Test Drive: by Haney Louka photos by Laurance Yap This ain’t your daddy’s Caddy We’ve all heard this one before: a new domestic sedan that has been designed to do battle with the imports. Yeah, right. Here comes another Euro-wannabe that leaves more than a little to be desired. Click image to enlarge Cadillac employs a unique personalization system that allows two drivers to customize settings to their liking. Linked to the remote key fobs, the system memorizes such things as seat and mirror position, radio station presets, and general user preferences, such as whether the exterior lights flash when you remotely unlock the car. It will even restore the radio station and volume that Driver 1 set after Driver 2 has been in the car. But the best part of the system is that there are a total of eight “soft” keys (four on the centre stack and four on the steering wheel) that have no fixed function. Each of the two drivers can select the desired function for each of the eight buttons to their liking. This allows commonly used features, such as fan speed, temperature settings, audio functions, or telephone functions, to be available at the push of a single button. Kudos to Cadillac for developing a system that, through customization, can be made intuitive for any driver. The Driving Experience Cadillac’s PR people make no attempt at hiding the fact that the CTS was developed at Germany’s famed N�rburgring race track, but they needn’t be so vocal about it. All it takes is one drive to discover that this Caddy is a true contender and not a pretender. The five-speed automatic has three modes: Normal, Sport, and Winter. In Normal, shifts are as relaxed and smooth as you’ll find in any slushbox. Hit the “S” button on the centre console, though, and be prepared for a jolt. Shifts are noticeably quicker, and smoothness is nowhere to be found, even at light throttle. While it almost seems artificially harsh, I found myself leaving it in Sport mode most of the time as I like the quick, crisp shifts. Aside from its schizophrenic personality, the transmission is quite adept at following its driver’s mood by the second. After a short stint of blasting out of tight corners, the transmission was looking for more as it held lower gears for prolonged periods of time. But seconds after the tame driving resumed, the tranny’s brain reverted back to a more sedate shift program. As automatics go, this is one of the best. The 220-horse V6 is a bit out of its league in the CTS. While it’s strong enough, it didn’t feel particularly lively having to haul around 3568 lb worth of steel and leather. And the note that’s heard while hustling those horses is a little on the industrial side. It’s not anything offensive, to be sure, but having competitors like the BMW 3-Series and Infiniti G35 makes a sweet soundtrack that much harder to achieve. The remaining ingredients for a flavourful sports sedan are in full attendance though. Steering feel is top-notch, with rapid response and a nice weight. Effort is in that not-too-heavy, not-too-light range that makes for a great twisty-road companion. Braking feel is also excellent, with the four large discs bringing the CTS to a halt with strength and confidence. Body motions are also extremely well controlled for a car of this size. Summing it Up The CTS is a true competitor through style and innovation rather than imitation. Even if the styling isn’t quite my cup of tea, it’s a highly subjective area that Cadillac hopes will attract enough buyers in this image-conscious segment of the market. But by all important sports sedan measures, Cadillac has finally come up with an entry level model that’s making a splash. Shopping Around The entry-sport-lux market is hot with new models and high performance. The CTS has to beat the following models to make it into buyers’ driveways: Acura TL Audi A4 quattro BMW 3-Series Infiniti G35 Jaguar X-Type Lexus IS300 Lincoln LS V-6 Mazda Millenia S Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saab 9-3 Volvo S60 Technical Data: 2003 Cadillac CTS Base price $39,900 Price as tested $48,500 Type 4-door, 5-passenger sport sedan Layout front-mounted longitudinal V-6, rear wheel drive Engine 3.2 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves, drive-by-wire throttle Horsepower 220 @ 6,000 rpm Torque 220 lb-ft. @ 3,400 rpm Fuel premium recommended Transmission 5-speed automatic with Sport and Winter modes Curb weight 1643 kg (3568 lb.) Wheelbase 2880 mm (113.4 in.) Length 4828 mm (190.1 in.) Width 1,780 mm (70.1 in.) Height 1441 mm (57.7 in.) Cargo volume 362 litres (12.8 cu. ft.) Fuel consumption City: 12.7 L/100 km (22 mpg) Hwy: 8.4 L/100 km (34 mpg) Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km More Test Drives…. Haney Louka is a Professional Engineer, a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, and a long time automotive enthusiast.