The 2009 Cadillac CTS is as likable a domestic midsize sedan that exists on my short list. Whether it be the groundbreaking edgy, signature sculpted exterior or the pavement pounding 556-horsepower CTS-V version, the CTS model from day-one has always pushed boundaries for Cadillac.
While technology has always played a big part in the successful marketing of the Cadillac lineup, exterior expeditions into the non-conventional have met with a bag of mixed results. To their credit, after creating a buzz with their edgy design scheme, the CTS emerged as their entry-level sedan with affordable luxury and the most distinctive exterior design on the road.
Pushing boundaries is not something the carmaker has always been willing to do, but this season's CTS-V offering continues to make competing European carmakers take notice. The new CTS-V ($58,575), with its 6.2-liter V-8, delivers 556 horsepower, which is the most powerful engine in Cadillac's history.
Legitimately placing itself amidst a class of European super sedans such as the Audi S Line, Mercedes-Benz AMG Class and the BMW M Series, the Cadillac CTS emerges on a world stage as an equal to what are considered the really great performance luxury models.
On the outside, the CTS delivers aggressive, unmistakable sport sedan styling. This sets a tone for what is under the hood as well as for the cabin. Standard 17-inch painted aluminum wheels were replaced on my tester by 17-inch machine-finished aluminum rims.
Part of an upgrade Luxury Collection package ($2,805), the performance wheels were part of a grouping of upscale additions, to the exterior and interior, such as a theft-deterrent system, Rainsense windshield wipers (with heated washer fluid) and upgraded leather seating surfaces.
The CTS cabin is more like a cockpit, with gauges and switches at easy arms length and highly visible displays and an LCD screen set top-center of the central stack. The cabin offers fine fit and finish with a sophisticated melding of wood, leather and soft plastic surfaces. This is a technology-rich environment suitable for even the most evolved techno-phile.
Head and legroom for front passengers is comfortable and ample while rear seat passengers might feel there is less room to stretch. Six-foot-plus passengers will not be able to sprawl out, but will be more than comfortable on long road trips.
While the CTS-V is not everybody's cup of rocket fuel, it does get consumers looking at the CTS line while searching for the performance characteristics of rear-wheel-drive sport sedans.
The CTS lineup, not including the CTS-V, offers two durable 3.6-liter V-6 engines. There is a 3.6-liter V-6 with variable valve timing. Offered in both rear- and all-wheel drive, this CTS generates 263 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 253 lb.-ft. of torque at just 3,100 rpm. The CTS is mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or the Hydra-Matic electronically controlled six-speed automatic.
My tester featured AWD and was mated to the automatic transmission. This combo had an EPA-rated fuel economy of 17 miles per gallon city and 25 mpg highway. The RWD automatic model gets 18/26, while the RWD manual is less efficient at 16/25 mpg.
Cadillac offers an even more fuel-efficient, powerful 3.6-liter V-6 that puts out 304 horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque. This engine also has VVT with the added benefit of direct injection. With 304 horsepower and 273 torque, this engine is very economical, getting 17/26 mpg with the automatic and 17/25 mpg with the manual transmission.
I found the CTS to handle as you might expect a sport sedan. Aggressive turns are easily accomplished with little roll or feeling in the cabin for the driver. Base priced at $38,980, the CTS is an affordable way to jump into a highly-visible sedan. My tester, with the addition of the Luxury Collection and upgraded $1,000 stereo system, white diamond premium paint ($998) and ultraview sunroof ($900) had a final asking price of $45,455.
My tester's $2,805 CTS Luxury package delivered an interior worthy of comparisons to the likes of a Lexus or a BMW. Even though these were heavy add-ons, I really enjoyed the power tilt/telescoping steering column, cooled front leather seats and Rainsense windshield wipers.
My model also had the $1,000 upgraded audio system featuring Bose 5.1 cabin surround sound with a 10-speaker layout as well as a 40-GB hard drive for stored memory.
Standard safety equipment included six airbags, active head restraints (whiplash prevention), and a crash-energy absorbing body structure that helped the CTS earn a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
It's hard to call anything Cadillac makes 'entry level.' But the CTS is the best way to get into the new Cadillac spirit and to make performance and luxury a domestic mix you cannot afford to pass up.