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#4

in 2009 Upscale Midsize Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $14,201 - $16,241
Original MSRP: $36,560 - $40,760
MPG: 16 City / 25 Hwy
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2009 Cadillac CTS Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The Cadillac CTS holds its own against German and Asian sport sedans that past Cadillacs could only imagine taking on. With a pair of impressive V6 engines (including an entirely new horsepower-boosting technology), the CTS offers plenty of power. But its best performance comes in the turns, where its tight chassis and available sport-tuned suspension shine.  Surprisingly, for such a performance-oriented car, many say it's also a comfortable commuter.

  • "A brash American athlete that has benefited from schooling abroad, the 2009 Cadillac CTS has no problem going toe to toe against the top entry-level luxury sport sedans." -- Edmunds
  • "Perhaps the best part of the CTS is its ability to become Clark Kent or Superman, depending on who is behind the wheel. For those who seek classic Cadillac-brand luxury, the CTS will coddle occupants with a smooth and supple ride. The interior is quiet and subdued, and engine noise remains distant. And yet should one ask the CTS to act like a sports car, it happily obliges." -- Car and Driver
  • "The Cadillac CTS is a responsive sports sedan with excellent handling and high-speed stability yet it's smooth and quiet when cruising." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "The handling and performance of the CTS is exceptional." -- Detroit News
  • The base engine is "powerful enough to blow that blue hair right off Auntie Millie's head. -- Autobytel
  • "On the track or on the road, the new CTS challenges competitors such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus without apology." -- Kansas City Star

Acceleration and Power

The base engine of the 2009 Cadillac CTS is a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 263 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque. Reviewers say it offers plenty of punch and highway passing power. The more advanced option is a Direct Injection version of the same engine. This is the first direct-injection engine an American automaker has built. It pumps pressurized gasoline directly into cylinders in a fine mist, resulting in a higher power output than traditional fuel injection without the need for turbochargers -- and, according to GM -- with cleaner emissions. That engine creates 304 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque -- and has allowed some test drivers to manage zero-to-sixty times under 6.5 seconds.

Either engine is available paired with a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic with manual capability -- although a few reviewers criticize Cadillac for not pairing that transmission with paddle shifters, opting for a slightly awkward console-mounted shifter instead. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that, in various configurations, the CTS manages 16 to 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 to 26 mpg on the highway.

  • "Both V6 engines have good low-speed punch and plenty of passing power, with the Direct Injection model providing more muscle at all times. The automatic transmission provides seamless and timely shifts." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Many sport sedans have base engines that leave drivers longing for more. That's not the case here; the entry-level V-6 moves the CTS swiftly, with plenty of low-end torque and a burly exhaust note when the pedal is down." -- Cars.com
  • "The more powerful of the two available engines is a new direct-injection V6 that produces 304 horsepower. It's extremely responsive. The difference in performance feel and sound from this engine compared with the standard 263-hp V6 is amazing." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "The new 304-hp direct-injection V6 certainly feels strong, but thanks to that hefty mass, acceleration isn't quite as quick as other 300-plus-hp cars in its class. The 258-hp base V6 and automatic transmission should still be very adequate for most consumers." -- Edmunds
  • "The direct-injection engine is the most fun because of its added horsepower, but the base engine performs with more than adequate élan." -- Kansas City Star
  • The base engine "uses the latest in engine technology, like variable valve timing and an electronic throttle, to generate more than 260 hp -- adequate, though not quite exhilarating. Meanwhile, an optional direct-injection 3.6-liter V6 generates in excess of 300 hp for quicker acceleration but worse fuel economy." -- Forbes
  • The Direct Injection engine "feels about the same from a standing start" as the less-powerful V6, but "gets palpably stronger than its sibling as the revs build." -- Cars.com
  • "The manual isn't nearly as fluid as those from BMW." -- Car and Driver
  • "We're not sure why Cadillac opted not to go with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for the automatic's manual mode." -- BusinessWeek
  • The automatic is "a great gearbox." -- Road and Track

Handling and Braking

American luxury sedans have always had plenty of engine power. Where the CTS has improved its game, however, is on windy roads. Even basic models handle corners well, with a four-wheel independent suspension tightened up by a pair of stabilizer bars. But the available sport-tuned suspension (part of the "Performance Collection" option package) ups the ante considerably, though a few reviewers say it is too firm for daily commuting.

  • "Quick responses, direct and accurate steering, a solid and imperturbable structure, and lively rear-wheel-drive handling give the CTS sports-sedan credentials that were once exclusive to sedans from Germany." -- Car and Driver
  • "With optional all-wheel-drive waiting to leap in whenever you decide to go a bit too fast through the corners, as we did in central California, the car feels very, very stable and inspires the confidence you need to go faster and faster through those corners." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "Overall, this Cadillac offers an excellent ride and handling balance that gives the Europeans a run for their money, especially when equipped with the sport-tuned suspension." -- Edmunds
  • "With the standard suspension, CTS approaches, but can't quite reach, the high standards set by the BMW 3-Series and Infiniti G. Steering feel is precise, and lean in corners is well checked, though CTS doesn't feel quite as agile in quick transitions as its rivals." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The car held traction and didn't complain as we pushed it hard around corners.  We were able to easily maintain a proper line as we put the power on during our attacks, holding the car around the turns to the track-out position." -- CNET
  • "Most drivers probably won't need the high-performance suspension.  It pays dividends on the track, but on regular roads it doesn't offer much stiffness beyond the midlevel setup." -- Cars.com
  • The steering "felt like it was rooted in a block of steel and only once did we wish it to be a bit firmer." -- Road and Track
  • "The optional performance brakes add larger discs all around, but with either setup, the pedal feels a bit grabby but delivers strong stopping performance." -- Cars.com

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