Get Sporty - Upscale Sport Sedan Comparo.

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Jun 25, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Luxury Sports Sedans > Two Untraditional American Cars Top This Group of Upscale Sedans.

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    American luxury cars have long been synonymous with plush comfort and a serene ride. In the past few years, however, America's two most prominent luxury brands - Cadillac and Lincoln - have introduced cars intended to go head to head with the best luxury sports sedans.

    In contrast to their predecessors, models such as the Lincoln LS and the attention-getting Cadillac CTS are now emphasizing nimble handling and quick acceleration over comfort. And based on their top performance in this evaluation, they are both very strong competitors in their class.

    Luxury sports sedans are typically more sure-footed when cornering and more responsive to the driver. This makes them fun to drive and can provide safety advantages in emergency situations. The trade-off is often a firm ride that can border on uncomfortable. The best models in this class provide good performance as well as a reasonably comfortable driving experience.

    When introduced for 2000, the Lincoln LS's taut ride and sporty handling were a radical departure for the company known for large, soft-riding luxury cars. Numerous changes for 2003 have kept the LS competitive and up to date.

    The new American designed Cadillac CTS replaces the old German designed Catera, and is one of the most talked about new cars this year. The Infiniti G35 is also new for 2003 and offers a spirited powertrain. The Saab 9-3 was redesigned for 2003 and now offers better handling. The Nissan Maxima, which used to be a family sedan, has been redesigned for 2004 and is now comparable in performance, features and price to the other cars in this group.

    The as-tested prices range from $32,230 for the Maxima to $38,790 for the LS. Sedans in this price range are often the low-priced entries for their respective luxury brands. They typically provide more features and newer technology than family sedans. According to our annual subscriber survey, luxury brands also generally provide a better buying experience. But the cars aren't necessarily that much better. In fact, the V6 Volkswagen Passat, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry are reasonable alternatives for thousands less.

    A note to families with children: We found the straps for attatching LATCH child seats in all five cars to be deeply recessed and difficult to use.

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    The Return of Rear Wheel Drive

    Along with the growing number of sports sedans is a parallel movement toward rear-wheel drive. This bucks the trend toward front-wheel-drive sedans that began in earnest in the '70s.

    FWD provides better traction in inclement conditions, is more space-efficient, and minimizes the driveline buldge that runs down the center of the cabin. However, when coupled with a powerful engine, FWD can produce excessive front tire wear and a condition called torque steer - a tendency under strong acceleration for the front wheels to briefly pull the car off its intended line.

    RWD works better for sports cars. It allows engineers to design a car with optimal front-to-rear weight distribution, which helps handling and ride comfort. It also allows the front wheels to be used for only one thing - steering. This is why automakers such as BMW have always produced predominantly RWD cars.

    Because the best FWD designs minimize their shortcomings, the difference between the two can be more theoretical than practical. Unless a car is pushed to the limits daily, most drivers will never notice a difference.

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    1st Place - Lincoln LS Premium

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    Highs - Ride, handling, transmission, controls
    Lows - Reliability, shallow trunk

    The Lincoln LS is the most well-rounded car in this group, and one of the highest-ranked in its class. It strikes a near perfect balance between luxury and performance, delivering agile handling, strong acceleration, the most comfortable ride, and the quietest cabin here. Unfortunately, its reliability report has been worse than average, preventing us from recommending it.

    The Driving Experience

    The LS's improved ride is firm, with muted bumps and controlled body motions. Its supple highway ride is unaffected by a full load.

    Responsive handling is complemented by quick, precise steering with good road feel. On our track, the LS felt stable and balanced. It posted a commendable speed in our avoidance maneuvers, helped by its stability-control system. As an added safety feature, the system activates the braking lights when engaged. The 232HP V6 and automatic transmission provide smooth and responsive performance, but isn't as quick as some of the others cars here. We averaged 19MPG overall. Braking performance was consistent and excellent.

    Inside the Cabin

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    The well-trimmed interior has a rich look and feel. The driving position is excellent for all drivers, thanks to power adjustable pedals, seat and steering column.

    The front seats are very comfortable and supportive, though the seat cushion may be a touch short for taller drivers. The ventilated seats in our car had fans to blow air outward, helping cool the driver and front passenger on hot days. Front access is good. The rear seat is comfortable and provides ample room for six-footers as well as three adults across. Access can be difficult because of the slope of the roof and door frame.

    Gauges and displays are legible and most controls are lit at night. An obscured dimmer, hazard controls, and the lack of a tuning knob for the sound system were minor gripes.

    Cabin storage space is improved, with numerous cubbies, pockets, and storage spaces. There are sturdy cup holders front and rear. The trunk is shallow but folding the rear seats can expand the available space. With the rear seats up the trunk can swallow three suitcases with room to spare.

    0-60 - 8.3 sec.
    1/4 mile - 16.4 sec.
    Avoidance speed - 53MPH
    Stopping distance - 142 ft.
    Curb weight/weight distribution - 3,700 lbs. (52/48)
    Turning circle - 40 ft.

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    2nd Place - Cadillac CTS

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    Highs - Ride, handling, transmission, well-calibrated stability control
    Lows - Minor controls, some interior details

    The Cadillac CTS has a sportier character than the Catera it replaces and the Lincoln LS. We liked its capable handling, comfortable ride, and quick acceleration. But the car lacks some features common in this price range, like a telescopic steering wheel, adjustable lumbar, and an illuminated glove compartment. The CTS is too new to predict reliability.

    The Driving Experience

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    The low speed ride is taut, yet effectively absorbs bumps. The highway ride is steady and composed. Wind and road noise are well suppressed.

    The CTS handles like a true sports sedan. It corners avidly with little body lean and the steering is well weighted and communicative. The turning radius is excellent. When pushed to the limits, the CTS provided excellent tire grip and balanced behavior. It sailed through our avoidance maneuvers quickly and with confidence, thanks in part to its effective stability-control system.

    The 220HP V6 in our CTS delivered lively performance, and we averaged 20MPG overall. The five speed automatic shifts quickly and smoothly. Automatic equipped CTS models now offer a new 255HP V6. Braking performance was excellent.

    Inside the Cabin

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    The interior is generally well-trimmed with a mix of high quality leather, wood and chrome. However, some of the switchgear doesn't offer the smooth operation we expect in this class. While the driving position is good, the high dash and window line can made some testers feel claustrophobic.

    The leather front seats are exceptionally comfortable for drivers of all sizes. The large doors offer easy access. Two passengers fit comfortably in the rear. There's adequate room for three, but head room is tight in the center position. Sturdy overhead grips assist rear seat access.

    The gauges are clear and easy to read. Most controls are brightly lit and logically placed. The sound system and information computer take some time to learn.

    The glove box is small, but there are alternative storage areas offered. The sturdy front and flip-down rear cup holders feature removable liners for easy cleaning. Lowering the rear seat expands the trunk. The lack of a grab handle made closing the trunk lid difficult for some testers.

    0-60 - 7.1 sec.
    1/4 mile - 15.6 sec.
    Avoidance speed - 54MPH
    Stopping distance - 132 ft.
    Curb weight/weight distribution - 3,620 lbs. (52/48)
    Turning circle - 37 ft.

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    3rd Place - Nissan Maxima 3.5 SE

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    Highs - Acceleration, spaciousness, braking performance
    Lows - Ride, turning circle, torque steer, windshield reflections, gauges

    Redesigned for 2004, the Maxima has improved over the previous model. We like the quick, refined powertrain and roomy interior. However, a stiff ride, pronounced torque steer, and a wide turning circle kept it from ranking with the top models in either the upscale sedan or family sedan categories. The Maxima is too new to predict reliability.

    The Driving Experience

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    The ride is stiff and jiggly. Quick and frequent body motions make the car feel nervous and unsettled even on smooth pavement. Overall noise isolation is very good aside from some tire hiss.

    Compared to the previous model, this Maxima provides improved handling and steering response. But it still feels less sporty and isn't as agile as the other cars in this group. Its 44 foot turning circle also hampers maneuverability in tight spaces. The steering suffers from considerable torque steer under moderate to hard acceleration. On the track, handling was predictable and secure. The Maxima posted a commendable speed through our emergency avoidance maneuvers.

    The 265HP V6 is smooth and powerful. The Maxima delivered 21MPG overall. The five speed automatic shifts smoothly, but not as seamlessly as the CTS or G35. Braking performance was excellent.

    Inside the Cabin

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    The interior is generally well-trimmed but lacks a luxury feel. The steering wheel has power tilt and telescope adjustments, helping any driver find a comfortable position. The dash is set low for good visibility, but the view rearward over the tall trunk is limited.

    The supportive leather seats are firm and front seat access is easy. The rear seat offers generous room for three adults. The seat cushion is shaped well and offers good support. Entry and exist is uninhibited.

    The gauges are clear, but the dashboard's metallic finish produces considerable reflections in the windshield. Controls are intuitive, though the seat and steering wheel heater controls are hidden. The cruise control and power mirror control are unlit at night.

    The Maxima has a variety of storage locations, and there are two covered, sturdy cup holders in the front and rear. Many testers found folding the rear seat to be difficult.

    0-60 - 6.8 sec.
    1/4 mile - 15.6 sec.
    Avoidance speed - 51MPH
    Stopping distance - 137 ft.
    Curb weight/weight distribution - 3,545 lbs. (61/39)
    Turning circle - 44 ft.

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    4th Place - Infiniti G35

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    Highs - Acceleration, ride, transmission, sound system quality
    Lows - Controls, tricky handling at the limits

    The Infiniti G35 is a pleasant enough car with notable drawbacks. Its powertrain is strong, refined, and very quick. We also liked the G35's comfortable ride and interior. Its handling is generally agile, but when pressed to the limits we found this car can get much harder to handle than the others here, even with stability control. We also found some controls to be unintuitive and frustrating to use. The G35 is too new to predict reliability.

    The Driving Experience

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    The G35 provides a comfortable and well controlled ride. Ride motions are well damped and the highway ride is steady. Wind and road noise are nicely suppressed.

    Handling is fairly nimble in routine driving. The steering is responsive but does not provide as much feedback as other cars in this class. When pushed hard into a corner, letting off the gas encourages the rear of the car to slide out - an effect that the stability control system works hard to control. The G35's speed in our avoidance maneuvers was high, but wasn't as predictable as the other cars here.

    The 260HP V6 delivers strong performance while still achieving 20MPG overall. The five speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and responsively in either normal or manual shift mode. Braking performance was excellent.

    Inside the Cabin

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    The interior is nicely finished but controls and ergonomics drew many complaints. The gauges move up and down with the steering wheel, but neither the wheel or the pedals adjust for reach, forcing shorter drivers to sit uncomfortably close to the dash.

    The heated front leather seats are comfortable, but short on thigh support for tall drivers, and the power adjustment controls are poorly marked and confusing to use. The rear seat is comfortable and sufficiently roomy for a pair of adults, but too narrow for three.

    Most drivers found the illuminated gauges legible, but the window switches are set low on the door, and the power mirror controls are hidden. There's adequate storage space, two sturdy recessed cup holders in the center console, and two more in the flip down rear armrest. A small, lockable pass through in the rear seat lets you carry long, narrow items like skis. The rear seat cannot be folded forward to expand trunk space.

    0-60 - 6.8 sec.
    1/4 mile - 15.4 sec.
    Avoidance speed - 54MPH
    Stopping distance - 133 ft.
    Curb weight/weight distribution - 3,515 lbs. (53/47)
    Turning circle - 39 ft.

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    5th Place - Saab 9-3 Vector

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    Highs - Handling, braking performance
    Lows - Ride, noise, rear seat space

    The redesigned Saab 9-3 is a huge improvement over the previous model, but there are still better choices in this class. Handling is now much more sporty, capable, and enjoyable. Braking performance was excellent, achieving the shortest stopping distance we've ever recorded for a sedan. With the move to a sedan configuration, the 9-3 has lost its hatchback versatility. An otherwise nice package is also marred by a stiff ride, pronounced road noise, and a cramped rear seat. The 9-3 is too new to predict reliability.

    The Driving Experience

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    The Saab's ride is stiff, with each impact making a jolt into the cabin. The 9-3 was also the noisiest car here, with constant road noise and rumbling from the performance tires that come standard on the Vector trim level.

    The suspension does provide stable, nimble and forgiving handling. The well weighted steering is quick and direct. At our track the 9-3 exhibited tenacious grip and it posted the highest speed fo the group through our avoidance maneuvers.

    The 210HP four cylinder engine lacks the low end punch of the other cars here, but delivers relatively quick performance. Expect 21MPG overall. The five speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and offers a manual shift mode. On wet pavement the 9-3 stopped shorter than most cars do on dry.

    Inside the Cabin

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    The cabin is nicely trimmed and includes firm, well shaped, leather seats. The driving position is very good, with a wide outside view and easy access to the controls. The steering wheel adjusts for tilt and reach, but the flimsy lever is hidden. Taller drivers may find head room a bit tight.

    The front seats are well sculpted. Lumbar support is adjustable, but difficult to use. Getting in and out is made awkward by the car's low stance and roofline. Rear seat room is tight, though head room is good. Three adults will fit uncomfortably in the rear. The limited rear foot well also makes access tricky.

    The cruise control is clumsy, and the unlit mirror controls are hard to reach. Storage options include a deep glove box. A single center mounted cup holder is adjustable for various sized drinks. A cup holder can also be flipped open from the dash, but it's very flimsy. A pair of shallow cup holders also spring from the center of the rear seat's bottom cushion. The rear seats can be folded to increase trunk space.

    0-60 - 8.1 sec.
    1/4 mile - 16.4 sec.
    Avoidance speed - 56MPH
    Stopping distance - 120 ft.
    Curb weight/weight distribution - 3,420 lbs. (60/40)
    Turning circle - 37 ft.

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    Overall Rankings of Upscale Sedans - The ratings listed below ranks cars based on how they performed and compared to each other in our tests. Price as tested and reliability history is also listed.

    1. BMW 330i - $40,470 - below average reliability
    2. Lexus IS300 - $33,275 - excellent reliability
    3. Lincoln LS Premium - $38,790 - much worse than average reliability
    4. Mercedes Benz C320 - $41,155 - much worse than average reliability
    5. Lexus ES300 - $38,170 - better than average reliability
    6. Cadillac CTS - $38,455 - N/A
    7. Audi A4 3.0 Quattro - $37,250 - below average reliability
    8. Nissan Maxima 3.5 SE - $32,230 - N/A
    9. Acura 3.2TL Type-S - $33,980 - excellent reliability
    10. Infiniti I35 - $33,245 - average reliability
    11. Infiniti G35 - $34,885 - N/A
    12. Jaguar X-Type 3.0 - $39,375 - much worse than average reliability
    13. Volvo S60 2.4T - $35,055 - average reliability
    14. Saab 9-3 Vector - $37,505 - N/A

    Upscale sedans balance performance and luxury in different ways. At one extreme are cars like the Lexus IS300 and Saab 9-3 which emphasize performance at the expense of comfort. At the other end are the Lexus ES300 and the Infiniti I35 which provide serene, but less exciting driving experiences. Cars like the BMW 330i, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G35, and Lincoln LS are a good balance of the extremes. Reliability problems have consistently dogged the highest ranking cars in this class, such as the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Lincoln LS and Mercedes Benz C-Class.

    Recommended Models

    If performance is most important,

    Cadillac CTS
    Lexus IS300
    Infiniti G35

    If comfort is most important,

    Lexus ES300
    Infiniti I35
    Volvo S60 2.4T

    July 2003 - Consumers Union
     
  2. Dr_Trac

    Dr_Trac doh!@

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    me want CTS. :hs:

    but me no want $340 monthly insurance. :mad:
     
  3. Mountain Dude

    Mountain Dude Here it comes, and there it goes, another day in d

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    Frankly I'm not that surpised about the placement of the Saab.
     
  4. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    I am. :sad2:
     
  5. Yoritomo

    Yoritomo dad's jar chimer

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    that's a weird test. Almost seems the opposite of the other tests out there :confused:

    But then again consumer reports was never very performance oriented., Oversteer is the devil to them. They prefer understeer.
     
  6. SenenCito

    SenenCito OT Supporter

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    CTS > G35 :bigthumb:
     
  7. VBGOD

    VBGOD Guest

    Lincoln LS :cool:
     
  8. Yoritomo

    Yoritomo dad's jar chimer

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    I just buy their car issue every year and make sure I only buy cars with lots of little red circles on reliability issues.
     
  9. Left

    Left Lakers Fan For Life!

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    God, I love driving our CTS, I couldn't recommend it any more, it's a GREAT car. :wiggle:


    What does avoidance speed mean?

    Stopping distance from how many MPH?
     
  10. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Avoidance maneuvering tests simulate emergency swerving and stopping situations in real life driving, it shows how well a car handles when suddenly pushed to the limits (this also caused SUVs like the Suzuki Samurai, Isuzu Trooper, and Jeep Liberty to tip up on two wheels). The faster the speed and more stable the handling the better.

    Stopping distances are from 60MPH.
     
  11. HisXLNC

    HisXLNC ๑۩۞۩๑ Hot ๑۩۞۩๑

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    So basically they ranked it from most expensive to cheapest?
     
  12. LoveBack

    LoveBack Guest

    The CTS is hot. Id take that long before that G35 thing. And now that it has more power, its even more appealing.
     
  13. IspitHotFire

    IspitHotFire 3 Greatest rappers of all time ? Dylan, Dylan, and

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    G35 Sedan > *
     

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