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The Cadillac name is synonymous with quality and luxury among domestic automakers. Considering new car prices and production issues, many buyers turn to a preowned Cadillac CTS for a bargain and immediate selection. 

Cadillac built the midsize CTS luxury premium sedan from 2003 to 2019, but you’ll want to avoid six of those model years if you want a reliable luxury car. 

What you get with the Cadillac CTS

According to Edmunds, the Cadillac CTS, introduced in 2003, was the first model to “employ Cadillac’s new ‘art & science’ design philosophy” as the once preeminent luxury brand attempted to compete with Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz in the “entry-level luxury sport sedan segment.” 

The base CTS, equipped with leather seating and dual-zone climate control, started at about $30,000 and offered two option packages to boost the car’s luxury and sport. A 220-hp 3.2-liter V6 powered all 2003 CTS models through either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive.

By the end of the CTS’ production run in 2019, a reviewer from Car and Driver felt the newest CTS “provides a breath of fresh air for driving enthusiasts” but may miss the mark from a luxury perspective. Cramped rear seats, inconsistent build quality, and a noisy powertrain top the list of complaints. 

The Cadillac CTS suspension is, again, oriented more toward sport than luxury, a trade-off that appeals to some drivers more than others. Cadillac replaced the CTS with the CT5 for the 2020 model year, but Autotrader says the CT5 is “a fourth generation CTS with a slightly different name.”

Avoid these six Cadillac CTS model years

As with many vehicles, the first year of a new model or redesign typically suffers quality issues, and the unloved 2003 Cadillac CTS is the same. While some complaints involved cosmetic problems and excessive tire wear under 16,000 miles, engine failure is the most expensive complaint reported by owners. In addition, CoPilot recommends avoiding the 2006 through 2009 and 2014 CTS model years.

The most common serious problems plaguing the 2006 CTS include coolant leaking into the transmission, no engine compression, and internal oil cooler failure. The 2007 CTS commonly suffers from broken timing chains and steering-wheel-position-sensor failures, which it shares with the 2008 model. 

Other 2008 problems include seized engines, worn camshafts, and faulty engine control modules (ECMs). The 2009 CTS saw a new set of issues with AWD transfer case failures and reports of transmission failure under 10K miles. 

For 2014, CoPilot reported problems with the CUE (Cadillac User Experience) infotainment touchscreen and suspension issues. However, the CUE touchscreen issue resulted in a class action lawsuit involving several Cadillac models, including 2014 to 2017 Cadillac CTS models. 

In addition, based on a graphic provided by Car Complaints showing the number of owner-registered complaints for all CTS model years, the 2004 CTS is also suspect.

Which Cadillac CTS model years are more reliable?

Not every model year of the Cadillac CTS is terrible. For example, after what Car Complaints calls the “Worst Model Year” CTS in 2009, Cadillac rebounded, with the 2010 and 2011 CTS model years receiving the fewest complaints until 2015. 

Likewise, from 2015 to the last model year in 2019, the Cadillac CTS received few owner-generated complaints. However, CoPilot recognizes the 2019 model’s desirability as the newest CTS available on the preowned marketplace. 


Most Unreliable Used Cadillac Models Could Burst Your Luxury Bubble