• Aug 21st 2007 at 9:03AM
  • 43
Click the image above for over 50 high-res pics.

It's easy to write off a new model when clever ad campaigns and the PR machine work overtime to convince you that it's God's gift to tarmac. In the case of the new CTS, a hard sell is completely unnecessary. Eschewing the hype and the art-and-science drivel, you're left with a striking exterior and the driving dynamics to match. Surprised? We were. And after a day of merciless flogging though the undulating hills of the Pacific coast, followed by a two-hour all-out assault on Laguna Seca, we came away with a newfound respect for not only Caddy's 2008 sports sedan, but the automaker as a whole.

When the CTS was introduced back in 2001, the new knife-edge design vocabulary may have proved off-putting to some, but it was a sign of good things to come. For 2008, Cadillac has moved the bar northward more notches than we can count, and came away with one of the most compelling American designs of the 21st century.

The hard lines found in the previous model gave way to a more smoothed out appearance which is still instantly recognizable, but strikes us as considerably more mature. The wheelbase remains the same, but the track has been widened by a full two inches, which not only pays dividends in the design department, but also offers considerably more grip than its predecessor.

The front fascia is far and away the most striking exterior element, with its deeply downward drawn grille, high-tech headlamps and conservative chrome accents. Moving on to the side, the air outlets ahead of the A-pillar have been talked to death, so we'll just say that they're as handsome as they are functional. Viewed from both the front and rear three-quarters perspective, it's obvious that the design department was going for a pitched, coupe-like profile. And while the C-pillar may appear chunky at first, it integrates well into the trunk lid, and does little to hamper rearward visibility. All that said, the back end left us longing for something a bit more compelling, but the revised tail lamps, complete with LEDs and light bar, offset the otherwise moribund posterior.

Pop open the hood and you're greeted with acres of plastic hiding away Cadillac's optional 3.6-liter direct injection V6. Producing 304 HP at 6,200 RPM and 273 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,100 RPM, this is the most powerful NA V6 engine GM has ever brought to market, and it fits the CTS like a glove. The high points include variable valve timing, aluminum block, cylinder heads and baffled oil pan, and an electronic throttle that does little to dampen enthusiastic squirts to the long pedal on the right.

The direct injection system on the CTS increases output both in horsepower and torque (fifteen percent and eight percent, respectively) as well as lowering emissions and boosting fuel economy by a marginal level (three percent). The only problem: noise. As anyone who's driven or been around a direct injected vehicle can attest, the incessant clicking from underneath the hood is enough to warrant a set of earplugs. With the CTS, Cadillac's acoustic engineers realized that engine noise is contrary to the brand's image and went about installing, not one, not two, but eight different buffers to negate the noise both inside and out. The abridged list includes a full-perimeter hood seal accompanied by an acoustically-tuned engine cover, engine valley "stuffers," engine bay "side curtains", a cover for the DI fuel pump and belly pan, as well as a laminated steel and blanketed dash panel. While noise reduction is all well and good, our first concern was how much weight this would add over the front end. A GM spokesperson wasn't sure, so we're hoping to find out tomorrow, but considering that the CTS is a full 400 pounds heavier than a 3-series, we think it's a valid concern.

The CTS comes in three different suspension specs: FE1, FE2 and FE3. While all models get the ZF steering rack and a functional front strut tower bar, we spent all our time in the FE3 model, which comes equipped with uprated brakes, Sachs Nivomat rear shocks (Bilsteins are standard) and 18x8.5-inch wheels with supercar-chic Michelin Pilot Sport 2 summer performance gumballs. We've had the chance to sample these tires on a number of vehicles, and they are far and away some of the best OEM-equipped rubber we've ever encountered – which speaks volumes about Cadillac's intentions for the CTS.

On the road, the suspension's compliance, even in FE3-spec, is incredibly tactile and exceptionally comfortable. Even on some of the more pocked roads that made up our test route, the CTS soaked up most imperfections with aplomb, but there was never a feeling of being overly isolated. Since the suspension has been only slightly revised for 2008, with the front upper and lower control arms getting aluminum units, while out back the multi-link arrangement remains largely the same, we were impressed with how small tweaks have made the new CTS a superior vehicle over its predecessor.

Our drive took us through some light South Bay traffic and then pointed us east through some of the more therapeutic roads winding through the hills leading to the Pacific. Most were narrow thoroughfares with sweeping, high-speed turns that brought out the best in the CTS's suspension. However, the best was yet to come, and the real test was awaiting us at Laguna Seca.

With access to both six-speed manual and automatic versions, our first hot lap out on the track introduced us to the idea of swapping cogs in a Cadillac. While pedal placement was spot-on, and heel-and-toe downshifts were easily achieved, the action of the shifter left much to be desired. Rubbery, long throws lacked any real feedback and were the preeminent buzzkill for the day. With everything else going for it, the manual-equipped CTS was a considerable disappointment, but thankfully, we doubt that many owners will check off the stick-shift option, which is all well and good, since the automatic fits the bill six days a week.

The auto-box gives you the option to stick it in Drive or Manual, with the latter changing the aggression of the shifts, even though you may choose not to pick your own gear. When you do downshift, a reasonably quick blip matches the revs after only a slight hesitation. Our only gripe with the manumatic operation was upshifts, which seemed to take far too long to be considered sporty. If there's an Achilles heel with the CTS, the gearboxes could be it.

As for handling, the CTS still may not be in the realm of its Germanic rivals, but it's getting closer than the folks at BMW and Mercedes would like. While the over boosted steering of the ZF setup was a bit lackluster at low speeds, once the friction circle starts getting beyond 7/10ths everything seems to click. Turn in is aggressive and easily correctable, while dive and squat is virtually non-existent. A truly compelling piece of kit, and we're still amazed that it's a Caddy.

Tomorrow, we'll be sampling all the wonders within, as the PR folks get into detail about Cadillac's new interior and infotainment setup. Look for that in another 24 hours.

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago

      caddy has been making nice vehicles for quite some time now. Ever heard of the CTS-V, STS, SRX, Escalade, XLR/XLR-V before? This is just an evolution, and a nice one at that.
      • 8 Years Ago
      this car may attract owners of BMWs and other foreign cars but it will have a problem selling to older caddy owners. a friend went from caddy to MB and he complained about the hard ride compared to the caddy.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Caddy is definitely changing their target market. As soon as they announced the death of the STS and DTS it became abundantly clear that they do not care about the older generation anymore. Look at their cars now...the Escalade, XLR, the new CTS, and upcoming smaller RWD sedan and a new 5-series fighter. This company is positioning themselves to directly take on Mercedes, BMW, and Audi.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Caddy is one of the only American brands doing anything exciting right now. High tech engine (f-ing amazing that an American car is actually up to date), striking exterior looks, great performance, and now a beautiful interior to match. I'd drive this no question.
        • 8 Years Ago
        "High tech engine (f-ing amazing that an American car is actually up to date)"

        I know, I can't wait for the ls7 in the V :)
      • 8 Years Ago

      Why doesn't Ford learn from GM's success with Cadillac and revive Lincoln as a competent luxury brand?
      • 8 Years Ago

      Also, the car looks awesome. I am pleased to see American engineering actually not castrated by the "it has to be CHEAPER" mentality. A little bit of quality [a lot in this case] will go a long way to restore respect. And it's like this across the board.
      • 8 Years Ago
      On the '08 CTS. Did you get taste of the AWD with V-6 DI ? I have RW drive in my current '06 CTS and have had trouble getting up my driveway in the winter. WE get just enough snow and ice in the northeast to for me to rule out another RW drive. Otherwise I'm taking the wife's SAAB skiing.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I am sure this is a nice vehicle to drive but the outside looks like a freaking brick, GM designers need to go away from the rulers and learn a bit of trigonometry and create some curves and creases.

      So all in all, 2008 Caddy CTS, good performance, boring design.
        • 8 Years Ago
        The Other Bob, it happens that I am a math major and it happens that trigonometry is a part of calculus, the definitions can be extended to use tools from calculus. Sin, Cos, Tan, are all the basis of designing complex shapes whether 2d or 3d.
        • 8 Years Ago
        "learn a bit of trigonometry and create some curves and creases."

        Actually curves would require calculus. Engineers usually have four or so classes in it.

        I happen to like the fact that it doesn't look like every other car on the road. If it had curves people would complain that it was just another copy of someone elses car.
      • 8 Years Ago
      This car looks like a great leap forward, but I think the Cadillac brand is badly damaged in some parts of the country and it's going to take time to recover.

      90% of the newer Cadillacs I see in Southern California are Escalades. CTSes are extremely rare, as are STSes. I see an SRX here and there, but I see more new DTSes than CTSes, and the people driving all of the sedans are invariably 60+ years old.

      As good of a car as this might be, GM has to show patience with the Cadillac brand. They're not going to win over BMW, Audi and Mercedes drivers as quickly as they were lot during the Cimarron years. My guess is that this car will sell well in the Midwest and parts of the East coast (Florida, Jersey, New York) but continue to struggle elsewhere.

      I grew up around Cadillacs in the '70s when they started their decent into hell. It will take a solid decade of competitive Cadillac sedans for me to forget the bad vinyl roofs and plastic chrome and consider buying this over a German sports sedan. A CTS coupe would also help!

        • 8 Years Ago
        Live in Silicon Valley, grew up in Detroit, more or less gave up on Cadillac 20 years ago when i came of age but now seriously considering a CTS. Would the Autobloggers, pls give me some advice-- not a car guy, prefer a distinctive, high-quality, high-performance, superior design car and am trying to choose btn a CTS, a comparable Audi, a (lightly used) Jag if I can find one. What do you recommend and why?
        • 8 Years Ago
        Hey, I drive a '05 CTS in SoCal. They aren't rare at all. Its a great car - fun to drive and comfortable. The biggest area needing improvement was the interior and the new '08 CTS interior looks great. Maybe the CTS just suits me and my tastes, but I would suggest you look at these new CTS with an open mind not tainted by bad cars 20 years ago.
        • 8 Years Ago
        I'm also in the Socal/LA area and I agree that the majority of Cadillacs on the road around here are Escalades. The perception of Cadillac as an old-man's car won't go away overnight, but this new CTS will sure as hell help.

        Without a doubt, the new CTS will be my next car. And as a young 20-something "professional," I think I'm the exact demographic Caddy is trying to attract.

        If anything, the fact that there aren't a ton of CTSs around here is attractive to me. There are more 3-series in this city than Camrys. This thing is beautiful and will definitely stand out. Can't wait to get my hands on one!
      • 8 Years Ago
      beautyful, amazing and thats luxury. now i wont buy an accord, it looks ugly. domestics are getting in track once again. Big 3 rulez!!!
      • 8 Years Ago
      I'll hold comments till I drive one, but I have not considered a domestic as an option for my next car purchase until now. With the 3.6 option, I'd like to see a comparo against a Lexus IS 3.5 and a BMW 335i. I do like the interior (based on pics alone) better than BMW's, but want to know if it is on par with the best or at least close but at a slightl cost advantage.
      • 8 Years Ago
      What was gas mileage like? GM has been doing a decent job of addressing concerns in this department recently. (ie the cylinder shutoff in their big V8s) Did this theme carry through to the new CTS?
      • 8 Years Ago
      PLEASE drill these guys on the lack of Bluetooth availability tomorrow when you cover the interior! This is an amazing car that is shameful to be void of this now standard option. Every other luxury car offers this and Cadillac's answer is to look to the aftermarket for ugly "add ons" that will be really tacky in an otherwise excellent interior.

      Hit them hard on why they left this out and find out WHEN it will be included and if they can retrofit the cars hitting lots right now.

        • 8 Years Ago
        have you ever actually used built-in bluetooth in the car? I much prefer my headset to using the car's stereo. Call quality is superior IMO.
        • 8 Years Ago
        They said it will be available later in the year, but they were shy on details. If I find out more, I'll update the interior post which will be forthcoming later today.
        • 8 Years Ago
        YES, I've used Bluetooth in a rental Infiniti M35 I had a few months ago. I paired my phone with that car and after using it for a couple days I swore I would NEVER buy a car that didnt offer it. It was amazing. A call comes in and the radio mutes, the navigation screen displays the caller ID, and a simple button push picks up the call. Sound quality through the audio system was excellent and the caller on the other end reported no better or worse road noise than through my Bluetooth headset.

        I was sold immediately and will base car buying decisions on this feature!
    • Load More Comments