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Blending all-American style with European-inspired handling, the Cadillac CTS has been a popular choice with luxury sedan consumers for more than a decade. Within that period, there have been three generations. Despite shortcomings in terms of interior design and quality, the first CTS is still a fair choice for a used luxury sedan. The second-generation CTS, which featured substantial improvements to its interior, is a much more appealing car. The most recent generation of the CTS has grown in both size and sophistication, and we feel it's the first CTS to truly be on equal footing with its European and Japanese competition.
Used Cadillac CTS Models
The second-generation Cadillac CTS sedan was produced from 2008 through 2013. Compared to the original CTS, it was notably more refined and powerful. In addition to the sedan, a coupe, a wagon and high-performance CTS-V variants (all reviewed separately) were also available. Overall body dimensions were similar to the first CTS, but wider-set wheels gave it a more powerful stance. The previous CTS's lackluster interior was remedied by a more attractive design, up-to-date electronics and the use of better materials.
Prior to the 2010 model year, the base engine was a 3.6-liter V6 with 258 hp. After that, the standard engine was a 3.0-liter V6 generating 270 hp. A more powerful 3.6-liter V6 was optional all along, and produced 304 hp until 2012, when output increased to 318 hp. That marked the last year that a six-speed manual transmission was available with the base engine. Subsequently, a six-speed automatic was the only transmission offered. Rear-wheel drive was standard, with all-wheel drive (AWD) being optional.
Standard features included dual-zone automatic climate control and satellite radio; much later versions even came with heated seats and a rearview camera at no extra cost. Options included keyless ignition and entry and a navigation system with digital music storage capability. Two sport suspension packages were also available and we'd recommend noting if a used CTS is so equipped. Handling will be improved as a result, but the trade-off is a rougher ride.
Overall, the upgraded interior and spirited powertrains pushed this CTS into top-tier status for a luxury sport sedan. Highlights include a roomy cabin, an elegant interior design and capable handling. Besides the potentially rough ride, downsides included poor rearward visibility and for some drivers, an awkward driving position.
Notable changes made throughout this generation's run included, for 2010 only, the Eco Lux Collection option. Available only on the base 3.0-liter V6, it included tweaked aerodynamics and special tires that allowed 30 mpg on the highway -- a gain of 3 mpg. There was also a slight styling tweak for 2012, but otherwise changes were minimal.
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.
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