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2008 Cadillac CTS Road Test

Traditional luxury meets non-traditional performance

By Kevin 'Crash' Corrigan

2008 Cadillac CTS. Photo courtesy GM.
One of the very first vehicles that I ever drove in Canada was a Cadillac.

Oh yes, a white Eldorado Biarritz convertible, with a white roof and white interior. Talk about a pose-mobile! No, I wasn't a stand-in driver for Boss Hog of the Dukes of Hazard fame; it belonged to a friend of mine.

Now when I say “friend of mine,” what I actually mean is, he owned a local British pub in the Manitoba town that I lived in, and as he liked his beer even more than I do, I often had to jump behind the bar, serve his customers, call “last orders,” then lock up and drive him home! (Mind you, when I wasn't doing that, he did let me drink there for free. For a youngster, that was the deal of the century!)

Of course, he was much older than me. I was 19 or 20, and he was over 60. Well, back in those days one had to produce a pension book before they would actually sell you a Cadillac! At least that's how it seemed to me!

Of course, the years roll by and things change. We now have computerized fridges, hospitals that perform open-heart surgery on a day-release basis, and someone even went and invented something called Viagra!

Oh, how things have changed for the older folk of today, but what must be the single biggest surprise for them is the average age of today's Cadillac driver.

2008 Cadillac CTS. Photo courtesy GM.The famous North American luxury car manufacturer, which was once famed for building floating gin palaces that took up half a city block, has transformed itself into one of the coolest vehicle manufacturers on the planet. In fact, very little resemblance to the old-school Cadillac is to be seen in the current line-up, and some of the models look as if they've stepped straight out of the future.

The 2008 CTS is just one of such vehicles. First introduced in 2002 as a 2003 model, its sharp, distinctive lines were a major departure for the company, and I'm sure that several customers took a double-take when they first saw it.

It perhaps also gave some of the other brands a few grey hairs, as it placed the Cadillac brand squarely into their market segment.

I'm not joking here. I'm talking about companies like BMW, Audi, Jaguar and several of the high-end Japanese manufacturers who, never in their wildest dreams, expected to be in sports sedan competition with a company like Cadillac!

Well, now they are, and with the '08 CTS starting at under $40,000, I'd say that they deserve to be a little nervous.

My tester was the CTS 3.6 L SIDI RWD, the rear-wheel drive version (it also comes in AWD), with the 3.6-litre V6 SIDI motor. This engine produces 304 hp, and coupled to a slick six-speed automatic transmission, it moves! In fact, at the recent AJAC Car of the Year TestFest, the AWD version returned a 0-60 mph time of 7.2 seconds. Thinking back, I can remember when the Volkswagen Gti and even the 944 Porsche struggled to obtain those kinds of numbers.

Another point worth mentioning is that the L/100kms fuel-economy figures of 12.5 City/7.5 Hwy/10.1 combined are not too shabby, and also, unlike many of its competitors, the CTS can operate on plain old regular gasoline.

Now most drivers know that the CTS is very distinctive and quite stunning from the outside, and the minor external add-ons for this model year, like the stylish side vents, certainly add to this. However, it was the vehicle's interior that truly impressed me.

As soon as you step into the CTS, you feel like you're in a true luxury sports sedan. The cockpit wraps around you and the dashboard configuration is wonderful. Many have said that the Cadillac layout looks similar to that of some other manufacturers; one so named was Acura.

Yes, I can possibly see a little bit of that in there, but be fair now, the Japanese car companies have been borrowing design ideas for years from everyone, and with so many vehicles out there nowadays, how can anyone realistically come up with anything that doesn't remotely resemble someone else's work?

2008 Cadillac CTS. Photo courtesy GM.Now to the drive, and I truly liked the feel of the CTS. It sits squarely on the road, and inspires confidence. The ride might be unfamiliar to any older Cadillac owners, but I felt that it suited the sporty design of the vehicle.

I would liken it to a European sports sedan in many ways. In fact, although it is RWD, I found it to have the feeling of the Saturn Aura in many ways, just much better appointed. Now just think about that for a moment. I'd say it wasn't a bad comparison, considering that the Saturn Aura is basically a European design, and it won the North American Car of the Year Award last year!

You've probably all seen the TV ads for this car, which mentions “be the hammer.” I would say that the quote rings true to a point. The CTS feels a little like a luxury muscle car in many ways, and although it might not be the quickest in its class, it does give you the feeling of driving a powerful car.

The ride qualities are, as I have said, quite European in feel. The CTS offers a reasonably comfortable if slightly firm ride at normal speeds. However, tramp on the right hand pedal, and it can mix it up with the best of them.

I enjoyed my week in the new CTS. It offers true luxury motoring, with an agile and sprightly ride. It is also extremely well appointed, especially when you take the price factor into consideration.

All in all, I'd say that Cadillac is onto a winner with this one, and I feel that there will be quite a few sports sedan shoppers making a first trip to a local Cadillac dealership. Now who'd have thought that a few years ago?

What's to like: With prices starting at under $40,000, the CTS does have a distinct advantage over much of its competition.

Caveat: The aggressive styling might not be to everyone's taste.

Consider this: Buyers will have to endure the older Cadillac owners constantly saying, “Back in my day, a Cadillac was a Cadillac” (whatever that means).

Kevin 'Crash' Corrigan is a regular contributor to CarTest!

Posted May 22, 2008.

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