Way better than it once was, inside and out
What it Is
Cadillac CTS Preview – 2007 Detroit Auto Show: Note to BMW dealers: That grille filling up your rearview mirror may not carry a Lexus badge after all. Shocker of shockers, if you look closely you will see a crest, a Cadillac crest, followed by the unmistakably angled snout of the 2008 Cadillac CTS. Redesigned on the inside, touched up on the outside and strategically improved in its road manners, the CTS is joining the luxury sedan party – and this time, it’s not wearing blue hair, bifocals or a clown nose.
Known as a beautifully flawed sedan, the existing Cadillac CTS offered the style but lacked the refinement to put a real scare into foreign luxury sedan automakers. Add to that a somewhat sedate road manner, and the CTS, while a remarkable success in terms of making Cadillac relevant to young luxury shoppers and introducing the new face of Cadillac to the world, remained a tick or two off the pace. True, there was the CTS-V in all its 400-horsepower glory, but for those unable to reach up to the “V,” the CTS fell short. This will likely change in 2008, as the new CTS offers strategic improvements in areas such as handling, interior refinement and overall performance.
What’s Under the Hood
The 2008 Cadillac CTS is powerful enough to blow that blue hair right off Auntie Millie’s head. The bad news is that you’ll have to wait until the 2008 model year to get your hands on GM’s new 3.6-liter direct injection V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission, delivering a projected 300 hp and 270 lb.-ft of torque. That’ll be enough to compete side-by-side with the Lexus IS 350 and the BMW 3 Series, so fly the Stars and Stripes and give a salute. Also included for the first time is a choice between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, but the best news of all may well be the upgrade in transmission: Starting with the 2008 model, all Cadillac CTS sedans get either a six-speed auto or a six-speed manual transmission.
What it Looks Like
In case you thought it wasn’t possible to make it more angular, rest assured that you’re wrong – and that it actually looks bigger, broader and bolder than before. Most of all, however, the 2008 Cadillac CTS has a more grown up look. No matter how funny it is to write that about a Cadillac, it’s true: the CTS looks good with a little age on it, thanks to a wider track, lower hood and smoother fenders. Also new are 17-inch wheels or available nine-spoke, 18-inch wheels, with larger brake calipers and rotors.
OK– let’s face it. The current Cadillac CTS has an interior only a Chevy could love. While the materials were mostly luxury level, the fit and finish and the plastics left some buyers wanting more for their luxury dollar. That changes in 2008, starting with hand-stitched leather seating and door panel surfaces. A quick inspection inside showed close gaps and much better interior materials, from leather to soft surfaces and plastics. Highlights include a unique Sapele wood grain, more supportive seat bolsters and white ambient lighting. If you’ve heard this before from a GM preview only to be disappointed on the dealership lot, consider this: GM has backed up all this talk with the insides of cabins from the Saturn AURA to the Chevrolet Silverado.
What Cadillac Says
In a tender moment at an otherwise raucous Auto Show, General Motors showed what it takes to build a car by asking the design and engineering teams responsible for the 2008 CTS to come up and talk about what they did to improve the sedan. For about 10 minutes, one team leader after another stood on stage, flanked by his or her people, and spoke with pride about the team's role in developing what GM hopes will be a landmark revision. In this cynical world of cars and marketing metal, it was inspiring to see on stage the very reason why we are here and what makes all this madness worthwhile.
What We Think
General Motors is showing that the company is serious about quality, from inside the cabin to under the hood and in the sheet metal, so competitors best be taking note. Judging by what we saw at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show, the end of the 2008 model year could very well bring the start of a strong Cadillac revival on the shoulders of the sexy CTS sedan. Then again, the luxury market is not for fools or weak-kneed automakers, and that BMW 3 Series Coupe is perhaps the sweetest affordable ride on the road. Gentlemen, start your engines!
Photos courtesy of General Motors, Brian Chee