr /2014 GMC Sierra
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7,872 Posts
03 and early 04 had a grey/clear bezle, they leak,crack and fall off. i have seen a lot of them with no lense on it at all driving around because it is expencive for what it costs to replace it. best bet if you get one that has this is to take it off clean out the glue and re seal it back with a silicone blased plastic glue. i used goop i think it was called. i had 1 fall off because i never got around to re-sealing it, when i got my replacement used i put 3m chipguard clear vynal tape on the lense to the 3rd brake light till i had a chance to re seal it.
 

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CTS
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I have an '03, 3.2L CTS and it's one of the best cars I've ever had. I'd recommend it highly. Not perfect though (none are). major complaint of mine is the absence of a engine temp gage and the annoyingly small glove box (without a light). Mine has close to 100K and no major problems. I do have the differential whine but I think it is more of an annoyance than something that will leave you stranded. Also just experienced the crankshaft position sensor failure which is scary since the car wouldn't start after several tries. but I did get it started and drove it to the dealer. They will repair it for $215. Not as good as the $60 reported here in an earlier post, but still cheap for the usual cost of maintenance.

Mainly, I like the handling and the 3.2 has plenty of acceleration for me. Only maintenance other than that mentioned has been one battery, couple of sets of brake pads, and other consumables. Oh, I guess another annoyance is that my 2 replacement sets of tires developed quite a bit of noise after about half their life. I had the car realigned prior to each set and it didn't seem to help. I don't know whether it was a poor alignment job or some design problem. But I've had the tire noise problem with other vehicles also. Thought it was a FWD problem, but since the CTS is RWD must not be that.

We were in the market for a "#1" car last year as the CTS was approaching 90K miles, and I looked at the '08s. Unusual for me to want two of the same cars since they haven't changed much in appearance. but the best I could find was around $40K (I did want GPS which my '03 doesn't have). I settled for a Lincoln MKZ for about $10K less than the CTS, but I still prefer the CTS. I'll probably buy another one now that some people are getting scared of GM and the prices may fall. Great car in my opinion.
 

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'04 CTS 3.2 5-spd Manual
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165 Posts
Are you planning on driving manual transmission? I only drive stick and prefer the Getrag 5-speed to the Aisin 6-speed. I realize "shifter feel" is very subjective (and some people like having the extra gear), but if you're able to try one out, do it. The Getrag is only available in the '03 and '04.

Besides for that, I wouldn't buy the 3.2L. It's an odd, orphaned, engine that's tough to work on and will become more scarce over time. The 3.6L is a GM universal global production engine (they put it in a lot of other cars besides the CTS) and parts/expertise are common. In terms of quality and reliability, I don't believe the engines are that much different given what I've read on here, but long-term I would rather have the 3.6L.

With that said, I got a great deal on my 3.2L and, for me, that made it worth it.
 

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2005 CTS
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Discussion Starter #11
I just test drove an 03 CTS with 88,000 miles on it. 3.2 automatic, black on black leather which is exactly what I want. This was my first time driving a CTS and honestly I love how it drives. This was local in town at a VW dealer that was a trade it recently. I'm not going to buy this particular one, it was a bit beat up. Had the clear bezel, the airbag light was on (salesman said if I bought it that would be fixed), center console rattled a bit (I could fix that myself) and there were a few chips and scratches here and there.

But I did want to drive it to see if I would like it. And I did. So I'm going to look harder for others around, definitely with lower miles and a painted bezel. Preferably a newer year as well.
 

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2005 CTS
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Discussion Starter #13
I've found two CTS's locally that I like. One is an 03, 3.6L, black with black leather interior. it has 40,000 on the clock, doesn't have heated seats or wood grain interior. The other one is an 05, also 3.6L black on black leather, with 77,000 miles. It has wood grain and heated seats. Both have a painted rear bezel.

Would it be safe to buy the 05 with higher mileage? From what you guys are telling me, 77,000 miles on a 3.6L isn't even beginning to scratch the surface of the engines longevity. Both cars are priced about the same.
 

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2003 CTS "Ebony Maria" 2005 Cadillac STS "Grace"
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6,414 Posts
I've found two CTS's locally that I like. One is an 03, 3.6L, black with black leather interior. it has 40,000 on the clock, doesn't have heated seats or wood grain interior.
just to let you know, it is not an 03 if it has a 3.6L in it, unless they did an engine swap. the 03 CTS only came with the 3.2L engine...
 

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03 CTS 3.2L (Sold) / 09 CBR 600rr /2014 GMC Sierra
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The 03 is. 3.2L and the 05 is 3.6L.
Personally the 03 has really low miles,
I would lean towards that unless it is
Rolled back. Check the dash cluster, the 03
Should have a analog clock, speedo, tach(rpm)
And fuel. If it has a engine temp and no
Analog clock the cluster has been swapped.
Also sounds like it has FE1 or FE2 shocks
 

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2005 CTS
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Discussion Starter #16
My bad the ad says 2003 CTS, 3.6L. Guess I didn't read too carefully. And the picture of the cluster shows an analog clock, speedo, tach, and fuel gauge.
 

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2003 CTS "Ebony Maria" 2005 Cadillac STS "Grace"
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6,414 Posts
we dont you not to get ripped off, that is why we stated that about the 03
 

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03 CTS 3.2L (Sold) / 09 CBR 600rr /2014 GMC Sierra
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post links to the ads if there is any. someone may be able to tell you the trim level
 

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2005 CTS
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Discussion Starter #20
I just put a deposit down on an 05 black on black CTS so I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who helped me out and explained everything to me.
 
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