With its first CTS, Cadillac launched a new design language, intending to break free from its past "luxo-barge" reputation and aim for the sport-luxury segment, dominated by European automakers. The 2008 CTS is the model's first upgrade; Cadillac has maintained its bold themes while adding innovative technology.
As part of its design language, the CTS eschews the curved roofline used by most competitors in favor of an angular design. With the new CTS, the back of the cabin slants down at a shallower angle, reaching towards the trunk. Cadillac literature highlights the coupe-look of the new CTS.
Along with available adaptive high-intensity discharge headlights, the headlight assemblies house light pipes that present a vertical bar at night. The side marker lights are also placed inboard of the headlights.
Like most modern engines, the CTS engine is covered in plastic. Two engines are available: one with direct injection, and one with standard injection--although both are 3.6-liter, V-6es. As testament to the efficiency of direct injection, that version produces 304 horsepower, while the other puts out only 263 horsepower. The direct injection version also gets slightly better fuel economy.
Cadillac uses high-quality materials in the cabin of the CTS. At the premium equipment level, stitched leather covers the dashboard and extends along the door sills. Leather panels are placed at contact points on the doors.
A set of hard buttons in the middle of the stack gives the driver easy access in choosing audio and navigation functions. The record button handles a number of functions, from ripping CDs to transferring MP3 tracks from a disc or USB key.
A USB port and auxiliary input jack are mounted in the console, allowing flexibility in connecting portable music sources. You can plug a USB drive into the port and play music from it, or use the port to plug in an iPod.
The CTS offers basic audio controls for either its eight-speaker or 10-speaker Bose systems. Both sound systems have a centerfill speaker and subwoofer. From our brief test of the system, we found the audio quality very good.
The navigation system's map resolution is very good. The system has an extensive points-of-interest database. You can even tell the system to narrow down its icon display to a particular brand of gas station.
The navigation system shows traffic incidents and flow information that is broadcast through the XM radio network. This information is integrated into the navigation system, so that it can warn you if there is an incident on your current route.
For our first run around the track, we chased a Cadillac XLR. On turn five, we are about to hit the apex. The car did an excellent job of following the line through the turn, hitting the apex and tracking out to the opposite side under power.
As an extra bonus, Cadillac brought out this race car, based on the previous version of the CTS. Champion race driver Andy Pilgrim was on hand to show us journalists how it's done. He took us on laps that could be considered some of the scariest minutes we've experienced.