Cadillac CTS Mk1

In Chinese we say "Failure is the mother of Success". That means without experiencing failures you are unlikely to achieve success. Also, you have to learn from failures rather than repeating them. Failures are nothing new to GM's Cadillac division since it tried to re-engineer its image in the 80s - from the Pininfarina-styled Allante coupe, high-tech Seville STS to the Opel Omega-derived Catera, all are flops, or at least fail to meet sales target. Will the new CTS be another inevitable failure, just repeating history? there is hope, because the new baby Caddy seems learning from the past at last, or more correctly speaking, learning from the successful BMW to inject real driver appeal to the chassis. They designed the basic Sigma platform in Australia - by Holden in the fame of Commodore VT, then covered it with an edge-cutting "Art-and-Science" design originated in Evoq prototype, installed a nice Opel V6 into the engine bay together with a Getrag 5M or a world-class 5A ... lastly, and most important, the chassis and suspensions tuning were carried out in Germany's Nurburgring race track. Perhaps the name CTS is also chosen to imply "Converted To Succeed". See, this time GM is really serious to rebuild the image of Cadillac.  

CTS is roughly in the same size as a BMW 5-series, just having 50mm longer wheelbase and overall length. However, GM will price it aggressively to rival the high-end 3-series instead, once again proofing the fact that poor brand image and inferior quality pay the price. Anyway, when it goes on sale in Europe, the price gap between it and 5-series will be narrowed to negligible because the distribution and promotion cost there will favour the BMW. So I will still see it as a competitor of 5-series. 

As aforementioned, the exterior styling evolves from the Evoq show car, sharing the same angular and polygon-surface profile and a new trademark grille. It is a little bit bland, a little bit bulky, blame to high shoulder line. On the plus side, it feels solid and distinctive. Inside, the dashboard design is no less unique, having a driver-oriented big block acts as center console. There is reasonable amount of space by class standard, but here you can also see traces of cost reduction - poor quality of plastics, cheap switch gears and some plasticky fake alloy decorating the gauges. If there are anything GM did not learn from the past, the first thing must be interior materials and build quality.  

The chassis is all new, developed primarily by Holden to adapt to different usages across GM's line-up, such as the next Commodore and Cadillac Seville (CTS's big brother). While it may not be the most sophisticated platform from GM, it is rear-wheel drive and employs front double wishbones and rear multi-link suspensions so that handling can be optimized. Moreover, the monocoque is designed to be very rigid, capable of handling rough Australian roads as well as demanding driving style of European car nuts. This sounds like a press release, but several European magazines invited to test drive it in Nurburgring gave it very positive comments. The European test cars were equipped with sports pack including stiffer suspension setup, self-leveling rear shock absorbers, 225/50VR17 tyres and speed-sensitive power steering. Testers found the CTS has a sweet steering offering plenty of feel and sharp turn-in. Ride is a bit firmer and harsher than BMW but never fidget. The chassis balance well while the suspensions keep rubbers firmly on road so that cornering limit is surprisingly high. The highly rigid chassis seems able to cope with a V8 powerplant. Brakes are also excellent, no matter power or pedal feel. 

Most CTS sold will be powered by Opel Omega's 54° V6, which has been upgraded to 3.2 litres. Compare with the previous 3-litre, it gains longer stroke, a modified head and a new 2-stage variable-length manifold to achieve 220 horsepower and 218 lbft of torque. The engine is silky-smooth and quiet, works eagerly with Cadillac's first 5-speed manual in 20 years. The Getrag-supplied transmission is reasonably slick and have close ratio to enhance acceleration, but the V6 is not torquey enough to trouble BMW 530i. Therefore choosing the 5-speed self-shifter may be a better idea, at least it is exactly the same gearbox using by the 5-Series. As some of you might know, GM's subsidiary Delphi makes one of the world's best 5-speed automatic transmissions but the box is just supplying to BMW rather than to GM itself because none of GM's existing cars were designed to mate that. Now CTS finally enjoys the superb box.  

Pushing nearly 1600kg, it is quite doubtful whether the manual CTS can sprint to 60mph in under 7 seconds as claimed. Therefore a more powerful engine is always welcomed. It is understood that a 240hp version of the V6 will be added later on, so is a new generation small-block 4.3-litre V8 with unique 3-valve heads operated by pushrods. At the other extreme, Europe will be offered a fuel-efficient 2.6-litre V6 (now serving the Vectra). By then, the CTS will become a complete line-up.  

No matter how many previous attempts failed, Cadillac's latest effort will be different. In the past, it just talked about this and that but never really carried out. This time we saw it really comes true. CTS is not just following the footprints of Lincoln LS to shift to European's territory, but its intention is more serious and the efforts made are far greater. If Lexus IS300 can succeed, why not the baby Caddy ? let's hope so. 

The above report was last updated on 11 Sep 2001. All Rights Reserved.

CTS upgraded to 3.6 V6

When GM launched the Cadillac CTS, it knew the Opel-sourced 3.2-litre V6 was just an interim solution before the debut of the all-new global V6. This new V6 is designed and built in Australia by Holden. It will be supplied to GM’s American brands as well as Opel, Saab, Lancia and Alfa Romeo (in modified form). Its design is very flexible, capable to be installed transversely or longitudinally, driving front wheels or all wheels, capacity ranges from 2.8 to 3.6 litres, with or without turbochargers, with direct or indirect fuel injection. Cadillac CTS is the first model in the GM empire to adopt the new V6. And unsurprisingly, it gets the largest 3.6-litre version. 

While the old 3.2 V6 has an odd 54° V-angle and employs old-fashion cast iron engine block, the new V6 is 60° and has an aluminum block to save weight. The twin-cam 24-valve cylinder heads adopts continuous VVT at both intake and exhaust valves. Furthermore, the plastic intake manifolds has 2 stage of variable length to enhance torque at different rev. The result is 255 hp at 6200rpm and 250 lbft at 2800rpm. That’s 35hp and 32 lbft up from the old engine, enough to shorten 0-60mph to under 7 seconds. That’s for the 5-speed automatic version. A new 6-speed manual will arrive soon. It should push 0-60mph to the low sixth. 

The V6 is not only powerful but also smooth and quiet, a match for Nissan’s VQ3.5DE. Although it does not have the willingness of BMW’s inline-6, it is already good enough to lift the CTS up to world class. Now it just cries for a higher quality cabin. 

The above report was last updated on 24 Sep 2003. All Rights Reserved.


When GM product chief Bob Lutz talked about building a Cadillac to rival BMW’s M-cars, no one believed. Obviously he was crazy, wasn’t he? not really. This guy is not only a "car guy" but also a sensible one. He knew Cadillac CTS is a credible basis for such a performance car. He knew the Chevrolet division can provide a powerful V8 to fulfil this task. He knew inside the GM empire there are still some world-class engineers who are capable and eager to take this challenge. Therefore he formed the "Performance Division" and put John Heinricy - the assistant chief engineer of Corvette C5 - to head it. CTS-V is born out of this division. 

The CTS-V has a size and weight comparable to BMW M5, but again, it is priced to rival M3 instead. It is powered by Chevrolet Corvette Z06’s LS6 5.7-litre V8, detuned slightly to 400hp and 390 lbft. That’s the same power as M5 but with more torque. The whole car weighs 1745kg, thus power-to-weight ratio is more or less the same as the smaller and lighter M3. The V8 drives rear wheels via Corvette’s Tremec 6-speed manual gearbox and LSD. It can accelerate the car from 0-60mph in 4.6 seconds, quicker than M3 by 0.2 or 0.3 second. Both cars are limited to 155mph. 

Naturally, the chassis receives some stiffening (e.g. cross braces over suspension towers) to cope with the heavier engine and stronger cornering force. Stiffer suspension setup, big Brembo brakes and 245/45ZR18 Goodyear Eagle F1 tires complete the package.  

On the road, CTS-V really delivers what Bob Lutz promised. Like the standard CTS, it was fine tuned in Germany’s Nurburgring circuit to achieve world-class handling. Big grip, powerful braking and good balance make it a credible alternative to M3. Its steering is lighter and slower than M3, but provides good feedback and more important, more natural feel than the Munich rival. The chassis is tuned to display mild understeer, but thanks to the thrust from the big-capacity V8, applying throttle mid-corner can turn it into controllable power slide. In other words, it is fun to drive. 

However, the most important to GM is that this car has lapped Nurburgring in 8min 19sec, beating both the M3 and M5 ! (though not M3 CSL) 

Thanks to more sound insulation, the LS6 V8 sounds quieter and more refined than that in the Corvette. For a pushrod engine, it is also extremely happy to rev beyond 6,000rpm. However, the instant stream of torque and V8 burble gives you a completely different experience from BMW’s high-revving inline-6. Less happy is the 6-speed gearbox, whose shift remains to be rubbery and sticky. We’ve complained this in the Corvette for some years and GM still fails to find any solutions. That devoid the otherwise fond memory of the powertrain. 

In fact, other aspects of the car are similar. The interior is still that cheap and unattractive. The exterior styling tweak does little to raise its desirability, unlike M3, which feels expensive and high-quality. When you pay US$45,000, you are likely to expect more. 

The above report was last updated on 15 Sep 2003. All Rights Reserved.


Cadillac CTS
Cadillac CTS-V
Front-engined, Rwd
Front-engined, Rwd
L / W / H / WB (mm)
4830 / 1795 / 1440 / 2880
4830 / 1795 / 1440 / 2880
V6, dohc, 4v/cyl, VVT,
var intake.
V8, ohv, 2v/cyl.
3564 cc
5665 cc
255 hp
400 hp
250 lbft
390 lbft
Suspension (F/R)
double-wishbone / multi-link
double-wishbone / multi-link
Tyres (F/R)
All: 225/50 VR17
All: 245/45 ZR18
1633 kg
1745 kg
Top speed
142 mph (limited)
163 mph (c)
0-60 mph
6.8 sec (est)
5.2 sec*
0-100 mph
12.2 sec*
Figures tested by: * C&D

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