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Could Tempt Some. Image by James Jenkins.

Could Tempt Some
Cadillac's latest large saloon offering is said to offer American values with European handling. We find out how it stacks up.

   



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Over the last few years several American brands have been relaunched in Europe and the UK. European and Japanese marques have made serious inroads into the US domestic market and the home brands have had to return the favour to try and regain some of the lost sales. Cadillac's latest range of saloons has been designed to cater for European tastes. The CTS tested here was developed on European roads, including the Nordschleife, in the aim to offer a competitive driving experience.

Cadillac's CTS you see here is said to offer American values with European handling. Straddling the classes, in terms of size and value, it's an interesting new contender. The looks contain many concept car cues and are more edgy than most of the competition. Certainly the angular nature of the design and the light clusters in particular are at odds with the European design movement in recent times, though that is no bad thing.

At the risk of being a hypocrite (following our rants elsewhere on the site bemoaning such things), the CTS needs bigger wheels to look its best. The standard 17-inch rims are lost in the large arches and the proportions of the car as a whole dwarf them. The main positive is that the CTS looks very different to what we're used to seeing on European roads, and turns heads accordingly. This stand-out factor will be enough to intrigue a large number of people into seeking out the showroom.

Once buyers get there they'll find an impressive package on paper and in the metal. Equipment levels are high as you'd expect with the centre screen providing an interface for satnav, stereo, on board information and a TV in the case of the test car. The system has a lot of functionality but isn't the easiest to navigate and looks a little too overstated for some tastes.

The interior space is somewhere in the BMW 5 Series class whereas the price is nearer the 3 Series. Rear occupant space in particular is generous, although some of it is at the price of boot space, which is somewhat limited and hard to access compared to rivals' thanks to the shallow slope of the rear window that leaves a relatively short boot lid area. Front seat space is good with plenty of leg and head room.

Switchgear is logical enough bar two notable exceptions. The switch to dim the backlighting for the clear and easy to read instruments is mounted in the headlining and doubles as the interior light switch. This means that the dash light has to be turned to full strength before an interior light can be lit and the placement is a little odd. However even this oddity is trumped by the placement of the switch for the traction and stability controls housed in the glovebox!

The seats themselves are clad in decent quality leather, but strangely for a car of this ilk, lack support and are a little uncomfortable on longer journeys. The flat base and lack of bolstering (the rear seat especially is a little flat) means occupants move around more than they'd like to during more spirited driving. The driving position is sound, but the half wood (not to all tastes) steering wheel is overly large and the helm itself lacks feel and is perhaps overly light for some tastes.

Up front the 3.6-litre V6 is high tech with variable valve timing on the inlet and the exhaust camshafts, complemented by a dual length inlet tract for optimised breathing throughout the rev range. Producing 257bhp and coupled to a five-speed automatic adaptable transmission it gives the CTS competitive performance. A 0-62mph time of 7.0 seconds and a maximum of 145mph are comparable with the majority of the opposition.

In practice the CTS is deceptively quick and gains speed quickly with the minimum of fuss. Disappointingly the engine is a little uncouth in the upper rev ranges. In isolation it wouldn't be too bad, but consider that the CTS lines up against competition such as BMW's 330i and such a shortfall is more of an issue.

Worked hard, the 1,700kg plus kerb weight sees the 3.6 litres of motive power begin to drink heavily. On some of our test routes we were down to well below 20mpg although high twenties were easily obtained on a cruise controlled motorway jaunt. In these surroundings the CTS is a good performer. The soft suspension set up allows it to soak up the expansion gaps we endure on our motorways and it is a comfortable cruiser.

The soft setup isn't quite so successful when pushing on though. Turn in is sharp enough but body roll is excessive and a little uncontrolled. Once settled in a corner the balance is nice and neutral but the weight transfer doesn't feel contained. Traction out of lower speed corners is all too easy to break and the suspension setup feels lacking in polish. Driven smoothly the CTS is acceptable, but compared to a BMW chassis it is outclassed and doesn't have the composure and finesse to compete.

Overall then the Cadillac CTS is an improvement over most previous American cars that have been offered here in the UK and Europe. It doesn't bridge the dynamic gap between the two continents though and Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW will rest easy. The CTS's trump cards are the ones you'd expect to be core strengths: space, equipment and value for money.

The looks will sell the car to many, the value to others and the overall package is good enough to be considered by all who don't put driving dynamics at the top of their list of priorities. There is a more driver focused CTS-V, but the European allocation sold out last year, though you may still find a few low mileage examples on dealer forecourts. The CTS is a welcome, if somewhat uninspiring, addition to the market place. It doesn't need much more work to make it competitive on all fronts. Chassis and interior finish are the two weakest facets and both could easily be fixed in the future. The CTS doesn't trouble the European establishment, but there are signs that an improved car in the future just might.
Cadillac CTS UK range overview

- Cadillac CTS 2.8-litre Elegance: 24,895
- Cadillac CTS 2.8-litre Sport Luxury: 27,395
- Cadillac CTS 3.6-litre Sport Luxury: 29,895
- Cadillac CTS 3.6-litre Sport: 29,895

Dave Jenkins - 22 Aug 2006



  www.cadillac.co.uk    - Cadillac road tests
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2006 Cadillac CTS specifications: (3.6 V6 Sport)
Price: 29,895 on-the-road (test car was fitted with optional extras).
0-62mph: 7.0 seconds
Top speed: 145mph
Combined economy: 24.4mpg
Emissions: 275g/km
Kerb weight: 1722kg

2006 Cadillac CTS. Image by James Jenkins.2006 Cadillac CTS. Image by James Jenkins.2006 Cadillac CTS. Image by James Jenkins.2006 Cadillac CTS. Image by James Jenkins.2006 Cadillac CTS. Image by James Jenkins.

2006 Cadillac CTS. Image by James Jenkins.2006 Cadillac CTS. Image by James Jenkins.2006 Cadillac CTS. Image by James Jenkins.2006 Cadillac CTS. Image by James Jenkins.2006 Cadillac CTS. Image by James Jenkins.



2006 Cadillac CTS. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2006 Cadillac CTS. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2006 Cadillac CTS. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2006 Cadillac CTS. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2006 Cadillac CTS. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2006 Cadillac CTS. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2006 Cadillac CTS. Image by James Jenkins.
 






 

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