2010 Cadillac CTS Expert Review:Autoblog
In Europe, the humble station wagon holds a big-time slice of the family driver demographic, partly because ridiculous petrol prices make big SUVs and crossovers far too uneconomical. Americans, on the other hand, have a fundamental problem with the station wagon. We're not sure if the wagon is uncool because it was our parents' preferred family vehicle or if the aesthetics of it are just too boxy for our fashion forward culture. The only subset of the American public who has consistently called for more wagons are automotive enthusiasts, though even we seldom seem to vote for the Griswald Family Truckster with our pocketbooks.
Cadillac is all too aware of America's disdain for the wagon, as evidenced by the fact that General Motors' luxury brand has never built a squat two box for the U.S. market. That changes for 2010 as the Wreath and Crest begins production of its 2010 Cadillac CTS Sportwagon. This Caddy begins life with hot-to-trot sheetmetal and the underpinnings of the excellent CTS sedan, but does it have the chutzpah to change our less than flattering opinions about the station wagon? We gave the CTS Sportwagon some time in the Autoblog Garage to see if the first-ever U.S.-market Caddy wagon has the goods to make Americans stop their loathing and get to loading. Click on the jump to find out.
Photos copyright ©2009 Chris Shunk / Weblogs, Inc.
When Cadillac set out to build a wagon version of the popular CTS sedan, the goal was to export a considerable volume overseas where wagons are welcomed with open arms. A new 2.9-liter diesel powertrain was rumored to be the engine of choice for our European allies, giving car buyers the oil burners they expect across the pond. By the time the production CTS Sportwagon was ready for prime time, though, General Motors was prepping for bankruptcy and its Europe-based Opel brand was on the auction block. Gas prices had also dropped considerably here in the States, making the prospect of an expensive diesel engine in the U.S. market even more unlikely.
After months of careful planning, GM's plan to build many CTS Sportwagons for overseas markets is looking as hazy as the Southern California skyline. The Caddy wagon may now have to survive mainly by its success or failure in North America, and GM is clearly hoping that high style with a dash of functionality will win the day.
At first glance, the CTS Sportwagon is a real eye-catcher. It's bold, form-over-function sheetmetal catches the eye, then details like three-foot-long tail lights and 19-inch wheels help keep onlookers fixed on the prize. Cadillac has astutely dialed back its chrome quotient over the past couple years, and the CTS Sportwagon manages to stand out without mimicking a pimp's dental work.
What makes the CTS Sportwagon really look special is its raked roofline, which gives it an athletic appearance. Cadillac will tell you that the 58-cubic-feet of cargo capacity with the rear seats folded flat are within one foot of the much taller SRX, but we'd argue that the smallish rear hatch opening and steeply raked roofline makes that space far less usable. For example, we couldn't fit a kid's bike in the back (with the rear seat up) without removing the handle bars. We're talking about a six-year-old's bike, but the low roofline of the CTS Sportwagon doesn't abide by awkward-shaped objects.
The Sportwagon does have some strong utilitarian points, though, including a power liftgate that adjusts its opening height at the touch of a button (to accommodate short drivers or low garage clearances) and an ingenious cargo management system that allows owners to corral their groceries in a manner that prevents them from sliding all over the place. There is also a cargo door on the rear floor that reveals a recessed area with a rubber floormat to secure more valuable items from public view.
But any shortcomings the CTS Sportwagon has out back is more than made up for with a brilliantly laid out cabin that mirrors that of the CTS sedan. Cadillac designers have included soft touch materials throughout accented by the brand's well-regarded cut-and-sew stitching. The seats in the CTS are terrific, with firm foam to keep backsides happy even on long drives, along with lateral bolstering suitable for a luxury vehicle that just happens to have some moves. The Caddy's center stack doubles as an infotainment command center, with an available ginormous pop-up navigation screen that is easy to use, along with terrifically executed MP3 player integration that works without the need to hit a bunch of buttons.
Of course, the minute we discovered that we could simply call On-Star and tell them where we wanted to go and they'd map out our destination for us, we got lazy and stopped entering info into the navigation system ourselves. Using On-Star is safer and arguably easier, as you interact with an actual human being who can help determine exactly where you need to go, even if you're traveling at 70 mph. That said, not everyone is interested in interacting with an actual human being – or adding another monthly fee to their stack of bills – and will be perfectly happy with Cadillac's nav system that forgoes joysticks, knobs and other crazy controllers for simple onscreen executions.
While the CTS Sportwagon is impressive inside, it certainly isn't perfect. Lack of driver legroom is the largest issue. That command center of the center stack is so wide that it intrudes upon the driver's right knee space. It's almost impossible for an average-sized driver to find an ideal driving position unless the seat is moved uncomfortably far away from the steering wheel. Cadillac could partially alleviate the pain of this encroachment by adding some cushy padding to the sides of the stack, as what's currently there doesn't give enough to coddle our caps. Another more minor annoyance is that the car's high beltline narrows the view outside and makes the cabin feel isolated.
As a luxury wagon, Cadillac delivers the style and comfort that customers expect. But since Cadillac has decided to go the extra mile and call its newest ride a Sportwagon, we expect an engaging driving experience as well. To examine the SW's performance chops, we first look at hardware. Our tester came equipped with a direct injected 3.6-liter V6 engine capable of 304 horsepower and 273 lb-ft mated to a slick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. Our rear-wheel drive Sportwagon also came equipped with 19-inch alloys covered with super sticky ContiSport Contact 3 summer radials, GM's taut FE3 suspension package and a moonroof, bringing its MSRP to $53,455. All-wheel drive is available at extra cost, but our tester's pricetag is otherwise representative of a fully loaded example.
On paper, the CTS Sportwagon sounds like a competent performer, and the specs are confirmed when judged from behind the wheel. When tooling around town, the 3.6-liter V6 is very responsive, with ample power available across the range. When in auto mode, a quick stab at the pedal results in a slight delay before acceleration, but head over to sport mode and you'll find that the go pedal is markedly more responsive. GM says the CTS Sportwagon will hit 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, which isn't exactly burning up the pavement but more than adequate in a two ton luxury tourer. We achieved 21 mpg while largely tooling around town in the CTS Sportwagon; a mid-pack figure that is in line with its expected 18/25 fuel economy numbers.
The sedan version of the Cadillac CTS really comes alive on the open road, but we had our reservations that the wagon's extra 200 lbs would hamper performance. We didn't worry for long. The Sportwagon has the same 191.6 inch length and 113.4 inch wheelbase as the sedan, and its hardware hasn't been dumbed down for wagon duty. Our tester's FE3 suspension held this Caddy tight in and out of curves, with minimal body roll and plenty of confidence that the ContiSport grip wasn't about to go ghost.
In our estimation, the only downside to selecting the FE3 suspension package is that it doesn't soak up bumps in the road quite as efficiently as we'd like, though we'd trade the added layer of plushness for handling any day of the week – and that's here in Michigan, where most of the road surfaces are just potholes holding hands. The Sportwagon's rack-and-pinion steering feels a bit light in stop-and-go traffic, but get its veins pumping and feedback and precision increases with speed. Interestingly, there was quite a bit of brake pedal travel on our tester, a condition that happens occasionally with aggressively driven media vehicles. We still had no problem bringing the two-ton wagon to a quick stop when the need arose, but we'd be curious to see if a fresh-from-the-line example would still show the same pedal characteristics.
It isn't hard to figure out what enthusiasts want out of an entry-level luxury vehicle. Bold, attention-grabbing styling, plenty of power and the latest tech advances are all part of the docket, and the Cadillac CTS Sportwagon delivers on all fronts. The CTS Sportwagon may well be the best looking vehicle in the Cadillac lineup, and it helps that it is also blessed with the soul of its brilliant sedan stablemate. In all, the Cadillac CTS Sportwagon offers plenty to love at a price that starts at $40,655 (including $825 for in destination charges). Add a capable, 304 hp 3.6-liter V6 and the added cargo capacity that comes with a 21st century station wagon, and the CTS Sportwagon may actually be the kind of wagon that wins over the finicky American consumer – it did the trick with us.
Photos copyright ©2009 Chris Shunk / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Cadillac is making world class sports sedans.
Boasting style, performance and technology, the Cadillac CTS is a sports sedan that can go toe-to-toe with the best the world has to offer, including the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus GS, Infiniti G37, and Audi A4. Available all-wheel drive makes the CTS a good foul weather car.
And for its part, the high-performance Cadillac CTS-V can compete with the best high-performance sports sedans in the world (BMW M3, Mercedes C63 AMG, Audi S4) at a much lower cost.
This doesn't surprise us, quite frankly, because we've been watching the CTS for some time now. The original car was good and they've been improving it ever since, particularly in the area of refinement. What may surprise you about the CTS is its level of refinement.
The CTS boasts responsive handling and excellent high-speed stability, yet it's smooth and quiet around town or when cruising at highway speeds. The ride quality strikes a perfect balance between smoothness and handling. The steering is accurate, with good feel and a nice, weighty demeanor. The car feels solidly put together, and it's quiet underway. Inside is an attractive cabin trimmed with nice materials that exudes an airy, open feel. Everything is easy to operate.
Simply stated, the Cadillac CTS is a very enjoyable car.
The CTS and CTS-V feature sophisticated suspension systems developed, among other places, at the world-famous Nurburgring race track in Germany. Called the Nordschleife, the 14-mile northern loop of what was the old Nurburgring circuit is considered the toughest, most dangerous, most demanding purpose-built race track in the world. A 2009 CTS-V posted what may have been, at that time, the fastest lap at the Nordschleife for a standard production four-door sedan, an impressive feat given the hot rods BMW, Mercedes, Audi and others routinely roll out. To prepare for this lap John Heinricy from GM's performance division simply shifted the automatic transmission into Drive and let it do its thing.
New for 2010, is a 3.0-liter V6 engine rated at 270 horsepower and 223 pound-feet of torque. Though smaller in displacement, the new engine offers more power than the previous 3.6-liter that came standard. Meanwhile, an optional 3.6-liter V6 is available with 304 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. We found both engines smooth and responsive. They are thoroughly modern in every way, boasting all-aluminum construction and double overhead-cams with variable valve timing and Direct Injection for the optimum in power, fuel economy, and emissions. Either is available with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
The 2010 CTS models come with new features such as 19-inch polished alloy wheels with 245/45ZR19 tires, an air filtration system that takes care of cabin odors, a suede-trimmed steering wheel, a wood trim package for the CTS-V, along with new colors and repackaging of the options.
The Cadillac CTS uses rear-wheel drive, which is the best layout for performance sedans. But it's also available with all-wheel drive. The AWD uses an active transfer case that normally applies 40 percent of the power to the front wheels, 60 percent to the rear, but in slippery conditions can apply all of the torque to either axle. A limited-slip differential is available.
The Cadillac CTS-V has a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that makes 556 horsepower at 6100 rpm and 551 pound-feet of torque at 3800 rpm; it is available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. CTS-V is rear-wheel drive. The CTS-V is a genuinely fast car. Cadillac says it's capable of 191 mph and 0-60 mph performance in 3.9 seconds. We found the CTS-V to be one fast ride at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, capable of lap times on the sinewy circuit nearly as quick as a NASCAR Sprint Cup racecar. The CTS-V rides on the firmer side, much like the European luxury sports sedans do.
The 2010 Cadillac CTS comes with a 3.0-liter 270-hp V6 engine ($36,730) or a 3.6-liter 304-hp V6 ($43,825). The automatic transmission is optional ($1,300). All-wheel drive is available only with the automatic.
CTS standard features include leather seating surfaces, dual-zone automatic climate control, OnStar with turn-by-turn navigation, a Bose eight-speaker sound system with CD, MP3 and auxiliary capability, remote keyless entry and programmable central locking, power windows with express-up-down on the front and express-down on the rear, power driver's seat and XM Satellite Radio.
The optional Luxury Package ($3,400) for the CTS with 3.0-liter V6 adds a six-disc CD changer, Bluetooth, a cargo convenience net, accent lighting, memory, heated and 10-way power driver and front passenger seats with power lumbar, theft deterrent alarm, universal garage door opener, wood trim, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Performance Package ($5,000) adds foglamps, HID headlamps, limited-slip differential, V-rated tires, performance brakes, sport suspension and some additional features. The optional AM/FM/CD/MP3/DVD audio system ($3,145 with 3.0-liter V6, $2,145 with 3.6) has Bose 5.1 Cabin Surround Sound, 10 speakers, a hard-drive, HDD-based navigation, XM NavTraffic/Real Time Weather and USB connectivity.
The Premium Package for the CTS with 3.6-liter V6 ($6,095) includes cabin filtration, the high-end sound system with navigation, keyless entry, remote start, rear park assist, heated and ventilated seats, power tilt and telescope steering column with memory, moonroof, and numerous luxury and convenience features that are parts of other packages. The Performance Package ($1,840 with manual transmission, $2,090 with automatic) includes 19-inch polished wheels, performance tires, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters (with automatic transmission), fog lamps, performance suspension, limited-slip differential, and performance brakes. In addition, there are several stand-alone options, including the moonroof, polished alloy wheels and various paint choices.
The CTS-V ($60,720) features a supercharged V8, a limited-slip differential, Brembo disc brakes with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers, P255/40ZR19 tires in front and P285/35ZR19 tires in the rear, and 10-spoke alloy wheels measuring 9.0 inches wide in front and 9.5 inches wide in the rear. The CTS-V also has distinctive exterior details, including a mesh grille and appropriate badging, to make it stand apart from the normal CTS. The CTS looks clean, elegant and modern, but the CTS-V, with its few changes, takes on a more assertive appearance. Optional for the CTS-V are Recaro front seats ($3,400) and a suede steering wheel ($300).
Safety features that come standard on all models include front, side and side-curtain airbags, ABS and Stabilitrak electronic stability control and traction control. Optional all-wheel drive improves safety further.
The Cadillac CTS looks like a modern Cadillac sports sedan should. We think it's a great looking car, with adventurous lines everywhere, especially in the gracefully sloping rear roof section.
The eggcrate grille on the CTS is in keeping with the rest of the Cadillac lineup, plus it provides a generous supply of incoming air for the engine, brake and transmission cooling functions. The large lighting units at the front and rear make good use of LED (light-emitting diode) technology: lots of light and lots of style for little electrical load. The taillights, rear quarter panels and decklid also fit the Cadillac theme. Below the rear bumper are exposed dual exhaust tips.
The CTS-V is distinguished by functional features. The power dome hood, distinctive wheel and tire package, and the bold mesh grille suggest intent for serious driving. The larger mesh grill is for improved airflow. The power dome hood is as small as they could make it. Big brake ducts help cool the big two-piece Brembo calipers. The center brake light reduces rear lift. The dual exhaust provides better performance.
Inside, the theme is black with brushed metal and chrome accents. It's very contemporary, very modern, very attractive and very space efficient.
The dashboard is fairly low and away from the front seats, which gives an airy and open feel to the car. The center stack on the CTS is beautifully done, easy to read and use, with some interesting readout placements here and there. While the previous-generation model had a cold interior, the current CTS boasts a lovely cabin indeed.
We found the comfortable front bucket seats held us down and in place behind the wheel, including some enthusiastic driving on central California's windiest, curviest roads.
We really appreciated the range of adjustments offered by the power seats and the power steering column. The tilt-and-telescope column offers ultimate comfort and proper driving position. The instrument package is complete, easy to read, and graphically pretty.
In short, we found the CTS cabin to be a nice place to sit and take a drive. The driver is held in securely yet comfortably to properly operate the car, and the passengers enjoy a feeling of ease, confidence and luxury. It's great to see Cadillac offer such a terrific interior.
The AM/FM/XM Bose 5.1 sound system with the 40-gigabyte hard-drive, iPod connector and USB port offers the ultimate in 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, most fun-to-use sound systems available. Many other luxury cars have audio systems that are fussy or difficult to operate.
The CTS-V has a sportier cabin, with a thick-rimmed steering wheel available in suede. The dead pedal, allowing the driver to brace the left leg, is optimized for racing. A Recaro option is available with 14-way adjustable seats, including bolsters that can be pumped up for hard driving then deflated for cruising.
The Cadillac CTS is a responsive sports sedan with excellent handling and high-speed stability, yet it's smooth and quiet when cruising.
Both V6 engines have dohc, variable valve timing and direct injection. As a result, they are both responsive and lively. The 3.0-liter, with its 270 horsepower, is a very good standard engine, although it doesn't match the power and torque of the 3.6-liter V6. The Direct Injection gives each engine extremely good throttle response, and also enhances fuel economy and emissions. Somewhat surprisingly, there is little or no penalty in fuel economy with the larger engine, so, if the additional expense is not an issue, we have to recommend it. With its 304 horsepower it feels ready to go out and play anytime you want, delivering a really solid combination of power, torque and assertive sound whenever the throttle is opened all the way up.
The six-speed automatic is very quick and positive to shift manually, up or down, with a little bit of throttle blip on the downshifts to keep the drivetrain happy and to keep the tires from skipping and chirping. The six-speed manual offers an easy clutch and requires only a light touch on the shift lever to change gears; it is surprisingly good. The choice comes down to your preference. We liked both of them.
The steering is sweet to drive, very accurate, with good feel and a nice, weighty demeanor. The steering system uses a forward-mounted power rack-and-pinion that pulls, rather than pushes, the steering arms. (It pulls on the steering arm of that front tire which will be on the outside in the turn, so in a right-hand turn it is pulling on the left-side steering arm, placing that side in tension rather than compression.)
All-wheel drive is optional on the CTS. We found it makes the car feel very stable and adds to driver confidence on winding roads. We recommend getting if wintry weather or big rain are part of the seasonal picture.
The brakes are excellent, equipped with ABS and Electronic Brake-force Distribution. They provide very good stopping power, even for a car that tips the scales at well over two tons.
For all its steering, cornering and handling prowess, the CTS doesn't seem to exact any penalties in quietness or harshness over the road, an impressive combination. It feels very solidly put together. It's quiet inside in all modes other than wide-open throttle. Its 17-inch high-performance tires seem to assist it with this balance.
Driving the CTS-V is a completely different experience from that of the CTS. It's not a lightweight at well over 4000 pounds, but with 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque, it delivers stellar performance. Yet, it's perfectly capable of idling around town. The clutch is light, the shifter feels just about perfect, the seats are comfortable and, the CTS-V can mosey down to the grocery store just fine. It's fairly quiet underway, and the ride is not harsh.
On the road, we found the CTS-V idled smoothly and quietly but responded to throttle inputs unlike any other Cadillac. Big torque, big power, right now. The huge tires didn't make very much road noise, but they did provide the kind of cornering we're not used to in a fully equipped, 4300-pound luxury sedan. In combination with those instant-acting shock absorbers and the big tires, the CTS-V felt like a German-style sports sedan, with quick steering and deft handling on the country roads, a smooth ride, and massively powerful brakes.
On the track, we found the CTS-V to be a rocket, fast and predictable. We were quickly able to drive it very hard while still well within our driving abilities. It is a car that inspires confidence. The CTS-V is a superb car, capable of running against the best sedans from Germany and Japan.
The Cadillac CTS looks great and is relatively roomy inside. It's got lots of go for the performance enthusiast. And all-wheel drive is available for wintry climates. 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. We could find ourselves infatuated with the awesomely impressive CTS-V but, in actuality, we could be perfectly happy with the CTS and its optional 304-hp Direct Injection 3.6-liter V6.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw test drove the CTS in Northern California and the CTS-V near White Plains, New York; with Mitch McCullough reporting on the CTS-V from Infineon Raceway at Sonoma, California.
Cadillac CTS 3.0 ($36,730); 3.0 Auto AWD ($39,930); 3.6 Auto ($43,825); 3.6 Auto AWD ($45,725); CTS-V ($60,720).
Options As Tested
AM/FM/CD/DVD/MP3 Bose 5.1 Cabin Surround Sound with 10 speakers, HDD-based navigation, XM NavTraffic, and USB connectivity ($2,145); Performance Luxury Package ($2,855).
Cadillac CTS 3.6 AWD ($45,725).
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