2003 CTS New Car Test Drive
Cadillac has broken a lot of new ground with its all-new CTS. It drives like a European luxury sports sedan and, like Mercedes-Benz and BMW, this new Cadillac uses rear-wheel drive instead of front-wheel drive. It is designed to appeal to younger buyers who want European performance in an American luxury product. The smallest of Cadillac's sedans, the CTS replaces the European-built Cadillac Catera, two generations of which failed to capture the imagination of the American buying public.
The CTS is built in America, but its power, handling, luxury, and electronics put it in direct competition with sedans from around the world: the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the BMW 3 Series, the Audi A4, the Lexus ES 300, and the Lincoln LS. Cadillac engineers used a BMW 5 Series (the previous 528i) as a performance benchmark. This is the first car to be built on GM's all-new Sigma rear-wheel-drive platform. The CTS will be built in GM's first brand-new factory in years, in Lansing, Michigan.
Cadillac CTS is a five-passenger, four-door sports sedan powered by a 3.2-liter dohc V6 engine. For the first time ever in a GM car, it comes with a choice of either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic overdrive transmission.
Three variants of the CTS are available. The base CTS starts at just $29,990, which includes the $640 destination charge. (Everyone should include destination charges in their pricing.)
Two big packages are available for the CTS. The CTS Luxury Package ($2,000) includes an eight-way power adjustable passenger seat, audible theft deterrent system, Zebrano wood trim, memory package, rear-view mirror compass, and a three-channel programmable garage door opener with electronic voice recorder.
The CTS Luxury Sport Package ($3,500) includes all of those features plus the Stabilitrak 2.0 chassis control system, sport-tuned suspension, high-performance brake linings, load-leveling rear suspension, speed-sensitive power steering, and 17-inch polished wheels with V-rated tires.
Other options on our test car included the five-speed electronic automatic transmission, a Bose premium sound system with cassette/six-disc CD changer and CD-ROM-based navigation, 16-inch wheels, an engine block heater, heated front seats, express-open sunroof, xenon high-intensity discharge headlamps and a split-folding rear seat: The entire enchilada, the most expensive CTS you can buy, and it retailed for $39,690.
Whether buyers will opt for the five-speed manual transmission for truly sporty driving remains to be seen. But it is notable that Cadillac went to the trouble of developing the manual gearbox with German supplier Getrag. It says clearly that Cadillac sees the CTS as a sports sedan. It's a good transmission, whether anyone buys it or not.