tCE 2008 CTS Review – electronics and entertainment – part 1

Part 1 – Overall impressions
Part 2 – Interior and Storage
Part 3 – Electronics and Entertainment – Part 1
Part 3 – Electronics and Entertainment – Part 2
Part 4 – Ride and Drive
Image Gallery

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.

tce CTS Center StackStandard 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
  • Navigation system
  • 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.

tCE CTS Dual Zone Climate ControlThis 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.

Next – Part 2 of Electronics and Entertainment

  • Duane Waddington

    My only issue with the new entry system is the lack of personalization available compared to my 2003 or 2006 CTS. Example being the tilting mirrors, past CTS entry allowed key one to tip the right mirror and if key two did not like tipping mirrors then that key could be programmed not to allow tipping. Another thing is the horn on lock one of our drivers likes that but other is not a fan of it. Guess what both drivers now get the horn honk on lock. However not needing to look for a fob to push to unlock the doors or open the trunk is very big plus. Pod and built in hard drive are very features as well.

  • sham

    Dear Sir/Madam

    I have been looking at your 2008 Cadillac CTS review (tCE 2008 CTS Review – electronics and entertainment – November 30, 2007 – 12:32 pm) And have found you have the best photos available on the Internet.

    What I am unsure about is the color of the vehicle in the photos. In the review you said Thunder Grey, but the photos look slightly green/blue/grey. The reason is that I am interested in buying the new CTS, but am not sure what color? I really like the color in your review photos!

    Please can you confirm, if the review pictures are Thunder Grey. As other websites show (including Thunder Grey is Grey, not that nice greeny, blue grey on your photos.

    Please help.

    Hope to here from you soon

    Mr S Bakrania
    London, UK

  • That is Thunder Grey (or Gray as we call it on this side of the pond). It is at times simply a dark gray, though it is a ‘color-shift’ paint that takes on blue or green tones depending on the light and angle.

    If you can pick up a brochure at your nearest Cadillac retailer (or perhaps order through the UK Cadillac web site) it should have a color sample that might show the shift in action, depending on how hard they are trying to make the color samples match the actual paint.

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  • dendy

    thanks for sharing!