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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
it drives like a proper BMW rival
steering is crisp and road feel is excellent
can compete on equal terms with anything in its class
Kelley Blue Book
doesn't feel quite as agile
Variety's the name of the game in compact luxury cars, and the CTS follows suit with plenty of choices for drivers. The sedan and wagon can be ordered with a smaller or a larger V-6, with a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. A manual trans-mission is offered on the sedan, but it's automatic-only for the CTS Sport Wagon. In true Euro-fighting form, the CTS's acceleration, ride and handling, and braking are the equal of most cars in its class.
The base engine is a 3.0-liter V-6 with direct injection and 270 horsepower. Fuel economy hasn't been released for 2010, but it's not expected to be any more efficient than the larger V-6-just less expensive to order. For that reason alone, TheCarConnection.com recommends the larger 3.6-liter V-6. It's also the better choice because of its zippy acceleration and ample power. ForbesAutos says, "While it doesn't bubble with enthusiasm when revving to its 7,000-rpm redline, it delivers more than enough energy to hustle this nearly 4,000-pound sedan along with gusto." With 304 hp on tap, Cadillac reports the manual sedan will accelerate to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, confirmed by Edmunds. That's not as quick as the competition. Edmunds proposes it's "likely due to the fact that it weighs about 300 pounds more than the BMW 335i and Lexus IS350." The base automatic Sport Wagon adds a few more ticks to hit 60 mph in 7.0 seconds. "Running from 0 to 60 in 7.0 seconds isn't criminal," Car and Driver notes, then explains, the Sport Wagon "is 241 pounds portlier than the last CTS sedan we tested." That's "a clear disadvantage," they declare, "but the extra mass is offset by improved weight distribution."
The automatic's the clear preference of most reviewers. The manual shifter's fine, but Car and Driver says "even with a new shift linkage for shorter throws, the manual isn't nearly as fluid as those from BMW." GM's six-speed automatic changes gears sweetly, and in the Sport Wagon it gets paddles for a more sporting flair. Car and Driver observes in the sport setting, "it quickly gets bold, dutifully holding gears...and aggressively downshifting under braking." CNET reports the automatic's programmed to downshift depending on how hard you brake going into a corner, and to hold off on upshifts when cornering, which makes the 2010 Cadillac CTS especially enjoyable to drive on the track. On the wagon, Automobile confirms, "the one and only transmission is a 6-speed Hydramatic with steering spoke switches to control up- and down-shifts in manual mode."
Fuel economy is competitive, but the smaller engine doesn't show much of a benefit. Estimated fuel economy for the automatic 3.6-liter V-6 CTS with all-wheel drive is 18/27 mpg. With the smaller 3.0-liter V-6, "fuel economy is no better than that of the 304-hp 3.6-liter V6," Edmunds reports, "and the latter's power delivery is far more authoritative." An Eco Lux option on the base CTS sedan brings its highway fuel economy up to 30 mpg.
Handling and ride quality can vary with four different factory-installed suspension setups, but with any of the four, the CTS tunes in great steering feel and a nicely balanced ride. TheCarConnection.com prefers the FE3 setup, which helps produce entertaining handling and a firm ride that's still smooth enough for everyday driving, even on the upgraded 19-inch wheels and summer tires. Kelley Blue Book finds this suspension "surprisingly supple even on the most troubled surfaces," and Car and Driver ventures that "the CTS is more comfortable than a Sport-package-equipped BMW 3-series or Infiniti G37 without giving up much ultimate performance." Edmunds says the FE3 suspension's ride "remains thoroughly pleasant," but Motor Trend reports the CTS "can get jittery over broken pavement," and recommends the midlevel FE2 as the best compromise. ConsumerGuide feels the high-performance suspension is a "huge detriment to ride quality, adding undue stiffness with little appreciable gain in handling," which underscores the importance of test-driving before you buy-and in realizing different auto-review sites evaluate cars on different roads. Even with the longer body, Car and Driver asserts the CTS Sport Wagon's "excellent handling, brakes, and steering remain untainted," while Automobile contends the "tautest-available suspension system keeps roll in check and provides supple wheel movement at some sacrifice of ride plushness," and argues that the CTS
"beats both Corvette and Camaro in steering satisfaction." The majority opinion of other reviewers, and from TheCarConnection.com, is summed up by Motor Trend. The Cadillac CTS, they remark, "drives like a proper BMW rival."
The 2010 Cadillac CTS lineup matches the ride-and-handling balance of European brands, though its hefty body dulls the speedy sensations a bit.