First Drive: 2008 Cadillac CTS - Interior and Infotainment

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While the exterior styling of the new CTS has garnered its fair share of praise, it's not until you step inside and realize that Cadillac's design renaissance is not an aberration. Swathed in acres of high-quality material, the textures, colors and layout is provocative enough to get your attention, but subdued in a way that doesn't distract from the task at hand.

Click here to read Part 1 on exterior styling and driving impressions.

Beginning with the center console, the styling ethos that dictates the sheet metal outside carries forward into the cabin, with smooth creases and flowing lines that cleanly integrate one element with the next. The center-mounted analog clock is framed by the volume and tuning controls; while underneath, a mass of high-grade plastic buttons walk the line between straightforward selection and overwhelming chaos. It's a bit much at first, but it's quickly learned and easily adapted.

Turn the ignition to the "On" position, and those who've opted for the Bose 5.1 audio system, 40-gig hard-drive and navigation system ($3,145) are in for a show. The infotainment touch screen rises from the dash within a few seconds, simultaneously displaying an animation of the wreath and shield logo. After the pomp and circumstance concludes, you're greeted with a host of options ranging from sat-nav to music selection.

While being able to hook up your iPod is quickly becoming par for the course, Cadillac allows users to choose between a standard 1/8-inch audio jack or a USB connection. The latter allows the driver and passenger to navigate playlists via the touch screen or steering wheel controls.

The 40-gig hard drive is nothing we haven't seen before, giving users the ability to rip their own tunes for access on the road, but one particular function proved to be a complete revelation and is far-and-away Caddy's killer app. The hard drive has the ability to record 60 minutes of live radio or XM transmissions, which can then be paused, rewinded or stored for later consumption. It's TiVo for the car radio! We're so impressed with this particular feature that we're going to dedicate a post to it later in the week.

Once you've navigated the navigation, fooled around with the XM and marveled in the iPod integration, you're finally able to take in some of the more subtle, sophisticated elements employed in the CTS. While we'll concede that there are a few too many materials spread throughout the cabin, thankfully, each one lacks the err air of GM's former bean-counter dictatorship. Paramount among them is the new "cut-and-sew" material process, which covers everything from the instrument panel, dash, center console and door trim, all of which has been sewn and applied by hand. Wood trim was an optional extra which we could take or leave, but for our money the two-tone charcoal and "titanium" gray color combo was the most handsome in the group.

The air vents flanking both sides of the center console sit atop the dual-zone climate controls, and proved to be our only real complaint with the interior arrangement. The cambered angle of the console and the placement of the controls proved a little off-putting and seemed like a design afterthought.

After spending over two-hours in the car on Monday, followed by another two hours of track time, we're happy to report that we never experienced any kind of driver fatigue. The seats, while thinner than on the outgoing model, are well bolstered and offer a nice amount of cushioning. Back seat passengers should be happy if they're required to spend time aft of the driver, with an acceptable amount of legroom and more space for shoulders and hips, thanks to the new CTS's widened track and redesigned interior. Our only qualm with the front seats: a metal chevron placed right between the shoulder blades will prove to be a shock for female passengers wearing a backless outfit in the summer months.

It's a rare occasion that we find a vehicle that looks as good at night as it does during the day, but the CTS proves to be the exception to the rule. Like we mentioned in our previous post, the crisp lines combined with the LED and light tubes make it a handsome after-hours cruiser. On the inside, it's more of the same, with ambient lighting piped throughout the dash and underneath the door handles. It's a somewhat dramatic setting that we look forward to seeing more of in Cadillac's future offerings.

It's clear that Cadillac, and GM, are on the upswing in the product department, and the new CTS is proof positive that after two decades of neglect, the General's executive and design teams are beginning to work together to produce compelling vehicles. We came away impressed, and may we be the first to say: it's about damn time.

Click here to read Part 1 on exterior styling and driving impressions.

All Photos ©2007 Damon Lavrinc / Weblogs, Inc.

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