On the Road

Cadillac's CTS

In the 1940s and '50s, Cadillac designers looked to the P-38 fighter for inspiration. The result was the tailfin. Today they look to the F-117 Stealth fighter, and to fine jewelry and optics. The result is the new CTS ($29,900), Cadillac's first real competition for BMW and Mercedes.

The New Look Cadillac's new design philosophy, which it calls Art and Science, marries the company's dramatic, luxurious shapes with its history of introducing new technology, from the self-starter to the automatic transmission. Diamond-faceted and anticurve, the look proclaims new energy at Cadillac. Says chief designer Kip Wasenko, "It evokes the emotions of great Cadillacs from the past and at the same time Cadillac's vision for the future."

A Long Way from the Tailfin The new design language was first enunciated in the Evoq concept car of 1998 and brought to market in the hot Escalade sport utility, ride of choice in Hollywood and hip-hop since it came out in 2001. In the CTS, Cadillac wraps the concept around a car whose lines, crackling with energy, are backed by European-style performance: a new 220-hp six-cylinder engine, a German transmission, sophisticated suspension and braking, and rear-wheel drive. Its sheer planes, taut surfaces, and hewn body really stand out on the road. Due out next spring: the XLR roadster, a sports car with a fold-down hard top.

Window to the Soul The CTS's headlights are wonderfully precise, like pieces of high-tech jewelry, made up of mirrored angles like a diamond turned inside out. The high-intensity halogen lamps are super bright—like lenses in a fine optical instrument, says Wasenko.

Consumer Alert The radar-evading abilities of the Stealth fighter that inspired the sedan do not translate to the highway.