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Are Cadillacs Good Cars or Should You Avoid Them at All Costs?

Cadillac was one of the first automakers to ever be established globally. The brand dates back to 1902 and its long history is filled with prestigious awards and “industry firsts,” however, it’s reliability ratings in the past decade have been slipping. Considering that Cadillac is one of the forefathers of the American automobile industry, their cars must be good, right?

A strong start

2016 Cadillac CTS sedan adds connectivity, safety technology to award-winning luxury sport architecture.

The early to mid-1900s was a great time for Cadillac. The brand saw engineering success when it came to creating the first V-type, water-cooled 8-cylinder engine and also offered more than 500 different vehicle colors to choose from at a time when color pallets were more monotone. Around the 1940s, Cadillac introduced the use of a tailfin wing on their cars (adapted from aircraft technology), which ultimately played a part in the brand winning the first-ever “Car of the Year” award.

The rest of Cadillac’s history is peppered with them engineering large engines that could run without coolant for up to 100 miles and other engines that produced large amounts of horsepower. One of their latest claims to fame is the 2009 CTS-V model, which blazed through the Nürburgring in a record-setting 7 minutes and 59 seconds. For those who don’t know about it, here’s a video for a refresher:

A steady decline

One of the major arrows in Cadillac’s quiver was their Northstar engines, which were a series of V6 and V8 engines engineered using overhead cams and featured a “limp home” mode in which enabled the engine to be driven without any coolant for up to 100 miles. It’s a nifty feature and it most likely came into good use as multiple Cadillac owners experienced a multitude of issues with their Northstar engines over time.

The Northstar engine line was phased out around 2011 and the brand switched to using turbocharged four- and six-cylinder engines to obtain similar power and better fuel economy. Smaller engines meant smaller cars, as Cadillac introduced the ATS sedan in 2013 and rode out the success of their ever-popular CTS sedan, which was produced from 2003-2019. The latter car achieved great reviews, even winning Motor Trend’s “2014 Car of the Year” award. However, as time would tell, the reliability of these Cadillacs would prove questionable.

Reliability is an issue

Cadillac ATS 2019

The most recent Consumer Reports list of “Brands That Make The Best Vehicles” list shows Cadillac as being 29th on the list out of 33 total brands. They listed reliability and owner satisfaction as major pain points and a closer look at Consumer Report’s individual car reports tells us why.

Taking a look at the individual reports for current and past Cadillac models shows that multiple cars including the CTS, ATS, and the Escalade were rated with a 1 out of 5 reliability rating and similar marks for overall owner satisfaction. Multiple recalls might have been a factor as well. For example, the 2014 CTS had six different recalls, with the most notable being “seats that don’t stay secured” and faulty electrical and ignition issues in which “the airbags may not deploy, if the key is not in the ‘run’ position.”

The future

The 2020 CT5 provides a refined ride while maintaining the world-class handling and fun-to-drive characteristics that define Cadillac sedans.

Cadillac has since revised their complete model line up to include sedans like the CT4 (replacing ATS), the CT5 (replacing CTS), and CT6, as well as SUVs like the XT4, XT5, and XT6, all of which tout newer technologies, lighter bodies, and more-efficient powertrains. While this new line up does look promising on paper, the jury is out on whether or not they’ll live up to the success that the brand once had.

Consumer Reports rates all of Cadillac’s new models a 1 out 5 for predicted reliability, and Car and Driver’s review of the new CT5 pointed out that it’s not as good as the CTS sedan that it replaced, with the main highlight being an easier-to-use infotainment system.

Good or bad?

Does this mean that Cadillac makes bad cars? Yes and no. Although, we might just be hopeful. Given Cadillac’s stout history, we would say it’s up to the buyer’s discretion on whether or not to put a Cadillac on their shortlist. But if it were up to us, we would probably stay away.