Pros: Powerful V6, lots of features, welcoming cabin. Fuel efficient.
Cons: Styling was dated the year it was released. Confusing computers. Overpriced when purchased new.
For the past two months, I searched high and low for a new Cadillac CTS for my mom. She’d been completely captivated by them thanks to Cadillac’s almost hypnotic advertising. Though I’d wanted her to take an all-season-friendly SRX, she was dead set on a CTS. I couldn’t even get her to consider the easier to find CTS-Coupe despite my belief she didn’t actually need a 4 door car.
Unfortunately, finding a 3.0 Liter CTS with a Navigation system, moonroof and reasonable price in "crystal red" was harder than when I searched for a Silver 300C SRT8. Apparently, Cadillac’s dealers found it difficult to move CTS’s with these options since they add roughly $6000 to the purchase price. Therefore, they found it easier to order CTS’ and CTS Coupes with everything but the $3200 Navigation radio. Not to mention, the premium paint adds $995 to whatever car it’s on.
As time ticked on, CTSes dried up in all premium colors and the dealers claimed that ordering one would require a 2 month wait. She wanted a new Cadillac by Christmas and I was hard pressed to find it.
Fortunately, the dealer we went to put us onto a model we hadn’t previously considered. You don’t really crosshop a CTS and an STS. The two cars are nothing alike and come from two entirely different design eras of GM. Its style harkens back to the transition from the 2nd generation of Cadillac’s “Art&Science” theme to the 3rd generation currently spearheaded by several different versions of the CTS. STS' entire design, inside and out, feels like version 2.5 - somewhere in between.
The loaded V6 AWD 2010 Crystal Red STS sitting in the middle of the showroom would have cost around $49,000 before taxes and fees- which I thought was too much for such an outdated car. Unfortunately, leases weren’t available for the 2010 STS (Why?). I did spot an 09’ with low mileage, the same premium equipment package as the 10', and a sticker of $33,493. My mom didn’t come for a used car, but, when she saw how much it offered and how much more interior room it had, she decided to consider it so long as the price for her trade in was decent. I also asked the manager to knock off another $3,000 from the sticker, but he returned minus $2000. For what this car offered – I figured it was an epic win. An extra 5 years of bumper to bumper coverage from Cadillac added just $1800.
The STS’ major problem is its exterior styling. To be frank, I wasn’t crazy about the car’s exterior when it debuted back in 2005. The interior, however, was definitely a leap forward for Cadillac when compared to the weak, plastic ridden interiors of the Escalade and CTS of that time. This car’s exterior styling exudes everything that car makers have attempted to shed for the past few years as they’ve moved closer to producing styles resembling Mercedes’ CLS 4-door coupe, or BMW’s sport sedans. It looks like the discontinued Deville from behind and like the old CTS up front. Very boxy and a little bland.
The STS could benefit from a redesigned coup-ish roofline, and the removal of the window posts between the B and C pillars. Perhaps widening and lengthening the rear passenger windows would help me love it more. A red diamond spoiler and a massive front air dam like that on the current CTS wouldn’t hurt either.
The redesigned 2008 models gained some of the 2008 CTS’ larger/more aggressive facial features, steering wheel, unnecessary fender ports (like the 2008 Escalade’s), and a newer/more powerful engine. Unfortunately, it still looks "last gen".
The only major downside in the otherwise uncluttered cabin, is the layout of button functions. There are numerous buttons to control the radio, navigation, cruise control and HVAC, but many of them are symbols without labels. I felt as if I was reading Egyptian hieroglyphics , trying to uncover the Pharaoh’s treasure. After tinkering with the system for a while I was able to figure out how to plot navigation addresses and set up the phone’s Bluetooth, but, there is still a long learning curve which require you to memorize parts of the manual. The software isn’t much better: more symbols without labels. Newer GM models feature labels on just about every button.
The graphic user interface would require a degree from M.I.T to master. Simple tasks such as "canceling guidance" are made difficult by the lack of a [cancel] button and voice commands are continuously misunderstood.
INSIDE THE STS
The interior of the STS is stylish, attractive and very functional for anyone shopping in the Luxury barge category who isn’t willing to shell out over $70,000 for the German's models. Considering this fully loaded model would have easily cost $58,000 plus, but, only cost us around $34,000 with 20,400 miles on the clock and an extended 5 year warranty, the CTS lease looked like a money pit by comparison.
On the technology front, a loaded V6 STS is a value queen:
A driver’s information center under the gauges monitors tire pressure, and even warns you there “may be ice” when the temperature reaches certain levels.
The full featured touch screen Navigation system works seamlessly; allows you to carry up to 6 CD's encoded with MP3's; offers you XM-Nav Traffic updates and offers voice dialing for Bluetooth enabled cellphones. Voice commands are activated by touching a button on the steering wheel. The car’s 15 speaker drivers scattered throughout the car - including the shoulder pads of the chairs themselves - fill the cabin with 5.1 surround sound whether you’re parked watching a DVD or listening to Wagner.
Then there’s great features like the standard key fobs that give you a remote starter so you can warm the car up without setting foot out the house. Memory functions such as a memory seat, memory radio and memory steering wheel automatically recognize the specific key used to start the car and readies everything - returning their positions for either of the two driver presets.
Our STS has a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled leather seats up front to supplement the dual zone HVAC and even features heated seats in the rear. Features previously limited to the higher-end trims such as H.I.D lights and a Heads Up Display are now available on the current trims.
DRIVING THE STS
The STS was meant to be purchased with the 4.6L Northstar LH2 V8 engine that put out 320HP - 315 pounds of torque. People with tons of extra cash to burn could purchase the 469HP STS-V which offers 439 pound feet of torque and returns gas mileage well below 12mpg. We were interested in decent fuel economy - so the current production V6 was more than enough.
The redesigned direct injection 3.6L LLT V6 sold in 2008’ – Present Cadillac STS models offers a reasonable 302HP and 272 pound feet of torque. Besides the benefit of being able to use regular unleaded 87 octane gasoline in the car, the engine is quiet enough to qualify the STS for a peaceful nap.
Fuel economy during mixed driving is around 22MPG. The trip computer stated 21.6 in one glance.
My mother remarked that the STS’ ride quality feels considerably better than the V6 CTS’. I agree. Likely, this is thanks to the longer wheelbase and the thicker Michelin all-season tires. The shocks in our car feature GM’s magneto rheological dampers which use magnets and metal particles suspended in fluid to actively firm and soften the ride as you mow down the pavement. There’s also an improved version of GM’s Stabilitrak working with the AWD system to help keep the car safe when gripping for traction in our upcoming snow conditions. If necessary the computer can turn the wheel to correct a skid or apply brakes.
Thanks to AWD, the STS handles admirably in snow and ice. It has enough pull to dislodge itself from the snow banks its low front end tends to push up like a cow catcher.
Take a closer look at the car and you’ll find the same platform, GM Sigma, which won the SRX and CTS numerous awards. The old SRX and CTS.
You shouldn’t come to a V6 powered, 196 inch long, 4100 plus pound 4-door looking for “sporty handling”. If you do, you’d be sorely disappointed. STS is essentially what some might refer to as “geriatric”. It's specifically designed for road trips and city cruising. Unlike my equally heavy, yet, overpowered SRT8, the STS is certainly not designed for donuts, powersliding or other hoolaganism.
In its defense, the steering offers speed sensitive tightening. On the suburban streets at low speeds, small turns offer plenty of direction change. On the highway, more turn equals less change.
All throughout, the magneride technology keeps the ride from becoming floaty, but eliminates most road imperfections and harshness. Cruise to church, not to the track.
Acceleration from 0 – 60 takes slightly less than 7 seconds. Considering this new V6 offers just 18 horses less than the V8, there’s no reason to consider the premium fuel thirsty V8. AWD V6 STS begins at $49,575, but, quickly inflates to $56,380 when you add the Navigation system, 5.1 surround sound, H.I.D lamps and limited slip differential. The difference between an AWD V6 and an AWD V8 can be as high as $18,500 when similarly equipped, pushing the STS’ price higher than $65,000. Even higher if you're considering the V-series model. In this segment, there are numerous cars that offer a better value for that price. Infiniti's M37, Lexus GS and Lincoln MKS are among them.
AND THE COMPETITION
While the 2010 Mercedes E350 4-Matic and the 2010 BMW 528xi start around $50,000, adding the features our STS has would easily push their prices up to $65,000 or more. Neither car offers as many ponies as the STS, but they do carry about 400 pounds less.
The Lincoln MKS with AWD and the standard 3.7L V6 offers 29 fewer ponies yet carries close to 200 pounds more than the STS. AWD STS costs about $6000 - $8000 more than AWD MKS depending on equipment. SYNC Navigation in the MKS is a far superior technology package.
The V8 Chrysler 300C AWD gives you more power (60 more ponies) than the STS for about $10,000 less, but the STS has the more luxurious cabin. Look at a 300 Touring with the AWD V6 and that $10,000 savings grows to more than $18,000 in savings. Until the redesigned 300 is released (soon) with updated interior, its only bright spot is its lower price. MYGIG Navigation in the 300C is a far inferior technology suite to what STS offers. Interior space up front is very good, even for larger people. The backseat loses a bit of headroom due to the low roofline, yet, offers decent legroom. The STS would qualify for limo duty, but the Chrysler 300 or Lincoln Town Car would fare much better.
However, I can’t really compare a Cadillac to anything else. A Cadillac is a Cadillac and nothing else is like one. That’s the reason the most powerful competitor to the STS is Cadillac’s own CTS. Unless you absolutely need the extra interior space, Cadillac’s CTS is such a sexy and refined car that despite its smaller size, it’s almost guaranteed to be the car you’ll want instead of the STS. A CTS doesn’t offer heated seats in the back, but it does offer heated and cooled seats up front. Cooled seats are only available on the highest-end CTS.
CTS’s Navigation package offers more than STS’, with a large 40GB hard drive for storing music and the ability to pause and record live radio, but, it does miss out on a lot of driver centric technology available in the STS. There is no option for adaptive cruise control or a Heads up Display (sadly), but, a fully loaded 3.0L CTS will still cost you at least $4000 less than a base STS. Add to that; CTS is the trendier car and the STS is a really tough sell.
And that’s exactly where we found ourselves. Should we go with the CTS lease or take a lightly used STS? Pound for pound, the STS offered more. All we wanted was a red CTS with a Navigation system and a moonroof, but, it proved nearly impossible to get and the cost would have been ridiculous. When I was presented with the possibility of buying this dealer special with its long list of features, its fuel economy and its lowered price tag, I figured it would be a winning buy. So far, we love it.