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2003 Cadillac CTS Road Test

By John Heilig  
Photos by Charles Ofria

Category: $30,000 to $40,000 Rear Drive Sport Sedan
Who should buy this car: A person looking for a comfortable driver's car with crisp handling, new-age looks and room for 5 adults. 
Comparable models in this class: BMW 3-Series, Infiniti G35, Lexus GS-300,  Lincoln LS-6, Mercedes C-Class

Cadillac's new CTS is hard not to like.  It's been a long time since people have been able to say they like a Cadillac.  This new CTS is the type of car that gets admiring glances from everyone. It gets thumbs ups all along the road. And everyone who drives it appreciates its combination of German road feel and Cadillac ride.

The first thing that strikes you about CTS is its inspired styling.  So many cars these days have what can only be classified as bland styling. In many cases that makes sense, because you want a conservative look to your sedan. But if you're plunking out $37,565 for a car, you want something that is instantly recognizable and something that people will appreciate when they see you coming down the road.

In truth, the Cadillac Catera, which was the predecessor to the CTS, had uninspired styling. It had nice styling, but it was pretty normal looking.

CTS, on the other hand, embraces Cadillac's edgy styling, with hard lines and sharp angles. The "face" of the CTS will be seen in Cadillac's two-seater sports car that is due in the near future. It is similar to the Escalade and Escalade EXT faces as well, sharing the edgy look. There are angles to the headlight and taillight nacelles that are striking.  It is a beautiful car by my standards and, judging by bystanders reactions as I drive by,  by other people's standards as well.

There's one disadvantage to the edgy styling of the CTS. We discovered that the paint on the rear "bumper" was chipped at the extreme point, probably from too much "hunt and feel" parking. This could obviously be corrected on future versions of the car.

Inside the CTS, you sit behind a wood and leather steering wheel and the standard complement of gauges, as well as an analog clock. Obviously, all the other functions are handled by computer readouts on the dash. There is an excellent Bose sound system that offered great entertainment and was relatively easy to figure out. There were times when we had trouble exploring some of the options, but in general you don't need a Ph.D. in computer science to figure out the radio.

The radio had a tuning knob so you didn't have to figure out some graphic symbols to find the stations you wanted. It was easy to figure out, tune and set the stations you want in memory.

In the center of the sound system was a CD player and there was a cassette player as well.

The HVAC system was equally easy to decipher. It was a dual zone system so my wife and I could figure out what temperature we each wanted the vehicle to be with a minimum of haggling.

Under the hood is a 3.2-liter V6 that delivers 220 horsepower. It is connected to the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic gearbox. There was no auto-stick option, which would have been a help on more challenging roads.

The dash itself had a nice look to it, with a minimum of wood trim. As with much of the trim in the vehicle, there was a wood shift knob and wood pieces on the door pull handles. Those, and the wood on the steering wheel, were the only pieces of wood trim in the car.

I had one problem with the instruments. I happen to like my instruments to be bright. The brightness control is on the overhead console, and I had to look in the owner's manual to find where it was.

Performance of the CTS is very good. Obviously, if it's competing against the Lexus ES300 and the Infiniti I35, so it's in the same performance class. It would have been nice to have a slightly more powerful engine, but the CTS is well powered.

Ride quality is slightly on the soft side. I might have liked it to be slightly firmer, but firmness reduces ride quality, and this is, after all, a Cadillac, so one would assume a softer ride than one would expect from a more sporty brand. I think a sport suspension option with stiffer springs and shocks would be a valuable option for the CTS.

Cruise control switches are on the steering wheel, as is a sound system volume knob and station hunter. Wiper controls are on the right stalk with a down to wipe one-wipe function.

All in all, I think the Cadillac CTS is an excellent vehicle. It gives a good example of what Cadillac styling is going to be like over the next couple of years and I find that to be exciting. There are no fins, and in this case it's fine. It has vertical taillights, though, which is close enough.

2002 The Auto Page Syndicate

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Specifications 

Engine Type 3.2L DOHC V6
Horsepower 220 @ 6000 RPM
Torque 220 @ 3400 RPM
Fuel Recommended Regular Unleaded.
Transmission (std)
Transmission (opt.)
5-speed manual transmission
5-speed electronically controlled automatic
Drive Type Rear wheel drive
Tires - Standard P225/55HR16 All-Season
Overall Length 190.1"
Wheelbase 113.4
Width 70.6"
Turning Diameter 35.5 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight 3,509 lbs.
Fuel Tank 17.5 Gals.
Miles Per Gallon EPA city 18 , hwy 25.
Acceleration 0 to 60 7.1 Seconds (5-speed stick)
As-Tested Sticker Price $29,350

2003 Cadillac CTS Rear Wheel Drive Sport Sedan

Standard Equipment

  • 8-way power driver seat
  • Leather Seating Areas
  • Leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
  • Dual Zone Climate Control, Electronic
  • OnStar System
  • Sound System AM/FM Stereo, Cassette, Single in-dash CD player with 200 watt and 7 speakers
  • Steering Wheel with Fingertip Controls
  • Traction Control Full Speed Range/Brake and Engine
  • Wheels, Cast Aluminum
  • Brakes, Power Four-Wheel Disc, front and rear ventilated with Anti-Lock
  • Front side-mounted airbags
  • Front and rear head airbags

Major Available Options

  • 5-Speed Automatic transmission
  • Express Open Sunroof
  • Heated Front Seats
  • Bose audio system with 6-Disc CD Changer
  • CD based Navigation system
  • H.I.D. Headlamps
  • Premium paint: Garnet Red or White Diamond
  • Split-folding Rear Seat
  • CTS Luxury Package - Includes: 8-way power passenger seat, Memory seat, electrochromic inside rearview mirror with compass, Wood Trim Package including wood-trimmed steering wheel, door handles and shift knob, audible Theft Deterrent System, and 3-channel Homelink Garage Door Opener.
  • CTS Luxury Sport Package - Includes features of CTS Luxury Package plus:  sport-tuned suspension with rear leveling, performance brake lining, speed-sensitive steering and Stabilitrak 2.0, 17" cast aluminum wheels, P225/50VR17 tires

For more information on the CTS, visit Cadillac.com

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