Review: 2008 Cadillac CTS Test Drive

The Cadillac CTS luxury/sport sedan challenges European rivals with bold styling and a posh interior.

by Jim Gorzelany

Once again Cadillac is using its smallest sedan as a vanguard for improvement and positive change. The latest generation of the rear-wheel-drive, midsize CTS recasts the company”s bold look. The first generation revolutionized Cadillac”s design when it debuted for the 2003 model year.

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Review: 2008 Cadillac CTS Test Drive 


A complete overhaul for 2008 marks the start of a new generation and the promise of tougher competition for Asian and European automakers. The latest CTS features myriad engineering updates, a freshened exterior and a richer, more sophisticated interior with added features.

The Cadillac CTS is aggressively, though tastefully styled, with an athletically sculpted body and a bold, chrome grille up front that takes its design inspiration from the automaker”s dramatic Sixteen concept car.

Riding on standard 17-inch wheels and tires (18-inch rims and rubber are optional), the Cadillac CTS offers buyers a choice of three suspension systems: one emphasizes ride comfort, another precise handling and the third uses advanced technology to balance the two.

Review: 2008 Cadillac CTS Test Drive


After years of being criticized for its slapdash interior designs, General Motors has consistently improved the quality, fit and finish inside its vehicles, including the Cadillac CTS. The leather trim for components like the instrument panel, center console and the insides of the doors is now cut, wrapped and sewn entirely by hand and includes decorative French stitching found on much more expensive European luxury cars. Gauges and controls are fairly straightforward and ergonomically correct.

The Cadillac CTS seats four passengers in comfort and a fifth can squeeze into the middle of the back seat when necessary. An example of the level of thought and detail that went into the design of the current-generation CTS can be seen in the front seats: They were designed to be as thin as possible in order to maximize interior space, particularly rear leg room.

The CTS comes well equipped even in its base form, including front, side and side-curtain airbags, a tire pressure monitor and GM”s OnStar communications/safety system. The latter includes a service that can provide driving directions recited verbally through the car”s speakers with far less complexity than a typical GPS navigation system. But for those who want the real thing, the Cadillac CTS” optional navigation array accepts voice commands and features an LCD display that retracts unobtrusively into the instrument panel when not in use. A built-in USB port allows owners to connect iPods and other MP3 players to the audio system and recharge them during use.

The Cadillac CTS offers a full range of the latest high-tech options and takes the gadgetry and gizmos to a new level. These include a hard drive-based entertainment system that can both store audio files and act like an in-car TiVo, automatically buffering radio broadcasts while the audio system is muted (like when you”re taking a cell-phone call). The navigation and audio system menus are well laid out; Cadillac consulted with Apple on how to structure them and the forethought shows in the ease of operation.

Also offered are adaptive headlamps with lens elements that throw a beam of light in the direction of a turn, a premium Bose surround-sound audio system, power tilting/telescoping steering wheel and a Smart Remote Starter that not only activates the engine remotely, but can adjust settings for the climate control system and the optional heated and cooled seats, according to temperatures outside and inside the vehicle.


The previous-generation”s optional engine, a 3.6-liter V6, is now standard. It uses the latest in engine technology, like variable valve timing and an electronic throttle, to generate more than 260 hp “” adequate, though not quite exhilarating. Meanwhile, an optional direct-injection 3.6-liter V6 generates in excess of 300 hp for quicker acceleration but worse fuel economy and higher hydrocarbon emissions.

Though most Americans prefer an automatic transmission, the Cadillac CTS rightly offers a standard six-speed manual transmission, essential to preserving an aura of performance. A sophisticated six-speed automatic that can be shifted manually is optional.

Rear-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive, which wasn”t offered on the previous generation, is optional. The AWD system automatically sends traction from the rear axle to the front when needed. The Cadillac CTS also includes General Motors” StabiliTrak system for improved stability and control in extreme handling maneuvers. For those looking to extract maximum performance, a limited-slip differential is optional. This mechanical device is designed to maximize traction at the rear axle and improve acceleration out of turns by automatically sending power to the wheel that has the most grip.


The 2008 Cadillac CTS starts at a base price of the CTS 3.6 liter V6 VVT (manual transmission) is to start at $32,245, while the VVT DI (automatic transmission) will start at $34,545.

Buyers can opt for a range of packages including the Luxury Collection for an extra $2,600, Premium Luxury Collection for $8,165, Performance Collection for $3,300, Luxury Level One for $1,000 and the Luxury Level Two for $2025.


Is the Cadillac CTS for You?

Buy the CTS if
You want a boldly styled American alternative to an Asian or European luxury sport sedan.

Keep Looking if
You still think that nothing compares to a BMW or Mercedes-Benz; you need room for more than five occupants and their stuff, in which case the larger Cadillac STS or DTS are worth considering.

Who Fits?
Four passengers fit nicely in the Cadillac CTS” cabin, with a fifth able to wedge in the back when needed.

Closest Competitors
Acura TL, BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G35 Sedan, Jaguar X-Type, Lincoln MKZ, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Volvo S60.


2008 Cadillac CTS Gallry: