Used 2003 Cadillac CTS Review

Edmunds expert review

It can run with the best of them, but the awkward proportions and unrefined interior leave it a step behind the class leaders.

What's new for 2003

A replacement for the aging Catera sedan, the all-new CTS shares few parts with its German-built predecessor.

Vehicle overview

As the first car to employ Cadillac's new "art & science" design philosophy, the CTS is a bold step forward for a division that is slowly trying to regain its status as a top-tier luxury car maker. Competition in the entry-level luxury sport sedan segment is fierce, currently dominated by the likes of BMW's 3 Series, Audi's A4 and Mercedes' C-Class. Cadillac is hoping to attract customers by offering sport sedan performance combined with the room and comfort of a midsize.

The CTS comes equipped one way, but two option packages are offered to add varying levels of luxury and sport. Standard equipment includes leather seating; front, side and head-curtain airbags; an eight-way power adjustable driver seat; dual-zone climate control; an AM/FM cassette stereo and CD player; the OnStar communications system; ABS; and traction control, all for a base MSRP of $29,990.

Upgrading to the Luxury package adds a power passenger seat, an audible theft-deterrent system, two-driver memory package, programmable garage door opener, electronic voice recorder and wood trim on the steering wheel, shift lever and door handles. Additional options include an upgraded Bose audio package with CD-ROM ( where's the DVD?) navigation, heated front seats, xenon headlamps, a power sunroof and machine-finished aluminum wheels.

For the ultimate in handling and comfort, you'll want to upgrade to the top-of-the-line Luxury/Sport package. This includes all the added features of the Luxury package along with a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels and tires, speed-sensitive power steering, high-performance brake linings and the StabiliTrak stability control system.

Only one engine is offered, a 3.2-liter V6 rated at 220 horsepower and 218 lb-ft of torque. Power is directed to the rear wheels through either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. The fully independent multilink suspension was developed during months of testing on Germany's famed Nurburgring test track, a notoriously rigorous circuit used for years by Porsche and BMW. The testing paid off, as the CTS displays brilliant handling, precise steering and highly capable brakes that make spirited driving a pleasure. The five-speed manual is light through the gates, but a little rubbery upon engagement. The automatic gearbox responds quickly to throttle inputs, providing crisp, well-timed shifts with little hesitation.

Although the CTS competes in the entry-level sport sedan category, its physical dimensions more closely resemble that of larger midsize luxury sedans like BMW's 5 Series and Audi's A6. The result is a spacious cabin that easily swallows five adults. The bucket seats in front are supremely comfortable, offering a wide range of movement and supportive side bolsters. The cabin materials aren't quite up to European quality standards, but most surfaces are soft to the touch, so the cabin at least feels luxurious.

Compared to its predecessor, the CTS is a giant leap forward. Every aspect of the car has been improved over the Catera. From the excellent handling to the smoother, more powerful engine, the CTS is now much better equipped to handle the intense competition in the sport sedan category. The edgy styling is sure to garner both fans and critics, but one thing is for sure, it will never get lost in the crowd. If that's the kind of sedan you've been waiting for, then the CTS certainly deserves a test drive.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.