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First drive: Cadillac STS - on sale summer

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Review

Cadillac’s entry into the UK market is a chicken and egg situation. The American prestige brand currently has only one dealership, Pendragon’s site in London’s Park Lane. Nevertheless the product roll-out is well under way.

The Cadillac STS is introduced to Europe’s executive saloon sector this month, but UK customers desperate to be first to own one will have to make do with left-hand drive from this summer until the right-hookers arrive in 2007.

Cadillac & Corvette Europe expects UK sales to barely break into triple figures this year as a result. It’s keeping the price under wraps during final negotiations with its retail partner Pendragon, but the importer says the STS will rival highly specified 5-series and E-class.

User-choosers will account for about 50% of sales – the chance to be one of the first Cadillac drivers in the UK is the car’s great opportunity.

From many angles the STS is unmistakably American, thanks to signature Cadillac touches like vertically stacked projector headlamps, LED rear lamps and a long, high-level brake light. Yet in side profile it looks almost European, and the interior remains tastefully luxurious. The launch editions we drove had a plush Tuscany leather option and ventilated seats. Less luxurious leather is standard.

The 3.6 V6 will take 60% of sales, although on the road it’s a tough choice between it and its 4.6 V8 brother. The 17in alloys on 50 profile tyres give it a slightly softer ride than the V8, which has 18in alloys and 45-profile rubber. Yet the V6 engine becomes harsh when pushed. The more powerful V8 is a smooth cruiser, helped by two-stage adaptive damping selected through a complicated driver information centre. A stack of standard equipment ensures both models remain attractive.

Strengths: Quality finish, strong spec, torquey V8
Weaknesses: Long wait for RHD, tricky info centre, V6 harsh at revs
Opportunity: STS will attract the individualist
Threat: Brand snobs will still buy German
USP: It’s a Caddy
Prices (est): £30,000-£40,000
Engines: 3.6-litre V6 VVT (257bhp); 4.6-litre V8 VVT (325bhp)
Transmission: 5spd auto with driver shift control, rwd
Performance: V6: 0-62mph 7.4sec; top speed 143mph V8: 0-62mph 6.2sec; top speed 156mph
Efficiency: V6: 22.7mpg, 295g/km CO2 V8: 19.6mpg, 343g/km CO2
CAP RV (3/30k): TBA
Rivals: BMW 5-series, Lexus GS, Mercedes-Benz E-class, Audi A6, Volvo S80

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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