2005 Cadillac CTS

Cadillac used to make cars for old people, but times change. Caddy sedans are now squarely aimed at recent retirees. Take, for example, the CTS. This angular four-door sedan is easy, and, despite its prodigious amount of technological options, it is definitely for those who enjoy only the benefits of the digital revolution–for a fully loaded sedan, its dash is remarkably free of technoclutter.

As is the current fashion, all electronics are accessed through a central LCD screen. But there is one annoying aspect: The main jog dial is exiled to the far side of the dash, in passenger territory. All the driver can operate from the steering-wheel controls are the audio source and volume. For everything else, he has to reach across the car.

And reach he will, to turn off the XM Radioâ€powered traffic-alert system in the navigation setup. This is a great idea that needs to be perfected. In the spirit of the test, we did everything the navi told us. At 2 in the morning, when the nav assured us that the main highway, I-87, was jammed, what should have been a five-hour trip turned into a seven-hour tour through some very quaint towns in the Adirondacks Mountains of upstate New York. That’s OK, because the road is fun and twisty–perfect for seeing how the car handled.

This is a Cadillac with sporting pretensions. Our test vehicle came equipped with 255 horsepower, 252 pound-feet of torque, a 3.6-liter V6 engine, and a five-speed automatic transmission. Although 255hp should be good for some serious grunt, it is kept just beyond reach by the slow-to-respond automatic, which reminds me of the snarky industry nickname for an automatic transmission: slushbox. Mash the gas, and (one Mississippi, two â€) vroom. I guess you missed that apex.

Once you get the hang of the CTS’s delay, it’s still impossible to get the back end loose. Without a manumatic mode–in which the driver can determine when the transmission shifts up or down–there is no way to keep the tachometer needle routed in the power band. And even though the sport suspension goes a long way toward killing body roll, the CTS always wants to go straight. If you prefer guiding a car through the twisties with your right foot, don’t even think of dropping the extra $1,200 on the automatic. Especially when a six-speed, close-ratio manual gearshift is standard equipment.

That said, remember the golden rule of the CTS: It’s a Cadillac. While not a rally car, it’s smooth on the highway, easy to control, and an emblem of American luxury. The seats are plush, everything is automatic, and its angled fascia is Cadillac’s 21st-century tailfin. All set to cruise? You won’t go wrong with a CTS. Ready to hit the twisting back roads? You can buy a BMW 5 Series for about the same price.

2005 Cadillac CTS
Base price: $32,950
Engine: 3.6-liter V6
Horsepower: 255 @ 8,200 rpm
Torque: 252 @ 3,200 rpm
0â€60: 7 seconds
Top speed: 149 mph