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2009 Cadillac CTS: We Drive the New Camaro! Sort Of

2009 Cadillac CTS

2009 Cadillac CTS

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To be clear, we haven't driven the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro...exactly. But we have just driven a 2009 Cadillac CTS that has much in common with the forthcoming Chevy. Hang on and we'll tell you about it.

We've already published plenty on the Cadillac CTS. This is the same car that was all-new in 2008. Check out our complete review on the 2009 CTS here and you'll see that we like this mid-size sedan plenty. The chiseled exterior shape remains striking even after more than a year of sales behind it.

2009 Cadillac CTS

2009 Cadillac CTS

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The details of the interior continue to please, as the "V" motif reminds the driver that they are behind the wheel of something that was genuinely designed, no just engineered. We particularly like the manner in which the optional nav screen rises from the dash when summoned.

The CTS we drove most recently was equipped with two interesting options: the Summer Tire Performance Package, a $1,240 option that includes summer-compound tires, 18-inch polished aluminum rims, and a recalibrated suspension; and the six-speed manual transmission, an option that gets you a $1,300 credit.

As luck would have it, this particular 2009 Cadillac CTS was delivered to your Detroit editor during one of our worst winters on record (global warming, don't 'cha know). The CTS's summer-compound tires wished they were rolling in Miami or Phoenix, but provided enough grip for us to know that, thusly equipped, the CTS is a responsive blast to drive. The steering feels sharp and the chassis follows the driver's lead precisely. If you've driven a new CTS, you'd expect nothing less.

Now, to what this Cadillac has to do with the upcoming Camaro...

GM 3.6-liter DI VVT V-6

GM 3.6-liter DI VVT V-6

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The direct-injected 3.6-liter V-6 and Aisan AY6 manual gearbox are the combo that will debut in the Camaro in just a few short weeks. Fitted to the CTS, the engine felt as responsive as ever. Thrust at WOT (wide open throttle) was impressive, as was the engine's refinement. Unfortunately, the gearbox wasn't the engine's match (yes, we know the photo shows an automatic's shift lever). While the ratios were well spaced, the shifter itself drew your author's ire. A manual shift lever should feel as if it's attached to actual gears. (A current favorite is the T-56 found in the Dodge Viper and Chevrolet Corvette.) The CTS's manual shift lever feels as if it disappears into a Kleenex box hiding an assortment of plastic bushings and rubber dampers before the stubby lever ever gets to actuate any movement of gears.

Certain folks at Cadillac have already taken umbrage at description (we wanted to be sure the gearboxes were similar between the Caddy and Chevy). As far as whether this gearbox is bad for the CTS ... it's not because likelihood of any CTS buyer opting for the manual gearbox in a non-V-Series model is highly unlikely. Almost nobody will buy a CTS thusly equipped. However, many buyers are likely to choose a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro with the standard driveline combination: the 3.6-liter V-6 and the six-speed manual. Our hope is that the shift linkage will be different in the Camaro.

Our optimistic prediction is that it will be because engineers should have felt less need to insulate the driver from the driveline. This should improve shifter feel and make the Camaro's gearbox more fun to row than the CTS's.

We're slated to drive the 2010 Camaro in mid-March, and you'll get a report from us as soon as we're out from behind the wheel.

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