Used 1997 Cadillac Catera

1997 Cadillac Catera
List price range


  • German engineering, low price, good looks, rear-wheel drive


  • Slightly underpowered V-6, no manual transmission available, Chrysler LeBaron taillights

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Edmunds' Expert Review

vehicle overview

The entry-level luxury sedan market accounts for nearly 40 percent of all luxury-car sales in the United States, growing rapidly from 25 percent just five years ago. Characteristically, Chrysler, Lincoln, and Cadillac have been lethargically slow to react to shifting luxury car-buyer tastes, while Lexus, Infiniti, Audi, and BMW have been actively wooing these customers with fun-to-drive, lavishly appointed sedans and outstanding customer service. While companies from across either pond brought the ES300, 328i, and A4 to market, the Big Three produced the Eldorado, Continental, and New Yorker during the same time period.

Cadillac is the first domestic luxury automaker to attack the entry-level market head-on with the introduction of the 1997 Catera. Based on the 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 the best of German and American engineering. It features antilock brakes engineered for the German Autobahn, dual front airbags, traction control, and an engine-disabling theft deterrent system. During the 1997 model year, Cadillac will add standard side-impact airbags.

With pricing starting below $30,000, the Catera qualifies as a bona-fide bargain in this segment. Options are restricted to a power sunroof, heated front and rear seats, a Bose audio system, and chrome-plated aluminum wheels. Standard equipment includes power windows with express-down features for all four windows, remote keyless entry, heated windshield washer nozzles, and a automatic dual-zone climate control system. Two models are available; a base model and one appointed with leather.

The Catera also benefits from a roomy interior, classified a mid-size car by the EPA. The dash layout is outstanding, providing large, analog gauges and easy-to-use controls. Wood trimming is kept to a tasteful minimum, and the Catera exudes a level of interior luxury uncommon for the class.

But, what about performance? The Catera holds its own, but we suspect there will be sales lost to the BMW 328i, Nissan Maxima, and Audi A4 due to the lack of a manual transmission. Cadillac also opted to limit the Catera's top speed to 125 mph so they could fit all-season rubber to the standard aluminum wheels. The result is a smoother, softer ride on America's often harsh pavement, and better wet-weather grip, at the expense of dry-weather handling.

Still, the Catera is a fine effort from Cadillac, priced competitively and offering all the luxury and most of the performance a buyer could want from this segment. Will Cadillac dealers be able to successfully sell this newfangled kind of luxury car to buyers who normally wouldn't set foot in a Cadillac showroom? That remains to be seen.

Top consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1997 Cadillac Catera.

Worst Car I Ever Owned
nestornajwa, 1/16/2013
I bought a new 97 Catera in late 1997, thinking I was getting a good deal with discounts/rebates. Catera was not without its virtues. It handled very well, had a fun sport suspension setting and was pretty comfortable. I overlooked the bland styling. None of these things mattered when the car began falling apart within weeks. First, the gas tank was removed to fix a broken sensor. Soon after, a gasket blew. Then the fuel pump died. The most persistent problem was with the door locks, which malfunctioned often and prevented the doors from closing. Lindsay Cadillac service (VA) was terrible, with many return visits for door locks. All of this happened within about 16 months of purchase.
Cadillac Catera 97
_catera97_, 4/18/2012
This is an amazing car. Yes it has a few problems we are going to have to work on. But my dads psycho ex girlfriend parked it in the grass and took the chip out of the key. That's the reason for most of the problems. It is a 15 year old car, so yes it's going to have other problems to. But before it was taken off the road because of the crazy psycho it was running fine. The ride is smooth just like a Cadillac should ride, the Bose stereo system is beyond amazing and the speed and look of the car fits my personallity to a key. This car is one of the most amazing cars I have ever seen.
Nestornajwa, 6/19/2002
Purchased new as a leftover in 4/98 -- now I know why it didn't sell. Worst car I ever drove. Nothing but problems. Leaks, lights blinking for no reason, broken sensors, broken door locks, broken trunk locks, hoses, ignition, etc. coupled with truly TERRIBLE, indifferent service by Lindsay Cadillac in Virginia -- all of which made for a miserable owenership experience. This is why Cadillac will not exist in 10 years. Also: poor storage space, limited options on stereo system (corrected in later models), poor rear visibility.
Must have got the one diamond amongst the broken glass.
jlblack, 6/18/2011
While everybody else hates this car, I love it! I bought last year for $2000. I immediately had to buy a new radiator for it for $200 that I installed. I was quoted up to $750 for one, so call around when buying parts. I abuse this car! The sport button is on half the time, I take corners at above twice the recommended speed. This car is glued to the road. It sails at 90 mph with no problem. If you can work on cars yourself and want cheap luxury then this is the car for you. For what I paid for it if a major repair comes up then its off to the junk yard, but until then, get out of my way! You can buy a Haynes repair manual for an Opel Omega from the UK. Same car. I did.
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Features & Specs

16 city / 23 hwy
Seats 0
4-speed automatic
200 hp @ 6000 rpm
See all Used 1997 Cadillac Catera features & specs


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver2 / 5
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1997 Cadillac Catera
Used 1997 Cadillac Catera Overview

The Used 1997 Cadillac Catera is offered in the following submodels: . Available styles include , and 4dr Sedan.

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