Cadillac. An American icon. The unmistakable statement that you have arrived.
A few examples: Elvis Presley gave away over 100 of them; Mary Kaye painted them pink and awarded them to top-selling cosmetic sales reps; The Cadillac brand has long been a prominent fixture in the White House garage.
The name itself inspires everyone to some sort of emotion. Love them or despise them, Cadillac has successfully reinvented itself about three times over the last 100 years to survive in the most difficult arena of high fashion luxury automobiles. Once the "standard of the world" among luxury cars, Cadillac appears to be ready to revive itself and re-claim that title.
With styling beyond bold, the new 2003 Cadillac CTS is the first 100 percent application of Cadillac's "Art and Science" approach to passenger car design.
Its chiselled body is lean, with sheer forms, sharp edges and crisp intersecting lines. "In our first century of existence, many memorable designs have set Cadillac apart from the other premium cars in the crowd", Mark LaNeve, Cadillac general manager, told us. "CTS will turn heads".
In addition to its expressive design, CTS connects to Cadillac's storied past with its performance. Built on rear-drive architecture, Cadillac's new performance saloon is available with either an automatic or manual transmission mated to a 3.2-litre V6 that powers it from 0-60 mph in less than seven seconds.
Driving the CTS is an experience full of crisp acceleration, precise steering, road-tuned ride, and comfort that is not too soft but not too hard. It's a rare balance in luxury performance that the CTS serves up confidently and for less money (in the States) than its European competitors.
Inside, CTS makes use of warm, rich, inviting materials and colours, using wood only in areas where you will contact it, such as on the steering wheel, shifter knob and door pulls. It is quiet but not silent in the cabin. The entertainment system and on-board computer, navigation system, and On-Star system rival the finest cars in the world. It's a level of harmony that has long eluded Cadillac until now. Inside, it is about craftsmanship and contemporary luxury.
In developing the new Cadillac CTS into a true world-class sports saloon, Cadillac benchmarked the competition's best, including the BMW 528i saloon and tested where they test - on the most challenging race circuit in the world, Germany's famed Nürburgring.
The new 3.2-litre V6 powered CTS is a completely re-engineered version of the 3.0-litre V6 in its predecessor. The engine makes 220 bhp at 6000 rpm and 218 lb-ft of torque at 3400 rpm. The engine has been redesigned to improve drivability, power, torque and emissions. While a lot of V6 engines use a 60-degree inclination, the CTS uses a narrow 54-degree bank angle, unique among GM four-camshaft V6s.
The engine is mated to either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. We opted to test the automatic, which includes shift mode buttons that allow the driver to select between "Sport", "Winter" and "Economy" modes; shift patterns that adapt to driving conditions and driver style, traction control capability, engine torque management during shifts, and power train protection.
Cadillac has set out to build the CTS to be the best it can be, taking advantage of its new architecture, and its brand new, state-of-the-art assembly plant; Lansing Grand River, in Lansing, Michigan. The CTS is covered by Cadillac's four-year, 50,000 mile warranty with roadside assistance, and comes standard with Michelin Pilot tyres.
US MARKET PRICING
The range begins at $30,345. The model tested comes in at $39,690.
Breakthrough styling, rear-wheel drive. Superior interior comfort. Class-leading on-board navigation, entertainment, and computer system.
We'd like a bigger motor, like the 4.0-litre Aurora V-8 engine. Some of the plastic trim inside could also be upgraded.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information about the Cadillac CTS or for a dealer near you in the USA, call 800-333-4223 or visit Cadillac online at: www.cadillac.com.
Road test: 2003 Cadillac CTS
Story by Vincent Bodiford
Vincent Bodiford is our North American correspondent, and is the Automotive Editor of www.theweekenddrive.com amongst other things. Note that most cars reviewed by Vincent will be US specification. However, there are few differences these days and we will do our utmost to point out what to expect from the UK/European equivalents.