Assembled at GM’s Lansing Grand River, Michigan assembly plant, the CTS is built on GM’s Sigma rear wheel drive platform and is made in small numbers for right hand drive markets. In fact, only 100 units have been shipped to South Africa. Between eight to ten units are sold every month, so the current supply should last for a while.
The small number available will ensure that the CTS remains a rare sight on our roads. This exclusivity attracted me to the CTS, in addition to the evolved “arts and science” design language which eschews the feminine look of the German and Japanese competition and gives the CTS a pressed suit look, the 229 kW direct injection V6 and a gorgeous interior.
I took delivery of my black CTS in October 2008 and have been in love with it ever since. The base price then was R399 000, which considering the high spec level is extremely competitive against its German and Japanese peers.
The CTS comes standard with a 40Gb harddrive (I downloaded my entire 8Gb iPod in a matter of minutes- no iDrive, no problem), a 20-cm touch sensitive screen that can play DVDs and pick up TV stations, reverse park assistance, leather everything, power everything, adaptive Xenon headlights, self levelling rear suspension, limited slip diff, an exceptional Bose audio system and stability control (that you can actually switch off).
Neat, both inside and out
It does however lack a navigation system - all the hardware is there, but GM is too cheap to buy the mapping software. I also added some optional extras like remote start (you can start it standing 60 metres away, to the consternation of car guards), cooled seats (a blessing when in Durban) and nifty LED interior lighting that illuminates from under the sapele wood trim.
But how does she drive you ask? Well, pretty damn good. The CTS is not as nimble as a BMW 3 Series (it's bigger, heavier and slightly softer), but the ride is far more pleasant (unlike the 3 Series’ hard ride which I could never live with). The CTS’s turn in is sharp, the independent suspension is well sorted and the feeling of control is confidence-inspiring. The steering is well weighted when you push the car. It's just a pity that the eight-way power seats lack sufficient lateral support for truly spirited driving. But the seats are comfortable; making long distance trips a pleasure.
The six speed auto, which features a sports mode, produces quick downshifts and doesn’t get confused by my erratic driving style. In manual mode, unlike with many competitors, the CTS’ transmission lets you rev right to the redline without jumping in and shifting for you.
Fuel economy is good, but not great - I have averaged 11.2 l/100 km. Braking is excellent with good stopping distances and nicely communicative brake pedal feel. However, the front discs generate copious amounts of brake dust, messing up the shiny 18-inch alloys.
The 3.6l V6 engine has amble torque (374 Nm), and power is plentiful throughout the rev range, even at high altitude. I must admit though that from outside the car the engine does not sound as refined as some Lexus engines, but inside the car you either hear nothing when the car is cruising (credit great sound-deadening, including double glass windscreen) and on acceleration you hear only a nice growl.
The interior is a great place to be, especially at night with the LED interior lights illuminated. Everything is ergonomically friendly, the only exception are the computer controls hidden to the right of the steering wheel. Of course, there is no iDrive so in my eyes that makes up for just about any foibles.
With 11 000 km on the clock, my CTS has been trouble-free and build quality is excellent. My car was one of 12 000 CTS’s worldwide recalled due to a software error in the passenger airbag sensor. The dealer sorted that out in 15 minutes.
So do I have any regrets with my controversial choice? I might when I see the resale value in five years, but I can’t blame the car for that. I do sometimes wish I had bought a colour other than black as I have been mistaken for Jacob Zuma. Other than that, I am smitten with my car and would buy it again without hesitation.