Achieving less than successful results with the European-derived Catera, Cadillac started from scratch in the creation of the mid-sized luxury vehicle to brand needed to lure younger customers. The result was the 2003 CTS furnished by a radical, new Cadillac design language. The mid-sized sedan debuting in 2003 was a rear-wheel drive was immediately greeted as a breath of fresh air from a brand that was believed to have lost contact with modern luxury through the closing decades of the 20th century.
Built for serve as an entry-level luxury car, the CTS also featured a stout suspension and high-performing brakes for responsive handling. The 2003 Cadillac CTS was powered by a 220-horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6 engine that could be paired with either a five-speed automatic transmission or a five-speed manual gearbox. The following year, a higher output 3.6-liter was offered on the sedan generating 255 horsepower. A high-performance alter ego to the sedan called the CTS-V was also introduced in 2004 with eight-cylinder engine power. A manual gearbox incorporating six gears was available for the first time in 2005. Also in 2005, the 3.2-liter engine was replaced with a 2.8-liter powerplant producing 210 horsepower.
In 2008, the CTS received a substantial styling refresh accented by reshaped headlight housing using LEDs and a taller, more prestigious looking front grille. Possessing the same wheelbase as the previous model, the 2008 CTS was slightly larger in overall length. The powerplant for the Cadillac CTS also underwent a major overhaul in 2008. Featuring gasoline direct injection technology, a 3.6-liter V-6 engine developed 304 horsepower. All-wheel drive was provided as an option to CTS buyers with the redesigned sedan. After 2009, the Cadillac CTS line-up expanded adding a new sport wagon as well as a coupe.