Sabtu, 07 Juni 2008



By Robert Farago

When GM dropped off a Cadillac CTS, the car came pre-loaded with a CD by rapper Obie Trice. I somehow doubt the General figured a taste of gangsta lyrics would help me understand Cadillac's brand transformation. Still, point taken. There was a time when a Caddy wouldn't function without a Carpenters' 8-track turning its middle-aged occupants' brains into mush - assuming the driving experience hadn't already done the job.

Even a cursory glance at the CTS confirms that customer mortality has forced Cadillac into a major re-think. It looks nothing like Grandpa's living room-on-wheels, or the front-wheel-drive, badge-engineered compact Caddies of yore. The CTS is all sharp creases, meeting at odd angles, in weird places. Like it or loathe it, the automotive origami looks sharp enough to draw blood. That said, the design suffers from Peter North Syndrome; once you abandon the head-on perspective, there's nothing much to see.

The CTS' minimalist interior represents another radical departure from the Chandelier School of Design. Zebrano tree growers may despair, but the cabin is no longer dominated by acres of wood polished to plasticity. The textured black plastic covering most major surfaces strikes the perfect balance between funereal and fun. All the displays - from the white-on-black speedometer to the gently glowing climate control pictograms - are equally somber, equally funky. Taken as a whole, the CTS' interior displays a restrained, post-modern sensibility - right down to its bespoke typeface.

The Caddy's cabin scores in two other areas where American luxury cars are regularly trounced by their foreign rivals: ergonomics and tactility.

The DVD nav exemplifies the manufacturer's newfound understanding of its consumers' cognitive function (or lack thereof). Clearly labeled buttons surrounding the central screen offer seamless transitions from BOSE blasting to route guidance, to warning messages, to telecoms and back. The Caddy's helm-mounted volume control thumbwheel should be an industry standard. And let's not forget OnStar. Their terminally cheerful, internet-savvy operators provide the ultimate hands-free information service.

And guess what? Caddy plastic is no longer made of ground-up toothbrush handles. Fingers that once recoiled from cheap and nasty snickgear can now delight in smooth touch controls that respond with damped precision. Someone's also had a word with Cadillac's upholsterer. Where children once disappeared into the endless folds of cushy sofas, the CTS' chairs are firm, clearly delineated and superbly tailored. They even smell nice.

In short, provided you ante-up 12Gs for the optional 1SC Equipment Group and DVD Nav, you couldn't ask for a more convivial atmosphere in which to listen to musical tales of snub nosed .44s, crack dealers and women paid for sexual services.

The 1SC package elevates the CTS' bottom line to a little over $42k. At this price point, there's nowhere for the CTS to hide; the financial damage places Caddy's self-proclaimed "sports sedan" smack dab in the middle of BMW 330i territory. No surprise then that the 1SC upgrade includes a performance package - complete with monotube shocks, improved brake linings, Stabilitrak traction control and a 3.6 liter V6 engine with Variable Valve Timing.

The 255hp CTS accelerates to 60mph in 6.7 seconds— just a tenth of a second behind the 330i. In theory. In practice, the five-speed auto box is dim-witted. Give the CTS a serious throttle command and the engine responds with partial kickdown, followed by a lower gear and a sudden, frenzied lunge for the horizon. With 252ft. lbs. of torque available at 2800 rpms, the 3.6-powered CTS delivers maximum thrust at a variety of speeds. Yes, but… a CTS at full chat sounds like The Rental Car from Hell.

The CTS' handling reveals more dull DNA. Fling the Caddy into a bend and you immediately sense that the company couldn't quite bring itself to sacrifice low-speed comfort for high-speed control. Hence the 17" wheels, which earn neither style nor performance points. While the Nurnburgring-fettled "sports tuned" suspension helps tie things down, it can't compensate for numb steering and remote control chassis. All of which makes the CTS a talented GT, rather than Beemer-beating driver's car.

Is that important? Hell yes. Cadillac knows it can't compete against the Japanese. The Occidentals have built an enormous (not to say insurmountable) lead in the mass market for luxury sedans. Their customers want it all: comfort, toys, reliability, service and price. Sensibly enough, Caddy's aiming its products at a smaller, more emotionally-driven audience: the Euro-snobs. These customers are happy to pay a premium for style, prestige and performance. The rear-wheel-drive CTS nails the first, phones in the second and sniffs around the third.

I'm tempted to conclude by saying two out of three ain't bad. Instead, I'm left shaking my head. If only the CTS had a barrel-chested V8, better rubber, a six-speed manual and better handling. Oh wait, that's the new CTS-V. As Obie says, bring it!


By Robert Farago

Pistonheads believe cars have personality, character and yes, soul. Putting the pedal to the metal in a Cadillac CTS-V, it's hard not to agree. The 5.7-liter powerplant bellows, the tires squirm and the V charges at the horizon with all the determination of an enraged bull heading for a matador's cape. Redline Caddy's 400-horse four-door and she'll give you everything she's got. And man, she's got a lot. The V rockets from zero to sixty in 4.7 seconds and completes the ¼ mile in 13.1. If the V was a bull, I'd want to be one very fast matador.

Amazingly, the CTS-V is not all about brute force. Unlike its rip-snorting cousins– the Dodge Viper, Chevrolet Corvette and Dodge SRT10– the V is a seriously agile whip. As hard as it is to comprehend, the CTS-V, a Cadillac, could well be America's finest handling car. Yes folks, it's true: Detroit has finally produced a car to rival a BMW.

Not buying it? Fling the CTS-V into a bend. Watch the G-forces build on the dashboard's digital read-out. Feel those 18" Goodyear Eagles grab the tarmac like a Rottweiler-gone-bad locked onto its owner's leg. Don't worry about the road surface; the V's Nürburgring-fettled suspension easily dismisses imperfections that would unsettle less competent machines.

Now, adjust your line through the corner. The V's stiffened yet forgiving chassis lets you explore the limits of adhesion without fear of fatality. Unless you completely misjudge a bend or deliberately over-cook it, the car will sail through the most radical radii. Or, alternatively, stop. The V's Brembo brakes shed speed with fade-free brutality and precision.

Thanks to its big-bore V8 and track-tuned handling, there are two ways to exploit the CTS-V's talents. One: finesse the car through the twisties. Stay on the gas, position the car carefully and maintain momentum. Apply power as needed. Two: floor it and see what happens. A reasonably skilled driver can use the engine's 395 ft. lbs. of torque to power in and out of trouble. Drivers favoring the second approach will be pleased to learn that even on its most invasive setting, the "Stabilitrak" nanny allows for some tasty tail sliding before cutting-in to save you from "embarrassment".

OK. You've heard the news: the Cadillac CTS-V is the first US four-door with the driving dynamics of a European sports sedan since, well, ever. Patriotic American enthusiasts have waited decades for a car like this to come along. But let's keep things in perspective. Despite all the buzz about the CTS-V being "America's M5", it's a Caddy, not a BMW, and definitely not a BMW M5.

For one thing, the CTS-V doesn't feel welded-to-the-tarmac like Munich's M-machine. While the V offers Cadillac buyers an unprecedented level of high speed finesse, the brand's luxury heritage demanded a significant measure of ride comfort. The trade-off leaves the CTS-V with no small amount of body roll and a general feeling of daintiness. Ask the car some tricky questions and it gets a bit jumpy, like a cat on a hot tin roof.

The CTS-V is also slower than an M5. Call it axle tramp or wheel hop, but whenever you give the CTS-V's go-pedal a proper pasting there's a God-almighty clunk in the rear. For the crucial first second, the car struggles to get its power down. Even when the CTS-V's electronics and mechanical linkages finally get things organized, the CTS-V lacks the oomph to catch up with the similarly-horsed M5. Not at 60, 70, 100 or beyond.

And then there's steering feel, or lack thereof. While the M5's recirculating ball steering dispenses automotive Prozac, the CTS-V's power-assisted rack-and-pinion system was Novocained at birth. With 3.5 turns from lock-to-lock and nothing to tell you where you are in the turning process, you have to remember not to attack corners too aggressively, lest excessively sharp turn-in makes a complete mess of things. Again, blame Cadillac's luxury bias.

Does that really matter? The M is faster and tidier at extra-legal velocities, but its interior is as dour as German heavy metal. The Caddy's crib is dope. The V also provides a lot more elbow and leg room than the Teutonic tornado. And anyway, the new M5 is about to make the scene with even more power, better handling and a properly weighted helm. It will crush the V. So why not let consumers pay BMW a hefty premium for the ultimate sports sedan, and mop-up the wanna-bees with something a lot cheaper and a little slower?

Because that's not the way Cadillac thinks. Not anymore. Hence the CTS-V "Plus" recently discovered testing at the 'Ring. That bad boy holsters a 500hp six-liter V8 with no-compromise steering and suspension. After caning the V, I predict Caddy's new, feistier beast will meet or beat the best. No bull.


Cadillac STS Ranks #10 in Luxury Large Cars
Overall Score - 7.4 (Good)
Based on U.S. News editors' analysis of 20 leading automotive reviews and test drives, the 2008 Cadillac STS ranks #10 of 11 in Luxury Large Cars.

The newly freshened STS adds more power and better looks to a classic American sedan. Improved for the 2008 model year, the STS has an attractive exterior and advanced safety features. If you're in the market for a luxury large sedan, also consider the BMW 5-Series, the Infiniti M or the Lexus GS.

With a significant refresh for 2008, the Cadillac STS finally competes with other sedans in the luxury segment, offering more performance, better looks and additional features. This all-American car, introduced in 2005, falls between the sportier Cadillac CTS and the larger DTS.

Auto reviewers are impressed with the recent changes, finding the overall end product significantly better. Car and Driver calls the 2008 upgrades a "vast improvement" over the 2007 STS. The Detroit News says that the STS "has been substantially reworked, giving it a more refined and powerful look." Improvements include a faster direct-injection V6 engine, a reworked exterior with a glitzy fascia, smoother handling and a better transmission. Overall, Edmunds calls the new STS "an even stronger player in an arena filled with talent," adding: "It is more handsome, more distinctive and certainly more powerful than the model it updates. All this makes the STS a better car."

While the improved STS is praised by most, some still find it unimpressive. Car and Driver reports: "We like, but don't love, the Cadillac STS. Reason being, its base V-6 model is tepid, and the V-8 model, although robust, is heavy and expensive. And neither model is terribly eye-catching." Yet, the Orlando Sentinel sums up the majority view nicely by saying, "Cadillac has done a commendable job of updating an already competitive car."

Edmunds says the STS offers a "low price for a full-size luxury sport sedan," and most reviewers agree. Still, some reviewers note that while the price is attractive, the fit and finish of the interior suffers a bit. However, Edmunds argues, "Having a price that undercuts the competition by thousands doesn't hurt either, even if a side effect is a few low-grade interior plastics." And reviewers from conclude: "I suspect a lot of Cadillac buyers spend more time luxuriating in their cars than driving them hard. If those buyers are looking for value, the STS may prove to be the right choice."

The 2008 Cadillac STS comes in a standard V6, V6 Luxury, V6 Luxury Performance, V8 Luxury, V8 Luxury Performance and V8 Premium Luxury Performance trim levels.

IntelliChoice gives the 2008 STS an overall value rating of "Poor", based on total cost of ownership compared to others in its class.

STS Performance - 9.3 (Excellent)
Auto writers agree that the 2008 Cadillac STS' performance is vastly improved, with a powerful new V6 direct-injection engine, confident handling and sure braking. writers say the STS' driving experience "reflects the Cadillacs of today: capable yet comfortable." continue

STS Exterior - 8.5 (Very Good)
For 2008, the STS gets a new face with a modified grille and chrome touches. Reviewers note the improvements, finding the overall appearance sportier, better proportioned and more authoritative. Car and Driver calls the exterior body of the STS "all jeweled up." continue

STS Interior - 6.7 (Mediocre)
While reviewers note the interior revisions to the 2008 Cadillac STS, overall opinion shows that the upgrades lack the high-quality feel of competitors. With room for five, the STS is generally seen as "comfortable and lined with respectable materials, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired" and "falls short inside," says continue

STS Safety - 7.6 (Good)
The 2008 Cadillac STS also does very well in federal government crash tests and comes equipped with many standard safety features. However, optional safety features available on the higher trim levels draw mixed reviews. continue

STS Reliability - 8.0 (Very Good)
The 2008 Cadillac STS reliability score shown is the Predicted Reliability rating provided by J.D. Power and Associates. This score is based on trending the past three years of historical initial quality and dependability data from J.D. Power's automotive studies, specifically the Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) and the Initial Quality Study (IQS). Cadillac offers warranty coverage on all of its cars, including a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty. continue

Review Last Updated: 5/2/08


By Robert Farago

The new Cadillac Escalade is a mission critical machine. It's one of the few remaining General Motors products whose sales don't depend on Mexican-sized kickbacks and/or a Day-Glo "Closing Down, Everything Must Go" sticker on the windshield. What's more, as a badge-engineered Chevrolet Tahoe, it's only slightly more expensive to build than a Chevrolet Tahoe. In other words, the 'Slade's is a cash cow on factory double dubs, trying to keep it real for GM's ten point six billion dollar man, Rabid Rick Wagoner; know what I mean? No? Let me spell it out for you: if the 'Slade ain't da bomb, it's a nail in the General's coffin. Well guess what? RIP.

Clock those side vents. At the precise moment when Caddy's luxury SUV should swagger into town with unabashed American style, the 'Slade arrives with its main design cue "borrowed" from Land Rover's Range Rover Sport. While the cynical amongst you might assert that the Escalade's target market is no more likely to connect the two vehicles than smoke crack and drive (as if), the fact remains: the porthole plagiarism betrays a staggering lack of confidence and originality. Of course, badge engineering a Chevrolet Tahoe betrays a staggering lack of confidence and originality, but, um… where was I? Something about the enormous gap in the SUV's wheel arches making the 'Slade look like a punk ass bitch? No… that wasn't it. Or was it?

Meanwhile, in the rush to market, someone at GM forgot to give their "new" SUV an independent rear suspension. (Doh!) So here we have, once again, a nearasdammit seventeen foot truck that can only accommodate four passengers in anything like comfort. Not to put too fine a point on it, asking three pro-football players to find a place in the second row would be an invitation to a brawl, and even the most heinous Charles Dickens' villain would think twice about strapping a small child into the Escalade's claustrophobic, flat-floored third row. And if a 'Slade driver dared carry a full manifest of miserable human cargo, there's be no room left for anything other than a small assembly of pocket-sized torture devices.

At least the build quality sucks. No really. The Escalade seems specifically constructed to give ammunition to those carless, dealerphobic, stock-shorting curmudgeons who dare call GM's best efforts "90%" vehicles. The ashtray unfolds gracefully, triggered by the world's flimsiest metal catch. The pedals move, but not the steering wheel. The plastics look soft, but feel like fossilized elephant dung. The chairs squish reassuringly, but offer as much lateral support as a Ziploc bag. Everywhere you look there are examples of NQE (Not Quite Engineering), constantly reminding you that there's $10k profit in this machine that could have been spent on, well, you. Or, if you prefer, telling you to go and buy a virtually identical high-spec Tahoe.

Of course, then you'd miss out on the bigger engine. And? Despite cranking-out 403hp and 417 ft.-lbs. of twist, despite an endlessly raucous engine note, the Escalade's 6.2-liter pushrod powerplant is no match for mega-mass and a mileage-seeking six-speed gearbox. Floor it and… wait. Yes, it'll kick down and go properly when prodded, but there's no excuse for a cramped vehicle that gets single digit mileage feeling slow, as well. And even with computer-controlled real-time damping, the 'Slade never lets you forget its ladder-frame underpinnings. Not that it doesn't try: the astoundingly over-assisted steering requires sufficient concentration to distract you from any other dynamic concerns.

On the positive side, the 'Slade's 13" ventilated disc brakes are superb, offering plenty of feel, lots of power and only the slightest whiff of burned rubber. And the Stabilitrak system keeps the beast flat and level through the twisties– even if understeer arrives unfashionably early and the seats do nothing to keep you from hip-checking the door or any beverages unfortunate enough to sit in the cupholder. And hey! It's better than the last model.

But not nearly good enough to restore GM's lost luster. In fact, the Cadillac Escalade pisses me off. This was the perfect opportunity for GM to give the middle finger to critics like me who constantly slag GM's products for being perennial also-rans: vehicles that are a full model cycle behind the class-leaders. If this $60k-and-up SUV had crushed the competition, if the Cadillac Escalade had set a new standard for luxury SUV's that even Audi's new Q7 couldn't top, it wouldn't even matter if the Escalade sold well. That SUV would have been an automotive line in the sand for GM's current stewards. As it stands, the Escalade is nothing but a feeble attempt to tread water, even as the sharks start to get chummy with The General.


By Jehovah Johnson

When I was growing up in South Africa, Cadillacs were gaudily chromed boats adorned with absurd fins. I thought they were stupid. I simply couldn’t reconcile Caddy's grandiose luxury land yachts with the small, sensible cars of my youth. As my horizons widened, as I learned about art, décor and design; I eventually “got it." I understood why enthusiasts waxed nostalgic about the great Caddies of yore, even though we saw precious few models in my corner of The Dark Continent.

So there I was, attending a ride ’n drive event for the Hummer H3. Instead of putting us behind the wheel of GM’s gangsta’ Chevy Colorado, the company’s PR flacks pulled the sheets off a brand new car and announced it was right here, right now: Cadillac! The erstwhile luxury brand’s brand latest and greatest model was now available in RSA, and we’d get to drive this Saab-based mid-size sedan. Here are the keys. Off you go.

Now cast your minds back to great Cadillacs of our collective imagination. Skip tracer Tommy Nowak’s 1959 convertible. The pearlized pink Caddies proudly gracing the driveways of Mary Kay’s super sales force. Hunter S. Thompson’s 1971 Eldorado fearing and loathing the Nevada desert. Elvis’ 1955 Fleetwood 60 Special, or the pink Cadillac in his rockabilly classic “Baby Let’s Play House.” The Caddy ambulance in Ghostbusters. Now, behold: the BLS!

Actually, you can’t behold a car as pleb as the BLS. You can hardly look at it without turning away in schadenfreude-inspired shame. This “B-grade Luxury Sedan” (Cadillac’s designation, not mine) looks like nothing but a bunch of creased cardboard from a package designer seeking maximum rigidity. The BLS sports the high beltline that’s quickly becoming synonymous with the modern American cars. From the rear three quarter, the derivative design apes the Chrysler 300’s urban flava. ‘Art & Science’? More like ‘Compromise & Cowardice’.

Yes, modern BMW and Mercedes designers have overdone it on the concaves and convexes and swoops and fussiness. But Cadillac practically invented concaves, convexes, swoops and fussiness. The BLS has been sterilised of anything you could dislike– or like. It’s the gauda, the unwooded chardonnay, the Castle Lite, the Phil Collins of cars.

The BLS’ interior is equally anodyne. It’s better than a Ford or Chrysler’s cabin, but invites Audi and Volvo to an ergonomic pity party. The classy retro-feel dash-mounted clock’s attempt to jazz up a dour, drab space is about as convincing as double dubs on a Vee Dub. And then there’s the build quality by which a luxury marque lives, or in this case, dies. I sussed three different test cars with three different sets of dashboard rattles. One car’s wipers whistled at a workaday Karoo-eating 150kph. Another boasted a broken rear seat latch. Never mind. Only a masochistic full-sized adult would dare darken the BLS’ cramped rear compartment.

The Trollhatten-built BLS comes in four engine flavours: a 1.9-liter four-cylinder common-rail diesel, the same engine with a turbo, a 2.0-liter turbo Ecotec four and a 2.8-liter turbo V6. If you’ve driven Saabs, then you know the score. The diesel is the strong, silent type; the two-litre the sensible, boring sort; and the V6 has a bit of much needed swagger (0 - 60mph in 7.1 seconds).

The BLS sits on the same Epsilon platform underpinning the Saab 9-3 (Saabilac?), Opel Vectra (Opelac?) and Chevy Malibu (Malibac?). Saab, Opel, GM, Cadillac – someone tuned the BLS’ suspension to Euro-driver firmness. While the BLS’ initial turn-in is eager and its body control exemplary, the brakes and steering provide less feedback than the Home Affairs department to a telephone query. If you push the front wheel-drive Caddy (how great does THAT sound), you can get some dramatic tire-squealing understeer, but little in the way of agility or fun. It’s best to drive as if you’re not insured.

Compared to the comfort, ride, handling, performance and cachet of Europe’s midrange luxury offerings, the BLS is a joke. It isn’t on the same planet as a rear wheel-drive BMW, Mercedes or the well-poised (if somewhat crashy) Audi. No wonder the BLS hasn’t lived up to GM’s initial [and modest] sales expectations.

In fact, the BLS is another in a long line of badly judged badge-engineering bodge jobs that’ve been ruining The General's brands for decades. GM’s decision to export the BLS to South Africa and, gulp, Mexico, is a cynical attempt to see if car buyers in smaller markets are more amendable to mediocrity than the Euro Zone. If I can speak for the Mexicans, we aren’t. In fact, GM should kill this model before it pisses away any remaining respect for the once great Cadillac name, or teaches new drivers that Cadillac is the sub-standard of the world.


By Robert Farago

As I closed the rear door of the top spec Cadillac DTS, I watched the side light above my head literally sputter and die. And there you have it: proof positive that the bean counters have been hard at work on The General's luxury brand. You want the lights to slowly fade up and down? Why? Anyway, we don’t have that part. What else do you need? Actually, despite the death by a thousand cost cuts, the DTS has almost enough upmarket mojo to make it. Only luxury carmaking isn't horseshoes or hand grenades. Almost doesn’t count.

Let me be clear: Cadillac isn’t Audi, BMW, Lexus or Mercedes. Before I illustrate this point in depressing detail, here’s what I want out of a Caddy: Texaguido style, a magic carpet ride, enough room to schlep the wife and three full-grown kids, and a trunk that’ll fit two dead Mafiosi. That’s it. That’s all a Cadillac has to do to earn my respect. Anything else is nice, but surplus to requirements. The DTS fails at the first hurdle.

What IS this thing? While the brand’s nose is distinctive enough, the protruding five-mile-per-hour bumper (remember them?) indicates some kind of badly synthesized graftwerk. The four door's rear has all the sinister charm of Joseph Stalin's limo. The sedan’s profile offers the only side-on sheetmetal I’ve ever seen that’s more generic than a Toyota Cressida. The Performance Pack’s 18’s are lost in the wheel wells and the shiny alloys are hideous.

The DTS is based on GM’s vintage front-wheel-drive G-platform, also underpinning the phenomenally unsuccessful Buick Lucerne. Enter the cabin and the downside is immediately obvious. Although the front chairs are large enough for inveterate pasta-addicts, the limited back row width restricts capacity to two well fed paesans. On the positive side, the aniline Tehama leather is wonderfully soft and supportive– but not as fragrant as the standard cow hide. In fact, it’s odorless.

This same anodyne character and lack of attention to detail applies to the rest of the DTS’ interior. Buttons snick with all the precision of a Botswana Army drill team. The beige hard touch plastics, pedestrian-looking gauges and cheap ass door ajar bong all speak the language of rental car Hell. There are plenty of fat rich guy toys on offer: remote start, Intellibeam headlamp system (auto high beam / low beam switching), rain sensing wipers, etc. But the seat massager that gently annoys your lower spine embodies the DTS’ underlying cut rate ethos.

Fortunately, the beast drives well. Even/especially after 15 years, Caddy’s Northstar V8 is a jewel. The 4.6-liter engine’s pitted against 4000lbs. (plus Florida retirees, goombas, gang bangers, golf clubs, AK47’s, etc.). Even so, the Performance Pack’s 292hp is enough juice for mindlessly swift progress. (Though the DTS is slower than the lighter Lucerne.) Throttle response is exemplary, the brakes work and the Northstar emits a lovely little growl when provoked.

Despite its nose heavy front wheel-drive chassis, the DTS corners quickly– without 70’s cop show tire squeal or scenic understeer excursions. All praise to GM’s Magnetic Ride Control, which virtually eliminates body lean. Unfortunately, the DTS’ numb (but accurate) steering is a killjoy, and the flat, puffy seats ensure that rapid left hand corners leave cheek marks against the laminated glass.

In a straight line, bump suppression is brand compliant– though not without a slight jarring effect over bad surfaces (and noticeably less Novocained in the lower spec models). At 80mph, the DTS cruises serenely– except for some wind noise around the front window and a strange pulsing feeling through the tiller. With only a four-speed Hydramatic gearbox swapping cogs, highway overtaking means lots of noise and little alacrity.

And so to the trunk, whose lid swings as freely as members of The Black Key Club. Yes, it’s big (the trunk). But it’s ugly. Perhaps the only thing nastier than the DTS’ mouse pelt headliner is the rancid rabbit fur covering the rear cavern. And then there’s the trunk mat. Good idea: rancid rabbit fur on one side, rubber on the other (for “wet work”). But the colors don’t match.

And therein lies the tale. Never mind the DTS’ po-faced design. Never mind the lack of interior refinement. It’s obvious Cadillac can’t be bothered to sweat the small stuff. If you clock the DTS’ price against a same sized, similarly equipped German or Japanese rival, the $41k and up Caddy will be the lowest-priced alternative, by a large margin, without incentives. So what? The DTS is not as good a car. Even within its own remit, it falls short.

Unless GM stops stiffing Cadillac’s designers and engineers, unless they start with a clean sheet of paper, once again, the brand has peaked.


By Robert Farago

A commentator named Peakay recently posed a pointed question: “Do you guys like anything?” While there are plenty of positive reviews hereabouts, I understand Peakey’s frustration. When publishes a rash of reviews describing nasty looking, badly built, dynamically dim-witted vehicles, the negativity eats away at this car lover’s soul. Which made the prospect of reviewing the Cadillac XLR-V a daunting proposition. I really wanted to like this car.

Walking up to the XLR-V did nothing to dampen my anticipation, and much to increase it. The roadster is the only Caddy that doesn’t wear the brand’s “Art and Science” motif like an aging prostitute sporting a K-Mart pants suit. The XLR-V’s creased fiberglass strikes the perfect balance between edgy aggression and proportional elegance. The model-specific hood strakes and wire mesh grill add welcome wickedness to a minimalist masterpiece.

This is one of the few convertibles that sings the same siren song whether the lid’s fitted or flipped. With the hardtop deployed, the XLR-V offers more chop top chic than Chrysler’s gangsta 300C. With the top down, it’s sexy enough to run with ze Germans and Jags of the world. Either way, the XLR-V is confidently Cadillac, without resorting to Elvis-era clichés (although the taillight design pokes fun at the whole fin thing). If only the other Caddies had such great bones.

I’d like to say I walked up to the XLR-V and discovered one of the smoothest paint jobs you’ll find outside of Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance. I’d like to say that the XLR-V’s trunk hinges were free from duct taped wiring and an exposed fuse, and that the teeny tiny little trunk (sausage shaped and smaller than ONE of the Boxster’s boots) wasn’t covered in the same rat fur blighting last week’s DTS. Unfortunately, the XLR-V put OCD boy right back in bean counted Hell.

Damn my eyes! Niggling little faults I wouldn’t even think to check in a Mercedes SL clamored for my attention. The driver’s portal slammed shut with a resounding thunk– and the panel housing the window switches vibrated independently of the door. The disappearing tin top performed an artful ballet– with all the jerkiness of an arthritis sufferer tying his shoes. The Zingana (son of Zebrano?) wood surrounding the shifter was silken to the touch– and looked like a faded panel from my parent’s old rec room.

Although iPoditude and Bluetoothedness are MIA, there are toys aplenty, including a way cool head-up display. Still, there’s no getting around it: the XLR-V’s interior is a little, um, cheap. The plastic speedo bezel emblazoned Bulgari is more airport duty free than Fifth Avenue swank. The material surrounding the vents is ew-inducing. How much would it have cost to upgrade the convertible’s cabin materials, or provide some chairs with a bit more lateral bolstering than a La-Z-Boy recliner?

Cadillac apologists are free to deploy the old Ferrari defense: Caddy sells you an engine and throws in the car for free. Even before the supercharger kicks in, it’s clear the XLR-V’s 443-horse 4.4-liter Northstar V8 is a serous torquemeister. Tickle the go-pedal and the big Caddy gently kneels on your lower back. Floor it and mayhem is your co-pilot. The XLR-V accelerates from zero to sixty in 4.6 seconds and hits the quarter in 13. Do you believe in muscle cars Miss Turner? WELL YOU’RE IN ONE.

This much is clear the moment you throw the 4000lbs. drop top into some curves. With 19” rubber and Magnetic Ride Control at all four corners, the XLR-V stays flat, level and griptastic deep into lateral G-land. But unless the pavement is glassine, confidence is low. Over broken pavement, the XLR-V has no natural handling fluency whatsoever. You could just wrestle the beast around the bends (in the great muscle car tradition)– if those support challenged seats didn’t make it such a supremely uncomfortable exercise.

Better then, to just stunt and floss and drag race from time to time. And believe me, I’m down with that. The XLR-V is a bit rough around the edges and it ain’t no sports car, but the hardtop drop top looks like a genuine Cadillac and goes like Hell. What's more, the XLR-V has an X-factor, an appeal that can't be measured or rationalized. If only it cost $25k less.

Yes, there is that. At $100k all-in, the most expensive Cadillac ever is a joke. The similarly-priced Mercedes SL550 is better-looking, better-built, better-handling, far more practical (its trunk is cavernous in comparison), offers less at-speed top down turbulence, doesn’t depreciate like a stone thrown into a deep dark well and isn’t that much slower.

Cadillac should have priced the XLR-V lower or pulled-out all the stops and built a world beater. They did neither and paid the price. (Which is more than you can say for their potential consumers.) That said, I can understand those few hundred people who bought an XLR-V. It's another GM "almost car," but it IS a Cadillac.


By Michael Posner

Car-based crossovers (CUV's) are America’s SUV escape pod of choice. Domesticated SUV’s from Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Ford and more have found favor, as have their upmarket homonyms. Although GM was late to the crossover party, the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook are (at least for the moment) highly competitive products. At the top end, Cadillac stands pat with its three-year-old SRX. For '07, Caddy’s attempted to re-invigorate their CUV with a new interior.

Yes, well, first impressions last. Here’s the long and tall of it: the SRX looks more like a station wagon than an SUV, albeit a very BIG station wagon. From the front, the SRX wears a surprisingly demure version of Caddy’s spizzarkle prow. From any other angle, the vehicle’s “Art and Science” creases work at cross-purposes to a distinctly disjointed multi-level assortment of window shapes. There are some strange details: fly-eyed headlights, boomerang taillight and the like. Overall, the genre-straddling SRX has a lot of generic GM about it. At best, it’s more distinctive than attractive.

And so to the interior.

The SRX’ center console benefits from a much needed makeover. The old console’s central feature— a large, featureless letter box (CD and DVD slot)— has disappeared. The display screen assumes its rightful place mid-dash, with an undersized analog clock above and two oversized rotary controls climate control buttons below. A chrome strip surrounds the pod and the new, intersecting gauges. A wood strip (complete with hidden dash cubby) bisects the cabin.

In general, the ’07 SRX’ fit, finish and softer, [partially] hand crafted materials are a cut above the previous model’s. In specific, details bedevil. The thin plastic door pockets still flex when you insert road supplies. The trim surrounding the vent rings reflects straight into the oversized side mirrors. The seat belt attaches to the seat instead of the B-pillar, eliminating adjustment and inviting decapitation for shorter drivers.

The SRX’ touch screen navigation system is a disaster. The screen graphics are crude. The voice prompts are unclear and imprecise, suggesting turns on roads that merely curved (once putting us on the Blue Ridge Parkway with no exit to our destination). In contrast, the [optional] Bose 5.1 Cabin Surround DVD-based digital audio system is a glorious device. Played through the SRX’ 10 speakers, Pink Floyd never sounded so hallucinogenic.

The SRX’ intrusive transmission tunnel renders the second row quad (not quint) compatible. Despite the Caddy’s considerable length, the SRX’ third row is best suited to pre-pubescent children who like to hide in cupboards. On the positive side, the process of getting into the way back is so tortuous they’ll probably fall asleep from exhaustion once they arrive. After detaching the headrests, the motorized third row chairs tumble and stow in a sloth-like 35 seconds. If you’re still awake, you’ve got enough space for several large boxes of lifestyle brochures.

Our $38k SRX holstered Caddy’s 260hp 3.6-liter V6 with a five-speed autobox (the ‘07 V8 gets six cogs). The double overhead cammed, multi-valved powerplant is smooth and responsive in waft mode, and throaty and powerful when stomped upon. Although the SRX motors to 60 mph from rest in a respectable 7.2 seconds, highway passing occurs at roughly the same pace as the folding rear seats. Plan ahead, leave early.

On long sweepers, Caddy’s crossover is a confident companion, absorbing undulations and responding to minor steering inputs with grace and something not unlike élan. But as soon as you up the pace and/or tighten the bends, the SRX’ light steering, soft rear suspension, high center of gravity and long wheelbase exact a poise penalty. The modestly shod, grip challenged SRX takes to small mountain roads like a country music fan to Judas Priest’s Painkiller. Although, it's a serene cruiser, the Caddy's dynamics aren't a patch on Infiniti FX-series.

Off road, c’mon, get real. The SRX is about as rugged as your average string quartet. Towing? You can schlep anything you like as long as it’s under 2000 pounds. The SRX six’ fuel economy clocks in at 15/22mpg. That may be about par for the course for its competitors, but it’s still a pretty frightening stat for a company desperately seeking sales in a world of escalating gas prices.

It’s hard to say why the SRX has failed to capture the imagination of American SUV refugees. Cabin quality (or lack thereof) was certainly a problem— which the automaker’s now rectified. The lack of a sustained and coherent marketing campaign also kept Caddy's CUV off the import buyer’s radar. And the vehicle’s bland looks did it no favors.

Ultimately, it’s the latter that torpedoed the SRX. Caddies need charisma. The SRX rides, handles and cossets beautifully; it walks the walk, but it doesn’t talk the talk. In fact, the SRX proves that automotive beauty must be skin deep.


By Justin Berkowitz

Ever sit around on a Sunday around noon with your buddies and say "I could go for some Domino's or Papa John's." You know that obviously neither of the two is up to Michelin guide standards, and in fact neither one of them is even real pizza. But damn man, they really hit the spot. Well that's the new Cadillac CTS. It's snazzy looking, it's fun to drive, it's got all the toppings you could ask for. It's just not a Cadillac.

The CTS’s exterior has all the trappings of a modern luxury car. It's dripping with shine and sparkle– like it just stepped out of some kind of chromium-shower. The massive grille overtakes the entire front of the car, sporting a brash design language. You might just call the car vulgar and gaudy, like a pair of rhinestone-covered Gucci sunglasses. Or you could say that it's resolutely nouveau-riche.

But step back and admire the profile and the back end, and the CTS is undeniably elegant. The first generation CTS, Cadillac's exercise in "ultra-modern" styling, mimicked the F-117A stealth jet (which entered service in 1983). But it was starved for details. The “new” CTS rights the old wrongs. I'm ashamed that I like the thin chrome vent on the fender because its fine lines balance the slab-sided sheetmetal. Same goes for the C-Pillar. Yes, it's as abrupt and sharp as stiletto glinting in a dark alley. But the pillar gives the car's angled motif new definition and meaning.

The deal sealer/deal breaker: does the CTS stand out on the road? In 1959, you'd have to be blind [from snacking on lead paint chips] to confuse a Cadillac Eldorado with anything else. By this metric, the Cadillac CTS comes up short. While it's far more than another generic sedan, it fails the "mom" test. Would Mom know, on sight, that the CTS is a Cadillac? Even when considering a wider demographic, the odds of the CTS garnering quintessential Caddy props are none to slim.

And then there's the interior. When peering into a CTS through the window of an example parked outside the geriatric specialist's office super cool young person nightclub 7-11, the cabin looks exceptional. In both appearance and execution, it's GM’s best effort in decades. The pleather covering the CTS' dash, finished with "French-stitching," and the charming chrome chevron symbols on the seats embody the interior’s tasteful elegance. The design is miles ahead of most competitors, and the build quality is a lot more than merely adequate. If this was an interior from another manufacturer, we'd be all set.

But it’s a Cadillac. It's supposed to embody and project superiority. The press kit boasts that "world-class was the target. There was no plan B." So why do some of the buttons feel Impala flimsy? Why does the analog clock look only slightly more classy than a Chinatown Fauxlex? What's up with the 1992 font on the buttons and shift-gate?

When it comes to driving, the CTS is the un-Caddy. Fire-up the silent spinning 3.6-liter six. Mash the gas and the 263-horse base engine growls with accelerative intent. Click the shifter into manual mode, hold those revs, and the needle races to redline like a Civil War veteran sprinting the final 100 yards to his homestead. Let loose the dogs of Detroit, explore the outer reaches of the torquey powerband, and the CTS simply annihilates the asphalt. Unless you've got Stirling Moss in your family tree, this is not your grandfather's anything.

Without the sports-package, you get a King David suspension, neatly walking the line between luxury pampering and corner-carving hoonery. The CTS will soak-up most of the nasty stuff under foot and then romp through the twisties like a sharp-toed greyhound. The steering strikes a similar balance. The CTS isn't a Lotus Elise (a rabidly unfair comparison), but neither is it a one-finger driver.

In sum… This is where things get uncomfortable. The CTS is 96 percent there. The question is, where? What is this thing? Before you hit the comment box suggesting I take some Valium and crank-up the Pink Floyd, hear me out. The CTS is an almost perfectly executed automobile. But the bigger issue (if the smaller percentage) is the car's identity crisis.

Is the CTS a luxury car? A sports sedan? It's great at both but magnificent at neither. So we're left with a good looking, comfortable, fun-to-drive American sedan. A solid sales hit. But a car brand can't sustain itself (or keep buyers coming back for more) without some kind of identity. As GM's great hope for the once triumphant, archetypal Cadillac brand, the CTS needs to be more than 96 percent something. It needs to be 100 percent Cadillac. And that it ain’t.

By Sajeev Mehta

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit… of Acura? Infiniti? BMW? The Cadillac brand’s been sliding downmarket for so long it’s hard to know whose tailpipes they’re chasing. Back in ’02, the CTS offered genuine hope that Caddy could recapture some long lost ground. Although the Sigma-platformed mid-sizer was too small for the brand’s aging aficionados, it was a credible throw down to Japanese and German sports sedans. In a few short years, Caddy’s competition caught up– and left CTS sales in the dust. Now, a refreshed CTS returns to the fray. Is it good enough to put the deeply damaged Cadillac brand back in the running?

The CTS’ reworked exterior is certainly up to the challenge. The new model’s combination of refinement and muscularity kicks the competition in their collective crotch. While plagued with the same sky-high hemline and buffalo butt of the previous iteration, the new CTS benefits from two inches extra length at both ends. The cutlines– complete with muscular edges, fat flares and hot-rod pipes– harmonize more tunefully than a motorcoach of drunken Divas.

There are some jarring notes. The CTS’ headlights emulate the rear’s subtle tail-finning– unknowingly echoing the uneven panel gaps of Regan-era Fleetwoods. Though the CTS’ grille and deck lid trimmings look suitably Lexian, their childishly incorrect proportions mar otherwise admirable restraint. The CTS looks even more nose-heavy than before; an effect that’s somewhat hidden by the affectation du jour (side portals) and the grill’s XXL orthodontia.

GM Car Czar Bob Lutz has been trash-talking non-trashy interiors since he assumed the throne in ’02. Word! From the CTS’ perfectly executed dashtop stitching to its quality polymers, soft touch buttonage and rich leather hides, Caddy-inhabiting sybarites can finally relax. Combined with intuitive ergonomics and minimal electronic interference, the CTS cabin tells its technocratic competition to take a hike– unless their denizens are looking for Bluetooth connectivity. (Oops.)

Optional woodgrain, white accent lighting (cough, Lexus) and a panoramic roof with a mesh-textured shade kick it up a notch. The BOSE upgrade gets the party started with a 40-gig hard drive, while the navigationally challenged get Pimp C’d with an eight-inch TV screen jumpin’ out the dash. Put it all together and you know why Cadillac is the artist formerly known as the “Standard of The World,” and why Hip-Hop heroes never lost faith in the first place.

Crisply-tailored sheetmetal. An automotive interior that makes a mockery of sterile Japanese and dour German cabins. All the CTS needs is a set of driving dynamics as relaxing as a weekend at a Scottsdale spa and it'd be mission accomplished. And we’d pronounce the CTS ready to lope to the head of the pack. Sigh.

Obviously, hardcore corner-carvers need not apply. Even when equipped with the Nürburgring-fettled “Summer Tire Performance Package,” the CTS doesn’t have the goods to entice performance-minded drivers out of Bavaria’s finest. Not that the sportiest of CTS handles poorly; its meatier gumballs and firmer underpinnings make for quick and controllable transitions. The steering provides reasonable progress reports. And the posi-traction axle enables fast exits.

That’s fine as far as it goes– which isn’t as far or as fast as BMW's 335i. But it’s exactly what the doctor didn’t order. Realtors and such will opt for the CTS sitting on all-season 17’s, a relatively mellow suspension and no LSD (don’t know, don’t ask). Here the CTS lacks confidence-inspiring responses and overlooks the stress-killing ride normally associated with the brand. The base CTS isn’t skittish but the aluminum-intensive suspension’s bump absorption feels… cheap.

In terms of forward progress, the CTS’ direct-injected 3.6-liter powertrain offers one forward gear for every combustion chamber. It sounds plenty poke-intensive on paper: 304hp and zero to 60mph in under six seconds can’t be all wrong. But it feels wrong. What’s required: effortless wafting. What's presented: endless frustration. The CTS struggles to build steam under its 3900 lbs. frame.

Combined with a lazy cog swapper and slow tip-in, the V6 feels soft on the bottom, mushy in the middle and timid up top. Factor in a power peak above 6000rpm and the CTS is a disappointment for a brand internationally known for massive torque and turbine-like acceleration. While this $47k whip hits all the other buttons for a proper American luxury car, it’s begging for a destroked and detuned LS3 V8 to round out the package– and the fuel economy wouldn't be significantly worse.

The Cadillac CTS is a beautiful, well-appointed machine with its heart in the wrong place. Once again, the brand’s guardians decided to chase highly-tuned European sports sedans instead of returning to the simple values that made Cadillacs– including the Escalade– American icons. Still, no question: the CTS represents genuine progress for the Cadillac brand. Minus the engine and suspension mistakes, they're right where they should have been 15 years ago.