- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Looking different is what it’s all about at Cadillac these days.

The geometrical blocks that form the edgy, angular shapes of the CTS are a brazenly courageous move by the automaker to distinguish its midsize sports sedan from the swift-moving, soft lines of European and Japanese luxury cars. Blazing new territorial ground in styling is a design theme Cadillac is sticking with along its entire lineup, which features the all-new models XLR roadster and SRX sport utility vehicle.

Restyling its look was an absolute must for Cadillac. I, for one, would never have considered a Cadillac when shopping for a luxury performance car; it held no image of vitality and was not in the same league as BMW or Mercedes-Benz. Now, I hear people bringing up the name CTS, especially men.

For 2004, the CTS has a retuned suspension for a smoother ride, without sacrificing performance. The retuning includes new shocks and shock mounts. Minor interior refinements focus on pulling together the luxury look, such as chrome accenting on the ashtray and bright white lighting on the instrumentation cluster.

The big news for the 2004 CTS is an all-new 24-valve, dual-overhead-cam, 3.6-liter V-6 engine with Variable Valve Timing mated to an electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission. This V-6 engine develops 255 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 252 foot-pounds of torque at 3,200 rpm.

The automatic transmission features engine braking through all five gears, which, as the automaker describes, allows the driver to get a sporty feel from the CTS as if downshifting in a manual. Shift buttons on the transmission let the driver select among “sport,” “winter,” and “economy” operation.

The CTS has a starting price of $30,140 and comes with the 3.2-liter V-6 engine with the five-speed Getrag manual transmission. This powerplant generates 220 horsepower and 220 foot-pounds of torque. Interestingly, both the 3.2-liter and 3.6-liter produce the same fuel economy ratings: 18 miles per gallon city and 28 mpg highway. It is the use of Variable Valve Timing technology in the 3.6-liter V-6 on both the intake and exhaust valves that allows the engine to achieve good fuel economy and emissions reduction.

The test car was equipped with the V-6 VVT powerplant as part of a $9,950 optional equipment group that also included Luxury and Sport Packages.

The engineers intently focused on minimizing noise, vibration and harshness. The engine noise-reducing design features that the engineers incorporated into the V-6 VVT are numerous. The pistons have polymer-coated skirts so that they track quietly and smoothly, the hiss from the PCV valve is eliminated, drumming sounds from the oil pan have been reduced, and the dual overhead cams feature isolated cam covers to reduce vibration. All these little finishes contributed to a very quiet powerplant.

The Luxury Package on the CTS tester included wood trim on the steering wheel and shift knob, heated front seats, a 10-way power passenger’s seat, a compass in the rearview mirror and a Homelink garage door opener. I liked the Sport Package because it gave the test car the sporty characteristics that I enjoy on midsize sedans.

This package featured a sport suspension, performance brake linings, variable assist steering, StabiliTrak, 17-inch wheels and tires, and rear-load leveling.

I know many people are looking at Cadillac differently now — reflecting back how Cadillac sees itself.

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