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Cadillac CTS Tops Consumer Reports’ Tests of Luxury Sedans but Reliability Remains an Issue

January 5, 2010

CTS outpoints Acura RL, Mercedes-Benz E-350, Audi A6, and Lincoln MKS

YONKERS, N.Y., Jan . 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Cadillac CTS posted an “Excellent” overall score and outpointed competitors from Acura, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Lincoln in Consumer Reports’ testing of five luxury sedans for the February 2010 issue.

The CTS earned an “Excellent” overall road test score of 84, outdistancing freshened versions of the Acura RL, which earned a “Very Good” score with 80 points, the redesigned Mercedes-Benz E350 and freshened Audi A6 and which both earned “Very Good” scores of 79 points, and the Lincoln MKS which earned a “Very Good” road test score of 75 points. The CTS trails only the Infiniti M35 among all luxury sedans in the category that CR has tested, but below-average reliability prevents CR from recommending it.

“With excellent driving dynamics, a smooth and punchy drivetrain and a well-furnished interior, the CTS outscores some of the best imported luxury sports sedans,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut. The CTS trails only the Infiniti M35 among the 13 luxury sedans that have been rated by CR.

The new E350 has a slightly roomier interior and retains the same high quality materials and fit and finish of the previous E-Class, but it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor’s great ride and handling. The Audi A6, now five years old, still holds its own against even the newest luxury sedans. The Acura RL has a smooth and refined powertrain, but it’s not the most exciting sedan to drive. The Lincoln MKS came with the uplevel EcoBoost turbocharged engine, which is bundled with AWD.

In an Auto Test Extra, Consumer Reports also tested the Lexus HS 250h, a new hybrid sedan that received an “Excellent” road test score of 83, slightly higher than the Prius.

Prices for the luxury sedans as tested ranged from $50,660 for the Acura to $55,245 for the Mercedes-Benz. Only the Acura is recommended. The Mercedes-Benz is too new to have reliability data. Because CR tested the Audi A6 3.0T and MKS Ecoboost with newly introduced engines, CR cannot predict their reliability. CR only Recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s Annual Auto Survey of its more than seven million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

Full tests and ratings of the luxury sedans test group and the Lexus HS 250h appear in the February issue of Consumer Reports, which goes on sale January 5. The reports are also available to subscribers of www.ConsumerReports.org. Updated daily, ConsumerReports.org is the go-to site for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news and car buying information.

The CTS gives up virtually nothing to the premium European cars tested in terms of refinement, powertrain, ride, or handling. The ride is supple and controlled and handling is agile and sporty. The Cadillac CTS Premium RWD ($50,995, Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price as tested), is powered by a 304-hp, 3.6-liter 6-cylinder engine that delivers lively performance and gets 19 mpg overall in CR’s own fuel economy tests. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts responsively. Braking is excellent. The interior is plush, with well-fitted padded panels and nice touches of wood and chrome. It has a moderately-sized trunk.

The Acura RL is a pleasant and refined car, but the driving experience isn’t special enough to justify its $50,000 price tag. The car is full of electronic conveniences, but the ride and backseat are not as comfortable as those found in competing vehicles. Handling is sound, but less sporty than most of its competitors. The Acura RL AWD, ($50,660, MSRP as tested), is powered by a 300-hp, 3.7-liter V6 engine that is smooth and slick and delivers 19 mpg overall on premium gasoline. The five-speed automatic transmission is very smooth and responsive. Braking is very good. The RL’s high-quality interior has impeccable fit and finish. For a car in this class, the RL’s trunk is modest.

The redesigned E350 doesn’t ride as comfortably or handle as well as its predecessor. Handling is still capable but not exceptional, and the ride isn’t as absorbent as before, but still the E350 is quick and quiet, solid, comfortable, and luxurious. The Mercedes-Benz E350 RWD, ($55,245, MSRP as tested), is powered by a 268-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine that delivers smooth and strong performance and 19 mpg overall on premium fuel. The seven-speed automatic transmission usually shifts smoothly. Braking is very good. The interior is nicely finished with padded panels and high-quality materials. The trunk is good-sized.

Audi freshened the A6 with a new, supercharged engine that improves performance while retaining decent fuel economy. Handling remains responsive and secure, the seats are very comfortable, and the interior is nicely finished. The A6 Premium 3.0T Quattro AWD, ($53,075, MSRP as tested), is powered by a 300-hp, 3.0-liter supercharged V6 engine that delivers strong acceleration and 20 mpg overall on premium fuel. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. Braking is very good. The rich interior is trimmed with high-quality materials and panels are tight-fitting. Trunk space is good.

The MKS, which is based on the Ford Taurus, doesn’t do much to set itself apart for its higher price. It has many amenities and well-finished interior but the driving experience is ordinary. The Lincoln MKS EcoBoost AWD, ($52,770, MSRP as tested), is powered by a 355-hp, 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 engine that provides strong performance and gets 18 mpg overall. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly. Braking is very good. The inviting interior has thickly padded and stitched panels and nicely detailed front perforated-leather seats. The MKS has a good-sized trunk, but its opening is very short.

Though pleasant overall, the HS 250h doesn’t have the refinement, quietness, and ride comfort associated with the Lexus brand. The cabin is narrow, and handling is unexciting. The Lexus HS 250h Premium Hybrid, ($38,939, MSRP as tested), is powered by a 187-hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder hybrid electric/gasoline engine that delivers adequate performance and excellent fuel economy at 31 mpg overall. It can drive up to 26 mph on electric power alone. The CVT transmission works very smoothly. Braking is very good. The interior trim uses high-grade materials. The trunk is modest.

With more than 7 million print and online subscribers, Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Web site and owns and operates a 327-acre Auto Test Center in Connecticut. The organization’s auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To subscribe, consumers can call 1-800-234-1645 or visit www.ConsumerReports.org.

FEBRUARY 2010

© Consumers Union 2010. The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for commercial or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports® is published by Consumers Union, an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect. To maintain our independence and impartiality, Consumers Union accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. Consumers Union supports itself through the sale of our information products and services, individual contributions, and a few noncommercial grants.

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