- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2002

The Cadillac division of General Motors embarks upon its second century of automobile production with the all-new 2003 Cadillac CTS. It is a compact Cadillac but special and desirable, unlike the earlier Cadillac small cars, the Cimarron and even the Catera.

The CTS is an incomparable product from the "Wreath and Crest" enclave it is a luxurious, sport sedan produced here in the United States, but developed and tested extensively in Europe on the legendary Nuerburgring racetrack in Germany. The Nuerburgring circuit is more than 12 miles long and features 177 turns, subjecting vehicles to excessive demands, far greater than any to be experienced in normal situations.

The Cadillac CTS is not a clone of any other vehicle. It sports an all-new chassis with a dynamic powertrain and distinctive, stand-out styling that evokes Cadillac's new design direction. The forms are lean and shear with sharply delineated planes and crisp intersections, along with some sensual curves for good measure. Several key elements are vertical in nature, such as the bold headlamps and taillamps.

Powering the rear wheels of the CTS is a 3.2 liter, dual-overhead camshaft V-6 that produces 220 horsepower and 218 pounds-feet of torque, which may be mated to either a five-speed manual or a performance oriented five-speed automatic transmission.

The engine feeds on 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline. A 2.6-liter motor will be available for export only. Weight distribution registers 53 percent up front with the remaining 47 percent situated aft. The CTS is 10 inches shorter overall than the Seville despite a wheelbase measurement that is two inches longer.

CTS weighs in at 250 pounds less than Catera. Pricing for the CTS starts at $29,990 manufacturer's suggested retail price, though models outfitted with the most popular features and equipment will average $35,500.

Fully loaded CTS vehicles with virtually all option packages will top out at just over $40,000. There are two major equipment groupings or packages: the CTS Luxury Package priced at $2,000 with an eight-way power adjustable passenger seat, audible theft deterrent system, Zebrano wood trim accents, memory settings package, rear-view compass and three-channel programmable garage door opener with electronic voice recorder; and the Luxury Sport Package for another $3,500, with all the goodies in the Luxury package, as well as Stabilitrak 2.0 computer control enhancement system, sport-tune suspension, high-performance brake linings, load-leveling rear suspension, speed-sensitive power steering and 17-inch polished wheels with V-rated tires.

Additional available options include the five-speed automatic transmission, a Bose premium sound system with cassette/six-disc CD changer and CD-ROM-based navigation system, 16-inch machined bright finish wheels, engine block heater, heated front seats, express-open sunroof, xenon high-intensity discharge headlamps and a split folding rear seat.

The car is very European in its presentation and lives up to the Cadillac image in virtually every respect except the interior execution. The interior seems to fall short of the Cadillac level with its textured plastic surfaces. This approach helps keep costs down, and aids in minimizing interior reflection, but lacks in the plushness generally associated with the luxury carmaker.

The cost of my test unit was approximately $35,565.

The CTS Cadillac team did their homework well. The car went through more than 1 million miles of preproduction rigid physical testing. The development program spanned six years, with constant revision and enhancements applied until the project was deemed ready for production.

CTS cost seems quite reasonable, considering the content. The CTS is the first genuine rear-wheel Cadillac in quite some time, which is sure to please purists.

The CTS is worthy of being typecast as a luxury sport sedan one that is indeed affordable. It is bold and unique in its visual impression, though it may take some getting used to for more conservative types.

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