Car Tech: Cadillac CTS. Some hits..some misses
It has been a while since I drove a North American Luxury car..and the Cadillac CTS Coupe Premium AWD certainly qualifies in spades..that I had forgottten how cool an experience it is..all soft leather and lots of chrome and everything automatic. But now to the tech.
This Cadillac is equipped with GM’s tried and true Onstar system and what can I say about it that you don’t already know. It’s low key, a few buttons on the rear view mirror and it just works. But the monthly charge can get expensive if you subscribe to all the whistles and bells.
Your first look at the entertainment/nav system will be in the eyebrow mode..it normally shows the basics the station the Radio Data System (RDS) info such as song title and artist and the current temperature..but, you can customize the display.
Pop up the eyebrow and prepare to have your breath taken away The huge LCD screen reveals itself with all the entertainment options..AM/FM radio, XM Satellite Radio, CD for the single CD player, Music from the 40 gigabyte hard drive or Aux for your iPod or MP3 player. The audio is pumped to a Bose 10 speaker system that will rock the car.
The radio has a really cool feature..live pause just like your PVR at home”say the phone rings while you are listening to a really interesting talk show at a point where you don’t want to miss a word. Simply press the pause button on the console and your live audio is paused until you can get back to it. You can even skip back and forth within the buffer..I don’t think this feature is available anywhere else other than GM’s high end systems.
There are dozens of customization settings to adjust the tiniest detail..look at this screen for setting the date and time.
Next comes the Nav system..the big bright hard drive based map is almost perfect. Good mapping..streets are well labelled and the touch screen is just sensitive enough. Even if you are not using the turn by turn navigation system and you are on the highway the system will display information on the next three exits..I found it to be a very handy feature. Also the map displays clear icons for nearby points of interest such as gas stations, ATM’s, restaurants etc.
The turn by turn Navigation system worked well with good routing and clear directions..it even handled French street names pretty well. As you approach a decision point the screen splits and shows you the next turn. On the highway it clearly shows which lane you should be in far in advance.
Traffic information was okay as far as it went..the XM Satellite based system gave you the option to avoid traffic problems if you are using turn by turn but, surprisingly it was not as accurate or complete as the free traffic information on Google Maps.
The Bluetooth Hands free System paired with my phone with no fuss but, it uses a voice tag system rather than downloading the address book from the phone. That means you have to individually program tags for all of your frequently used contacts. The voice command system is awkward at best..first you have to long press the steering wheel button..a short press will only mute the radio. Then there is a clumsy transfer from the system to Onstar which handles phone calls. And don’t think you can make it simpler by pressing the phone button on the rear view mirror..that uses the Onstar phone system and if you haven’t subscribed to the service, it won’t automatically switch to your cell phone.
But at least it understands instructions most of the time which is more than I can say for the rest of the system. I can’t tell you how often the radio changed stations when I wanted it to do something else. Entering a destination by voice command is so cumbersome you would be better off to pull over and enter it manually.
GM and Nuance need to go back to the drawing board on this voice command system..too bad..because otherwise this is a great entertainment/nav system but the integration of the voice technology needs to be more accurate and better integrated.
All that said the overall experience was pretty good..most of us don’t use turn by turn that often, so entering the destination manually isn’t a big deal and once I figured out the system’s idiosyncrocies I was able to make phone calls, change radio stations and adjust the climate control fairly reliably. Above all this is a luxury car that remembers my seat, steering wheel and mirror settings..all soft leather and wood trim…and a heated steering wheel.