2008 Cadillac CTS: It's OK to Lose to BMW
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