Posts Tagged ‘German’

Test Drive: 2001 Cadillac Catera

On January 6, 2012, I test drove a 2001 Cadillac Catera at Empire Auto Sales in Hemet, California. The car has a beige exterior with a beige leather interior. It has 104,000 miles, with an asking price of $5,999. The Catera has a L81 3.0 liter V6 Engine that produces 200 horsepower @ 6000 rpm, and 192 lb-ft of torque @ 3600 rpm. The car has rear wheel drive, and a 4L30-E transmission, which is one of General Motors’ 4 speed automatic units. The Cateras were not engineered or assembled in the United States. They were originally from Germany. The Cateras are based off of the Opel and Vauxhall Omegas for the European market. There were also Omega wagons for both the Opel and Vauxhall brands. In Europe, many Omegas were used in law enforcement more so than as luxury cars. Between the Omegas and Cateras, there are not many significant differences. The Cateras first debuted in the United States as 1997 models. In 2000, the cars underwent a facelift. In 2001, the Cateras were discontinued, and were replaced by their popular successor, the CTS (Catera Touring Sedan). The Opel/Vauxhall Omega production ceased after the 2003 model year. While the Omegas were well known in Europe, Cateras were not very popular in North America. Now, let’s get back to the test drive.
I first went to San Jacinto which is next to Hemet because on the dealer’s website the car was listed at Empire Auto Sales’ San Jacinto lot. When I got there, I didn’t see the Catera. I asked a salesman if they still had the car on the lot, and he told me it was at the Hemet lot. He called the other dealer to tell them I was coming, and then gave me directions on how to get there. The two dealers were only four miles apart from each other. When I got to the Hemet lot, I met with a salesman named Dave. He pointed to the car outside, and I took a look at it while he was getting the keys. The body style of the car looked sporty, but its roundish shape doesn’t fit for a Cadillac. From a distance, somebody may think it’s a Chevy Malibu, Ford Taurus, or a Chrysler. The Catera did not have many noticeable blemishes. No dents that I can recall; just some scratches on the rear bumper, and the Cadillac crest in the grille was missing. After Dave got the keys, I tried using the keyless entry to unlock it. It was broken so I unlocked it manually. The Catera’s interior looked outdated for a 2001. It looked as if it was from another Cadillac or Buick from the late 80’s to mid 90’s. The driver’s seat was plushy when I sat in it.
When I started the car, I made sure that the electrical parts worked such as the seat, mirrors, and windows. The front passenger’s window switch for the passenger didn’t work (only the switch for the driver worked), nor did the passenger mirror when trying to move it to the right. The rear view inside the car was slightly loose when moving it, but still intact. The shifter knob was unusual because it has a button on top of it and another one on the bottom. The top one I found out was for the sport mode. Dave wanted to go with me on the test drive, so I didn’t get to have the chance to drive it where I wanted to go. When backing out of the space, I thought the rear visibility wasn’t the best when looking over my right shoulder because of the head rest. The car’s V6 engine was not the fastest one I have driven. I’m guessing it would take 8 ½ seconds to go from 0-60 miles per hour; At least when the transmission worked properly. When I came to my first stoplight, it apparently didn’t go to first gear. I wasn’t sure if it had to do with the sport mode. When I tried to take off, the engine revved, but it barely moved forward. After keeping my foot on the gas for about five seconds, it caught up to speed. I wanted to drive the Catera on more open roads with less traffic so that I could get a better feel for the power. I did make a few sharp turns and a U-turn, but I didn’t think it was enough to get to know the car. After turning around on a cul-de-sac, I drove back to the dealership. Dave wanted to know what my cell phone number was. Instead of giving it to him, I give him my mom’s fax number, and of course I didn’t tell him that it wasn’t really my number. The test drive was disappointing because there was traffic, and I was mostly driving straight.
When I got home, I checked the suggested retail value from Kelley Blue Book. It was $4,900, so the dealer was asking about $1,000 more than what it was actually worth. I also read some consumer reviews about the Cateras and I was very surprised by the number of negative reviews I came across. There were a few people that had so many problems with their cars that they couldn’t even trade them in. Many of the problems were oil leaks, blown head gaskets, transmission slips, deteriorating timing belts, electrical malfunctions, and the craziest one I’ve read were the seat warmers burning through the seat cushions! Many have also said that the Cateras were the absolute worst Cadillac ever made! What’s funny is that underneath, it’s not really a Cadillac; it’s an Opel. One of the most common issues I saw in these articles was the tires. A lot of owners stated either that the tire tread on their vehicles did not last long, or that they would lose a lot of air. No wonder why I don’t see a lot of Cateras on the road. These cars are probably junk! Overall, the Cadillac Cateras are sporty looking cars, but they do not have Cadillac looks to them, and they most likely were built with shoddy craftsmanship. After reading other articles, I would never buy nor suggest buying a Catera. If you are planning to purchase a Catera, do it at your own risk.
Photos taken by Empire Auto Sales.


Test Drive: 1994 Mercedes-Benz E420 (W124)

On December 26, 2011, I test drove a 1994 Mercedes-Benz E420 at Ocean Imports in Huntington Beach, California. The car has a two tone black and grey exterior with a black leather interior. The car had 154,000 miles with an asking price of $2,950. The E420 has a 4.2 liter V8 engine (codenamed M119) that produces 279 horsepower @ 5700 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque @ 3900 rpm. The transmission is a 4 speed automatic with a rear wheel drivetrain.
The W124 E-Class was produced from 1986 to 1995. It was one of the most popular Mercedes vehicles ever produced with a wide variety of engines in the European market, from 2.0 liter four cylinders to limited production 6.0 liter V8s. There was also some turbo diesel engines available, but not as many for the U.S. market. Throughout the years, the most common W124s seen in the United States are the 300E (1986-1993). Those have 3.0 liter inline six cylinder engines. There was also the 260E and the 300E 2.6 models (both have the same 2.6 liter inline six motor.) For the 1994 model year, the W124 was refreshened with new headlights, grilles, taillights, and engine options. In 1995, The W124 was replaced with the W210 E-Class. Now let’s get back with the test drive.
When I saw this E420 listed on, I thought that it was rather cheap. It looked to be in good condition, but I though it was worth looking at in person. I went to the dealer and the car was parked in a garage.The salesman pulled out the Mercedes and he told me to take it for a spin. He didn’t look at my license, nor did he go with me. Before taking off I looked around the car for any damage. There were scrapes on the front bumper, scratches everywhere on the paint that can only be seen in person in bright sunlight, and a dent in the rear between the trunk lid and the rear bumper. The exterior needed washing. The interior was not too dirty and It was in good shape, except for a tear in the driver’s seat. I tested many of the electrical components before driving and the only issue I came across was the driver’s window switch for the left rear window. It rolls down but not up. I was able to roll up the window by using the switch for that same window in the backseat. The sunroof worked, but as you open it more it started working slower. I’m not sure if it the motor was worn out, but for the most part it works.
When I put the car in drive, it started vibrating, but not too much. When I took my foot off the brake petal it went away. The car drove very well and it doesn’t have a sports car feel to it. The V8 engine gives plenty of power for the car’s size. The Mercedes didn’t feel like a big car either. It reminded me of my grandfather’s 2001 Cadillac Deville. The E420 felt like a smaller version of the Deville with more nimble steering. The air conditioner and radio both worked fine. When the radio is turned on the antenna in the back will pop up; then goes down when turned off. There was no CD player unfortunately, so It only plays tapes. At one point I accidentally turned on the windshield wiper and it took me a few seconds to figure out how to turn it off. This car only has one wiper instead of two like on most cars. It moves at 180 degrees to cover the windshield. The E420 also has one wiper for each headlight, but I didn’t take the time to figure out how to use them. It wasn’t too important; besides, most cars that aren’t Benzes or Volvos from the 80’s and 90’s don’t have them.
It was a good test drive, but when I backed the car into a parking spot, it started vibrating again, and more so than when it was in drive. I’m thinking that the transmission was in need of work, but I’m not sure. If it did, then it would be very expensive since this was a $50k-$60k car back in its day. The buyer of this car should definitely have a mechanic take a look at it and request the dealer to order a Carfax on it before buying. Maybe the dealer knows that something is wrong and that’s why they’re selling it for so cheap. The current Kelley Blue Book suggested retail value in excellent condition is $6,100. This E420 does have some exterior blemishes so I would suggest it being in fair condition. I found another ad for this car on Craigslist, but they were asking only $2,500. That is a good deal for this car, but there could be a lot of catches to it. I checked the blue book values for private party. It was $4,708 for excellent condition, and $3,583 for fair condition. If I were to buy this car, I would not pay anymore than $2,500 like it said in the Craigslist ad. Although the car’s not the prettiest and the mileage is high, I would love to buy it.
Overall the Mercedes-Benz E420 is powerful and spacious without a big car feel. There’s not much that’s considered unique about this car either. The 400E and E420 models are not as common as the 300E and E320 models. The W124s are not too hard to find, unless you are talking about the 500E or E500 models which are rare. I think there are also E60s which no one knows about. If you want a W124 Mercedes, then buy one. I’m sure you can find one in good condition if you start looking. They are not hard to find and many of their owners have kept them in good shape for a long time.
Photos taken by Ocean Imports.