2005 Cadillac CTS
Cadillac's latest attempt at grabbing a piece of the European- and Japanese-dominated compact sport-luxury market, the CTS wraps in a smaller package most of the electronic systems found in its larger siblings. The OnStar telematics system is standard, and the Stabilitrak stability-enhancement system, one of the least intrusive in the industry, is part of the $1,325 Sport package. The $3,125 DVD navigation-system package includes real-time traffic data and XM satellite radio and has a simple-to-use interface. Mechanically, the CTS combines GM's new front-engine, rear-wheel-drive Sigma chassis with a choice of 2.8- or 3.6-liter twin-cam V-6 engines with variable valve timing or, in the high-performance CTS-V, a 400-horsepower version of the LS6 V-8 found in the Corvette.
With the exception of the optional systems mentioned previously, CTS technology is more oriented toward driving than gadgets, as highlighted by the usual contemporary engine-management electronics and the ultra-high-strength steel welded into the chassis structure. RDS radio and DSP are available with only the optional Bose audio system. There is no backup camera or any form of cell phone integration. DVD movies can be played in the navigation DVD player, but you must first remove the navigation disc and put the car in neutral (manual) or park (automatic).
Angles and curves
Onlooker reaction to the 2005 Cadillac CTS's angular stealth-fighter exterior styling is of the love-it-or-hate-it variety, but the car definitely gets noticed. Inside, the center console looks somewhat like a PC tower case of the curvy variety designed to fit in at home--but it is functional. The LCD screen for XM radio and the DVD navigation system dominates that interesting piece of styling, and Cadillac thankfully has not overcomplicated the user interface. Audio, navigation, and traffic modes are controlled by two rotary push buttons at the bottom, hard-coded buttons on the left side, and context-sensitive buttons to the right of the screen. Everything is either well marked or very logical, and using the system doesn't require intense study of the owner's manual.
The map display can be viewed in North Up, Heading Up, or Bird's-Eye views. Although you can beam address-book information into the car's contact database from a handheld or a cell phone via infrared, you can't directly feed these addresses into the car's navigation system--a disturbing oversight. Voice-recognition technology allows a voice-activated command interface for most audio and navigation functions. Volume and channel switching can also be controlled from the steering wheel; the rotary volume control is particularly useful.
The front seats, similar to those found in larger Cadillacs, are power adjustable and relatively flat for easy access, with adequate bolstering for performance driving. The front shoulder straps anchor directly to the seats. The rear seats have more room than those of most competitors. A pass-through is standard, with a split-folding feature optional. Unfortunately, although the navigation and audio systems get high marks for design, the same can't be said of the textured plastic used for most interior panels. It looks and feels cheap, not like anything that should be in a Cadillac.