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THREE TO TANGO

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Tue, Apr 20, 2010

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

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(Zoran Segina) By Zoran Segina "The car is here, but they did not bring the key." Technically speaking, the Tall Girl was correct. In our mailbox there lay a small black square device. When brought close to the new Cadillac CTS Wagon this device will automatically unlock doors. Then it only takes a turn of what looks like a key in the ignition switch—but is actually a fake—to start the engine. The fob will even start the CTS from some 15 yards away. With the existence of the “key” successfully resolved, we could pick up the rest of the test drive team—the Tall Girl’s cousins from Buenos Aires. It all started with one of those quiet sighs: “I guess I will never have a Cadillac.” Although uttered off-hand, and barely audible, for a well-attuned husband such a remark has a decibel level of a heavy metal rock concert. Following my repeated assurances that there would be a Cadillac in the Tall Girl’s future the next questions were “which model” and “when”.

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(Zoran Segina) The 2010 CTS Wagon fits the requirements perfectly. It has plenty of space without being overly tall or bulky. The Tall Girl does not like SUVs. Its direct-injection 304 horsepower 3.6 liter V engine provides sufficient oomph through a six-speed automatic transmission. The CTS is designed and engineered to compete directly with the BMWs Audis and Mercedes, so its European influence would appeal to me while the Cadillac pedigree would satisfy the aforementioned quiet sigh. And the four-year 50 000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty (five years and 100,000 miles for powertrain) reinforces the sense of quality and craftsmanship so vital to Cadillac owners. When the Tall Girl invited Susanna and her daughter Marina to visit us in January, over the summer school break in Argentina, the “when” got resolved. We will take them from Los Angeles to Palm Springs and then to San Diego. What better time to test drive the Cadillac then in the balmy Southern California winter time? The first impressions come quickly. “The car is roomy, it’s not like sitting in an airplane,” observed the Tall Girl. Despite its roominess, the CTS does not have handle above the passenger door, so the Tall Girl has a problem stepping out if the car sits on an incline. The power seats are nicely stitched with the Cadillac logo display, and can be moved front and back, up and down, with rake and lumbar support. However, she finds the upholstery stiff and hard to sit on, but she liked the controls because they were simple and convenient to use. “This is a luxury car for idiots,” she said. “Easy to understand.”

2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

The navigation screen which also serves as a radio display is too intrusive for her taste, even when three quarters of it are hidden below the dashboard. She would like to listen to the radio without seeing the screen. The Tall Girl finds the power window mechanism too advanced. A slight touch on the switch jacks the window all the way down, or up, as the case may be. The power windows need quick hands to stop the electric motor at the right moment—perhaps something for the video game generation. The power windows were less than perfect, she said. She also finds the recessed lighting around the wood paneling surrounding the front seats useless and superfluous. By contrast, the Tall Girl finds automatic opening of the rear cargo door the greatest thing about the Cadillac. Another switch adjust the opening angle from three quarters to fully open. This not only shortens the time but helps the not-so-tall girls and boys to reach the door. Loading the Cadillac for the five-day trip tested the trunk capacity of the wagon. Four passengers and enough luggage to last us to Argentina. The trunk space has a cover, and a space on the bottom for smaller objects. The loose items can be covered with a net.

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(Zoran Segina) In the back, Susanna and Marina are enjoying the dramatic vistas through the roof which stretches over the entire cabin. The roof can be covered by a very soft, almost translucent cover. This Cadillac has everything imaginable and desirable on the steering wheel. There is stereo volume control, cruise control, and, from what I can surmise, a telephone volume. A multiple-function audio/navigation display on the center console sinks into the dashboard when not in use. The stereo has two simple knobs for the volume and tuning. An elegant analog clock in the center accentuates the luxury feel inside the cabin. Below is the climate control, and an ashtray hole, with no ashtray, but a 12-volt plug. Each side of the center console has ventilation openings separately controlled for the driver and the passenger. The ventilation and the seat heating controls are awkwardly positioned and divert the attention from the road if the driver has to adjust them while underway. On the road my arm is resting on the central support for the elbow and the shifter which controls a six-speed electronic manual. An hour into the trip, the balmy Southern California winter weather is rapidly turning into what will be recorded as the most intense rainfall in history. In any other car this would be a problem, but not in this one. The CTS is designed to challenge German sport sedans. The car spent its formative years on Nordschleife, a famed section of the Nurburgring race track, so its performance in the wet has to be viewed in light of its European pedigree. For most Southern Californians driving 70 miles per hour in the downpour, on Interstate 10, borders on reckless driving. For most Germans, driving at the same speed on the autobahn, in the rainy Eiffel region, borders to obstructing the flow of traffic. In the wet the CTS Cadillac turns into a USS Cadillac with a veritable battleship performance. The Michelin Pilot P 235/50 R 18 tires devour the road as we quickly drive to Palm Springs.

Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

The lobby of our hotel is a slalom course makred by a dozen strategically positioned buckets. The unhappy mid-westerners roam about. They traveled thousands of miles to play golf and bask in the sun, and now don't know what to do. The rain continues the next day. We visit two museums, both of which have leaky roofs. Marina wonders whether she will ever see the sun in America. Our trip to the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort in Indian Wells reveals a new water hazard on the fairway in front of the lobby - a raging torrent of mud some twenty yards wide. Half of the streets in the Coachella Valley are closed. Our planned scenic route over the mountains will be replaced by a more sedate rip down the freeway to San Diego. On the morning of our departure the sun is breaks through the clouds. Susanna agrees that our description of the majestic San Jacinto mountain range, heretofore invisible, is accurate. The back seats are deep, and our guests find them quite comfortable. Marina falls asleep 30 minutes into the trip, followed by Susanna and the Tall Girl. As the satellite radio pipes in soothing music, I have more time to evaluate the CTS. The center console has a cup holder with a clever rubber insert so that he cups do not move around. Then there is a box with a 12-volt insert and chargers for iPods and other electronic devices. The car is easy to drive, even in the challenging conditions with heavy downpours. The stalk on the left of the steering column controls lights with more settings than the space ship. The stalk on the right controls the windshield wipers. Because of the slope of the rear window, the rear wiper has to be turned on all the time in heavy rains. The lights on vanity mirrors can be turned off individually. Above the windshield one finds a built-in garage door opener, central lights for map reading, OnStar and telephone switches. The rear seat has its own directional heating, another 12-volt plug, and something that resembles an ashtray. Despite our driving—mostly on freeways at a steady pace—our fuel economy remained stubbornly below 17 miles per gallon. We did not use sport mode which allows firmer shifting and sportier performance. The Tall Girl wanted the classic smooth and comfortable Cadillac experience. When I needed power, a simple shift to the manumatic mode delivered all the pretty horses. The car has plenty of power and can be driven very fast in any road condition. The navigation system is fantastic. In a proverbial dark and stormy night, I have to deliver three very hungry ladies to our Shelter Island dinner reservations, while looking for roads I’ve never traveled on before. The navigation system acts flawlessly. It even alerts me of accidents ahead.

2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

The rear end is equipped with a camera and warning sound beeper. This is almost a necessity because the beefy C pillars and the pronounced rake of the rear cargo door window make it impossible to judge the distances. Unfortunately, the camera lens gets smudged with rain water, so it is of little assistance when needed the most. The rain is finally over, and the rest of our trip is a typical Southern California adventure with blue skies and gorgeous views of the sun, sea and sky. After visiting Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, Old Town, and the port, Susanna and Marina are ready to back to their temporary home in Los Angeles. The Tall Girl dreams about her own bed. The trip back is uneventful, even though there is a general consensus that the CTS suspension is way too stiff. The CTS is an exceptionally competent and luxuriously appointed European sports wagon, and it is not surprising that GM planned to sell it in Europe under its own brand rather than as an Opel, GM’s German subsidiary. In light of the long list of features and performance, a price of 38,000 Euros seems eminently reasonable. When converted to the embattled greenbacks the 2010 CTS Wagon comes with a sticker price of $52,545. And fuel consumption of 16 miles per gallon. Upon hearing the price of the CTS, my co-worker Frances is incredulous: “Nobody should pay 50 grand for a Cadillac,” he said. Which brings about a not-so philosophical conundrum: has GM conditioned its American customers over the years to expect an inexpensive product sold as a luxury car, so that now—when its engineers built the genuine thing—nobody is willing to pay for it? The CTS performance and features unquestionably justify its price. But- to use an old Hollywood maxim—will it play in Peoria? And when?

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(Zoran Segina) SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2010 Cadillac CTS Wagon Price: $40,485.00 (base) $52,545.00 (as tested) EPA mpg estimate: 18 city/ 26 Highway Engine: 3.6-liter, direct injection V6 cylinder Horsepower: 304 at 6400 rpm Torque: 273 pound-feet at 5200 rpm Transmission: Hydra-Matic 6 speed automatic, rear wheel drive Drive configuration: Rear-wheel drive Steering: Speed proportional power rack and pinion. Suspension: Four-wheel independent Brakes: Vented disc front and solid disc rear, with anti-lock braking system and stability control Tires/Wheels: Michelin Pilot Sport P 235/50 R 18 Length: 191.6 inches Width: 72.6 inches Height: 59.1 inches Wheelbase: 113.4 inches Curb weight: 3872 lbs

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