Cadillac CTS: Test Drive
06 November 2007
|Price range:|| £28,000-£33,000|
|Key rival:|| BMW 5-series|
Stop me if you've heard this before, but the new CTS is the car that signifies the start of Cadillac's assault on the UK market.
Cadillac has, in fact, been back in the UK for around 18 months, but not many people will have even registered its presence thanks to sales yet to break into four figures. So GM UK has now taken control of the brand after what can only be described as the failure of dealer group Pendragon, which was originally handed the responsibility in the UK.
The BLS, based on the Saab 9-3, will remain the biggest-selling Cadillac, but the new executive model CTS that arrives in the UK next summer represents the beginning of the brand's efforts to be a serious alternative to the prestige German marques.
Cadillac execs are keen to point out the improvement in interior quality, and on that score the CTS is certainly the best thing Cadillac has done. The firm claims that several interior surfaces are hand-sewn, and the result is a decent finish.
The switchgear is logically laid out and has a much better feel than the BLS' Saab parts-bin stuff, while the audio options will include a feed to run an iPod through the stereo (so the car's audio controls function in the same was as the iPod controller) and a 40GB hard drive for saving music files.
The exterior styling is unmistakably American and works well if it's distinctive looks you're after. The sharp nose is, however, anything but subtle thanks to the big chrome grille, and the white-out tail lights make the car look odd in lighter colours.
The 2.9-litre diesel won't arrive until mid-'09, so from launch there will be a choice of 210PS 2.8-litre or 311PS 3.6 engines. The latter sounds great and offers enough power, although when mated to the automatic gearbox that's likely to prove most popular, it comes in above the top 240g/km benefit-in-kind tax barrier and averages just 25.4mpg. It also comes with the harder of what could be two suspension settings that will made available; Cadillac has yet to decide whether to go with a softer setting for the smaller engine for the UK. The harder setting, though, isn't nice over rougher surfaces, and bobs around unpleasantly on the motorway. The hefty 18-inch wheels won't have helped.
The problem for Cadillac remains that it's competing against some of the best cars in the business. While interior quality and the engine are both good, it has plenty of work to do to persuade drivers to switch, especially when the brand is yet to convince the RV experts, making the costs case more difficult to justify despite an initial pricing advantage.