With a cutting-edge design and extensive development work on Germany's famed Nürburgring test track, the CTS is aimed squarely at the class leaders in some of the industry's most competitive segments. It's also a bit larger than many of the cars it competes against in terms of price and design philosophy.
There have been two generations of the Cadillac CTS. Despite some obvious shortcomings in terms of interior design and quality, the first CTS went on to be one of Cadillac's most popular models as well as the only main domestic entry to truly compete against the top European and Japanese entry-level luxury cars. It's worth a look as a used or pre-owned model. For the second-generation CTS, Cadillac made substantial improvements to interior design and materials quality. It's a top choice for an American-made luxury sedan, but it still lags import brand rivals in key areas.
Current Cadillac CTS
Offering a well-sorted blend of all-American style and European-inspired tuning, the popular Cadillac CTS has made a name for itself among the many established players in the entry-level luxury sedan segment. A coupe, a wagon and a high-performance CTS-V variant (all reviewed separately) are also available.
The CTS offers one of two V6 engines. Standard power comes from a 3.0-liter V6 generating 270 horsepower, while the available 3.6-liter V6 puts out 318 hp. Both engines can be equipped with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. The CTS is also offered in both rear-wheel and all-wheel-drive (AWD) configurations, though AWD models are limited to the base engine and automatic transmission.
Standard convenience and safety features for the Cadillac CTS are numerous. There are a variety of luxury options, including leather seating, a premium audio system and a hard-drive-based navigation system that can store digital music files. Two sport suspension packages are also available to further the CTS's handling capabilities.
Overall, the upgraded interior and spirited powertrains have pushed the CTS into top-tier status for a luxury sport sedan. While it might not qualify for "Standard of the World" status just yet, Cadillac's entry-level model has evolved into a much more capable car all the way around. Highlights include a roomy cabin, an elegant interior design and capable handling. Downsides to the CTS are an overly firm ride quality with the sport suspension, poor rearward visibility and an awkward driving position.
Used Cadillac CTS Models
The second-generation Cadillac CTS sedan debuted for the 2008 model year and compared to the original CTS, the new model is more refined and powerful. Overall body dimensions are similar to the original CTS, but there are an additional 2 inches of track width to give the sedan a more powerful stance. The first CTS's lackluster interior was remedied via a substantially higher level of quality and a more attractive design.
There have been changes made since this generation's introduction, including a slight styling tweak for 2012. Prior to the 2010 model year, the base engine was a 3.6-liter V6 that made 258 hp -- slightly less than the current 3.0-liter direct-injected engine. CTS sedans with the more powerful 3.6-liter V6 produced 304 hp until 2012. Those looking for the highest fuel economy should know that, for 2010 only, there was the Eco Lux Collection option for the base 3.0-liter V6. Thanks to tweaked aerodynamics and special tires, it achieved 30 mpg on the highway -- a gain of 3 mpg.
The first-generation Cadillac CTS was sold from the 2003-'07 model years. When it debuted, the CTS was one of Cadillac's first cars to fully emphasize the brand's modern, angular styling themes. It was also a significant departure from traditional modern Cadillacs because of its rear-wheel drive, available manual transmission, stiff body structure and sport-oriented handling dynamics.
The car's larger-than-average exterior dimensions translated to a roomier cabin that could accommodate five adults. A fair number of features came standard, including antilock brakes and side curtain airbags. Upscale features were typically bundled as part of optional packages. Common options included a premium Bose audio system, a DVD-based navigation system, xenon headlights and a sunroof. A sport package provided a sport-tuned suspension, bigger wheels and tires, and stability control.
In its first year, the Cadillac CTS came only with a 3.2-liter V6 good for 220 hp. This was joined in 2004 by a more desirable 255-hp 3.6-liter V6. At the time, the base V6 was available with a five-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic. The larger V6 came with the automatic only. In 2005, however, the 3.2-liter engine was dropped in favor of a smaller, 210-hp 2.8-liter engine. Cadillac also upgraded the manual transmission to a six-speed unit and made it available for the 3.6-liter V6 as well.
Previous to the CTS, Cadillac's entry-level vehicle was the Catera. Based on Europe's Opel Omega, it was offered from 1997-2001. This model was not particularly popular with consumers or Edmunds.com's editorial staff, and it's recommended that used-car shoppers consider other vehicles in this segment.
Read the most recent 2013 Cadillac CTS review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Cadillac CTS page.