Cadillac tries for sexy with the new CTS |

Cadillac tries for sexy with the new CTS

Andy Stonehouse

Marketing is everything in our modern world. By that token, then, one must conclude that the desired target audience for the reinvented Cadillac CTS ” all resplendent as it is in stealth fighter-styled angles and a workshop’s worth of controls ” must be attractive, barely 40-somethings such as “Grey’s Anatomy” star Kate Walsh, featured in the automobile’s recent ad campaign.

The demographic, one extrapolates, which would also normally steer towards a higher-than-entry level BMW or Audi, but might want, out of the goodness of its upwardly mobile heart, to give the old, reliable U.S. automaker a shot.

Having at long last spent a week in a rear-wheel drive 2008 CTS, an automobile which was dubbed Motor Trend’s Car of the Year (as well as being given that title by my Rocky Mountain area car journalists’ group), I must beg to differ.

Instead, I am suspecting that the hot young folks will still go Euro, and the Cadillac will continue (as it has for decades) to attract long-term care insurance salesmen in Omaha, who are neither hot nor young.

Don’t get me wrong: the CTS is not an unpleasant vehicle, whatsoever. Considerably athletic, styled in an ultra-contemporary fashion, sleek and reasonably comfortable, the new CTS is also not especially heavy in those time-tested, soft and soggy Cadillac-isms (which may explain the auto critics all going crazy over the car in the first place).

It just did not strike me as all that and a bag of chips, you know? The explosion of power and the “exciting” handling promised did not immediately make themselves known.

In fact, in sort of a reverse Folger’s test, it was only a few days after my test drive that I discovered literature telling me this direct injection CTS was packing 304 horsepower, something I truly didn’t really feel while making my typical spirited romp over the top of Vail Pass.

Perched on 18-inch wheels and reasonably capable summertime tires, the CTS did not impart the same road-hugging finesse as its European adversaries. It’s actually rather bumpy for a Caddy, but, at the same time, not as sportily sprung as the Euros.

The six-speed automatic transmission was indeed smooth (it being the very same model introduced for use on the super-high-performance CTS-V back in 2005), but even with an optional sport suspension system, I wasn’t compelled to run it at 90 percent like a BMW 3-series or an Audi A4 (or, in the CTS’s aspirational way of thinking, a 5-series or an A6).

And yes, I know, it does sound more than a bit jaded to say that 304 horsepower from a high-revving 3.6 liter V6 is not more than enough, so I gave it another shot down here in the relative lowlands of Front Range, suspecting altitude issues (as I found with my recent Jaguar expedition).

Pedal to the metal, I discovered that you can coax a fair amount of energy out of the CTS. Coax being the operative word. Run it very hard and you’ll find that power, but flat out, uphill at 10,000 feet, I wasn’t feeling it.

What, then, must have excited my fellow writer-drivers so much? The CTS’s looks are certainly very sharp, integrating the glossy, angular bravado of Cadillac’s Batman-worthy Sixteen concept car of 2003. A massive, low-slung wall of almost bumperless grille grimaces at the world, with wind tunnel-styled headlamps that physically stick out of the body with an odd pointy-ness.

The tail is equally complex, busily detailed with twin exhausts, chrome cladding and a big v-shaped combination brake lamp and air foil. The whole body has more right angles than a modern art museum (or a quickly carved jack-o-lantern).

The interior is also futuro-spiffy, indeed, but … may not indeed prove itself commodious enough for those Omaha life insurance agents. My not especially tall knees slapped into the bottom of the very low dash, and the somewhat sportier but still typically thin and flat Cadillac seating (cooled, heated and lumbar adjustable) did not offer quite the same supportive poise as its European adversaries.

Overall detailing is certainly fine, with hand-stitched leather on the dash and doors and a high-minded blend of chrome and polished, hardwood-styled trim. You’ll find control buttons aplenty (more than 30), deeply recessed gauges and even slightly odd driver and passenger side air and seat temperature controls, all attractively and efficiently allocated.

That Cadillac-specific leather smell will totally get you (or come off, perhaps, a little too strong); extra features such as the opaque cover on the cabin-wide “ultraview” sunroof and plugs for full iPod integration also are well-executed.

Maybe the writers totally fell in love with the new pop-up navigation and stereo control unit, which is among the best I’ve used. No spinning wheel is necessary to run the system: instead, at rest, it peeks out of the dash and shows basic audio information – when fully deployed, it pops up like a toaster to reveal a large and versatile touchscreen.

That controls a highly intuitive blend of XM radio-fueled real-time traffic and weather, very clear navigation and fine audio functions (tied into a good Bose 5.1 Surround Sound system).

But is it good enough for Kate Walsh and, in the corresponding male version of the CTS ad, sexy and somewhat younger actor Martin Henderson (from “The Ring” and “Torque”)? Not quite sure. I do know you’ll have no problem achieving real performance objectives when Cadillac rolls out the new 550 horsepower CTS-V later this year.

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