SEE ALSO: Cadillac Buyer's Guide
The Catera is different from other Cadillac cars. Other Cadillacs (with the exception of the Escalade sport-utility) are large, front-wheel drive cars powered by the Northstar V8. The Catera is a smaller, rear-wheel drive car with a V6 engine. Other Cadillacs are made in Hamtramck, Michigan. The Catera is a naturalized citizen, born of Opel heritage in Ruesselsheim, Germany but designed expressly for the American marketplace. It gives Cadillac a presence in the popular entry-luxury class, and is the number one vehicle in the General Motors family for attracting non- GM owners. The Catera offers a high level of standard features that make it a very good value. In a class where sometimes even the basics can be optional, leather upholstery, genuine wood trim, one- touch windows, side airbags, and more luxury features are standard equipment. And the Catera has one of the lowest base prices in its class.
For the 2000 model year, the Catera has freshened styling inside and out. The OnStar electronic communications and concierge system is now standard, in an easy-to-use form. I've been driving a new Catera for the past week and have found it to be a pleasantly sporty and comfortable small car with all of the luxury trimmings. It may be ``Cadillac small,'' but it's definitely not ``Cadillac lite.'' It's a fully-fledged luxury car with an international flavor.
APPEARANCE: At a quick glance, the 2000 Catera looks the same as a '99, but...not quite. The difference is subtle, and picked up mostly unconsciously. The basic shape is unchanged, but most body panels are slightly different. In front, lower ``cat's-eye''- shaped headlights and a new hood with sharply-delineated character lines and a smaller, matte-finished black chrome grille give the Catera a fresher look. At the rear, the full-width taillight applique is gone, replaced by large, squarish taillights at the corners of the car. The rear of the deck lid is less rounded, and the Cadillac wreath is prominently displayed below the stop lamp. Although the styling changes are minor, they do give the 2000 Catera a crisper, more contemporary look.
COMFORT: The Catera may not look much like the other current Cadillacs outside. But inside it's pure contemporary Cadillac, and makes the best of its dual citizenship. A restyled instrument panel and center console bring the Catera's interior more in tune with other Cadillacs. The dark-gray over cream interior color scheme, with zebrano wood accents on the doors and center console, looks very similar to the interiors of the Seville or DeVille. The Catera is one of the more spacious cars in its class, and its comfort and usefulness have been enhanced this year. New door trim panels incorporate the window lifts, American-style, and have hidden storage bins as well as the more usual door pockets. Note that this refers to all four doors, and that all windows open or close with one touch of the appropriate lift. The rear passengers are not subjected to second-class accommodations, and have more room than is usual in a small luxury car. Back up front, the driver and front passenger are treated to comfortable, power-adjustable bucket seats. Cupholders now extend from the center armrest for convenience, and there is an extra power point near the center-mounted handbrake. The standard OnStar telematics system is now a three- button device mounted above the rear-view mirror, and does not require a separate cellular phone. It's easy to use, and an OnStar advisor can be much more helpful than a navigation system.
SAFETY: Standard safety features of the 2000 Cadillac Catera include a chassis design with front and rear crumple zones and a central safety cage, three-point safety belts for all occupants, dual front and front side airbags, antilock brakes and traction control, and the OnStar electronic communications system. In the event of an airbag deployment, OnStar will automatically call the nearest emergency service.
ROADABILITY: The Catera's European origin shows in its road manners. Its fully-independent suspension is tuned to European luxury specification, a bit firmer than U.S. spec but still supple. Outfitted with H-rated performance tires, it corners well, with little body roll. Bumps and holes in the road are dealt with well. The Catera's rear-wheel drive design gives it better traction under acceleration and in quick driving than a front-drive car. And, since the front wheels aren't driven, there is no torque steer under hard acceleration. It's not a sports sedan, but is an enjoyably sporty small luxury sedan.
PERFORMANCE: The Catera's 3.9-liter twincam V6 has a maximum power output of 200 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque. That's competitive for its class, but the car's high comfort and convenience equipment level means extra weight. At 3770 lbs, it's one of the heavier cars in its class, so acceleration suffers somewhat. The Catera is a luxury sedan more than a sports sedan, so that is a legitimate tradeoff. In the European manner, it's not a drag racer. And, as a luxury car, its quiet demeanor and smooth multimode four-speed automatic transmission are quite satisfying.
CONCLUSIONS: The Cadillac Catera is becoming more focused.
SPECIFICATIONS 2000 Cadillac Catera Base Price $ 30,860 Price As Tested $ 34,463 Engine Type dual overhead cam, 24-valve V6 Engine Size 3.0 liters / 181 cu. in. Horsepower 200 @ 6000 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 192 @ 3400 rpm Transmission 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic Wheelbase / Length 107.5 in. / 192.2 in. Curb Weight 3770 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 18.9 Fuel Capacity 16.0 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded premium, 92 octane Tires P225/55 HR16 Goodyear Eagle RS-A Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, Bosch ABS 5.4 antilock standard Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 18 / 24 / 21 0 to 60 mph 8.5 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 16.5 sec Coefficient of Drag (cd) 0.33 OPTIONS AND CHARGES Luxury Package - includes: 8-way power front passenger seat adjustment, memory driver's seat and mirrors, audible theft- deterrent system, garage door opener $ 995 Express-open sunroof $ 995 Bose AM/FM/cassette/CD/weather band/RDS 8-speaker sound system $ 973 Destination charge $ 640