2008 Cadillac CTS First Drive
Ring master: Born and bred in Detroit; brought to life on the Nurburgring NordschleifeCadillac CTS Full Overview
You don't want to get it wrong through the Fuchsrohre. This is just one of the places where the legendary Nurburging Nordschleife can bite you. Hard.
You come out the Aremberg turn hard in third and plunge 250 feet downhill along a wriggling stretch of track, straight-lining one, two, three, four, five apexes almost as fast as you can count them. You reach the bottom of the hill on the sixth, the car's suspension on full compression as the track veers slightly left. That's not the tricky bit. Nope, the tricky bit is the next left, a deceptively sharp kink with an apex you can't see until it's too late. Get it right, and you carry a lot of speed up into the tight complex of corners at Adenauer-Forst. Get it wrong, and there's a good chance you'll eat the guardrail that's right on the edge of the track.
Last time around, the car had hit the rev limiter in fourth-about 127 mph-just before the bottom of the hill, and I'd ridden it all the way into that tricky left. This time, I grabbed fifth early, looking for just a little more speed through the dip. I got it, and that damned kink was on me before I knew it. I mashed the brake pedal, and turned the steering wheel. I'd missed the turn-in point by a mile, but by now this wasn't about a nice racing line; this was about getting through that kink in one piece.
The car dived left, understeering mildly. Another quick dab on the brakes brought the rear end around. Feathering the gas, we gently drifted through kink, maybe six feet further to the right than we should've been and in the wrong place to make good time into the Adenauer-Forst complex. But it was a nice recovery, thanks mainly to good brakes, nice steering, and an agile, sweet-handling chassis. I glanced at the wreath and crest on the steering wheel and smiled: Wow! Is this really a Cadillac?
It sure is. The new Cadillac CTS might've been born and bred in Detroit, but you can tell it has spent time on the Nurburgring Nordschleife during its development. This is an American car with a German chassis: not exactly like a Mercedes or a BMW, but taut, tied down, nicely balanced, and stable at high speeds. It's not just the best-handling Caddy in history, but probably the best-handling American sedan ever.
It starts with the fundamentals: sophisticated suspension and a rigid platform. The new CTS, codenamed GMX322, is an evolution of the Sigma-based original, via the STS. Basically the engineering team kept the old CTS's wheelbase, but used the wider track from the larger STS -- the floorpan structure, front of dash, lower A-pillar and rear chassis rails are all basically STS -- to fundamentally transform the car's proportions.
Although there's a lot that looks familiar under the new car, there's a lot that's brand new, and, crucially, expensive. The short/long-arm front suspension features lots of lightweight aluminum and is bolted to an all-new aluminum front cradle. A large aluminum brace across the engine compartment ties the top mounts together. The steering gear is a premium ZF Servotronic II system, with the rack mounted forward of the front-axle centerline to improve precision.
The multilink rear suspension looks similar to the existing Sigma layout, but features a 40-percent-stiffer cradle, plus larger body mounts, revised differential mountings, and shortened trailing links to improve NVH. "Overall, the rear end of the car is much more solid structurally," says CTS lead development engineer Rob Kotarak, "It's able to absorb much more of the coarse road stuff you see in Europe and China."
Cadillac has left the fine tuning to you, however: The new CTS is available with three different suspension setups, two different size wheels and three different spec Michelin tires. And it doesn't matter whether you buy a CTS in Seattle, Stuttgart, or Shanghai, the specifications are the same. All-wheel drive is available, too, if you want or need it. Derived from the system currently used in the STS, it features an electronically controlled transfer case that allows nearly 100 percent of the torque to be sent to the front wheels.
Two six-speed transmissions are available: GM's new 6L50 automatic and the Aisin Warner AY6 manual. The auto features a sport mode that adapts to your driving style and dynamic inputs such as brake and steering. The algorithms in the transmission computer needed fine tuning on the early production cars we drove-they tended to hang on too long in a lower gear-but Cadillac engineers say this'll be done before cars hit dealer showrooms. In manual shift mode, the transmission matches revs, race-car style, on downshifts. You have to reach for the shifter-back for down, forward for up-to change ratios, as there are no steering-wheel mounted shifter buttons-yet. Expect them on the 2009 models.
Probably barely two percent of American CTS customers will opt for the six-speed manual. Even so, Caddy engineers have put considerable time and effort into optimizing it for the car. The second, third, and fourth gear ratios were changed late in the program as a direct result of testing on the Nordschleife, says Rob Kotarak. (Good news for manual Camaro buyers: Your cars will get this gear set, too.) Though there's no difference-according to Cadillac's figures-between the straight-line performance of manual or automatic cars equipped with the top of the range 3.6-liter DI engine, the manual car clearly feels quicker around the 'Ring, punching harder out of corners and with less of a gap between the second and third ratios. In fact, says Sigma products development manager Rick Kewley, the manual is five to eight seconds a lap faster.
The CTS will initially be offered with three engines: a 210-horse, 2.8-liter V-6; a 258-horse, 3.6-liter V-6; and a 304-horse, 3.6-liter V-6 with direct injection. All three V-6s are versions of GM's all-aluminum, quad cam, 24-valve "high-feature" engine and come with state-of-the-art goodies such as a forged-steel crank and variable valve timing. The 2.8 is an export-only engine, destined for China, Europe, the Middle East, and any other markets where engines over 3.0 liters attract higher taxes. The 258-horse 3.6 is essentially a carryover from the current CTS. The big news is the new direct-injection-DI-version.
This engine does exactly what the badge says-inject gas directly into the combustion chamber, just like in a diesel engine. This requires much higher fuel-rail pressures-up to 1750 psi-but the benefits include much more precise fuel metering, with a resultant improvement in power and torque, but with better gas mileage and lower emissions. GM global rear-drive chief engineer Dave Leone claims a 15-percent power increase (though you'll only get the full 304 horses if you run it on premium unleaded), and an eight-percent increase in torque to 272 pound-feet over the PFI version. The three-percent improvement in gas mileage sounds meager, but Leone points out the DI-engined automatics run a lower final-drive ratio (3.42 versus 3.23) to deliver best performance.
It's a technically impressive engine, but in truth, it's the CTS's weakest link. Performance isn't the issue-proving ground tests in Germany suggest Cadillac's claimed 0-to-60-mph time of 5.9 seconds for both auto and manual DI cars is right on the money, and we saw 7000 rpm in fifth-an indicated 153 mph-in a manual on the autobahn south of Mainz. The problem is noise and vibration; there's a granular quality to the 3.6's soundtrack that can be heard and felt, especially in the upper rev band where the DI V-6 loves to play. You hear it in the gargling induction note and feel it back through the pedals and the shifter, especially in the manual cars. It's not overbearing, but you notice it because the rest of the car is so quiet.
The new CTS deserves a creamy BMW six under the hood. Yes, it's that good. It has great road presence, thanks to designer John Manoogian's dramatically chiseled exterior, and the interior looks upscale without the cheesiness Detroit once specialized in. Fit and finish, inside and out, looked good on the early build cars we drove in Germany, though some hard plastics and visible parting lines (the thin strips of raised plastic you get where the pieces of the die join) were still evident. And though it rolls on the same wheelbase as the previous CTS, interior packaging is much improved: Thinner backrests on the front seats liberate about two inches of knee room for rear seat passengers.
More important, the CTS drives like a proper BMW rival. It's light and agile on its feet, with quick steering response yet impressive straight-line stability at speed, and a StabiliTrak system that's beautifully tuned to be almost unobtrusive in its interventions. The sporty FE3 suspension with the Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires is probably a bit too firm for most people-the ride can get jittery over broken pavement-but if you value handling above all else, that's the one to go for. The midlevel FE2 setup, which comes with the 18-inch-wheel package and all-season Michelin MXV4 tires, is probably the best compromise for most people, offering a good balance between ride and handling.
The new CTS isn't quite the Standard of the World. But it's certainly world class. The best damn Cadillac sedan in 50 years? Easily.
New CTS in detail: The key stuff you need to know
|2008 Cadillac CTS|
|Base price||$32,990-$46,000 (est)|
|Vehicle layout||Front engine, RWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|Engines||3.6L/258-hp/252-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6; 3.6L/304-hp/273-lb-ft DOHC 24 valve V-6|
|Transmissions||6-speed manual; 6-speed automatic|
|Curb weight||3850-4100 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||190.1 x 70.6 x 56.7 in|
|0-60 mph||5.9-6.5 (mfr)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||15-17/24-26 mpg (est)|
|CO2 emissions||0.96-1.08 lb/mile (est)|
|On sale in U.S.||Sep-07|
In their own words: CTS engineers' testing diary
For CTS chief engineer Liz Pilibosian and lead development engineer Rob Kotarak, GMX322 is old news. They've been living and breathing the new CTS since the spring of 2004, when the program was officially given the green light by GM brass. Developing a new car involves managing people, process, and politics. And meetings. Lots of meetings. Occasionally, though, the engineers do get to drive the car.
February 2: "Where would you go to get warm weather, cold weather, mountains, city streets, twisty country roads, and long highway passes all in one area? For us the answer is Southern California. Starting in the shadow of San Diego harbor, we wound our way east and north, where dusty desert highways give way to chilly pine forests, replicating the majority of daily driving conditions most people encounter. "-Liz
February 12: "As if it weren't cold enough at home, we're going back and forth to Kinross [in Michigan's Upper Peninsula] for winter traction testing now. This is a key point in time-we're checking and rechecking the AWD system and chassis controls as it's the first time we've put AWD into the CTS. "-Rob
March 14: "This was a cold, rainy morning-good conditions for monitoring the smoothness of the engines at idle. This trip continued to a town called Charlevoix, then 250 miles or so back to our proving ground in Milford. "-Rob
April 19: "We made a wrong turn in Nevada. I think there was a construction detour or something. In any event, we got a long stretch of dirt road driving that was completely unplanned. But it ended up being beneficial-we had such a big group of cars kicking up a ton of dirt it provided a really rough test for the air-intake systems and HVAC. "-Liz
May 10: "We've just verified our chassis development. But that doesn't mean we're done. We're never done. This is the point where we get into launch mode. There's still quite a bit to do during the launch, and we're definitely in the early stages of development for model years beyond 2008. So the development driving continues. We've just finished a big ride in the Southwest, and we're getting ready for another trip to Germany. "-Rob
May 14: "Vehicle testing relies on consistent and repeatable driving. That's hard to achieve anytime, let alone in a super-severe environment like the Nrburgring. The key is to drive each lap as consistently as possible. This also normally means going quite fast. I'd call it nine-tenths driving, and nine-tenths driving here is incredible. We have a handful of drivers we consider Nrburgring-capable. It's really only after something like 100 laps you feel even a bit familiar with this track. "-Rob
May 30: "Love the road that winds down the Santa Rosa Mountains toward the desert valley outside the town of Borrego Springs, California, about 100 miles south of Palm Springs. Thousands of feet of elevation change in a matter of several miles, achieved via a countless series of twisty and hilly corners. "-Liz
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2008 CadillacCTS Pricing and Specs
Compare 4 CTS trims and trim families below to see the differences in prices and features.
Trim Family Comparison
BaseView 4 Trims
- 3.6L V-6 Engine
- 6-spd man w/OD Transmission
- 263 @ 6,400 rpm Horsepower
- 253 @ 3,100 rpm Torque
- rear-wheel Drive type
- ABS and driveline Traction control
- 17" painted aluminum Wheels
- front air conditioning, dual zone automatic
- XM AM/FM/Satellite, seek-scan Radio
- keyfob (all doors) Remote keyless entry
- Heated mirrors
- leatherette Seat trim
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2008 Cadillac CTS AWD w/1SB 4dr Sdn Features and Specs
Seats, front bucket includes 8-way power driver seat adjuster and articulating head restraints
Seat adjuster, front passenger manual recline
Seat, rear pass-through, center armrest
Armrest, front center
Armrest, rear center with dual cup holders
Console, floor with floor shifter, integral armrest, storage compartment and cup holders
Floor mats, carpeted front and rear
Steering column, manual rake wheel and telescopic
Steering wheel, leather-wrapped
Steering wheel controls, mounted controls for audio, HVAC and cruise
Instrumentation, analog with speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, oil pressure gauge, engine water temperature gauge and Driver Information Center
Fuel gauge, analog
Tire Pressure Monitor System
Door locks, power programmable
Windows, power with front and rear Express-Down, front Express-Up and rear passenger lockout
Cruise control, electronic with set and resume speed
Trunk release, power
Remote Keyless Entry
Theft-deterrent system, vehicle, PASS-Key III
Climate control, dual-zone automatic with individual climate settings for driver and right-front passenger
Defogger, rear-window electric with front and side window outlets for the driver and right-front passenger
Mirror, inside rearview auto-dimming with OnStar controls
Visors, driver and front passenger illuminated vanity mirrors
Cadillac cts sedan 2008
Acceleration Acceleration Acceleration tests are conducted on a smooth, flat pavement straightaway at the track. Time, speed, and distance measurements are taken with a precise GPS-based device that’s hooked to a data-logging computer.
0 to 60 mph 0 to 60 mph (sec.) The time in seconds that a vehicle takes to reach 60 mph from a standstill with the engine idling.
Transmission Transmission Transmission performance is determined by shifting smoothness, response, shifter action, and clutch actuation for manual transmissions.
Braking Braking The braking rating is a composite of wet and dry stopping distances and pedal feel. Braking distance is from 60 mph, with no wheels locked.
Emergency Handling Emergency Handling Several factors go into the rating, including the avoidance maneuver speed and confidence, as well as how the vehicle behaves when pushed to its limit.
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