The 2008 Cadillac CTS hitting dealerships has a wow factor all will enjoy. Seen in a rearview mirror, the front-end styling is aggressive and exciting. Viewed from the side, the car is sleek, with edgy contours that suggest a sporty experience. The rear is a light show at night that just might find owners mesmerized by its execution.
One of the most unexpected views was through the driver's window from about 10 feet away. Looking through the open window, I spotted the three individual instruments, their bezels situated at varying angles. It was so unexpected that a wow escaped from my lips. Yet from the driver's seat, the gauges appear to sit on the same plane and are extremely easy to read, day or night.
Some might say the exterior design isn't much of a departure from the previous version. It does carry a family resemblance but is much more aggressive in its stance on the road. The chevron-like vertical grille is anchored by vertical-oriented lighting units that incorporate projector beams with dual rectangle groupings of LEDs and cool light tubes on the edges.
The side body highlight lines accentuate the coupe-like shape of the roof, with lines that flow to the rear of the CTS with LED lighting.
However, before your eyes leave the front fenders, they come to a screeching halt at the side vents in front of the doors. Functional fender vents are accentuated by die-cast bright chrome fixtures, which bring your eye to a small area that belies the major amount of work applied to form the hard angle edges that flow into the A-pillar. It is this type of design execution that makes the CTS visually fascinating.
The interior is equally a treat for the eyes as well as the spirit. Settling into the driver's seat, the interior wraps driver and front passenger in a blend of soft edges, wood and chrome trim. It is more than a luxury vehicle. It is a driver's luxury automobile.
This is especially true when equipped with the more sporty suspension system of the three available. Labeled FE1, FE2 or FE3, these suspension systems gradually become more aggressive as they increase numerically. Testing the CTS on various road surfaces and circumstances, I found that though the most aggressive of the three, FE3, carried a high degree of handling capabilities, it also smoothed rough surfaces so as not to beat my passengers with jarring handling.
Power comes in two forms in a 3.6-liter V-6 engine. The base engine produces an admirable 263 horsepower and provides a good level of spirited driving. Both engines are smooth and quiet, thanks to a heavy use of sound deadening to keep any obtrusive noise out of the passenger compartment.
Thankfully, the subtle exhaust growl of the up-level V-6 can be easily heard and only suggests the power of 304 horses available to your right foot. Using a direct-injection fuel system and a free flow exhaust, this engine responds with vigor and a willingness to accelerate.
You've heard me talk of it being equally important to equip a vehicle with good brakes as it is to have the power under the hood. Cadillac engineers proved they know this. Large 13-inch plus ventilated discs bring the CTS down safely to a stop from high speeds. This was proved to me after many hours of testing at Laguna Seca Raceway. Even with the higher than normal levels of heat built up lapping this exquisite raceway, the brakes stayed true.
The culmination of design and engineering is evident in the CTS. Luxurious passenger compartment, heart-pounding responsiveness and handling that equal the best of European sedans elevates the CTS to new levels.