2008 Cadillac CTS

By October 3, 2007
2008 Cadillac CTS

The Cadillac CTS is virtually all-new for 2008. Cadillac has moved the style, performance and in-car electronics way upmarket from the original CTS in an effort to be more competitive with the best of the imports, namely the BMW 530i, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus GS, Infiniti G35, and Audi A4.

The 2008 Cadillac CTS boasts major changes to the engines and chassis that upgrade performance. The CTS offers a choice of two V6 engines and a choice of either a newly designed six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual, making it the only American luxury car still available with a manual. The CTS comes with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

The front and rear tires are a full two inches farther apart in track width for 2008, so the general body shape is wider, and a great deal more aggressive looking, with exaggerated front and rear wheel flares.

In addition to the traditional 3.6-liter V6, there's a whole new 3.6-liter, 24-valve V6 engine with direct fuel injection that makes 15 percent more power. The new engine not only makes more power, it gets better fuel economy, even after adjusting for the new, stricter rules that the EPA is now using for fuel economy labeling.

Styling changes include a huge new grille and larger, more in-your-face light elements front and rear. It looks like it's hungry for red meat. Its new levels of grip, handling and steering were modeled after the BMW 530i sedan, and it was developed by the Cadillac engineers on BMW's home ground, the 14-mile, 73-turn Nurburgring circuit in Germany.

Model Lineup

The new 2008 Cadillac CTS ($32,245) comes standard with a 263-horsepower V6. A 304-hp V6 ($1,000) is optional. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard; a six-speed automatic ($1,300) is optional. The CTS is rear-wheel drive, but all-wheel-drive ($1,900) is optional.

Every CTS comes with a basic package of 32 luxury, comfort, convenience and safety items including all the normal power assists, XM satellite radio, OnStar with turn-by-turn navigation, and a Bose eight-speaker sound system with CD, MP3 and auxiliary capability.

Options are many. The big one, called the Premium Luxury Collection ($8,015) includes a pop-up navigation and audio screen, a 10-speaker Bose 5.1 sound system with a 40-gigabyte sound storage system, an iPod interface that will operate your iPod from the touch screen and display artist and title info, 10-way heated and cooled leather seats, split folding rear seats, a huge sunroof panel, sapele wood trim, 17-inch alloy wheels, power tilt/telescope wheel, remote starting and keyless entry, and a few odds and ends.

Other options include an 18-inch wheel package ($1,740) with P235/50R18 tires, HID headlights and washers, limited-slip differential, sport suspension, heavy-duty cooling and fog lamps; metallic paint ($995), heavy-duty anti-lock brakes ($395); and a compact spare tire ($250). A performance tire package is available with P235/50ZR18 performance tires and alloy wheels, upgraded ABS, and the FE3 performance suspension ($1,240).

Safety features that come standard on all models include front, side and curtain airbags, ABS, traction control, and Stabiltrak electronic stability control. All-wheel drive improves safety further.

Walkaround

Cadillac has completely redesigned the CTS front end for 2008, with a much larger eggcrate grille that fits with the Cadillac family look of the DTS, STS, and Escalade. The new grille provides more incoming air for the engine cooling, brake cooling and transmission cooling functions. The large lighting units at the front and rear make very good use of light-emitting-diode or LED technology, lots of light and lots of style for little electrical load.

Likewise, the taillights, rear quarter panels and decklid have been redone, and the rear bumper has been rejiggered to feature exposed dual exhaust tips. Altogether, this is a much, much better looking car than the previous CTS, with more adventurous lines everywhere, especially in the gracefully sloping rear roof section, which isn't as harshly angular as on the previous edition.

Interior Features

The crazy-quilt nature of the original CTS interior, with lots of different textures but all in black, has been thrown away, and it's been replaced by a very nice new design for 2008 using black and brushed metal and chrome, very contemporary and very space efficient. This was our biggest complaint with the pre-2008 CTS models.

The entire dashboard has been lowered and moved further away from the front seats to give a more airy and open feel to the car that the original didn't have; it felt like a high-walled bunker. The center stack on the CTS is beautifully done, easy to read and use, with some interesting new readout placements here and there.

On our sojourn through some of central California's tastiest, windiest roads, the front bucket seats held us down and in comfortably, and behind the wheel. We really appreciated the range of adjustment offered by the power seats and the power steering column adjustments; we've always felt that all cars should have tilt-and-telescope columns for ultimate comfort and proper driving position. The instrument package is complete, easy to read, and graphically pretty.

Our car had the AM/FM/XM Bose 5.1 sound systems, the 40-gigabyte hard-drive, iPod connector and USB port for ultimate musical enjoyment. Using the navigation screen, it's easy to switch back and forth between the three broadcast and three stored-music formats by simply touching the screen, and the blue display is large enough to be read from the back seat. We think it's one of the best overall, most fun to use sound systems we've ever used in a car.

Driving Impressions

The 2008 Cadillac CTS is a responsive sports sedan with excellent handling and high-speed stability yet it's smooth and quiet when cruising.

The more powerful of the two available engines is a new direct-injection V6 that produces 304 horsepower. It's extremely responsive. The difference in performance feel and sound from this engine compared with the standard 263-hp V6 is amazing. Not that there's anything wrong with the standard engine; the direct-injection engine just has more of everything, as it should, because it costs more.

The 304-hp V6 feels ready to go out and play anytime you want, delivering a really solid combination of power, torque and powerful sound whenever the throttle is opened all the way up.

The six-speed manually controlled automatic that comes with it is very quick and positive to shift, up or down, with a little bit of throttle blip on the downshifts to keep the drivetrain happy and to keep the tires from skidding.

Underneath all that new sheetmetal is a brand new suspension system with a new type of forward-mounted power rack-and-pinion steering system that pulls, rather than pushes, the steering arms, and it is sweet to drive, very accurate, with good feel and a nice, weighty demeanor.

With optional all-wheel-drive waiting to leap in whenever you decide to go a bit too fast through the corners, as we did in central California, the car feels very, very stable and inspires the confidence you need to go faster and faster through those corners.

If a cow or a truck wanders onto the road in front of you, the ABS/EBD brakes respond with very good stopping power, even for a car that tips the scales at 4100 pounds empty.

For all its newfound steering, cornering and handling prowess, the new CTS doesn't seem to exact any penalties in quietness or harshness over the road. It's very solidly put together, and in all other modes besides wide-open-throttle, it's quiet inside, even with 17-inch high-performance tires.

Summary

The new 2008 Cadillac CTS looks great and is relatively roomy inside. It's got lots of poke for the performance enthusiast with the bigger engine and available all-wheel drive. For those who don't need or want the extra stuff, there's lots of style with the standard V6 and rear-wheel drive. But we recommend checking the box for the all-wheel-drive system regardless of where you live because it adds so much more to the safety margin and it's more fun to drive, even if the car is heavier for it.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw test drove the CTS in Northern California.

Model Line Overview
Model lineup:Cadillac CTS ($32,245)
Engines:263-hp 3.6-liter V6; 304-hp 3.6-liter V6
Transmissions:6-speed automatic; 6-speed manual
Safety equipment (standard):frontal airbags, side-impact airbags, curtain airbags, ABS, EBD, traction control
Safety equipment (optional):all-wheel drive
Basic warranty:4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in:Lansing, Michigan
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSPR):Cadillac CTS AWD ($35,700)
Standard equipment:air conditioning, power steering, power disc brakes, keyless entry, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, console, cruise control, message center, trip computer, floor shift, fog lights, AM/FM/CD sound system
Options as tested (MSPR):DVD navigation system ($1995); convenience package ($475); DVD entertainment system ($995); AdvanceTrac ESC ($495); Sirius satellite radio ($195)
Destination charge:$745
Gas guzzler tax:N/A
Price as tested (MSPR):$40600
Layout:all-wheel drive
Engine:3.6-liter dohc 24-valve V6
Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):304 @ 6300
Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):273 @ 5200
Transmission:6-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:18/26 mpg
Wheelbase:113.0 in.
Length/width/height:191.6/72.5/58.0 in.
Track, f/r:61.8/62.0 in.
Turning circle:38.0 ft.
Seating Capacity:5
Head/hip/leg room, f:38.8/55.1/42.4 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m:N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r:37.2/54.1/35.9 in.
Cargo volume:13.6 cu. ft.
Payload:N/A
Towing capacity:1000 Lbs.
Suspension, f:independent, single lower arm, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, r:independent, multi-link, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Ground clearance:N/A
Curb weigth:4090 lbs.
Tires:P235/55R17
Brakes, f/r:disc/disc with ABS, EBD
Fuel capacity:20 gal.
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as of October 3, 2007.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable. Manufacturer Info Sources: - www.Cadillac.com