Greetings

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Greetings

Post by elvin315 on 5/22/2008, 04:01

Hello. My name is Elvin Rivera. I've owned my 2001 Catera Sport since November 2006. I'm a member of other Catera and Omega sites so some of you may already know me. I tend to ramble so I ask your forgiveness in advance. Instead of the usual intro I thought I'd do a little Catera review. I'll say out front that I love my Catera but that love isn't a blind one. She has some warts. I think the newer owners here might appreciate the heads-up.

I remember liking the Catera from its intro in the magazines back in '97, and the Steinmetz concept car, but quickly dismissed it. Cadillac's stupid Cindy Crawford and Ziggy the duck promotion made a joke of the car before it had a chance to establish itself in the market. Why would I buy a car that wasn't even respected by its division? Yes it had problems but if Cadillac was serious about selling a competitive sport sedan they could have addressed these issues. They hated this car. Still do. The Catera was forced on them by GM. It was not a homegrown Cadillac project. It's based on the Opel Omega, specifically the Elite and MV6 models, a German car bred to fly down the Autobahn and attack twisting alpine roads. So what does Cadillac do? Detune the engine from 210HP down to 200HP and limit the top speed from 150MPH to 125MPH. They softened the suspension too.

Within days of buying mine I had to have the heater Bypass Valve replaced after it gushed half the antifreeze. I didn't do my homework. If I had I'd have had the seller inspect and replace it prior to my taking possession. I saw a pretty car at a great price, and a Cadillac to boot. Now I know better. I later replaced the leaking camcover gaskets. The crankcase breather clogged, forcing oil past the gaskets, and onto the exhaust heatshields where it burned and smoked. Just recently the Crankshaft Position Sensor (CPS) failed and left me stranded. I'd still buy a Catera but with more knowledge I wouldn't have felt so taken. If you have a Catera that looks good on the outside, here's what to look for on the inside.

  1. Have Cadillac check the VIN for the cam-belt tensioner bulletin #02041A. This is critical. If the tensioner seizes the belt will break and the pistons will bend the valves. This service must be done every 4 years/40,000 miles.
  2. Have the Heater Bypass Valve hehind the engine inspected. Consider having it replaced regardless. It's not expensive as Cadillac parts go and the labor is easy. If left to leak it can damage the DIS ignition pack on the '97-'99s.
  3. Check the engine oil for coolant contamination. It will appear as a cream colored residue under the oil filler cap and maybe the dipstick. Wipe it off and drive the car at operating temp for 30 minutes. If it doesn't reappear it was probably normal water condensation and boiled off. If it reappears it could be antifreeze. That means the oil cooler is leaking and needs replacement. Another relatively easy and cheap repair if you do it yourself.
  4. With the engine running, check the coolant tank for bubbles or an exhaust smell. That is probably a blown head gasket. It's not common but it does happen. We suspect worn out coolant is to blame.
  5. The cam cover gaskets can leak and drip oil on the exhaust heatshields and create smoke. This is too expensive to leave to Cadillac. Order the gaskets and have a trusted local garage do the work, or DIY.
  6. Check the tire wear. Cupping or feathering can indicate the need for alignment. It could also mean worn or broken lower suspension arm bushings.
There are other things like weak door stays, broken brake switches, and heater control malfunctions. More irritating are the computer glitches and sensor failures which happen without warning. Given the level of electronics in cars today and the harsh environment they operate in I doubt the Catera is worse than other cars. Again, we know from experience which symptoms point to which sensor or computer. A failure is never an easy thing to endure but this is the 21st century and electronic controls are here to stay. Thanks to great people like those who hang out here and on the other sites, the answers are available and you can go to your chosen service facility armed with knowledge. I mention these things in the interest of honesty but aside from the HBV, CPS, and cam cover gaskets I haven't experienced any of the other stuff. My Cat scoots like her tail was on fire, handles like she was on rails, and stops on a dime. Remember, your looking at cars that are 7 to 11 years old. Lots of wear and tear is possible if the owners didn't take care and perform the maintenance properly. Shop wisely.

I love how my Catera looks. Some call the styling dated and bland. Sue me. I like it. It's soft and aerodynamic compared to the new edgy stealth fighter look Cadillac is pushing these days, and the Japanese styling the Germans have adopted with all sorts of accent lines and weirdness. Just look at the MBs and BMWs. They make me gag. Might as well be Hyundais. There are Catera body kits but you must realize that the car has been out of production for 7 years. If you want body stuff from Irmscher, Steinmetz, and others you'd better hurry. It's becoming scarce. Check the Omega sites and Euro Ebay. The Catera has a roomy, comfortable cockpit for the driver and I never hear the passengers complain (except for the rare one stuck over the rear seat's hump). I frequently spend 6 hours or more behind the wheel and arrive without stiffness or sore spots. The seats are supportive and bolstered but not enough to keep my big butt planted in the fast twisties I relish. Cateras used to have Recaro racing seats as an option but not my car. The wheel does tilt and places my arms in the right position for good control. The interior styling is clean without Cadillac's traditional bordello plushness. It's still very Teutonic. I prefer the 2000 - 2001 cars for the front and rear exterior treatments and the more logical window & door controls inside.

And then there's the engine performance. The Catera is overweight (3815 lb.), and, compared to her direct competitors, underpowered (200 hp.) but that only counts if you're planning to race her. For normal, and even slightly illegal, driving she is a joy. The transmission has a Sport setting that lets the engine rev to the redline before shifting to squeeze every horse out of it. And this engine loves to spin. She is thirsty though and drinks 93 octane. Other than the K&N style intakes that add a raspy sound but little performance there's not much engine stuff here for an orphan like the Catera. Still, we do alright. There are owners exploring engine swaps but those are still in the project stage.

If you have a preference for sporty ride and handling you need a 1999 - 2001 Catera Sport. The Sport suspension is stiffer than standard and tuned for the backroads. There is little body roll and the 17 inch low profile tires keep the car planted. The '99 Sport has a slightly softer suspension than the 2000 - 2001, and 16 inch wheels, but does get those great Recaro seats. The Catera's brakes are adequate but could be better. Luckily the GTO and Catera have common ancestry. The front calipers & hoses from the 2003 - 2004 Pontiac GTO are a direct bolt-on. Combine them with performance discs and some C5 Corvette performance pads, and you'll have all the braking power you'll ever need. There are other suspension upgrades like Eibach lowering springs and Koni, KYB, or Bilstein dampers for after the OEM stuff wears out. GTO front and rear springs, along with its rear shocks fit but not the front struts. Front and rear suspension braces are available but from only from Germany or the UK.

As I said, I think the Catera is a great car but if you're looking for a dependable daily driver, the kind you can ignore maintenance schedules and subject to abuse, the Catera isn't for you. If you want a driver's car that, like a thoroughbred horse, requires some attention .............. welcome aboard.

Elvin

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elvin315

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Re: Greetings

Post by skruntie on 5/22/2008, 05:02

Hi Elvin, welcome to the forum. Very Happy
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skruntie

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Re: Greetings

Post by ARMY_MP_From_MO on 5/22/2008, 06:05

Hi Elvin. Welcome!
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ARMY_MP_From_MO

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Re: Greetings

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