2008 Cadillac CTS Review / Road Test

Cadillac's CTS shone on twisting switchbacks

Ever taken a Cadillac to wine country?

Two luxury vintages worked wonderfully in tandem for me on a recent roadtrip to California's Central Coast, though obviously I didn't indulge in both at the same time.

I jumped into the all-new award-laden Cadillac CTS with the wife and dog and drove 800 miles or so over the weekend, mainly at freeway cruising speeds on the way there and on twisty switchbacks leading to the 400 or vineyards in the Paso Robles area northeast of Cambria.

Both vintages were fantastic.  Paso Robles produces many excellent Rhone varietals that lead to full, robust reds and cheeky dry whites.  Road-wise, the Cadillac CTS just happens to be one of my favorite car models on the market right now.

And I didn't think it could improve much on its 2004 release, with its gorgeously angled lines and hint of muscle on its frame. What I didn't count on was, though the outside took just a couple new styling cues from the front grille to a slight softening of the angles, the interior was stripped out and entirely re-imagined.

Best interior refit this year

Step into the avant-garde cockpit redesigned under GM interior design chief David Rand and you'll notice what he terms “aggressive flow via one continuous, sweeping line.” With the prominent swoop into the integrated wedge-shaped center stack, you may feel like you're in a Corvette, from which much influence was gleaned. Supportive, leather-wrapped seating provides a great view of the Caddy's improved dial-cluster graphics and precision-cut switchgear.

Best thing about the interior, though, was the nifty real-time traffic alert on the sat-nav that stopped us fuming in the seats in a 20-mile tailback on the 101 North.  A little alert came on the screen saying that a truck had jackknifed, whereupon we then high-tailed it east and took off up another route. It saved us, I would guess, at least four hours of unpleasantness (as I checked back hours later and the wreck still hadn't been cleared).  Wow, that felt so good.

Other nice interior features include that you'll have improved storage area in the back and cargo area and multiple handy pockets for storing  road-trip detritus: Maps, snacks, dog's water bowl, etc.  And all of it minted in chrome and quality wood trim.  In fact, the CTS's interior has been such a major hit with customers and dealers that it's likely to be rolled across the GM range at a time when carmakers will try almost anything to get foot traffic into their showrooms. 

Now, the 2004 variant's ride and handling I believed put it firmly on a par with an entry or mid-level BMW or Mercedes, and the reworked CTS is no different. Strangely, and this stuck out among all of the huge positives of racing and ripping one of these over and around hills and dips, the brake pedal felt a little tight, a little too keen to spring back up once pressed. How odd. Maybe it was just calibrated badly.

But it didn't stop us from visiting at least 12 of the finest vineyards in the region, including Adelaida, Whalebone, Opolo, L'Aventure and Tablas Creek, which offer a truly relaxing approach away from Napa's hoitti-toittiness and the tourist swarms of Sonoma. 

Looks great from any angle

Nuts and bolts for the CTS: It's a 3.6 liter direct injection V6 with variable valve timing twinned to a six-speed automatic transmission. Thankfully, it's rear-wheel drive, as all cars like this should be. It pumps out 263 horses at 3100 revs per minute, which in today's market seems to be a tad lagging, though it is definitely enough for the average driver. It gets 17-26 mpg town and highway respectively.


Standard trim includes 18-inch rims. Options to shell out more of your hard-earned include the fantastic real-time traffic navigation system with a 40GB harddrive for storing tunes, and a great Bose stereo.

MSRP runs from $34,780 to $38,980, with invoice a couple thousand on either side.  Just remember to add on a little more cash to your trip budget if you intend going to Paso Robles wine country and consuming the best it has to offer.

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