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New Car/Review

Cadillac Catera Sport (2001)

SEE ALSO: Cadillac Buyer's Guide

by Brendan Hagin and Mikele Schappell-Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 31,305
     Price As Tested                                    $ 36,423
     Engine Type              DOHC 24-valve 3.0 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 181 cid/2962 cc
     Horsepower                                   200 @ 6000 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               192 @ 3400 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  107.5"/70.3"/192.2"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3991 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  16.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                         235/45R17 mud and snow
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.33


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            17/24/20
     0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                                    17.0 @ 85 mph
     Top-speed                                           125 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

BRENDAN - A few years ago, Cadillac promoted the idea that its Catera was "The Caddy That Zigs." That's appropriate, since the "little" Caddy is like a European sports sedan. With a sport version of its own, GM's luxury line has put out a vehicle that takes on the best Germany has to offer but lets American "loyalists" continue to buy a domestic nameplate. The similarities between the Catera and German sport sedans is understandable in view of the fact that the Catera is assembled in Germany. The Catera uses components from General Motors suppliers all over the world, which makes it truly an international car. The Catera Sport we drove this week was powered by a 3.0-liter, 24-valve twin cam V6 engine that pumps out 200 horsepower and plenty of torque.

MIKELE - My dad is one of those American "loyalists," so he was jazzed to see us driving a car that carries a Cadillac badge. I loved the way the Catera felt. Sometimes sports versions handle good on the highway but are hard to maneuver, but the Cadillac press pack describes the electronic speed-controlled power steering as light at low speeds like when you're parking but when you're driving at faster speeds, it gives you less power assistance so you can feel the road. The suspension is independent all around and it features MacPherson struts and advanced hydraulic control arm bushings engineered to make handling more precise and increase balance during hard braking. I understand this stuff now that I've been boning up on GM suspension systems. I've also learned about its full-range traction control that checks the speed of the rear wheels and compares it to the front wheels. If one of the rears start to slip, the device gently applies braking force to the slipping wheel, then transfers torque to the wheel with enough traction to keep the car straight. Its also features four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, but that's a pretty common item these days.

BRENDAN - I found a few more cool things the Catera has that you missed, Mikele. You didn't mention that the adaptive four-speed transmission has three modes of operation. The "normal" mode is for everyday ho-hum driving, the "sport" mode lets the engine rev higher between shifts and for extra engine braking going down hill, and the "winter" mode is for third-gear starts in slippery conditions so you won't spin the back wheels while trying to get underway. It has a stand-alone oil-to-air transmission oil cooler so it's not dependent on engine cooling, and the transmission can go up to 100,000 miles before its first scheduled maintenance under normal driving conditions. Of course GM doesn't define "normal driving" and Dad says it should be changed more often.

MIKELE - Inside, the Catera has all the standard stuff like cupholders and air conditioning, but it also has the neat GM OnStar program, which gives the driver access to an OnStar Advisor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Hit the blue OnStar button and the driver gets Personal Calling, which allows the making and receiving of hands-free, voice-activated phone calls, and an OnStar Virtual Advisor, which will deliver Internet-based information such as news headlines, sports scores, stock quotes, and weather conditions. The eight-way adjustable driver's seat has a manual lumbar support and the upholstery is made of soft leather. The rear center armrest folds down to make a pass-through to the trunk for long "toys" like snowboards or skis.

BRENDAN - The Catera's interior has standard dual front and side airbags, along with a nifty little gizmo called Pinch-Guard on its windows and sunroof. Pinch-Guard senses resistance to things such as someone's fingers, then immediately reverses the direction. This is a great feature for a family car and should be standard on all vehicles that carry kids or forgetful old guys like my dad. The eight-speaker Bose audio system is very good, with AM/FM radio, single CD unit, cassette player and steering wheel-mounted volume controls. There's an optional trunk-mounted 12-disc CD changer that should be standard on Cads because it's a pain switching discs while driving.

MIKELE - Nothing's perfect, Brendan, not even a Cadillac.