- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The Cadillac motorcar division of General Motors embarked upon its second century of automobile production last year with the all-new Cadillac CTS — a uniquely special and desirable compact, but unlike the ill-fated Cimarron and even the Catera. The CTS is a luxurious sport sedan produced in the United States but developed and tested extensively in Europe on Germany’s legendary Nurburgring racetrack, being subjected to demands far greater than any to be experienced under normal driving scenarios.

For the 2004 model year, the 3.2-liter DOHC V-6 powering the manual-transmission version CTS has been completely re-engineered, along with retuned base suspension, new shocks and mounts as well as an optional all-new, more powerful 3.6-liter V-6 with variable valve timing.

The focus for now, though, is the 3.6-liter CTS that develops 20 percent more peak power, a 13 percent peak torque increase and a 24 percent boost in torque-integral (the torque amount available at most points across the entire rpm range). Design elements that have become traditional are updated across the model lineup with forms remaining lean and shear, sharply delineated planes and crisp intersections — with some sensual curves for good measure. The overall design is highly angular, making a bold statement whether or not it appeals to everyone.

The new 3.6-liter DOHC V-6 produces 255 horsepower and 252 foot-pounds of torque, mated to a performance-oriented five-speed automatic transmission. Pricing for the CTS starts at $30,140, though models outfitted with the 3.6 engine and other popular features and equipment can top $40,000. The test vehicle was finished with a White Diamond premium exterior finish and a combination of light gray and ebony inside. A special equipment group that included the larger V-6, along with the Luxury package and sport packages, premium paint application, DVD navigation system and destination fee increased the sticker price to $43,530.

The car is very European in its presentation, living up to Cadillac’s perceived imagery in nearly all respects but the interior execution that, with its textured plastic surfaces, still falls somewhat short of the ultimate Cadillac level. It is decidedly better than the previous iteration, however. In fact, the entire vehicle is more pleasing and a cut above the first CTS.

The Cadillac CTS comes across as very sporty in terms of its handling and performance attributes. The ride quality is on the firm side, even without the sport package application, but it’s not harsh or uncomfortable.

Acceleration is brisk, steering provides a precise, on-center, feel with braking to match. Even fully loaded, the CTS seems quite reasonable in terms of cost, considering the value-laden content. The return to rear-wheel drive is a big plus from a purist’s perspective.

The CTS is essentially an affordable luxury sport sedan. One that is bold and unique in its visual impression, conservatism be damned. The first CTS was most impressive — the latest developments are sure to move the car even further up the ladder of success.

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