July 10, 2009
"There was a time when people used to say 'the Cadillac of Watches' when they were describing a Rolex, or 'the Cadillac of Boats' when describing a Chris Craft. It's great to be reminded of those times."
Inside Line Road Test Editor Chris Walton hit the nail on the head in his full test of the all-new 2008 Cadillac CTS V6. Like watching a beloved family member slip slowly into senility, it's been difficult to watch the decline of Cadillac's worldwide reputation over the past few decades, even as it revived itself commercially with the first Cadillac STS and then subsequent models like the Escalade. And then, virtually out of the blue, came the revised second-generation CTS with a high-tech direct-injection V6, turning back the clock like a super cocktail of stem cells and Viagra.
Cadillac got a new lease on life and a sharp new suit; we wanted a piece of the action. As soon as the new CTS hit showroom floors, we sought one out for a long-term road test.
Why We Got It
The first-generation CTS had been a stylish sedan aimed at the Acura TL, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class. With the exception of the CTS-V that debuted in 2004, the CTS didn't really break any new ground. It represented an overdue American entry in this segment of sporting-size premium luxury sedans, but missteps by Cadillac in terms of refinement and quality kept it out of the inner circle.
For 2008, Cadillac reimagined the CTS from the ground up, honing its Arts and Science exterior theme and letting some creative types go wild on the interior. The result proved to be an overwhelming critical success; Cadillac was, once again, without peer in the field of design, execution and innovation. But 2008 brought more than just a visual refresh; GM, still solvent, OK'd the expense report from Cadillac's ride and handling department for a trip to Germany, where the CTS would be tuned on the world's most famous racetrack-turned-proving ground — the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
Beauty, brains and balance — the 2008 CTS brought everything to the table a Cadillac should. Our hopes were high.
Our driving impressions of the new 2008 Cadillac CTS begin with logbook entries about the car's new engine, a 300-horsepower, direct-injection 3.6-liter V6. Cadillac itself has received some initial customer complaints regarding engine noise when the windows are open, or from outside the vehicle, but this was never a complaint during our stint behind the wheel. It's not that we didn't notice the clicking from the V6, it's just that this is what direct-injection (DI) motors do. Turbochargers whistle, superchargers whine and DI systems click. It's a function of the high-pressure (somewhere around 1,800 psi) fuel delivery system. And it's probably a sound we won't even notice in five years.
Inside the plush cabin, however, there was no discordance. Brian Moody summed it up after only a month in the fleet: "Cadillac's excellent 3.6-liter direct-injection V6 is all the reason I need to recommend the car. The engine is smooth, responsive and has plenty of punch when you need it.... Plus, am I imagining things, or is there a bit of an exhaust note, too? I'd gladly drive this car every day." GM's DI V6 not only proved pleasant, but reliable to boot. In 26,000 miles the CTS required only two oil changes — the first one was complimentary; the second, performed at Martin Cadillac cost $95.15 but included a litany of other routine service checks that we'll get into later.
The combination of a world-class engine, interior refinement and national pride prompted Dan Pund, Senior Editor in Detroit, to kidnap the CTS and drive it 2,800 miles to his home in Michigan. During his sojourn with the 2008 Cadillac CTS, Dan was confused by homophones, pimped our key fob and gave the all-season tires their only real workout. Unfortunately, the eventual homecoming in Detroit was not all roses. The CTS blew a fairly difficult-to-find fuse and struggled with intermittent window operation.
The two problems Pund experienced were but a fraction of the issues that cropped up over the term of this test. Senior Road Test Editor Josh Jacquot was the first to notice the malfunction in the nav system, which persisted throughout the life of the car. No solution was found, no upgrade was available and the dealer never broke a sweat trying to satisfy us. A turn signal failure required us to order special parts. And an overwhelming number of rattles and creaks caused one editor to nickname our 2008 Cadillac CTS "Rattlesaurus." Some of these issues were cleared at the CTS's last dealer visit, but we left the dealer with some problems still unresolved.
These issues might seem minor, but as automobiles in general improve in sophistication and quality, it's the little things that separate the good from the great.
Total Body Repair Costs: $325
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over  months): $95.15
Additional Maintenance Costs: None
Warranty Repairs: 2
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 1
Days Out of Service: 1
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Performance and Fuel Economy
When you take a look at the federal government's online component of the EPA, it rates the DI CTS with an automatic transmission at 17 mpg city/26 mpg highway and a combined rating of 20 mpg. We didn't quite average that over our 30,355 miles, but we came close with an overall average of 19.3 mpg. This is, of course, considering our best tank of 32.5 mpg (must've been boring) and our worst tank of a meager 9.9 mpg (must've been fun).
And speaking of fun, we had one last burst of it just before we said good-bye, giving the 2008 Cadillac CTS a thorough wrap-up test. At the test track, our CTS recorded a 0-60-mph time of 6.6 seconds (6.3 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip) and a quarter-mile pass of 14.7 seconds at 95.9 mph. This is virtually identical to the results from our first test. Braking, too, was virtually identical, although our test driver complained about what felt like warped rotors. Handling numbers (surprise!) were comparable to the first test.
None of these track numbers are anything to write home about, but not once did we complain that the CTS didn't have enough grunt — though we certainly pined for the supercharged 556-hp LS9 V8 resting in the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V.
Best Fuel Economy: 32.5 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 9.9 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 19.3 mpg
Our 2008 Cadillac CTS V6 DI with all of the goodies, including the glitchy-yet-impressive infotainment system, bore the burden of a $46,690 window sticker. The depreciation began before we got it off the dealer lot. Even though the car was brand-new, our local dealer gave us more than $4 grand off the MSRP, bringing the sticker down to $42,272. Now, some 16 months after that initial transaction, our CTS carries a value as appraised by the Edmunds.com True Market Value (TMV®) Calculator of $28,985. Compared with the price we paid, this is a 31 percent depreciation. Compared with the sticker price, this is a 37 percent depreciation. Our long-term Mercedes-Benz C300 showed only 34 percent depreciation, so clearly the perception of Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac does not truly reflect the state of affairs today, as both cars had similar quality and similar problems.
It took a few weeks, but we finally found a buyer who was looking for an FE2 suspension, red exterior and the navigation package. Thrilled as he was, he was only willing to pay $27,500 — about $1,400 off TMV. We called it a deal and walked away happy. The actual sale price represents a 41 percent drop from the original MSRP.
True Market Value at service end: $28,985
What it sold for: $27,550
Depreciation: $19,140 or 41% of original paid price
Final Odometer Reading: 30,355
What It All Means
At the end of the CTS's tour of duty, our editors were split in their opinions about this car. Nearly half felt disappointment and a tinge of anger about the small squeaks, rattles and glitches that plagued our Caddy. The other half were still taken by the striking design, excellent motor and controlled ride. The little things, they said, were a small price to pay for everything good that comes with the CTS. As one editor said, "Supporting the home team isn't always easy, and this car is like a 14-2 season. Is complaining really worth it?"
That impassioned football analogy didn't sway anyone, though it illustrates an important point. There are certain cars that stir the soul in a way no spreadsheet can quantify, and the 2008 Cadillac CTS is one of those cars. It's not perfect, but it's honest and true to American driving habits.
It's not a 3 Series or a C-Class, but after 16 months, we're glad it isn't.
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
July 06, 2009
It's time to say goodbye to the Caddy. The Long Term Test of our 2009 Cadillac CTS V6 DI is over. It's sold. And so, to fill the void until the Long Term Wrap is posted, we bring you another installment of Parting Shots.
Automotive Editor James Riswick: "I was very excited when we got our CTS, but it was ultimately a disappointment. Its wonky driving position, incessant squeakiness and chronic trouble spots darkened its many bright spots." James Riswick, Automotive Editor
Associate Editor Mark Takahashi: "After driving the CTS back-to-back with our Hyundai Genesis for our Luxury Sedan Showdown (http://blogs.edmunds.com/strategies/2009/03/luxury-sedan-showdown-2008-cadillac-cts-di-v6-vs-2009-hyundai-genesis-v6.html), I realized Cadillac was reliant almost solely on its reputation and market perception. They're years away from becoming competitive based on quality." Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor
Managing Editor Donna Derosa:"I'm gonna miss my funky old-man car."
Automotive Editor Brian Moody "I've noticed it's becoming increasingly popular to knock all sorts of cars for all sorts of little issues, the Caddy being one victim - that's too bad b/c the CTS is an excellent car all around. I'd rather have it than a BMW 5 Series.
I would gladly spend my own money on this car - the nav system is excellent and stereo is decent. I like the way the car looks with just the right balance of painted surfaces and chrome trim. The interior is nice too although I don't need that gigantic sunroof. Another bright spot - the direct injection V6. It's good enough to get many folks to rethink the need for a V8 in luxury sedan. Thumbs up from me - when driven the way a grown up would drive it, this car is wonderful."
Inside Line Editor in Chief Scott Oldham: I'd buy one. This car proves Cadillac can design and build competitive stuff. But it needs a V8 option. And not the monster supercharged LS9 in the CTS-V. What I want is a CTS wagon with an LS3 V8, rear-wheel drive and big OFF button for the traction control."
Executive Editor Michael Jordan: "So promising, but better as a slow car than as a fast one."
Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds: "I liked the CTS, and I think it proved that GM's 3.6-liter direct injection V6 engine is more than up to the task of filling-in for a V8. And the chassis and brakes are the real deal, too--I was able to prove that to myself when I had the chance to drive one at speed around the Nurburgring Nordschleife for a few laps during a private session.
The CTS had a well-integrated audio and nav system with an attractive and functional pop-up screen. But the CTS' thin veneer of plasti-chrome tackiness (and that cheesy legacy analog clock) would have been enough for me to sign the check and shakes the dealer's hand."
Senior Editor Erin Riches: "I loved the driving position, the state-of-the-art electronics and the rear-drive thing, but the continual electronic glitches, early-onset rattling and mushy brake pedal feel wore me down. Ultimately, the Pontiac G8 is closer to the Cadillac I want GM to build than this CTS."
Senior Editor Bryn MacKinnon: "I'll never get past the CTS' exterior styling. Unrelentingly blocky. It reminded me of something a kid would draw. I did love that rich red paint, though."
Vehicle Testing Manager Mike Schmidt: "If memory serves me correctly, those are the same seats I had in my refrigerator-box fort as a kid. And just as comfortable."
Automotive Content Editor Warren Clarke: "Fun to drive and nicely put together. However, its sheet metal leaves me cold, so you'd never find one in my driveway."
Associate Editor, Josh Sadlier: "The CTS is an "almost there" car. Performance-wise, it's already there, but the wonky pedal placement needs fixing, the squeaks and rattles are unacceptable, and the interior isn't as nice up close as it is from a distance. If there's a third generation of this car, that could be the charm."
Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant
July 01, 2009
Early in the selling process for the 2008 Cadillac CTS we wrote about how a woman emailed us with an offer for $20,000.
She wrote: I could/would go 20k on the cad. off the mark I know, but what the hell.
Some of the people who commented agreed with this woman saying that our Caddy wasn't worth anything close to the $28,500 we were asking.
Well, I'm here to seek vindication for Edmunds.com TMV and for the "Cad." We just closed a deal for it at $27,500.
Here are the details.
The Cadillac was a perfect storm of options and all those bells and whistles that cost so much when it was new (we bought it for $42,272) had largely lost their value in the 18 months that we owned it. As a friend of mine has observed, used cars are helped most by "the big three" options: leather, sun roof and CD changer. Our red Cadillac was also helped by having the 3.6-liter direct-injection V6 and 18-inch wheels.
So while TMV with all options was still around $30,000, we decided that with the current incentives on a new CTS driving the price down, we would offer ours for $28,500. We advertised the Caddy in Craigslist and on Autotrader and waited for the phone to ring.
Except for the woman who offered $20K, we also had a local guy sniffing around for $28,000. Finally, we got another offer from an insurance broker from the Bay Area for $27,000. With these two offers in hand, I did a quick email negotiation and closed at $27,500. A day later, I picked up our buyer (who bought it based on pictures and good faith) at the airport. He gave us a cashier's check and drove off an hour later heading north.
A few days later I got this email from the new owner: "I think Cadillac had me in mind when they built the CTS. It was a sweet ride home and only took 4 hours. I loved every minute of it! I thought of going all the way to Sacramento just to keep driving, but I got hungry."
As a footnote I should add that the buyer told me he had been looking for this trim/color for a long time and had even hired a broker to get him one at auction. But then he saw our ad and jumped on it. We're glad he did because they weren't exactly beating the door down to buy it. But then, as they say about buyers, "It only takes one."
May 26, 2009
When I got into the 2008 Cadillac CTS two weeks ago the average fuel economy on the dash was 17 mpg (our records show the lifetime average at 19 mpg). I zeroed it out and began my highway commute of 62 miles per day and now it's a pretty respectable 23.6 mpg.
It's my job to sell the long term cars when we are done testing them. I often get an earful from other staff members along the lines of, "Who would want to buy that piece of junk? Can you believe how many rattles it's got?" This makes it harder for me to sell the car since I have to believe in its value. And there is value in every car for someone.
Case in point.
I drove to Santa Barbara to attend my son's senior music recital and I had to pick up a family friend in the Cadillac. She is in her 80s. As she approached the car she said, "Ooo, a Cadillac!" The whole time she was in the car she was praising what she perceived as the luxury and comfort of our Caddy.
So, GM pretty much nailed that demographic. But then, I guess you knew that. And, no, she doesn't have blue hair.
But here's an area where the designers really dropped the ball. You can't get even one set of golf clubs lengthwise in the trunk! I was going to play golf with two friends and we had three bags and three guys -- not an unrealistic demand. We had to fold down the back seat and still the clubs weren't easy to get in. And when you pulled the bags out the clubs dumped all over the place and -- Well, it was a pain. My 2007 Honda Fit handles golf clubs better than the Cadillac.
As for the rattles and squeaks, maybe I'm losing my hearing. Or maybe a lot of the squeaks were the creaking of the leather. But I do agree with Erin Riches that the fabric covering over the wiring under the front seats which has pulled loose is very annoying.
By the way, the asking price for the Cadillac is over $30,000. Any takers?
May 01, 2009
Among entry-level luxury sedans, the 2008 Cadillac CTS is pretty accommodating in the rear-seat department, but it's not perfect. The 3 Series is perfect of course, or maybe I'm kidding.
To start, I can easily do the sit-behind-myself test in the Cadillac, which is good since I'm 5'-10" -- so four average-size adults could ride comfortably in the CTS. Unfortunately, the bench is mounted low, so even though there's ample legroom for my 34" inseam, the seat-bottom cushion doesn't quite support my thighs. It's not terrible, but I might whine about this on a 5-hour road trip. Still, the fact that I'd even consider taking a road trip in the backseat of the CTS says plenty -- I wouldn't do that in our A4 Avant.
It's pretty obvious why the bench is mounted as low as it is when you assess the headroom situation. There's not a lot to spare over my head and I'm not the kind of person who needs a lot. Still, carrying a six-footer back here shouldn't be a problem (unless that person is also whiny about thigh support). For shorter people, it's worth noting that the low bench doesn't impede outward visibility too much (because the car's beltline is not too high). Also, the rake of the seat-back cushion is comfortable.
Rear-seat amenities in the CTS consist of individual reading lights and a fold-down center armrest with cupholders. I'm a little disappointed with the adjustable vents on the back of the console. I don't necessarily expect discrete temperature control at this price ($46,690), but some kind of rudimentary warm/cool adjustment would be nice.
P.S. I forgot to give the CTS big credit for having a lot of footroom under the front chairs. This is never a sure thing when you have deluxo-power-adjustable seats up front, and it makes a huge difference for long-legged people in back.
April 30, 2009
We haven't updated our Cadillac CTS' fuel economy in a looooooong time -- updating the fuel log just took me 30 minutes. But here's the damage.
Overall Average: 19.2 mpg
EPA Combined: 20 mpg
Best: 32.5 mpg (Bravo, Scott Oldham)
Worst: 9.9 mpg (Double bravo, Mike Magrath)
Longest Distance on One Tank: 401.2 miles (25.6 mpg by Dan Pund)
Most Fuel in One Tank: 20.598 gallons
(Update: As a sharp reader noted, the CTS only has an 18-gallon gas tank. Not really sure how the 20.598 happened. Maybe someone filled up their lawnmower on the company tab.)
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 28,313 miles
April 30, 2009
A Cadillac doesn't need to handle like a BMW, providing Nurburgring corner-taking on American streets.
A Cadillac doesn't need to ride like a '98 Cadillac Deville, wafting down the road as if on American coastal waters.
The CTS thankfully does neither. However, I don't think it achieves the appropriate balance between the two that would represent what an American luxury car can be in the 21st century.
For one, it falls too far onto the copy-cat BMW side (at least with our FE2 suspension). I know what you're going to say: "But you car media types harp on anything that doesn't drive like a 3 Series. Mercedes and Lexus are treated like rotten bananas because they don't transmit enough steering feel."
Well, I completely agree. BMW produces wonderful machines and I'd be happy to own just about anything they presently sell (I'll skip the X's, thank you). But Mercedes-Benz produces wonderful machines as well, they just do things differently. Things are more relaxed, more refined behind the wheel of a Benz. You're less involved with the driving experience, but you're far from isolated. There's an impenetrable quality to the structure and an impeccable attention to engineering detail. Perhaps it doesn't score 10s on the fun-to-drive scale, but the C, E and GLK classes (to name a few) are beautiful automobiles created without worrying about where this or that car magazine placed it against the high-strung BMW.
Which brings me back to our long-term Cadillac CTS. Every time I drive it, I feel like I'm hanging out with a guy who's desperately trying to be cool, but ultimately can't hang with the in crowd. It rides too rough to be luxurious and isn't agile enough to be sporty. I think Cadillac would be better suited to benchmark Mercedes-Benz (or Jaguar) in regards to ride and handling, then spice it up with the type of style that only Cadillac can provide and the German brain could (or would) never create. Actually, when driving the CTS back to back with our long-term Genesis, I couldn't stop thinking that the Cadillac should drive like the Hyundai -- and that's not intended as a slag against either.
Don't get me wrong, the CTS is a nice car that moves the brand in the correct direction away from the correctly criticized front-drive disappointments of Cady's recent past. But putting on ear muffs when enthusiast publications sprout off Bavarian comparisons would do them good.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 28,313 miles
April 28, 2009
2008 Cadillac CTS navigation screen deployment.
Dan Edmunds, DIrector of Vehicle Testing @ 28,200 miles
April 26, 2009
Driving home at rush hour in L.A. is always an adventure. It's like driving an obstacle course. Cars dart from lane to lane trying get home an inch sooner.
I was on my usual freeway route so I didn't bother with the nav system and didn't even have the map up on the screen. I was listening to rather loud music on my iPod and wanted the audio screen displayed. Then all of a sudden the music lowered and a soft, slightly melancholy voice said, "May I have your attention, in 1.8 miles, traffic jam."
Wow, thanks. That would be really helpful if I weren't already at a dead stop on the 405. But at least she sounded sympathetic.
I always find it disarming when features are working in the background when you didn't bother turning them on. I've had this voice talk to me even when I've had the screen closed.
Now, this traffic report isn't the CTS's fault. I've yet to find a real-time traffic feature that can actually give you traffic in real time. Some day.
Our time with the CTS will soon be coming to an end. I'm going to miss it, as will other members of our staff.
So, we're giving this car one last shot as Car of the Week.
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor
April 24, 2009
First things first: Our CTS's on-board computer was calling for an oil change. It's one of those cars with the handy count down meter and unlike some cars I can think of (bmw) the CTS shows the time remaining in big numbers, not a flash across the screen for 3 seconds on start-up. Unlike the first service, this one was going to cost us. It was going to cost us $105.95 to be more specific. That pays for an all-synthetic oil change, fluid top off and check all external lights. So basically, it's an oil change where the six quarts of Castrol synthetic cost $47.70, the filter is $10.95 and then there's another $29.95 for labor. Then add $1.12 for hazardous waste disposal and $5.43 in taxes. While not a great price, add this up and the final cost was $95.15, about 10 bucks less than what we were quoted.
But that was the easy part. Next up were the tricky bits, listed in ascending order of trickiness:
1) The bum turn signal. "Internal contact resistance" was causing the problem and the turn signal switch had to be replaced. It wasn't in stock and took about four days to come in and then just a few hours to install.
2) Faulty glue on seats. Dan Edmunds experienced this back in May of '08, we just re-glued it ourselves. Then, Erin noted this on the passenger seat of the CTS, and by the time we'd brought it in for service the driver seat was doing the same thing. They re-glued the Velcro to the seat plastic and called it a day. Our fingers are crossed.
3) There's a small plastic trim panel between the rear-view mirror and the windshield that covers the bundle of wires coming out the multi-function unit. (It's auto-dimming and has onstar built in.) Well, there's supposed to be a trim panel there. It fell off the day before going in for service. Turns out the mirror itself was loose and the cover would not re-attach. The mirror was removed and reinstalled along with the trim panel.
4) Glitchy Nav / Audio system. Josh Jacquot wrote of it: "
The front left and right speakers (all four of them -- two on the dash and two in the doors) simply weren't working -- a problem even the untrained ear (mine) can recognize. The affirmation came when I manually dialed all the power to the left front speakers (see red circle on photo), at which point there was no sound at all. Punch it back a few clicks and the rear speakers and front center channel came back on line. Hmmm...
And again, just like Dan's experience, turning the car off and back on (rebooting?) cured the problem. Bill Gates wrote this solution and for it he deserves a swift kick in the nuts. This seems to me to be the worst kind of problem that can exist -- one that's electronic and intermittent. Good luck demonstrating that one to the service writer.
"No, really, I swear..."
And then Chris Walton posted, "No matter how many times I pressed the "Nav" or "Dest" buttons, the map and all navigation functions were AWOL. When I got home, I shut the car off for about 10 seconds, started it back up (essentially rebooting the hard drive), but still there was no nav. It didn't return until I started the car this morning."
And then Chris Walton had it happen to him again, so far the only person to experience the issue twice.
The dealer could not replicate the issue (surprise!) and all of our software is up to date. Short of driving it directly to the nearest dealer next time this happens-- not out of the question-- we're going to have to live with this one until GM can figure it out on some other cars and issue a TSB.
Total Cost: 95.15
Days out of Service: 2
Issues fixed: 3/4
Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 27,268 miles