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If you’ve been hanging around this website for any continuous period of time (it doesn’t have to have been a long time), then you’ll most likely know that I’m not a fan of Cadillac.

My main beef is with GM dumping heaps of money into Cadillac in Europe, where they’ve already got a potential market player in the premium market called Saab. Saab could run with the big boys if they get the investment they need. Of that much I’m sure. But the people who matter in Detroit only have room for one premium brand in their hearts, and that brand is Cadillac.

Tonight we visited one of my wife’s childhood friends for a BBQ dinner on a beautiful Thursday evening in Vancouver. Imagine my surprise when we arrived and I saw a 2009 Cadillac CTS in the driveway. Imagine my further surprise when I hear that our host’s partner, Laurent, purchased the CTS only a few hours earlier. Then, imagine my surprise when he took me for a run in the car, pulled up and offered me a drive!

I didn’t need a second offer.

What transpired was just a short suburban drive. This ain’t no long term road test, it’s just a few impressions from the evening.

1) Questions and Answers

There’s little doubt that is a car that’s been made with the best standards of fit and finish. This car will definitely hold its place in a crowd of Euro competitors on presentation alone. The paint finish, panel gaps and interior materials are going to satisfy just about anyone looking for a superior product that’s well and truly a step above your garden variety automobile.

That particular fact answers the question about whether or not GM are capable of making a good quality vehicle. The question remains, however, about whether they’ve got the resources to replicate the design and manufacture of vehicles of this quality across eight different brands in North America and even more outside.

2) The look

It’s certainly striking and it’s certainly got presence.

I’ve been seeing Cadillacs all over the place since I’ve been here in Canada. I’ve seen quite a few of the bigger sedans, which look absolutely hideous. As does the Escalade, which is a blight upon the motoring world only surpassed by the Hummer family.

This CTS, however, has a sharper look to it. Like an revision should, it turns up in a finer cut suit with a better pair of shoes and like a Cadillac should, it announces its presence with confidence.

3) Inside

There’s a few dot points I want to mention about the interior of the CTS from my short time in it tonight.

- Climate controls just don’t look right at the side of your knee. I didn’t operate the system at all so I don’t know about the ergonomics and usability, but something just doesn’t seem right.

- Ditto for the window controls on such a sharp angle on the doors. Ergonomics and the placement of switchgear will be a litmus test for the new Saab 9-5. Make no mistake about it.

- The instrument surrounds are very tight against the outer edge of the guages you’re trying to read. There’s very little space between the edge of the guage and the binnacle that surrounds it. I found that the information I wanted during my short drive was sometimes hard to focus on due to the angle of my eye not being exactly right and the information on the gauge being obscured by the surround.

- The seats were a little harder than I expected, which is a good thing. That’s not to say they were hard, but I expected soft cushion seats suited to larger American derrieres. These were quite firm and supportive, which was a pleasant surprise. Not a Saab seat, which are still the best in the standard automotive world, but pretty good.

- The leather trim on the dash looked great, as did the almost-carbon-fiber trim that started thin on the dash and expands as it moves around on to the doors.

- The car was well equipped, with Bluetooth, XM Radio, electric everything including sunroof, plush carpeting and a good looking black leather trim on the seats.

- The biggest note about the interior was the almost silent nature of it all. Close the windows and the roof and you’d barely know the engine was running.

4) The drive

Laurent got the base model AWD variant of the CTS. This car comes equipped with the VVT 3.6 litre engine (rather then the direct injection engine) and puts out just over 260hp. It’s mated to a very smooth 6-speed auto transmission with manual mode.

My drive was a short stint through some streets in North Vancouver in medium duty traffic, so there was no opportunity to throw it into some corners nor see what happens when you open up the taps. Also, I had a very generous and gracious new owner in the passenger seat of a car that wasn’t yet 30 kilometers old, so this ain’t no full-on report….

What I can say, though, is that the CTS is a smooth operator. Engine noise is minimal, as is disturbance from any inconsistencies in the road. Despite the isolation you get from the bad stuff, there’s still plenty of feel and feedback from the car, so the engineers have managed to emulate the Europeans quite well in that respect. As mentioned, I didn’t get the chance to take it through the twisties, but a few late calls from Laurent as he guided me through the streets back to our destination meant that I had a couple of last-minute swerves that showed just a little of the car’s poise during a quick direction change. It’s got the balance of a gymnast, though a proper test would be needed to tell if that gymnast is capable of a medal.

The steering is light and precise, though not as minutely precise as some of it’s intended competition that I’ve driven. That’s not a knock, though, as I wasn’t desperately keen on the minute precision offered by the 3-series I drove earlier this year. For the record, the steering on the Saab 9-3 I drove all last weekend was just as good.

5) The conclusion

My feelings about Cadillac as a whole might render my conclusions about this car irrelevant. Be that as it may, it’s a car that’s shows a lot of thinking on the part of its designers and a lot of precision in execution on the part of its manufacturers. It’s not a car I connected with, but it’s a car that I can definitely respect (and Laurent, if you’re reading this, that’s high praise from me when it comes to Cadillac).

The conclusion that matters most belongs to Laurent, who handed over around CAD$41,000 of his own hard-earned for the car only hours before I drove it.

He was smiling all night.

Laurent drives around 40,000km per year and primarily wanted something comfortable, well equipped, safe and sporting when it needed to be. He also wanted it to be low-maintenance and GM’s 80,000km bumper-to-bumper warranty took care of that.

Laurent shopped the Caddy against a few SUVs in the Lexus RX400h and the BMW X3 (his trade-in was a RX350) but according to him, the Cadillac CTS won hands down for superior finish, comfort, service backup and of course, driveability.

If someone gets what they want in those respects and a good deal on the new car as well, then you can’t do much better than that.

Even if it’s a Cadillac


My thanks to Laurent for letting a rev-head he’s only met on one previous occasion behind the wheel of his new baby. I’m not sure I’d have the same courage in the same circumstances.



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