2008 Cadillac CTS

By Jonathan Spira on 1 February 2008
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For more than a decade, Cadillac has been an afterthought to many luxury car buyers in the market it helped create since its founding in 1902 out of the remnants of the Henry Ford Company.  (Cadillac was named after Antoine Laurnet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, who founded Detroit in 1901.)

In past years, its place – or lack thereof – was somewhat deserved.  Cadillacs were underpowered, overpriced, overweight, and decidedly phlegmatic.  They suffered from bloat (excessive size and excessive fins) and even its downsized cars (the De Ville and Fleetwood lines were downsized twice, first in 1977 and then again in 1985) were undistinguished.

Lincoln, Cadillac’s lifelong competitor, capitalized on the GM look-alike syndrome that caused Cadillacs to look like lesser cars from the GM stable, such as Buicks, Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, and Chevrolets, with the famous “Valet” marketing campaign that depicted Cadillac owners and parking lot attendants asking  “Is that a Cadillac?” to which one responded “No, it’s a (fill in the blank of a GM car).  At that moment, the owner of a Lincoln Town Car appeared saying “The Lincoln Town Car, please”

Cadillac continued to be haunted by the Cimarron, which was nothing more than a gussied-up Chevrolet Cavalier; the V8-6-4 engine, which sequentially shut down cylinders but was unreliable; and a gross misstatement of its sales for 1998, in which for the first time Lincoln sold more cars than Cadillac (187,121 versus 182,570), a fact that Cadillac managed to hide for a period of time with inflated December 1999 sales figures.

For the 1997 model car, Cadillac debuted the Catera, a rebadged Opel Omega MV6 manufactured in Rüsselheim, Germany.  Perhaps the best handling Cadillac of the century, it failed to meet sales expectations, perhaps in part due to the legacy of the Cimarron or perhaps because its slogan was the “Caddy that zigs.”

Six years ago, Cadillac introduced the original Cadillac CTS, the first car to bear its razor sharp “Art and Science” design language to great acclaim.  Now Cadillac has both zigged and zagged with a new CTS that portends the future of Cadillac and perhaps its parent General Motors.

According to Cadillac, Art and Science “incorporates sharp, shear forms and crisp edges — a form vocabulary that expresses bold, high-technology design and invokes the technology used to design it.”

If the Teutonic demeanor and cool aesthetic of BMW and Mercedes-Benz is not to your liking, the 2008 Cadillac CTS may be just what you are looking for.

–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.

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