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2005 Cadillac CTS review: 2005 Cadillac CTS

Making a good play for the compact sport-luxury market, the CTS offers well-engineered performance and a very comfortable ride. But cheap-looking plastic clashes with the interior appointments.

Carey Russ
4 min read

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.


2005 Cadillac CTS

The Good

Distinctive exterior styling; nav system with real-time traffic data and dual-view display; willing engine and six-speed gearbox.

The Bad

Plasticky interior; no integration between nav system and contact database; shift linkage needs refinement.

The Bottom Line

A well-engineered power plant and nicely accessible dashboard electronics make the Cadillac CTS a good ride, but a few quirks hold it back.

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.

Hard-coded buttons on the left make it easy to call up functions on the LCD, while context-sensitive buttons on the right allow for more flexible controls.

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.

Earning a place in its class
Our test car had the 3.6-liter V-6, an aluminum-alloy twin-cam, 24-valve unit with variable valve timing. Mated to a six-speed Aisin manual transmission, it's rated at 255 horsepower at 6,200rpm, with 252 pound-feet of torque at 3,200rpm. The available automatic is a five-speed, comparable to the automatics in competitive cars. Sound like a recipe for performance? Indeed, but like many modern high-revving engines, this one is merely adequate at low revs. It gets happier as it revs higher, with a strong midrange and high end.

Although you can beam in addresses from your PDA, they are not integrated with the navigation system's route guidance.

The standard-equipment six-speed gearbox is a good match for the engine, although we weren't impressed with the shift linkage. We got 21mpg on average, driving mostly moderately and with a good mix of city and highway miles--competitive with most other cars in this class. Like the engine, the suspension gets happier as it gets pushed harder. Even with the firmer springs and shocks of the Sport package, ride comfort is very good in normal operation. Ride it harder in the corners, and the 2005 Cadillac CTS digs in, with enthusiasm. It's very comparable to the best from the German and Japanese competition.

Like most modern luxury cars, the Cadillac CTS has standard dual-stage front, front-side, and side-curtain airbags. Cadillac includes OnStar with a free one-year subscription to the Safe and Sound feature package. Xenon High Intensity Discharge headlights are available. The Stabilitrak 2.0 stability-enhancement system comes as part of the Sport package. With relatively transparent operation, it controls understeer or oversteer by gentle application of one or more individual brakes and gently decreases engine power if it deems that is necessary. It can be disengaged for high-performance driving. Strong brakes are a necessary match for a strong engine, and the Cadillac CTS scores high with four-wheel vented discs with standard antilock and traction control. The CTS is covered by a four-year/50,000-mile warranty.