Explore the sharp style of the 2008 CTS

Some may remember Cadillac’s initial foray into the smaller luxury car venue with the infamous Cimarron, essentially a tarted-up Chevy. A success it was not.

Fast-forward and the next attempt was the Catera, which was a German Opel in a Cadillac disguise. Certainly this shot was better, but still, it didn’t make Germany’s luxury carmakers shake in their boots.

But all bets were off when, in 2002, Cadillac launched the sharply angled nouveau-style CTS. With rear drive and spunky engine choices, it was a hit beyond even Cadillac’s sales projections.

For 2008, the latest CTS version has made its appearance. Styling continues that angular, sharp-edged look that so many like. The grill is larger and lower, the roofline has a steeper cut, and generally the overall appearance is cleaner.

Cadillac engineers also have revisited the engine room. The standard V-6, which is a high-tech affair with multiple cams and valves, receives a slight boost in horsepower from the previous year — from 255 horsepower to 263. But the more encouraging news is the optional 304 horsepower unit that comes from the same size engine block (3.6 liter), but features direct fuel injection into each cylinder. Besides the horsepower increase, the powerplant produces less emissions and better fuel economy.

Added to the transmission/driveline agenda is a new six-speed automatic and an optional all wheel drive system. For the shifting crowd, a six-speed stick is available.

So what has been the reception to Cadillac’s newest? Well, against a lot of tough 2008 competition, Motor Trend named the CTS the “Car of the Year.” Not a bad start.

In testing the new CTS, besides the exterior changes, the biggest alteration that is immediately noticeable is the upgrading of the interior. Gone is the somewhat dark and bland look of the previous model, and substituted with not only prettier chrome, metal-looking pieces but with some carbon fiber twists as well.

Mounted high on the dash is a bright video screen providing stereo/CD information with easy-to-use buttons for radio stations and other functions. In a slight retro look, an analog clock resides in the center of the dash. Dual automatic air-conditioning with easy-to-read controls face the driver and front passenger. Clearly, the general materials and fit and finish of the entire dash area are superior to the first generation of the CTS.

On the road, the powerful 304 horsepower V-6 is commendably quiet and vibration-free. But if thrust is called for, this Cadillac can and will leap ahead. Zero to 60 time is reported to be in the 6-second range.

With an all-independent suspension and good front to rear weight distribution, handling and cornering are first rate without being harsh. Even over Honolulu’s rough, puka-filled roads, the CTS took it in stride.

Although the width and track over last year’s version grew a couple of inches, interior dimensions are roughly the same. Rear seating room can handle two in comfort, but three is a tight fit. An armrest with built-in cupholders is provided, along with air vents for cooling built into the back of the center console. The trunk can hold a fair amount of luggage. On our test model, the rear seats did not fold down, but that feature is available.

With good looks and performance kudos, this latest addition to the Cadillac line should be a winner. And as Motor Trend has indicated, the CTS already is. ”