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Cadillac was one of the first automakers ever to be established globally. The brand dates back to 1902, and its long history is filled with prestigious awards and “industry firsts,” however, its 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?

The Cadillac brand had a strong start

A gray 2016 Cadillac CTS
2016 Cadillac CTS | Cadillac

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 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

A black 2019 Cadillac ATS driving
Cadillac ATS | Cadillac

The most recent “Brands That Make The Best Vehicles” list from Consumer Reports 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 Reports’ individual car reports tells us why.

Looking at the individual reports for current and past Cadillac models shows that multiple cars, including the CTS, ATS, and 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 won’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 of Cadillac

2020 Cadillac CT5 | Cadillac

Cadillac has since revised its complete model lineup 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 lineup looks promising on paper, the jury is out on whether or not they’ll live up to the success the brand once had.

Consumer Reports rates all of Cadillac’s new models a one 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.

Does Cadillac make good or bad cars?

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.