Cadillac Catera

The Cadillac Catera was famously marketed with commercials featuring Cindy Crawford and a cartoon duck named Ziggy as "The Caddy that zigs." Yet all the cutesy allure of the commercials did nothing to detract from the criticism the car received. The cartoon duck was an opportunity to make the brand cool, but the car's mechanical bits didn't quite live up to its expensive marketing campaign until the end of its model run.

More on the Cadillac Catera
Cadillac Catera Origins

The Cadillac Catera is a midsize car, made by General Motors from 1997 through 2001. The car was first manufactured in Rüsselsheim, Germany as a rebadged, top-of-the-line version of the European Opel Omega sedan before Cadillac offered it in North America. The engine was produced in England.

The Cadillac Catera suffered from mediocre sales and faced criticism for being unreliable. It was discontinued in the 2001 model year, replaced by the more angular (and far more reliable) Cadillac CTS.

About the Cadillac Catera

A slew of problems are at the heels of the Catera, or rather, the tires. The design of the Catera leads to premature wearing of the rubber. This is due to bad alignment settings on the original models. The faulty alignment also causes drifting that requires constant correction to solve.

In addition to the tire wear problems, the car exhibits many different issues. The brakes squeal on the early models. The calipers were redesigned in 1997 to resolve the issue. The climate control display tends to flicker on the 1997 and 1998 models. This problem was solved with the addition of a new computer chip. Dashboard lights exhibit the same problem, but this is due to wiring issues. Oil leaks also occur, due to a faulty gasket cover or plug.

Most troubling of all are the problems is the Mass Air Flow Sensor (MAF). The MAF, when faulty, causes poor air intake in the engine and makes it fail. This repair costs about $400 to $500 for parts alone. The Engine Valve Timing System also exhibits faulty workmanship. A bad Engine Valve Timing System can cost you between $700 and $900 dollars for parts. These engine problems are exhibited on all models between 1997 and 2001.

A strange steering and suspension problem popped up in the 1997 model. This issue is fixed in later designs. Heating and air-conditioning are also an issue on the 1998 (where the heating and cooling completely fail) and on the 2001 model.

Faulty idler and tension pulleys on the cam of the vehicle cause the timing belt issues. Pulley issues are the priciest of the bunch, setting you back around $1000. The Ignition Lock Cylinder also fails on the 1997 model. This causes the key to get stuck in the ignition. Although this is a cheap repair it is often a recurring one. Add to that the faulty oil coolers and bad timing belt (which often causes the engine to fail), and the Catera is more liable than reliable.

Costs of the repairs on these known issues can vary, but the brake and alignment issues will run anywhere from $500 to $1000 for parts. The design platform used by the Cadillac Catera was used for the Pontiac GTO before the platform was discontinued altogether in 2006. However, many of the parts in the GTO were not shared between the two cars.

Cadillac Catera Evolution

The first Cadillac Catera model was introduced in 1997. The unit contains a 3.0-liter V-6 engine and has a 4L30 four-speed automatic transmission as well.

A sport model was introduced in the 1999 model year. Mainly, the sport version offers a lot of new trim but leaves the faulty mechanics intact. An eight-way adjustable seat for the driver (with driver’s seat memory), new lamps, a rear spoiler, and anti-theft devices make up the new additions to the machine. The exterior of the car was remodeled in 2000, as well as the trim on the inside. A new tail, nose, wheels, and mirrors were added to the Catera. Side airbags were added in 2000 as well, improving the vehicle’s safety rating.

No matter what model of the Catera you find, leave it. They may come cheap, but the amount of money necessary to keep one of these cars running far outweighs any initial savings.

Select a Cadillac Catera Year

2001 Cadillac Catera

Luxury, Sedan


The 2001 Cadillac Catera represents the smallest Cadillac ever designed, yet it still offers the same luxury and style as all the others.

ESTIMATED RESALE: $2,861

MPG
18-24
Seats
5

2000 Cadillac Catera

Luxury, Sedan


The 2000 Cadillac Catera is a midsize luxury car that represents a rebadged version of the Opel Omega.

ESTIMATED RESALE: $2,736

MPG
18-24
Seats
5

1999 Cadillac Catera

Luxury, Sedan


The 1999 Cadillac Catera is a midsize rear-drive automobile.

ESTIMATED RESALE: $2,581

MPG
18-24
Seats
5

1998 Cadillac Catera

Luxury, Sedan


The 1998 Cadillac Catera is a German engineered sedan and has an attractive late 1990s body design.

ESTIMATED RESALE: $2,426

MPG
18-24
Seats
5

1997 Cadillac Catera

Luxury, Sedan


Cadillac responds to the rise in entry-level luxury sedans with the 1997 Cadillac Catera.

ESTIMATED RESALE: $2,301

MPG
18-25
Seats
5

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