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Driven: Cadillac CTS - on sale now


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Cadillac is back in the UK after a seven-year break, and this time for keeps, says GM, which has elevated it to global prestige brand status. Meanwhile, Chevrolet, that other historically romantic American auto badge, is bottom of the heap in Europe (below Cadillac, Saab and Opel/Vauxhall).

Brand strength is an important issue because GM pitches the right-hand drive CTS, first up in this new age of Cadillac, against the likes of the BMW 3-series and Mercedes-Benz C-class.

The CTS is outclassed in this company but has advantages: it is cheaper (£7,000 or so on equipment, says Cadillac UK), larger/roomier – and different. This encourages GM confidence it can find owners for 450 of them this year, and maybe a few more in 2006 when the main event will be the arrival of the smaller BLS.

It made sense for GM to have one Cadillac/Corvette distributor/retailer here, and Pendragon was a logical choice because of its experience selling exclusive brands in the UK and US.

Cadillac tacitly acknowledges that the CTS, based on the 1999 Evoq concept roadster, will rarely get the vote over the best German marques unless money is an issue. But it does see drivers opting for a Cadillac because they want something different, and expects enough to move out of, for instance, the Saab 9-5, to achieve targets.

The major virtues of the CTS (price, freshness, space, pace and road holding) are let down by a suspension that is twitchy on indifferent surfaces, and an interior trim lacking the laid-back quality of an Audi.

The CTS has an air of detachment from the driver, in part because the steering lacks feel. You admire the build quality (it is assembled at GM’s Lansing, Michigan, plant which collected a JD Power Gold quality award last year). The Cadillac does not have the emotional involvement of a Jaguar, though the engine makes a satisfying noise and CTS would make light of a 300-mile journey.

Two V6 petrol engines are offered: GM’s new 3.6-litre (tested) and 2.8-litre, both coupled to the Hydra-Matic five-speed auto box used by BMW on the 5-series and X5.

Also on CTS is StabiliTrak, first seen on the Corvette and now adjusting braking on each wheel of this saloon. Standard equipment includes six airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, aircon, cruise control, power-adjustable heated front seats, eight-speaker Bose radio/six-disc CD) and wood-trim gear knob and door handles).

Strengths: Build quality, equipment/ price
Weakness: Expensive company car emission rating
Opportunity: Return of Cadillac to UK
Threat: Lack of confidence in US badge
USP: Exclusivity for those jaded executives palates
Prices: £24,850 (2.8 Elegance) to £29,850 (3.6 Sports Luxury)
Engines: (V6 petrol) 2.8(215bhp) and 3.6 (257bhp)
Transmission: 5-spd auto, rwd
(2.8/3.6) 0-62mph: 8.4/7.0 sec; top speed: 140/145mph
Efficiency: Both 32.5mpg (comb); 278/275g/km CO2
Rivals: Mercedes C-class, BMW 3-series, Saab 9-5

Also driven: Cadillac BLS Wagon

The 1.9-litre turbodiesel is both quiet and smooth, and the premium positioning of the car is enhanced by an excellent Bose speaker system and comfy leather interior as standard.

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