Cadillac Catera (1996)

Cadillac Catera (1996)

Cadillac Catera (1996)This is by far the best-handling Cadillac ever...assuming you're under 70years old. Those over 70 may find the ride a tad stiff, and may miss that30-degree lean into the corners. I'll tell you what I really like aboutthis car: It's VERY European. The handling is very sporty and flat incorners. The engine is plenty powerful. The transmission is supersmooth.The interior is (unbelievably) understated, tasteful, and nicely sized. Andit's not overdone with fake walnut and chrome. The leather seats are firmand comfortable. The Bose audio system will actually play things other thanWayne Newton (the Sedan de Ville comes with the radio welded to the Big Bandstation).

This is a breakthrough car for Cadillac. And the price is quite reasonable,at about $35K pretty well loaded. The question is, will anybody buy it? Imean, I drove it because that's what I do for a living (other than drinkcappuccino and insult my brother). But will other, normal people who up tonow "would never be seen in a Cadillac" be seen in this Cadillac? It's hardto know. I'm sure Cadillac is dying to find out, too.

Here's where the Catera falls short, in my humble opinion: It's horrible inthe snow. At least ours was. It may be the tires, but our test car wentabsolutely nowhere in the snow, even with traction control. If you live inthe Snowbelt and you want a Catera, plan on getting four excellent snowtires, and even then we can't guarantee that you'll get around. The stylingis bland. The shape is nice enough, but the full-width taillights remind metoo much of an older Subaru Legacy. The power window switches are betweenthe front seats, where your winter coat is always blocking them. Why notput them on the door where God intended them to be (Saab, take note, too!)?In going European, Cadillac also mistakenly gave up one of the true Americantechnological advantages: fast power windows, which they seemed to haveexchanged for the Euro-poky variety. And, finally, there's the enginenoise. On acceleration, it sounded like a Chevy Lumina. I found a similarannoyance in the Lexus ES300. It seems as though these cars want to bethought of as "sporty," so they make the engine roar when you step on thegas. Guys, for $35K, I want some peace and quiet on my way to work. If Iwant to hear the engine roar, I'll open a window, OK?

But this is a very interesting and promising car. It'll be interesting tosee how the quality holds up, and if Cadillac becomes acceptable to thenon-AARP generations. We'll see. In the meantime, if you buy one be sureto fill out our ownership survey, so we can learn more about thiscar, and hopefully give Cadillac a pat on the back for a change.

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