The 2008 Cadillac CTS I drove for a week was loaded to the gunwales with options, pushing the price to $48,240. An $8165 luxury package bought a high-end stereo with music hard drive, navigation, an extra-huge sunroof, heated and cooled seats, leather and wood, passive keyless entry, full power seats, rear park assist, and other lesser items. In addition, this car had a $1740 performance package (sport suspension, eighteen-inch wheels, HID headlamps, a limited slip differential, an uprated cooling system, and fog lights). A high-performance braking system was a separate item, at $395. Another major sticker inflator was all-wheel drive, at $1900.
The black-on-black Caddy made a good initial impression. The interior is striking; its materials and design need no excuses. Outside, this second-generation of the art & science (whatever happened to that tagline, by the way?) design is beautifully realized. But the car’s price struck me as very high, and many of the options seemed of dubious value.
The first few days I had it, I drove it only up and down the steep hills of our town, and the gas mileage was horrible. It was mired in the 13-mpg range, and I wondered if the all-wheel drive was to blame. EPA tests for the 306-hp CTS rate both the RWD and AWD versions at 16 city/22 highway, but in the real world there may be a penalty. Eventually, I took a 10-hour road trip and despite heavy traffic the overall mileage improved to 21 mpg. On that trip I encountered several severe downpours, and the AWD CTS plowed through it all, for which all-wheel drive perhaps bears some of the credit.
GM’s navigation system, however, once again proved disappointing. Sample failing: I-287 ends at I-95, and as I’m leaving I-287 and entering I-95 east, it tells me to keep following I-287 for the next 8 miles. I also couldn’t get it to display the map alongside the XM radio info; it only wanted to show the list of upcoming exits (a function I find pretty worthless) alongside the radio info.
I also grew to hate the passive keyless entry, mostly for its passive locking feature. (If you have the fob in your pocket, the car automatically locks as soon as you walk more than a few feet away from it.) This means that if the driver carries some item into the house, the cars locks itself while your passenger is still getting stuff out of the car. Or when you walk up to open your front door, the car locks itself before your passengers have gotten out, and they then set off the alarm. Passive unlocking is fine; keyless starting is fine; passive locking is annoying.
The 306-hp engine is gutsy and the automatic never makes a false move, although I was surprised to find no shift paddles, particularly considering the sport package. The steering is nicely weighted, but the sport suspension feels stiffly sprung and under damped.
Overall, I think less is more when checking the option boxes on the CTS. It also certainly would be cheaper.