click above image for new live shots of the 2008 Cadillac CTS

While Damon was lucky enough to get an early shot at driving the brand-new 2008 Cadillac CTS on Laguna Seca last month, the rest of us had to wait until GM showed off its 2008 collection at the Milford Proving ground this week. We'll be bring you more First Drives from the GM event in the coming days, but let's start with our favorite GM product for 2008, the Cadillac CTS.

Customers in North America get to choose from two variants of the 3.6L V6 available in the CTS, one with port fuel injection and the other with direct injection (both models have variable valve timing). All four of the cars on-hand at Milford had the direct injected engine sending its 304 HP to either all four wheels or the rear axle only. The effort that Cadillac engineers and technicians put into designing and developing the CTS was certainly not in vain. That much should be evident by anyone who takes the new CTS for a test drive. Our latest driving impressions of Caddy's new sport sedan, including VIDEO, can be found after the jump.

click any image below to enlarge

GM set up a special course on the Milford Proving Ground's Vehicle Dynamics Test Area and Ride and Handling Loop that allowed us to evaluate the cars under a variety of conditions and road surfaces. After settling into the incredibly comfortable and supportive seat of the CTS, a press of the start button brings the engine to life. At idle the engine is almost Lexus silent, but underway it makes its presence felt with a solid push in the back and a deliciously precise mechanical sound as the revs climb. The 3.6L is as smooth as silk and pulls strongly throughout its rev range. One of the beauties of the direct injection system is that in addition to boosting output from 263 to 304 hp, fuel economy also climbs by 1 mpg and hydrocarbon emissions dip by twenty-five percent. Magic bullet, anyone?

General Motors has made it known repeatedly that it has spent a lot of development time on the treacherous Nordschleife at the Nurburgring in Germany with the CTS and other cars. The older North Loop is an old racetrack with lots of bumps and surface changes, and if the suspension can't articulate enough to keep the wheels in contact with the pavement, you can easily end up in the forest. The Milford Ride and Handling loop has some pretty nasty surfaces too, and the 'Ring time pays off in spades here. Hustling over some railroad tracks, sine waves, and assorted other rough stuff, the CTS body never shivered at all and stayed under control at all times. It never felt floaty or harsh, just perfectly balanced.

The Milford Loop has one particular sweeping right hand corner with some small amplitude, medium frequency bumps all the way through that can really unsettle lesser cars. The CTS just powered through, never feeling like it was going to let go at either end. This is the way a real world car needs to handle, able to absorb anything the road offers up without pounding the occupants into submission. The all-wheel-drive version felt just as responsive as the rear drive model, and would probably make a wonderful choice for drivers in more northerly regions. Our all too brief ride definitely yields a big yet tentative thumbs up so far. Of course, a more conclusive assessment will have to wait until we can spend more real world seat time with the CTS that includes kids in the back seat and stop and go traffic. So far, however, all the signs are good.

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