Cadillac CTS 3-6 L Sedan

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Keywords: Cadillac CTS 3-6 L Sedan
Description: The 2006 Cadillac CTS 3.6L V6 VVT is Caddy's entry-level sedan, aimed squarely at the young buyers who have made BMW, Acura and Infiniti such successes. Can the 2006 Cadillac CTS 3.6L V6 VVT attract up and comers, or will Caddy have to rest on the laurel and shield? Tested, analyzed and reviewed by Jason Fogelson, one of the experts at About Cars.

Aaron Gold, About.com's Cars Expert, has been an automotive journalist for a decade and a half and has been writing for About.com since 2004. He contributes to several automotive publications and is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury.

Love it or hate it, the CTS is part of a family of boldly styled vehicles. With sharp edges and flat planes, the Cadillac design palette barely has a curve. I can't tell the STS and CTS apart at a distance — the CTS looks like a 3/4 scale model of the bigger sedan. Like the STS and the rest of the Cadillac line, the CTS looks like it was sculpted with a scalpel. I'm not sure yet if that's good or bad — ask me in five years.

The real iconic Cadillacs have always been extreme designs, though. Remember the big fins of the late 1950's, and the long hoods on the Eldorados of the late 60's? You don't drive a Cadillac to blend in with the crowd, and you won't be overlooked in a CTS.

Fit and finish are above average for GM products, but still not up to BMW/Mercedes/Lexus standards. My test CTS was finished in an optional ($995) premium paint color, "Infrared." I think the CTS looks better in "Raven Black" or "Light Platinum," so I would save the extra grand for a new suit so I could look good next to my Caddy.

There's no sign on the exterior of the CTS that you've chosen the 3.6L V6 over the less expensive 2.8L V6 model. But there is a big Cadillac emblem on the grille and on the trunk, so you neighbors will know what you're driving.

The CTS offers a relatively low seating position, and the seats are nice and comfortable. Covered in leather, they are firm and supportive – not at all the overstuffed couches of yesterday. The leather-wrapped wood-trimmed steering wheel feels good in your hands, warming to the touch as you drive. Well-placed auxiliary controls dress the steering wheel's two spokes. The volume control for the audio system is a particularly clever rotary wheel – a nice touch.

The CTS's gauge package is clear and uncluttered, shaded by an eyebrow above the steering wheel. The center stack in my test CTS was occupied by the $2,995 DVD Navigation System, 6 CD Changer/AM/FM/XM Radio. The screen is excellent, and the navigation system is superb, but yikes! Nearly three thousand dollars!

My test car was plagued by rattles and shakes in the dash and console. The shift selector knob was so ill-fitting that it felt like it was going to come off in my hand every time I chose a gear. I couldn't figure out how to tighten it. The dashboard had a mix of textures and materials – a peculiar cross-hatched plastic dominated, and I didn't like it. I think it's supposed to be "sporty," but it’s out of place in a luxury car. It looks like a nightmare to keep clean.

I was worried that the CTS's V6 wouldn't thrill me – after all, last year I drove the CTS-V, which has a soul-stirring 6.0 liter V8 under the hood that pounds out 400 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque – yee-ha! I needn't have worried. The 3.6 liter V6 produces 255 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque, which turned out to be plenty for spirited driving around town and on the highway. My big complaint with the CTS-V was the heaviness of the clutch on the 6-speed manual transmission. My CTS was equipped with the optional ($1,200) 5-speed automatic transmission, which made driving in our heavy Los Angeles traffic way more pleasant.

When I needed the power, the V6 roared to life, zooming up freeway onramps and keeping me ahead in the stoplight derby. The EPA estimates that the CTS will deliver 18 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, which is pretty good for the performance. Rear-wheel drive is a good setup for this car, but the suspension is too soft to inspire confidence around the curves. The CTS is more cruiser than bruiser.

My passengers weren't thrilled with the back seat. They complained about leg and head room. If you need to carry kids in a car seat, you'd better be limber, because it's a tight squeeze with the low roofline.

If you're considering a 2006 Cadillac CTS, you owe it to yourself to measure it against the competition. The BMW 3-series has been the benchmark for mid-size luxury sport sedans for the past decade, with good reason. For the money, the BMW will give you a sportier ride than the CTS, better fit and finish and higher resale value when you're ready for your next car. Of course, the BMW is a more conventionally styled car, and a little bit of a cliché nowadays, at least here in Southern California.

Mercedes' C-class, Acura's TL and Lexus' IS 350 are all in the hunt as well, with great rides and luxury features that rival the BMW in many respects. You might also wish to consider the Chrysler 300, which is another audaciously styled American car. My personal favorite in the class is the Infiniti G35 Sedan, which totally rocks my world.

In the CTS lineup, the 3.6 Liter V6 is engine setup I'd choose – it's more expensive than the 2.8 Liter V6, but better mated to the car. I wouldn't bother with the CTS-V – as outrageous and fun as it can be, it's too hard to live with on a daily basis.

If your name is on a parking space at work, the CTS will let everyone know that you're there to play your "A" game. Until you get that Porsche.



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