Premium midsize car; Built in USA
  • 4-door sedan
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $6,000 – $20,000*

2003 Cadillac CTS

2004 Cadillac CTS

2005 Cadillac CTS

Cadillac CTS interior

  • Acceleration 3.6-liter V6, V8
  • Steering/handling
  • Control layout (navigation system)

Bold styling may polarize opinions, but this solid, sporty sedan is rewarding to drive, especially with the 3.6-liter V6. That powertrain provides the response and refinement expected in a premium midsize sedan, and qualifies the CTS as a Best Buy in its class. Not everyone needs its power, but the rapid-rolling CTS-V costs much less than most V8 import rivals.


Built in America, this new hard-edged sedan replaced the German-sourced Catera as the entry-level Cadillac for 2003. Although the CTS competed against such near-luxury mainstays as the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, it ranked among the largest, heaviest cars in that class. Additional rivals includes the Acura TL and Infiniti G35.

Equipped with rear-wheel drive and a 3.2-liter V6 engine, the CTS came with a five-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic. The five-speed automatic was Cadillac’s first–the same one that GM supplied for BMW’s 3- and 5-Series cars. It had Sport and Winter modes, but no manual shift gate (as in the BMWs).

Standard on CTS were antilock four-wheel disc brakes, traction control, front side and curtain side airbags, leather upholstery, and GM’s OnStar assistance system. An antiskid system was part of a Luxury Sport Package option, which also contained 17-inch wheels versus 16s, and a sport-oriented suspension, steering, and brake calibrations.

Other options included a navigation system with dashboard screen, and related voice activation for navigation and audio functions.

A sunroof, in-dash CD changer, and xenon headlamps could also be installed as extra-cost items. The optional satellite radio offered local programming plus 100 exclusive channels for a monthly fee.

Yearly Updates

2004 CTS
A new, larger V6 engine choice and a revised suspension highlighted 2004 changes to Cadillac’s entry-level model, which was positioned as a sporty near-luxury sedan. The new engine was a 255-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6, available only with a five-speed automatic transmission. It joined a 220-horsepower, 3.2-liter V6 that was now available only with manual shift.
Cadillac said CTS’s suspension revisions were designed to smooth the ride. Available with either engine was a Sport Package that included 17-inch wheels, an antiskid system, speed-variable steering assist, upgraded brakes, and a rear load-leveling suspension.
Midyear brought a high-performance CTS-V model with a V8 borrowed from the Chevrolet Corvette.
2005 CTS
Cadillac introduced a new 2.8-liter V6 for 2005, developing 210 horsepower and slotted below the 3.6-liter. At the other end of the spectrum, heavy-footed fans could choose the CTS-V with its 400-horsepower, 5.7-liter V8 and six-speed manual gearbox. A six-speed manual transmission was standard for either V6, with the five-speed automatic an option.
Leather upholstery was optional for the CTS 2.8 and standard on 3.6 and CTS-V models. Xenon headlamps and an antiskid system were standard on the CTS-V and optional for V6 versions. Cadillac’s CTS-V featured unique exterior and interior touches, a sport suspension, and 18-inch run-flat tires. Satellite radio and a sunroof could be installed on all models.
2006 CTS
Cadillac’s smallest sedan gets revised sport and performance packages for 2006. For ’06, the available Sport Package adds to V6s a limited-slip differential, antiskid system, xenon headlights, sport suspension, and 17-inch wheels vs. 16s. The revised Wheel Performance Package adds to the 3.6 model speed-variable steering assist, uprated brakes, sport suspension, load-leveling suspension, and 18-inch wheels. Added during the model year, the Wheel Sport Appearance Package gives the 3.6 CTS-V-style trim elements.
2007 CTS
Cadillac’s smallest car marks time for 2007, pending a 2008 redesign due in calendar ’07.


longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive

In its first season, a 220-horsepower, 3.2-liter V6 was the sole engine choice, with a standard five-speed manual gearbox.or optional five-speed automatic transmission. Cadillac added a 255-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 for 2004, with a standard autoamtic. That was followed by the CTS-V, which packed a Corvette-derived 5.7-liter V8 rated at 400 horses. For 2005, the 3.2-liter was dropped in favor of a new 2.8 V6 that delivered 210 horsepower, and a six-speed manual gearbox replaced the five-speed.

dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.8/170
Engine HP 210
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 195
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
5-speed automatic
dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.2/194
Engine HP 220
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 220
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual


dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.6/217
Engine HP 255
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 250-252
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
5-speed automatic
ohv V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.7/346
Engine HP 400
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 395
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual



Road Test

Cadillac’s 3.6-liter V6 is lively and smooth–noticeably more powerful and refined than the 3.2-liter. It benefits from the well-matched automatic transmission’s crisp, subtle shifts to provide good response around town, plus fine acceleration in the important 45-70 mph range. A manual shift gate would reinforce CTS’s sporting character, however. The 3.2’s manual transmission changes gears slickly. The latest six-speed feels a bit notchy, but adds to the CTS’s sporting character. Simply put, the CTS-V delivers muscle-car power for tire-spinning launches and no-delay passing/merging.

A test 3.6-liter CTS averaged 18.6 mpg, while a 3.2-liter manual averaged 21.3 mpg in mostly highway driving. The CTS-V has averaged 16.8 mpg. Cadillac recommends premium-grade fuel for all engines.

As for ride comfort, resolutely solid structure works with a compliant base suspension for good absorbency. The Sport Package’s 17-inch tires contribute to a slightly less-forgiving feel over bumps, but with little loss of comfort. The CTS-V’s suspension is taut, but not harsh.

Steering efforts feels somewhat artificial, but the steering itself seldom feels imprecise. Handling with the base suspension compares favorably to the standard setup on most entry-level European rivals, despite distinct body lean in fast turns. The Sport Package rewards with sharper responses and better grip in quick directional changes. Test drivers have split on V6 brake performance: it’s top-notch to some, but others complain of excessive pedal travel. The CTS-V, steers, stops, and changes direction with athletic poise.

All V6s are quiet while cruising, but the 3.2 snarls under full throttle, and never sounds rich. The 3.6-liter is always well-bred, rarely intrudes, and makes pleasing sounds. Moderate highway-speed wind rush may be noticed.

Sport Package tires, and those on the CTS-V rumble on coarse pavement. Acceleration with the CTS-V is accompanied by V8 gurgle and a prominent exhaust note.

Interior ambience is tech-modern and angular, with a big speedometer and tachometer. Bright readouts inform about the simple automatic climate system. An innovative steering-wheel thumbwheel supplements audio-volume control, but it’s subject to inadvertent adjustment. Other steering-wheel buttons change duty according to driver preference–an unorthodox and overly complicated system. The automatic-transmission gear position does not display in the instrument panel. Cadillac’s navigation system governs some audio functions, and does a good job of integrating controls for both, though its response to voice commands is inconsistent. Cabin materials are good, but they fall short of the class standard set by Audi and Lexus.

In the roomy front seat, a high cowl and tall side sills contribute to a closed-in feel. Firm base-model seats provide outstanding lateral bolstering and, starting in 2004, could have adjustable lumbar support. Sport seats in the CTS-V add support during quick maneuvers. The steering wheel is satisfyingly thick-rimmed and tilts manually, but does not telescope. Expect fine outward visibility

Adults under 5-feet-11 fit in back without scrunching. Knee clearance compares favorably with others in its class, and toe space is better than most.

The trunk is long and broad, with a lid that opens wide on nonintruding strut hinges, but the opening itself is not generous. Split-folding rear seatbacks have been available (standard on CTS-V). Interior storage is good.


Model Tested: 2004 CTS w/3.2-liter V6 and nav. system

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 6
Fuel Economy - 5
Ride Quality - 7
Steering/Handling - 7
Quietness - 7


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 7
Room/Comfort Rear - 5
Cargo Room - 5


Value - 6

Total: 60


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
113.4 190.1 70.6 56.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
12.8 17.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.9 36.9 42.4 37.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2004 CTS 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Rear Passenger Injury - 5


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: The transmission may quit working due to fluid loss caused by the output flange nut coming loose. (2003-04)
Engine noise
Description: The brackets attached to the catalytic converter may crack or break resulting in a rattle or buzzing noise that seems to come from the engine compartment. (2003-04)
Steering problems
Description: “Service Steering System” warning light comes on because of failure of the variable effort steering solenoid. (2003)
Water leak
Description: Passenger side carpet gets wet in winter due to ice forming in the HVAC plenum drain hose unless it is modified. (2003)
Description: The battery may go dead overnight if the brightness lever for the panel lights is set to bright and inadvertently goes far enough to power up the dash integration module, but not far enough to turn on the courtesy lights inside the car. (2003-04)
Electrical problem
Description: The fuel gauge will read empty after filling up if the engine is left running. Trouble codes may also be set which will have to be cleared by the dealer. (2003)

Recall History

2003-07 CTS
Description: For vehicles currently registered in or originally sold in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington D.C., West Virginia and Wisconsin. Some of these vehicles have a condition in which the front brake hose fitting at the caliper may corrode due to snow or water, containing road salt or other contaminants, entering and being retained in the routing sleeve. If the fitting corrodes significantly, the brake hose-tube interface may develop a leak. The brake hose-tube interface may rupture suddenly without prior warning and increase vehicle stopping distance may occur, increasing the risk of a crash. Dealers are to replace both front brake hose assemblies free of charge.
2004 CTS
Description: Washers for ball stud assemblies on lower control arm of some cars could fracture; separation of control arm from its knuckle will cause a corner of the vehicle to drop, and control arm may contact the wheel, resulting in dragging action and unwanted tendency to turn.
2004 CTS
Description: Driver’s frontal airbag and/or roof-mounted side-impact airbag in some cars could deploy when ignition key is turned to on position.
2005-07 CTS
Description: The rear axle pinion seal may experience a fluid leak. Dealers will replace the pinion seal.
2005-2007 CTS
Description: Some of these vehicles have a condition in which repeated flexing of the passenger sensing system mat in the front passenger seat may cause the mat to kink, bend, or fold. This flexing can break the connections in the mat. If this occurs, the sensor may not detect the presence of a front seat passenger and will disable the air bag. Non-deployment of the front passenger air bag in the event of a crash necessitating that air bag’s deployment may reduce protection of the passenger and increase the risk or severity of injury to them. Dealers will replace the passenger sensing system free of charge.
2007 CTS
Description: Under a Federal standard, the sunroof on a vehicle may only be closed when the ignition is on, or after the ignition is turned off, but before either of the front doors are opened. The affected vehicles may exhibit a condition where the sunroof can be closed after the ignition is turned off and the doors are opened, increasing risk of injury or death. Dealers will install a wire harness.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


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