Oh, how the times have changed. It really wasn’t that long ago that a credible luxury/sports-sedan could get by with great handling, world-class power-train, and crystal-clear audio from a multi-CD changer (in-dash would be really trick) with steering-wheel mounted controls. Cadillac at the time raised the bar with their OnStar ‘telematics’ system that provided such slick features as airbag deployment notification (calling the authorities for you) and nice features like door unlocking.
But, when Cadillac announced the packages available on the CTS – it was obvious that the status quo had moved up several rungs in just the 5 years since the initial CTS’ release.
Standard on the base CTS is a Bose, 8-speaker, AM/FM/CD/MP3 (meaning it can read MP3s off of a data CD) system with XM satellite radio and 3-months of complimentary service. OnStar has been upgraded to include 1 year of complimentary service as well as their ‘turn-by-turn’ feature that allows you to call the OnStar operator, give them your destination, and then the turns will be called out to you by the stereo as you drive.
But, I think it will be hard to find a CTS so equipped given the juicy systems available for a few (thousand) dollars more.
Let’s go through what you _can_ get on the new CTS in the way of entertainment (our test car had this as part of the $8000 Premium Luxury Collection package):
Bose AM/FM/CD/DVD (audio DVD as well as video) system that will also play MP3 CDs
XM Satellite radio
5.1 Surround Sound with 10-speakers
40 GB hard drive
USB port with power jack in the center armrest storage compartment for your MP3 player or flash drive full of MP3s
XM-based traffic information (first 3 months service included)
What does all of this mean? Well, it is the details that make the system so impressive.
1. Record AM/FM/XM radio directly to the hard drive for later review
2. USB port in the armrest storage bin allows you to insert a USB flash-drive full of MP3 or WMA music and navigate/play the songs through the Nav screen’s touch interface
3. Plug an iPod or MP3 player into that USB port (our test car had an iPod dock cable that connected not only to the USB but also to the power jack to both charge and control your iPod)
4. ‘Rip’ CD audio directly to the hard drive for later playback (the Gracenote database is built in to the system so your CTS will be able to identify the artist and track names automatically).
5. Play DVD video as long as the car is stopped and in park.
6. System powered by Microsoft’s Windows Automotive operating system (more on this in a moment).
So, how does it all work?
Well, unlike some makers (*cough* *bmw* *cough*), the system keeps a good deal of direct access buttons on the center stack and doesn’t cover up functions for the sake of a graphical, knob controlled, interface. That isn’t to say that a few hours with the owners manual won’t make you a safer CTS driver (since you won’t be spending too much time, like I did, hunting for functions) – but at least you won’t find basic functions like seek and scan buried 3 menus down.
If you want to control audio – click the audio button and then seek/scan/play/record/etc. to your hearts content. Need to do something to navigation – click Nav and go for it. Basically, if it is a category – there’s a hardware button. Then you use the main dial in the center of the stack to cycle through the options on the screen (or if the nav screen is up, touch the option on-screen).
What if you don’t like all of these buttons, real or virtual? Well, if you spent some time getting familiar with the voice recognition system. You can push and hold the mute button on the steering wheel for a couple moments and a tone will let you know that you can give a voice command. The system, once you learn the commands, is very accurate and provides access to most functions (some even quicker than poking around the interface.
What doesn’t work so well?
Despite Cadillac’s claims to the contrary, my iPhone with the latest firmware (1.1.2) wasn’t recognized (and even required a reset on the phone itself and a restore from iTunes to get sync again) Update: Alpine builds the head unit for Cadillac and claim that iPhone firmware 1.0.1 and newer should work fine. This could have just been an issue with my phone. On the other hand a 3rd gen iPod nano worked without an issue. Cadillac claims this to be a known issue with a fix that was already released (but I won’t be able to confirm that it works now that the car is no longer in my hands). The moral of the story? Be careful before plugging in your device.
Also, navigating some functions on the iPod (such as playlists) seems a bit clunky. You can enter a playlist but, once you have selected a song, there is no way up a single level to pick another track in the playlist (at least that I could find).
Of course, I’m an Apple guy at heart, so intuitive interface is a personal passion of mine. I’d love to see how Apple would develop a similar level of functionality for a car based system (I hear they are working with VW on just such a system). I’d advise GM to approach them for some interface help – if just to smooth over the few rough edges.
Obviously. as a Cadillac, the CTS is a pretty comfortable automobile with plenty of creature comforts.
This time around, the dual-zone climate control has been enhanced in a couple ways. First, the controls are canted toward the driver and passenger, each getting their own climate control display. Gone are the amber lit displays in favor of a cool blue/white LCD display.
Next to the simple controls for temperature are buttons for the heated and cooled seats (part of the aforementioned Premium Luxury Collection). Each has 3 settings and pushing the button a single time goes to the max setting with each subsequent press lowering the heating or cooling until you reach ‘off’ again.