tCE 2008 CTS Review – ride and drive

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

tCE CTS MountainsOh, the tightrope that a company like Cadillac must walk when making a car like the CTS.

Old-time Cadillac faithful expect a pillow-soft ride that hammers into submission every pothole, expansion joint, and texture – and do it all in complete silence.

New-age luxury/sports sedan buyers expect taut handling, tight and communicative steering, and want to know what the road is telling them – basically a sportscar with room for five.

How can Cadillac expect to balance these two conflicting demands with the new CTS?

Quite simply, they don’t. If you want old-time Cadillac traits – go buy a DTS (or maybe a Lincoln Town Car before Ford discontinues them).

That certainly doesn’t mean that the CTS beats you up, but don’t go into a test drive expecting to not feel the worst of the bumps or to be isolated completely from what the road is trying to tell you. This is a sports sedan in the vein of a BMW or Audi with a harder edge than you might get in a Mercedes or Lexus.

That said, our test car packed the FE2 suspension tuning (1 step firmer than the base car’s but not as taut as the FE3 performance suspension you can get on the rear-drive versions of the CTS) – basically the sportiest tune for the all-wheel drive CTS.

Speaking of all-wheel drive, the system in the new CTS is an excellent example of a sport-themed system. Rather than all-wheel drive in cars like the Audi quattro line or a Subaru, the all-wheel drive in the CTS is rear-biased. This is a road-feel consideration in that power to the front wheels often, if not always, compromises steering feel by introducing torque to the system (tugging the wheels, if ever so slightly, and dulling the feel of the road). Audi has attacked this problem on their latest product by tuning their system to put 60% to the rear wheels. Cadillac has gone to extremes by putting all power to the rear wheels by default and only transferring power forward (up to 100% can go to the front) if needed.

In addition, helping our car were Michelin Pilot sport all-season tires, sport brake pads, and the latest version of Cadillac’s excellent StabiliTrak stability control system.

We didn’t get a chance to test out the all-wheel drive system in the white stuff that we often have in Colorado this time of year – but we did manage, accidentally, to end up on some Colorado dirt roads and got to play ‘rally driver’ enough to know that the combination of rear-biased all-wheel drive and StabiliTrak will protect you from just about any indiscretion.

When not on something loose or icy, the suspension tuning, sport brakes, and tires combine with the computer controlled six-speed automatic (with manual shift mode – though no paddle shifters until 2009) to provide quite an entertaining driving experience. Pushing the shift lever into manual mode enables a ‘sport mode’ that, if anything, is a touch too aggressive for most street driving (down-shifting, etc. for you as if you were going for a hot lap).

The new CTS certainly show great promise for what we can expect from a smaller/sportier sedan (the new Alpha-based car due in a couple years) and certainly should worry the German competition about what to expect from the V-series car next year.

I have read many times since the new CTS debuted that it was the best American car ever.

After my time behind the wheel – I certainly agree.

  • Duane Waddington

    Ride and drive of my CTS4 are years head of the 2006. Best handling and ride I have had in a long time if ever.

  • Al and Rene Gay

    “After considering the Mercedes C350, Lexus IS350, Infinity G37S, and the BMW 5 Series, my wife and I decided on the 2008 CTS. The ride, the looks, the interior ergonomics and options were great.
    The quality of fit and trim, along with the value of the available features, trumped the competition. We decided that we wanted a vehicle that did not look like anything else on the road and this 2008 CTS does just that with the looks it commands from passersby.
    It truly is a car that “turns us on when we turn it on”! When the two of us are riding in the CTS, the Ultraview Roof – the individual contoured heated and vented seats – encapsulating cockpit design – and the ambient lighting at night, gives us the feeling of riding along in our own personal individualized luxury compartments.
    GM got this one right and now “we feel as if we have arrived ” in a true American Contender!”

  • greg berlin

    THEASE ARE THE FINEST CARS BUILT EVER! AND IAM NOT IN THE CAR BUSINESS!american or otherwise,,the new v series caddys alll
    are a golden opertunity to own and drive GM,S CONCEPTS!a reality
    I OWN A VAST EXOTICAR COLLECTION IAM IN THE TOP 1% INCOME
    LEVEL AND DONT GET ANYTHING FREE FROM ANYONE ,,,,PERIOD….
    MY XLRV AND CTS-V SEDAN ARE MY FAVORITES WIFE SAYS DRIVE THE MASERATI TAKE OUT THE LOTUS WHATS UP WITH YOUR M6???
    YOU DONT DRIVE IT !!!SELL THE FERRARI… I LOVE THE OVERALL
    COMFORT AND LUXURY CADILLACS HAVE FERRARI PEOPLE LIE!!!TO
    LOOK IMPORTANT, THERE NOT COMFORTABLE SINCE WHEN???
    IVE HAD 5 BEFORE! LISTEN TO A REAL PERSON NOT SOME STUPID
    PAID OFF MAGIZINE WHO UPSELLS THIS HIGH END ITALIAN TRASH!
    IVE GOT THE RECIEPTS TOO PROVE IT /WISDOM/EXPERIENCE/THE
    TOYS AND THE MONEY!! CADILLAC WINS IN BUSINESS OR NOT IS NOT THE POINT ITS ABOUT THE CARS AND YOU ALL KNOW!! THIS,
    SO STOP LIEING/WASTING OVER 100 GREAND MARK/ABD GET REAL!
    THE REAL SMART RICH FOLKS ARE SMART SHOPERS! TOO,,,
    GREG BERLIN RENO NV,

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