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2003 Entry Level Luxury Buyer's Guide
by Steve Siler

Cadillac CTS
2003 Cadillac CTS

Knowing how important the entry-level luxury car market is to the success of any premium carmaker, Cadillac up and bet the farm last year on the CTS sport sedan. And although its hyper-angular design does not resonate well with everyone-yet-the CTS has at the very least succeeded in waking America back up to the luxury automaker that was once known as the Standard of the World.

Now, admittedly, the CTS feels a touch too heavy to be called the standard of the sport sedan world, but we can tell you that there's a lot to like about the way it drives, the way it feels inside, and yes, even the way it looks. We, for example, appreciate how the camera-lens headlights creatively incorporate the stacked headlight theme of past Cadillacs into a setting that recalls something entirely different than a Cadillac headlight. We also appreciate how the rising character lines and high decklid assign it a sense of forward movement. It's a design that looks dynamic in metallic colors, and is absolutely striking in black.

The interior of the CTS is almost as techno-themed as the exterior, yet it's more comfortable and user-friendly than you might expect such a geometric environment to be. Some secondary controls are unusual and take some getting used to, but overall, we like the way that creative ways that designers have pushed the envelope. The front seats in particular deserve accolades, being some of the best we've sat in. Also, the standard equipment level is very high, including leather upholstery, a year of OnStar service, dual-zone climate control and six air bags. Optional goodies include a moonroof, a navigation system and even XM radio.

No matter what your take on the styling happens to be, the CTS becomes a thing of beauty when you twist the key. Its only engine is a 3.2-liter V-6 (220 hp) that comes with either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. Cadillac engineers did overtime honing its driving dynamics on the world's most challanging racetracks, and it shows: handling is absolutely terrific, particularly with the speed-sensing steering and sport suspension that come with the Luxury Sport package (which also includes stability control).

Boldly expressive and thoroughly capable, the CTS is a sharp car indeed. Make ours black.