Looking for new/used car advice

My wife drives a 10 year old Camry, and is looking to trade it in for something more stylish. Today we test drove (well, she drove, I rode shotgun) a Cadillac CTS, a Chrysler 300, and a Dodge Charger. That is both the order of how much we liked them and how expensive they were. She’s doing research online, but I also wanted to know if anyone here has anything to say about them. Any input is appreciated, but I also had some specific questions:

How do the 2007 and 2008 versions of the Caddy stack up?

How reliable are they?

How much difference do the various engine options make to performance?

How hard is it to do minor repairs? The Caddy in particular seemed rather user unfriendly in this regard. I’m not a big car mechanic, but I’d at least like to be able to change the headlights by myself.

The 2008 CTS is a completely redesigned model and is leaps and bounds above its 2003-2007 first generation predecessor. To call it a vast improvement is a bit of an understatement. The brand new Sigma II platform that underpins the ‘08 CTS is the spearhead of General Motors’ current product salvo and is thus far unique to the Cadillac, as no other GM car currently uses it. This new CTS is arguably the most modern and competitive vehicle that GM has ever built, and I’m not just saying that to hear myself speak or to plug GM. It really is a step forward, and it’s been designed and engineered exclusively to take on the best the competition has to offer on a global scale, with models like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, Infiniti G35, and Lexus IS specifically in its sights. Cadillac has made the CTS physically larger than the German and Japanese entry level models, but smaller than their midsize models, while still pricing it to be competitive with the entry level models. Basically, more car for the money. The fit and finish of the CTS interior is probably the greatest testament to Cadillac’s focus on interior quality, as it is easily the best interior to ever to come out of General Motors. Personally, I think the car looks absolutely stunning, and is a mature evolution of the stealthy styling theme established with the first generation model. I was never one to call GM’s products competitive, as even the first CTS was compromised in many ways. This one is a real contender though.

GM’s 3.6L LY7 V6 will be the standard engine, providing 263hp, while the direct injection version of the LY7 (known as LLT) is the high spec engine, turning out 306hp. It achieves this by utilizing direct injection technology over the LY7’s standard port injection, which helps boost power, torque and fuel efficiency. This direct injection version will also serve as the base engine in the larger STS sedan. The list of optional features is quite extensive too, although one of my favorites would have to be the “Ultraview” sunroof, a panoramic sunroof that covers 70% of the rooftop and slides all the way back to the passenger seats.

And FWIW, if your biggest concern is whether or not you’re going to need to change a lightbulb or perform “minor repairs” on a brand new $33,000+ Cadillac when you claim to not have much involvement in car repair/maintenance, then I really think you should focus your concerns on other issues. I don’t see why you’d need to replace anything on it for a long, long time. The HID xenon bulbs are designed for longevity and aren’t about to suddenly crap out. Even when they do become dim many years down the line, it’s not terribly hard to swap them out, although I really can’t say as the adaptive lamp arrays which turn the projectors as you steer could make the process more involved. It’s anybody’s guess, but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who based a car purchase decision on whether or not the headlights were easy to replace. And, as is generally the case, there have never been reliability figures for brand new cars, as we have not yet invented time travel. Only time can tell what a new model’s reliability figures are. The last generation CTS had average reliability ratings, with no more or fewer recalls or TSBs than any other car in its class. If you’re buying a newly redesigned model, you always run the risk of being a first generation guinea pig no matter what kind of car it is. All manufacturers usually have bugs to work out in a first year model, minor though they may usually be.

You seem to know a lot about the specs, but have you driven both generations of CTS? When you stomp on the gas, how much quicker do you get up to freeway speed off the ramp? Which one is better able to avoid idiots who don’t know how to merge? How much more comfortable is the interior?

As for the maintenance questions, neither of us has ever owned a luxury car so maybe I am asking the wrong things. I’m used to being able to change the bulbs, install a new battery, add oil, change the tires, that sort of thing. But I noticed the CTS engine compartment is mostly covered by a bunch of panels. Maybe there’s really nothing there I should poke around in, I’m just curious.

Also, I’m aware you can’t predict the reliability of a new car. That was badly worded. I was referring to the older CTS models, and also the Chrysler and Dodge models.

I currently have a 2006 300C. The Caddy is no match for engine power. I test drove a caddy and I found the 300 to be cleaner design and it provided a better ride over all. The deal I got for the car was the icing on the proverbial cake. After having driven on several road trips and racking up 8000 miles in six months I’m a big fan.

Maintanance-wise I have yet to have any issues with my car.

Oh, and did I mention the engine??
It pulls for days and days. It also has the multiple displacement engine system giving it highway fuel efficiency (real world numbers here) in the 26-29 mpg range which is great ** for a car that produces 340hp and 390ft/lbs of torque**. Not that I engage in street racing but I’ve put Caddy’s to shame.

Besides that, I think it’s a beautiful car design that, even 4 years since it’s release, gets me compliments and stares from people. I’ve never had a car that people have actually commented on in parking lots. The only modification I’ve made was blacking out the windows.

I picked up my car new, but it was a 2006 model that was still in the dealer inventory and he was about to recieve 2008 models. It had been stored away and wrapped in placstic, and when it arrived the dealer and I unwrapped it like Christmas morning! I got it fully loaded for the price of the base model. Look for leftover 2007 models. I’m sure you’ll get a deal.

Don’t get it in black… That color’s taken!

I have a 2006 300 Limited AWD with the 250 hp V-6. Plenty of power, handles great, rides great, killer sound system. I’ve had a couple of minor warranty issues with it. But it’s a head-turner. This is the first car I’ve owned where people come up to me to ask about it and compiment its looks.

Sorry, DustyButt, mine’s black too.

I had one real issue with my 2003 CTS: A temperature sensor malfunctioned, and was replaced under warranty. I had one “fake” problem: There was slight condensation under the rear clear plastic fascia, and I had Cadillac replace that (also under warranty) so I could get the 2005 rear fascia, which was a solid color. I sold the car with ~44K miles on it, and those were the only things that went wrong with the car while I owned it.

In my experience (having owned five Cadillacs), they are extremely dependable cars. As far as the 300C goes, I’m sure the accelleration is lovely, but how does it handle? I used to autocross my CTS.

ETA: One of the issues that you will have with a Cadillac is the awful resale, but you will find that with any American car.

Has your wife tried test-driving the 2008 Accord? (Assuming that we can discuss cars other that those listed…let me know otherwise)

I just bought the new v6 '08 Accord, and it has a great interior, looks sharp (I get questions about it in the parking lot, too), and has lots of smooth, delicious power.

I ask because I see your wife went from a Camry to lookign at a Caddy (sporty version), a Charger, and the newer 300. IMHO, this tells me she wants a sportier ride, not all obaty like the Camry (YMMV). The Accord is tight and likes to run.

Oh, and my FIL has the Hemi 300, and LOVES it. He drives a lot for work, and he still can’t believe this was one of his company-car choices. He’ll buy it after the 2 year waiting period.


This is an advantage if the OP were sensible and bought used.

The near-luxury segment has a fair number of less popular models with awful resale values that are otherwise pretty good cars, if not quite good enough to command full asking price when new. Have you (Sturmhauke, not Necros) tried out a Lincoln LS V8? Or a Jaguar XK? Both have the excellent aluminum AJ-V8 engine, and if you want to spend a bit more for an XK-R or S-type R, you get the even better supercharged version. Jaguar’s continued and undeserved reputation for “British” oil-leaking reliability, and Ford’s generally inept marketing, makes then very good value for well-informed buyers in the used market, who are willing to look beyond the usual BMW/MB/Audi yuppie gang.

This thread made me think of a comment I recently made to my teen driver about our 5- and 7-year-old Toyotas, "These are my favorite kind of cars - reliable and paid for."

And is FWD (where’s the barfy smiley?).
I agree, though, that buying used is the way to go, especially with a Cadillac. Wish I had taken the same advice. But buying a used 2008 isn’t possible just quite yet. If you wait around a few months, and search nationwide, though, you may be able to find a demo or returned car you can get for a lot off the sticker.

Just as a comparo, though, I paid $32K for the CTS, brand new, sold it three years and 44K miles later for $18K. Ouch.

As others have said, the 300C (with Hemi) definitely has more scoot than the CTS, but they are two different animals. The CTS is small and nimble, and the 300 is big and … a bit less nimble. I hesitate to call it floaty because it’s very responsive car for its size, but it’s not going to outhandle a CTS around a corner or in an evasive maneuver. Neither car is inherently better than the other, it all depends what you prefer. The 300 makes up for a lack of handling prowess with it’s much smoother ride. As far as interiors go, I think both the first gen CTS and 300 have pretty plasticky interiors, but the 2008 CTS interior is fantastic compared to its cheapish and comparatively drab predecessor. I guess that could be a moot point if you’re looking to buy used, though, but I think the 300 interior is also a bit on the cheap side. Sorry 300 owners, I like the car too but that interior is rather meh. I’d like to know whose idea that cheetah-spotted faux woodgrain was.

Wow, the '08 CTS interior is nice!

Yes, I admit… It has alot of plastic, but that’s kind of relative. Plasticky interiors are the great dividing line between expensive and alot less expensive. A car that has a first rate interior devoid of plastic will cost you… deep.

The “California Wood” option is almost a must so that you don’t have to have the translucent plastic interior in the 300.

As far as handling goes… the AWD model is extremely nimble… RWD, not so much, but the electronic stability system does a good job of keeping you out of trouble.

And if you want even more power… the 300C SRT8. It’s **scary **fast.

Well, it’s not like the SRT8 goes unchallenged. Cadillac has the CTS-V. Better power to weight ratio than the SRT8 and it has the handling chops to boot. The next CTS-V will absolutely blow the doors (and the hood, and the trunklid) off the SRT-8 … when it comes out, anyway. And it’ll have that swank interior too. Granted, the CTS-V is more money, but you get what you pay for. I doubt the OP is looking to drop forty or fifty large on a fire breathing road missile either way. :smiley:

The road missile is not entirely out of the question, but we’d have to take a hard look at our finances. We have discussed waiting for used 08 Caddys to appear also. So far she’s only test driven the cars I mentioned, but we’re willing to consider alternatives. One thing she’s keen on is an integrated GPS system. Aftermarket ones are a possibility too, but they have to be shoehorned in somewhere. The GPS on the Caddy was pretty nice. The 300 had one too, but you need to insert a map disc and we didn’t know to ask for one before the test drive so I couldn’t play with it.

Says who???

The basic understanding is that it’s a drivers race… the SRT8 has the advantage from a dead stop, but the V can only eek past at around 120mph (real world testing) with the driver controlling the auto-stick to take advantage of the dead zone from 40-60mph/2nd to 3rd gear shift in the SRT8. And even then it’s only by a door length. Both cars can produce sub-13sec 1/4 mile times and sub-5sec 0-60 times fresh off of the dealer lot.

The 300C (not the SRT8 model) does 0-60 in 5.5 to 5.3 seconds (real world numbers) so even with saving a few bucks you get a formidable freeway ramp car that gets over 26mpg at highway speeds.

Personally, I believe that most of the action and fun on the road happens between 0-85mph… anything more and you really should be on a track. Other drivers aren’t your personal obstacle course. But that’s just me!

So I submit that both the 300C SRT8 and the CTS-V are both scary fast in real world driving.

I don’t know if you listen to alot of MP3 music but the 2008 300’s have the option of a MyGig system which is a nav system/radio that has a 40Gb hardrive built in. It’s really nice. I’m not sure what Caddy offers on that front.

I’d also test-drive an Infiniti G35, and in this class the benchmark car has always been the BMW 3-series. They are more expensive, but hold their resale value quite well so they can actually be cheaper to own over the long run, expecially if you plan to sell the car after only a few years. If you need to get into the price of the Caddy, you could look at a 1 or 2 year old used BMW. Check out the 330i.

If you want to move slightly down in price, the Saturn Aura, Subaru Legacy, the new Saab 9-3, and a few other cars in that class are very nice.

Says General Motors. The new CTS-V will continue to be the recipient of whatever engine the next tuned Corvette (Z07?) will be using. Some say it’s a 7.0L LS7 generating 500hp, but recent speculation suggests a supercharged 6.2L generating even more than that. Some speculation says up to 600hp, though I think that’s a bit optimistic. Take into consideration the fact that the new car is still almost 200 lbs lighter than the 300. Do the math and you get a little over 8lbs/hp compared to the SRT’s 10lbs/hp. I’m not sure why you went into a hypothetical drag race between the two models, as even the current CTS-V’s acceleration figures are a perfect match (if not slightly better) to the SRT8’s figures because their power-weight ratios are nearly equal at around 10lbs/hp. The second the Chrysler has to change direction even slightly, it begins to lose any perceived advantage. The new CTS-V will be taking it to an even higher extreme not only in performance but also in build quality. I would expect nothing less considering it’ll likely cost at least $15k more than the SRT8, though. Cadillac is really going for the gold this time.

They offer factory integrated MP3 player support in the armrest in addition to an integrated 40GB hard drive that allows storage of GPS nav data and eliminates the need for a disc, and the drive can also store music and offers a DVR-like feature allowing pausing and rewinding of satellite radio signals.

I also agree on checking out the G35 if something in the $30,000 range is within consideration. It’s a wonderful piece of machinery. The big V6 sounds and feels more like a small V8, and I don’t think bang for your buck gets much better than the G35 in the realm of RWD performance. You can pick those up used for pretty reasonable prices. If you’re not in the $30,000 new car range though, do take a look at the Saturn Aura as Sam suggested, or its new corporate twin, the next Chevy Malibu which goes on sale in early 2008, if you can wait that long. I think the new Malibu will be a champion of value when it comes out. It’s nicely sized, very stylish, and starts in the low $20’s.

Both the last generation CTS-V and the 300C and SRT-8 should be heavily discounted from list price, because of poor sales, the CTS doubly so since the 2008 model is going to be a major redesign. You should have plenty of bargaining room which is rare for a performance oriented car (you can always count on GM and/or Chrysler to come through on that one)

Check the time slips from people who have tested their cars at the track, and not by calculating from the brochure.