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Cadillac CTS vs Dodge Charger:  The other day I test drove two cars very fine cars. The Dodge Charger has the aggressive attitude that I love, and styling to match. It's big and brawny and has the unforgiving look of a true highway gladiator. The new Cadillac CTS is much the same, but it's styling suggests that it doesn't give a damn about what you think of it, it just wants to go fast. Both cars are rolling with nice wheels and rubber, and are powered by large caliber V-8 engines. Both cars are comfortable with seating for 5, have plenty of space, sizable trunks, and have plenty of leather.

The first car I drove was the CTS. Getting into to the Caddy I knew right away that I loved it. The rich leathery new car smell was just right, the seats fit me just right and I had good visibility and reach to everything on the dash. Inside it didn't feel too big, not too small... it was just right. When I rolled down the window, even the level of the window was just right for proper “elbow out” cruising. The center arm rest was even just right too.

I put in the key and turned the ignition. The dash woke up and all the lights and gages blinked at me. The engine purred like an eager mountain lion... friendly and powerful. Let me tell you, this cat wants to come out and play. The engine revs smoothly and quickly and this translates into very rapid linear velocity. It pulled hard all the way across the arch of the tachometer's dial, sending the speedometer into a similar arch. You have to be careful of that, because the horizon comes at you all the sudden like when you do that. It's fantastic. The engine is sex. And no, this wasn't the supercharged CTS-V version. Throwing a supercharger into this mix would be mind-blowingly orgasmic. This car should be rated X.

The asking price was only 30 grand. 30 for this? Worth it. Seriously, worth it.

There was a downside to this car, and I'll be totally honest about it. I drove it like a maniac in a stolen rental car. I pushed this car to some severe limits that you should not ever attempt in your own car.... borrow someone elses if you want to do it. Someone's that you don't like. Here is what I found: While the CTS has a nicely shaped muscle-butt, it's too soft. I felt the rear end shake and shimmy a bit too much in hard corners while under power. The suspension in the front felt great, but the rear felt like it wanted to fall over. I don't know if all CTS's are like this, but the one I drove was. If this is a problem with the CTS line... it's not that big of a deal. For one, you shouldn't drive like I was... and for another, some bolt in parts should stiffen up the rear and make it feel much better. Okay, that sounded obscene.

I want this car. The Cadillac CTS... Outstanding.

Next up was the Dodge Charger. Huge V-8, lots of latent anger and hostility under the hood. And a serious scowl going on in the grill. Getting into this car made me feel like a knight donning his armor ready to go into battle. The doors are tall and the window sill very high. Visibility is reduced all the way around accept for straight ahead. Well, compared to the CTS it was. I had little problem with backing but it did take more of an effort to grasp the situational awareness that felt perfectly natural in the CTS. The engine. It wasn't loud, but it was ominous. Biblical power was on tap. Unfortunately it couldn't come out and play. Like a caged monster. The traction control was too damn effective and I couldn't figure out how to turn it off... or if you could turn it off. On the road this isn't too big of a deal... the car bounds forward with just a nudge to the throttle. Effortless speed. The downside to this was the automatic transmission. The tiptronic type shifting was precise and fast as it should be... but the lever put my right hand elbow back behind my spine to get my hand on the shifter so I could select the up and downshifts. This made a very comfortable car feel cramped. Sure, I could just let it shift on its own, but what is the fun of that? On its own, the car shifted either late or early in a manner that was somehow unpredictable and unrelated to how I was driving it. The CTS on the other hand shifted at precisely the right moment that I wanted to shift. The CTS also shifted into the next gear (up or down) faster and smoother than the Dodge.

Little things like the lay out of the dash and the position of the controls for things like air and stereo were laid out better in the CTS. Windows and mirror controls, all that jazz were right where you expected them to be and you didn't have to take a minute to figure out how there worked. The Charger was just different enough to make the car feel somehow alien. Even the door handles with their weird round shape that made me thing of new VW Beatles. I did like the gauge faces on the Dodge better than Caddy. The Dodge told you that you are in a hotrod that has grown up and put on a business suite. Hulk Hogan in a boardroom meeting. The CTS on the other hand was far too refined and stately to don a headband, but you knew it could if it had to.

I've already mentioned the Charger's downsides, so let me mention the upsides. This car felt planted and in control while I was making it do horrible things to the pavement and the laws of physics. Not mention Mrs. Ogre who was holding on for dear life, looking pale as a ghost and green with motion sickness at the same time. It was quite an ordeal I put her through. She hasn't forgiven me yet either. The Charger handled all the excessive evasive maneuvering with style, grace, power and glory. Thanks in part to a better rear suspension and perhaps by better tires than the stock CTS skins. If this car came with a manual transmission and with an easily apparent way to switch off the traction control, it would be one freaking amazing vehicle.

The Dodge Charger was asking only 24 grand. Quite the discount rate compared to the CTS and both had about the same 6 thousand miles or a little less. Fuel economy in either car is irrelevant to their intended owners. Cars like this, you don't ask how far they go on a gallon of unleaded. They don't care. They are big and heavy and overpowered and they don't care... cars like this are meant to rip out every bit of enjoyment out of those miles and show them to you while they are still beating.

After driving both cars and considering both cars... I would pick the CTS. It was just right in every dimention and it felt better put together and showed a greater degree in attention to details. I could buy a CTS... I really could. If I had the money. I even liked the charcoal paint scheme of the CTS. Different enough to be cool, but not enough to attaction John Law's watchful eye.

Winner: Cadillac CTS.

Recently I've gone through a few vehicles... my Bronco (still for sale) had to be retired due to gas prices.  My Turbo Plymouth Voyager van's engine blew up.  (innocent look)  So I needed a new car.  The new car had to be economical, cheap, yet fun to drive. 

I selected a Ford Contour SE.  The Contour is sold around the world as the Ford Mondeo.  It's a good, solid, and reliable car.  The SE version sold in the US comes with a 2.5 liter Duratech V-6 engine (the same engine powering many V-6 Jaguars), a 5 speed manual transmission, power leather seats, power windows and locks, and AC.  The stereo is total rubbish. 

It's nothing fancy by any means, but it is a very nice little car with a good lay out.  The photo above looks just like my car, but I just took it off a Ford web site, because I'm a bloody pirate with no respect.  I'm really liking this car.  It's not the fastest, sharpest, or smoothest... but it is fast, sharp, and pretty smooth to a guy that's driven a full sized Bronco for the last two years. 

The top speed is about 135mph, and I've had it up close to that speed.  It was a frightening experience.  This car isn't designed for flat out velocity and the aerodynamics are such that it felt like it wanted to take flight.  The cruise control is pretty much an on/off switch for either full throttle or no throttle.  But it will do well enough for a long trip to Vegas. 

What I like best about this car, is that I can drive around at a higher than approved rates, and the cops generally don't give me a second look.  But if they do, I've got something for them... Fuzz Control is accomplished with a Valentine One radar locator, which probably deserves a better platform than the Contour... but has done well enough. 

Fuel economy is generally in the upper twenties and if I'm driving miserly I can stretch it out to as much as 33MPG.  Mind you, this is a 2.5 liter V-6 built by Ford, so that is pretty impressive stuff.   That's also running premium unleaded, and using 5w Mobil One oil and a Bosche Premium oil filter, and a slightly modified air filter element.


Copyright G H Hill 1998-2055