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Auto Corner: Running with the Big Boys, 2010 Cadillac CTS

21 August 2010   John Dickerson
2010 Cadillac CTS gives BMW a run for its money.

cadillacctsAs fate would have it, General Motors is now building some of the best cars on the road. And no, they’re not paying me to say that. Cadillac’s CTS leads the pack of competent new American autos. Its price starts in Camry territory, at just $32,900, but its performance launches it into BMW territory, and beyond.

When I first drove the new CTS, I was more than surprised. In fact, I smelled a comeback for GM – at least in product-to-product comparison. I’m not the only one saying that Cadillac has beat the Germans and Japanese at their own game. Motor Trend named CTS “Car of the Year” in 2008, because they saw, smelled and felt the same things.

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A little back-story: in recent years, small sport sedans have shrunk in size and comfort for backseat passengers. Thus a perfect void was created for the CTS. It offers enough rear seat legroom to be a luxury ride for passengers. And yet, it’s still smaller (and thousands cheaper) than mid-size sedans like the BMW 5-series, Lexus GS and Audi A6.

When Cadillac released the redesigned CTS, in 2008, we all expected GM to undercut BMW, Lexus and Mercedes with the price of its luxury-sports sedan. But we didn’t expect Cadillac to produce such a polished and capable rear-drive performer.

The base CTS comes with a hearty and capable 263-horsepower V-6. Buyers can upgrade to an optional 304-horsewpower V-6, too.

The real bargain is the CTS-V, which drops a 556-horsepower Corvette V-8 into the luxurious little Cadillac, for just $60,000. That’s amazing when you consider it’s faster than a $95,000 BMW M5 in both the 0-60 (3.9 seconds) and 0-100 (9 seconds), but it costs $35,000 less.

For the price of a plebian, base engined BMW or Mercedes, you could have a Cadillac luxury sedan that blows the doors off Ferraris and Porsches.

The lower optioned CTS (starting at $32,900) isn’t all-out better than a BMW 5-series, but it is cheaper by thousands, depending on options. In fact, it’s so much cheaper that any serious buyer should test drive a CTS.

From raw acceleration and crisp handling to stop-on-a-dime brakes, the CTS offers everything you’d expect from a BMW, for thousands less.

Inside, the ultra-comfortable CTS is a showcase of technology and comfort. Cadillac’s sport-luxury sedan comes with an impressive list of standard toys, including climate-controlled seats, adaptive xenon headlights and a handy navigation screen that pops up out of the dashboard. The screen is larger than most, and it’s a touch screen, which is more intuitive than some competing navigation systems.

All in all, few sports cars south of $50,000 can challenge the $32,000 CTS at the track. And no sports cars south of $200,000 can challenge the $60,000 CTS-V, which comfortably seats five. Bottom line: no luxury competitors can boast this much opulence and performance, for this few pennies.

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Cadillac blends art and performance in the opulent but functional cockpit of the 2010 CTS.

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© 2010 John Dickerson