What's New for 2000
Mildly successful front and rear styling enhancements and a revised interior update Catera for 2000. Side airbags are standard on all models, and an optional sport package finally arrives with 17-inch wheels, heated sport seats, a spoiler, rocker panel extensions, xenon HID headlights and brushed-aluminum interior trim. Electronic drive-by-wire throttle control and a revised torque converter improve oomph off the line. Revised suspension tuning better controls ride motions and body roll, while tightened steering improves road feel. Two new colors round out the changes.
Cadillac was the first domestic luxury automaker to attack the entry-level market head-on with the introduction of the 1997 Catera. After its first full year on the market, Catera rolled up sales of 25,411 units, making it the most successful launch of an entry-luxury model in U.S. history to date. Based on the European-market Opel Omega MV6, the Catera features a 200-horsepower, 3.0-liter DOHC V6 engine mated to a four-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. Built in Russelsheim, Germany, the Catera is touted by Cadillac as a blend of the best of German and American engineering.Alas, Cadillac encountered a number of stumbling blocks after the Catera's launch. First-year cars suffered serious electrical problems. An attempt to install standard side airbags in 1998 was a complete failure: thousands of Cateras sat at the dockyard for months waiting to have the flawed systems removed before finding their way to dealerships. Last year, imports didn't begin until six months into the new model year when a redesigned fuel tank was deemed problematic. Furthermore, despite rear-wheel drive and a powerful engine, Catera didn't appeal to enthusiast drivers who wanted a manual transmission.For 2000, Cadillac attempts to remove the tarnish from the Catera nameplate by tidying up the design, adding a sport package to the options list, and fine-tuning the suspension and steering for a more sporting ride and competent handling.Outside, Catera gets new sheetmetal from the A-pillars forward, with larger headlights and a cleaner grille highlighting the changes. In back, the full-width taillamp cluster has been reduced to twin lights located on either side of the decklid. The cabin has been tweaked as well, and the result is a simplified look with power window switchgear relocated from the center console to the door panels where they belong.Suspension tuning has been revised to provide a firmer ride with improved roll control. Steering has been improved to provide better road feel and feedback. Combined, these changes conspire to make the Catera more responsive and fun to drive. Drive-by-wire throttle control and a revised torque converter improve thrust from a standstill, but we'd still like to see a manual transmission or a power boost.Four-wheel disc antilock brakes, designed to handle Autobahn speeds, remain, as does traction control and an engine disabling anti-theft system. The $2,000 sport package adds attractive five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, heated sport seats and xenon headlights, but also includes a dopey-looking spoiler. Enthusiasts will want the sport package to make the most of the Catera's abilities in the twisties.The revised Catera is a decent effort from Cadillac, priced competitively and offering all the luxury and most of the performance a buyer could want from this segment. All it really needs is an optional five-speed stick to stir up enthusiast interest, and a price cut to compete more effectively with lower-priced models from Acura, Audi, BMW and Infiniti.