The CTS is getting a bit long in the tooth in terms of interior design. Although it represented a breakthrough for General Motors back in 2007, the cabin is now a step behind what's in less expensive Buicks, never mind its toughest luxury competitors. Large swathes of silver-painted plastic trim don't quite live up to the car's German-fighting potential, and the tough, hard-grained leather lacks the subtlety of that found in similarly priced BMWs and Jaguars. Oh yes, Jaguars -- did you note the $55,060 price tag on this "Premium Collection" test car? The in-car technology has the features you'd expect - Bluetooth, iPod integration, and a clear touch screen - but lacks a cohesive system to make it all user-friendly. Cadillac has introduced just such as system on the new XTS sedan, but it will not migrate to the CTS until its next redesign.
Having said that, the CTS still oozes credibility: lively, communicative steering; a buttoned-down suspension; and a strong V-6 powertrain (now upgraded to 318 horsepower). That impression is enhanced on our test car by the $2090 summer-tire performance package, which I'd consider money well spent. Its beefed up antiroll bars and sticky Continental tires afford this 3850-pound Cadillac astonishing body control. The package also includes bigger brakes and a limited-slip rear differential. The only shortcoming for an enthusiast is that a six-speed manual is no longer offered with the 3.6-liter V-6. Considering that I've only come across a single manual-transmission, V-6 CTS in my entire life - at a high-performance driving school - it's hard to contest Cadillac's claim that there isn't sufficient demand for it.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
I wasn't as offended by the interior style and materials as David but I do agree that the lack of an all-encompassing infotainment system is conspicuous by its absence and a huge oversight in the CTS's segment. The extra large nav screen is nice though and the fact that it can be lowered when the navigation system is not being used is handy but its two-dimensional graphics look like something out of the stone age, definitely not befitting a $55,000 car. The exterior of the CTS is a bit dated as well: I walked right by it in the parking structure because it didn't look like a new car. This is not to say that it isn't still handsome, it just needs a refresh.
Behind the wheel, the CTS is quite good. It lacks the sharpness of its German counterparts but it doesn't make it any less enjoyable to drive, especially with the performance package on this specific example.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
I have driven every engine and body style variant of the current-generation CTS, save for the non-V wagon, and have to say that it's a flashy and stylish alternative to the German mainstays in this class. I happened to have a date the evening I had the CTS, the second I pulled up it was nothing but gushing comments...about the car, that is. "The paint color is gorgeous!" was remark number one, and it was also one of the first things I noticed about this CTS; the black diamond tri-coat paint was quite stunning but is a pricey option at $995.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
This car is just so darn solid. It feels so confident, refined, and smooth going down the road, and the extra sporty seats and steering wheel in this particular car inspire you to turn off the radio, disconnect from the rest of the world, and just drive. I love it.
There are many phenomenal (and gracefully aging, I might add) cars in this category: BMW 3-series, Mercedes-Benz C-class, Audi A4, Lexus IS, Infiniti G. The Cadillac is not the best of the bunch, but I think anyone could be proud to select a Cadillac CTS over all those other comers. It's refreshing that the Cadillac is made in America, but that needn't be a handicap, because this car holds up completely on its own merit.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Copy editor Rusty Blackwell is comparing this Cadillac with compact luxury cars like the BMW 3-series and Mercedes-Benz C-class, but the day is quickly coming when the CTS will have to stand up to larger, more premium cars like the 5-series and E-class. When it was introduced ten years ago, the CTS hedged Cadillac's reentry into the luxury sport-sedan segment by offering a mid-size package for a the price of a compact. With the smaller ATS set to arrive in early 2012, the CTS is finally free to move into the big leagues.
Having the same impact among more luxurious competitors will definitely be a challenge for the second-generation CTS, which is near the end of its lifecycle. It performs superbly -- the 3.6-liter V-6 is strong and polished, the steering is direct, and the ride and handling are nicely balanced -- but it doesn't come close in offering the material quality, technology, or the interior refinement of its peers. The CTS is missing options like heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, four-zone climate control, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure warning. The interior is marred by an ugly, clunky navigation system and awkwardly placed climate controls, along with materials that are a grade below those used by the German brands. No doubt the next CTS will offer many more amenities and higher-end finishes at a loftier price, but until that new car arrives (probably within the next two years), the ATS will likely be eating into its market share.
As many other editors have mentioned, the Recaro seats accounting for most of the $2810 touring package are incredibly supportive and comfortable. Unfortunately, the standard CTS seats are so uncomfortable that I consider the Recaros to be required equipment. From previous experiences with the CTS, I've found the basic seats to be unpleasant for even short-distance commutes. Shorter colleagues have sparred with me over this assertion, so consider it a warning if you're taller than six feet.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor