April 25, 2008
Cadillac: The name alone speaks volumes. Conceived in an age when a man's word was his bond, Cadillac was a commitment to excellence in both engineering and American ingenuity. More than a brand, Cadillac was a unit of measure that all luxury items, not just vehicles, aspired to duplicate.
But then things changed. Gas got expensive, foreign competition arrived and Americans' tastes changed. The wreath and crest have emblazoned some sloppy cars in the past, but those days are gone. The 2008 Cadillac CTS wears the badge with the honor and pride the symbol carries.
What We Bought
It all starts with the engine. With the 550-horsepower supercharged LS9 not being available for the CTS until next year, we were left with only two engine choices: a 3.6-liter V6 or a 3.6-liter V6. One has the benefit of direct fuel injection and makes 39 more horses. The other offers variable valve timing, a 1 mpg bump in fuel economy and is already found in our long-term Buick Enclave. There's no sense in having two vehicles with the same engine when we don't have to. So it was easy to decide upon GM's direct-injection V6, which makes 304 hp and 273 pound-feet of torque. Going for the DI motor tacked on $2,300 to the price of the base car, but also included a six-speed automatic as standard equipment.
Cadillac appointed the CTS very well right out of the box: Power driver seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry are all standard. And that's nice, but this is a Cadillac not a Kia, so nice doesn't cut it. A Cadillac needs to be outstanding, outlandish, over the top. We hate to go back to that word, but it has to be a Cadillac.
Luckily, the people at Cadillac know this and had the courtesy to pile all of the luxury option packages — plus some extra goodies — into one handy box on the order sheet: the Premium Luxury Collection. This $8,165 option is a 23 percent increase over the price of the base DI CTS, but represents at least a 200 percent increase in Cadillac-ness. This almost Aveo-priced option includes the Luxury Level One and Two packages highlighted by rain-sensing windshield wipers, interior accent lighting, 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels, heated and cooled front seats and keyless access.
Our $8 grand also gets us the seating package with 10-way adjustment with programmable memory plus power lumbar adjustment, and heated windshield washer fluid.
The crest in this option's wreath is the infotainment system, complete with a 40-gig hard drive (which can store music as well as record live radio), CD/DVD player and a 10-speaker Bose stereo with 5.1-channel surround sound. Such a great piece of equipment from the General has us all nostalgic, especially Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton, who writes in his full test, "The mind-blowing infotainment system reminds us that Cadillac was the first to offer an electric starter, a production V8 engine, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel, powered memory seats, auto-dimming high beams and even more."
Try as we might, we could not find a dealer in Southern California with the 18-inch summer-tire Performance Package (with the aggressive FE3 suspension) in stock, or without a massive wait to get it. An 18-inch all-season tire package that includes an FE2 suspension, however, proved easy to find, so we signed up.
The sticker for our loaded CTS reads $46,690, but Cadillac wasn't content letting us pay sticker. Martin Automotive Group in Los Angeles dropped $3,000 from the bottom line immediately. Then the sales representative asked if we would qualify for a Luxury Conquest rebate. Well, we'd recently bought a long-term 2008 Mercedes C300, so yes, we did. Sort of. It was good enough for them. That was another $1,500 off.
When all was said and done, we paid $42,272 including tax — $4,418 below the pre-tax, pre-paperwork MSRP.
Why We Bought It
While the CTS didn't win the big award in our recent sport sedan comparison test , it won us over regardless. The new Caddy isn't the fastest, nor is it the best bang for your buck. But none of that matters. The 2008 CTS has a soul, a passion from within. This is the sort of thing that's hard to quantify in a comparison test but leaves a lasting impression long after you've left the infinitely adjustable driver seat.
Stay tuned to our long-term blogs for the next 12 months as we put 20,000 miles on our new 2008 Cadillac CTS V6 DI. Will the veneer fade away as the miles roll by, or is this, as we initially thought, the car that will finally make Henry Leland stop rolling in his grave?
Current Odometer: 1,980
Best Fuel Economy: 22.1 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 13.0 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 16.9 mpg
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.