Cadillac CTS (manual shift)

By The Car Family

For more reviews go to

For a list of all vehicle and motorcycle websites go to

Good points: Manual transmission, good handling, good interior space, responsive engine, dramatic exterior, runs un regular unleaded.

Needs improvement: Interior materials, difficult to read  gauges, trunk opener, position of parking brake.

The aggressive looking Cadillac CTS is much more than a sporty sedan; it is a glimpse into the future for Cadillac as General Motors tries to tempt youthful buyers into the showroom. The extent of this desire is so strong that the CTS is being offered with a five speed manual Gertag transmission for the first time in over 50 years. We are happy to report that this new approach appears to be working well although a stick shift in a luxury car is a mixed methaphor.

Starting just below $30,000, and extending in price to the $40,000 range, the CTS is a delight to drive with nice road feel, enough engine to get to 60 in a little over seven seconds, and gas economy around 22 mpg on unleaded area. However, these numbers mean little to a consumer if they don’t like the way the car looks. To that end the CTS is an eye catcher or an eye sore. We liked the dramatic styling and found it appealing in world filled with undistinctive cars.

Of course, there is room for improvement. It is nearly impossible to read the gauges with sunglasses due to the poor choice of lettering fonts. The dull black plastic interior of our sport model was less than appealing and difficult to clean. Finally, the 3.2-liter engine is lacking in low-end responsiveness. As for the manual transmission, it shifts well, feels stout, and the throws are fairly short for every gear but fifth.

Mom’s view: Cadillac should be praised for the excellent visibility the CTS offers. It is easy to park, maneuver, and looks different. Order the luxury-sport model because you get the advantages of superior handling, thanks to better shock absorbers, upgraded steering, high-performance brakes, StabiliTrak, larger tires, and a wood trimmed interior. The only problem I had was with the automatic trunk release that only unhitches the lid a fraction of an inch. This makes it likely you are going to get dirty opening it completely.

I found it very easy to drive and park. The rear wheel drive means that parking the CTS is very easy because of its short turning radius. There is also plenty of room inside to store your bargains, haul the children, and find the cell phone.

Safety wise the CTS is loaded. The OnStar system worked well this time enabling you to call for assistance and, with the Virtual Advisor option, you can even get reservations, traffic, and weather. In addition, there are front and side mounted air bags, roof curtains, programmable door locks, daylight runninglighs, wiper activated headlights, and tethers for infant seats. There is also traction control and some very large disc brakes that work well, except I felt that the initial reaction was soft.

As much as I liked the way the CTS drove and handled, I disliked the interior plastic. The grain makes it very difficult to clean it just looks cheap. Of course, if you order the luxury option you get some wood to offset the ocean of plastic look. What Cadillac needs to do is hire some women to oversee the male designers. One look at the font selection for the instruments would have brought the distaff members of any design team to tears. And, that same team should be given a few shopping bags and be told to try and get them in the trunk on a rainy day.

Dad’s view: If Cadillac puts a more power into this engine, the CTS will be truly outstanding. As it stands the 220 horsepower unit is satisfactory. The brakes are responsive, but the initial feeling is one of softness. The steering is excellent. The manual transmission is easy to master and the clutch was smooth. Unfortunately, if you have a drink in the cupholder it is difficult to shift into fifth without hitting the container. I also felt that the gauge lighting is weak, and the headlights, although nice looking, are not as good as on other models.

Don’t make any mistake about the CTS, it is a good car. Priced about the same as the Lexus ES, it offers a lot more potential, a much more sporty ride, and is superior looking. On the other hand, the interior lacks the Lexus touch when it comes to controls and guage readability. Which car would prefer: the Cadillac CTS. The reason is that the manal transmission enables you to be a driver of this Cadillac, and the controls are easier to use. I especially liked the high mounted stereo unit and air vents.

If you want to have some fun, take the CTS out and drive it hard. Find some corners that need clipping, a road full of curves that need straightening and this Cadillic does the job. Handling is fairly flat and the steering is accurate. The independent suspension tracks well and the ride quality is well above average. You won’t mistake this for a BMW, but you are going to have over $10,000 in your pocket and more room in the CTS to sauve your wounds.

Working woman’s view: You get a lot for your money if you limit your options. Standard equipment includes traction control; anti-lock brakes; side and front-to-rear head curtain airbags; dual-zone climate control; AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo; leather upholstery; and power windows, mirrors, locks, driver’s seat and more. The luxury-sport option adds $3500. A nice ride and perfect for a trend setting lady.

College going male’s view: First, the bad news. The glove compartment is difficult to use, the foot parking brake that is set very high, the driver’s computer is very hard to read, and the instrument panel does not display what gear you are using. As for the good news, you can get four programmable buttons on the steering wheel to individual your driving preferences, an interesting steering wheel mounted stereo audio control in the shape of a thumbwheel, and the availability of satellite radio. The rear seat is very comfortable for two, and not bad for three adults. The front seats don’t have a lumbar support control, which surprised me. The stereo is well above average, but as many new cars, the placement of the antenna makes reception woeful in certain geographical limiting locations.

And, the CTS looks great. I think Cadillac has a real winner here.

Family conference: If Cadillac wants to rule the sporty sedan field they need to add the supercharger that sits in the Oldsmobile parts bin. Otherwise, this is a nice alternative to the competition for those who want to buy American. Go for it. For a list of all vehicle manufacture websites go to