By on July 8, 2009

The Standard Of The World (so to speak) may have found its long-awaited flagship in China, reports Car and Driver. Dubbed the SLS, this stretched (four inches longer than STS) Sigma platform beast was developed for the Chinese market by Shanghai GM. Previously available only in China and Middle Eastern markets, the SLS is a great excuse for GM to not develop a new flagship. C&D does note that a “reskin” and an LS V8 will make the model distinct to the US market. Meanwhile, the return to bad habits continues across Cadillac’s product planning.

“Gunning For the 3-series In Earnest?” asks C&D in a breathless sub-header. Uh, no. Resurrecting the Alpha-platform dream only serves to cruelly raise the hopes of those who don’t realize that The General has no cash for such frivolities. Instead Caddy is getting a Lexus ES-fighter based on the Epsilon II platform. Just like Buick. Not to put too fine a point on it, but what’s the point of sending two brands after one car (the ES)? Could the overlap be any more glaring here?

Oh, and in case that were’nt enough, an AWD version of the Delta II (Cruze) is being floated. Again. Still. Can you say Cimarron? Even C&D admits that

“such a Cadillac spun off the Delta platform would be awfully close to the BLS—a.k.a. the “Bob Lutz Special”—the infamous first-generation Epsilon derivative that completely bombed in the European market.”

In other “how Fritz Henderson learned to stop worrying and love the rebadge” news, the Cadillac Escalade will become Lambda-based (count ‘em!) and a Volt-based Converj will replace the XLR as Cadillac’s “halo car.” First, isn’t the Volt based on the Cruze? Second, isn’t the point of a luxury brand that all your cars are halo cars in some sense? Third

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25 Comments on “Has Cadillac Found Its Flagship?...”


  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    “Previously available only in China and Middle Eastern markets, the SLS is a great excuse for GM to not develop a new flagship.”

    Actually it is. The STS is a very good platform. It’s main issues are that it isn’t differentiated enough from the CTS in size and looks, and the Northstar is at best mediocre. Putting the long wheel base version on the market with a reskin and GM’s good V8 solves those problems and strenghthens Caddilac’s (attempt at a) premium RWD brand image. There’s no point in GM developing a redundant platform for the US market.

    If Cadillac is going to sell Epsilon and Delta based cars, on the other hand, they might as well shut the brand down.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Although I like the LS-series engine, I don’t think it belongs in a Caddy, be the CTS-V the exception.

    They were developing a new DOHC-32V engine, which they killed last year.

    Another Lexus ES competitor? Is a Camry on steroids THAT good? Again, they were going the right route with RWD, now they will switch again to WWD?

    These people is trully insane…

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    At least the SLS’ interior is up to snuff. The mid-cycle STS changeover interior wasn’t as nice.

    http://www.cadillac.com.cn/vehicle/sls/overview.html

  • avatar
    tced2

    You are correct no_slushbox,
    The STS is very good but looks similar to the CTS. It needs to be top-of-the-line and distinctive from the CTS. Unfortunately the new V8 was canned because of CAFE and bad corporate economics (bankrupt). Cadillac desperately needs a top car to get competitive with the Lexus LS, BMW 7, Merecedes S. Of course, the Deville (DTS) doesn’t cut it.

  • avatar
    Cicero

    I’ll withhold judgment on the design until I see one with a landau top and fake gold wire mesh wheels.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    They should build this and drop the moribund DTS.

    Ditch the Northstar. It is expensive to build and expensive to maintain as it ages. The LS V8 engine family offers everything Cadillac customers want and need for a flagship sedan.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    Aye Car-umba! What the heck was the point of killing Oldsmobile and Buick again? If your going to keep brands then you better dang sure keep them distinctive! If Cadillac still exists in 10 to 20 years when I’ve got “flagship” type money, I hope Mercedes is up to snuff on the quality of it’s 300E cause that’s where I believe I’ll be ponying up my money.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    I call shenanigans Car and Driver.

    This is an old rumor. It was wrong then and I think it’s wrong now.

    Cadillac already considered bringing the long-wheelbase STS to the US, back when the SLS was being developed for China. They quickly killed the idea.

    The SLS in China was not engineered with US side-impact crash standards in mind. In stretching the wheelbase, it significantly altered the vehicle and would not have met our standards.

    Apparently it was either too expensive or impossible to make US compliant, and GM ended the consideration.

    I’m tired of these news outlets running “Chinese GMs in America” stories. We’ve gotten the rumors about the Buick Excelle, the Chinese Buick Lacrosse, the on again/off again Chevy Spark concept, and so on.

    Of course we also heard that we were getting the Pontiac G8 with a stick shift, or as a pickup truck, or as a wagon like in Australia. Or that they were going to build the G8 in America after importing the first few from Australia just to get things moving.

    Or there was the time that GM was going to build a smaller RWD platform called “Alpha” and use it to make a new small Cadillac and potentially a compact Holden Torana, too. That was “canceled” within the confines of someone’s imagination, too.

    GM’s not selling anything in America until it’s on dealers’ lots in America.

  • avatar
    Packard

    This is truly amazing!

    Take a model, the STS, that has been in production since 2005, and that has been handily outsold every year it’s been in production by the DTS, a car in production since 2000 which is based on the same platform as the previous STS.

    Then remove the V-8 engine distinctive to the Cadillac line, the Northstar, and substitute a Chevy engine basically the same as that used in pick-up trucks.

    Revise the body, which currently looks like a cross between the two generations of CTS. In so doing, however, you’re still stuck with the same basic body shell, which will continue the same bottom-heavy proportions of the current STS,

    And call this the new Cadillac.

    Who wouldn’t prefer that to an Audi, BMW, or Mercedes?

    Certainly GM can defend this on the grounds that it didn’t have the money during the past several years to develop a proper replacement, and that it got caught by the CAFE standards being more strict than expected. That would all probably be true enough.

    But, the new GM won’t gain any credibility, much less market, by producing cars that are intentionally inadequate. If they can’t replace the deVille/DTS with a car that’s competitive with the competition, then they should wait until they can.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    Packard:

    GM is the only company in the US market that makes a V8 pickup and a V8 large luxury sedan but does not use the same V8 in both. The Northstar sucks, there are amazing versions of the LS-X, and developing a new DOHC V8 would be idiotic.

    The Toyota Tundra and Lexus LS460 share a V8

    The Nissan Titan and Infiniti M45 share a V8

    The Ford F-series and Lincoln Towncar share a V8

    The Dodge Ram and Chrysler 300C share a V8

    I tend to agree with Justin Berkowitz that this is just unreliable hype to move news stand magazines, but this would be a huge improvement over the ancient, brand confusing DTS. The interior in the Chinese SLS is nicer than anything in an anywhere near base 7-series or S-class.

    There is also the issue of price. Right now there is no large RWD sedan between the $30K 300C and the $70K+ German top teir sedans and Lexus LS, except for the Town Car, which is really a professional car that has no place with end consumers. This could fill in the gap with a $50-$60K car.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Right now there is no large RWD sedan between the $30K 300C and the $70K+ German top teir sedans and Lexus LS, except for the Town Car, which is really a professional car that has no place with end consumers.

    The Hyundai Genesis feels left out.

  • avatar
    Captain Tungsten

    It’s nice to know that GM’s product plan isn’t public knowledge.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    re:ajla:

    The Genesis sedan is a great car, but its 115 inch wheelbase puts it with the middle sized cars like the BMW 5, Mercedes E, Infiniti M, Cadillac SWB STS and Lexus GS.

    I’m talking 120 inch+ wheelbase cars, like the 300C, LWB German top tier sedans, LWB Lexus LS, and Cadillac SLS.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    @No slusbox:

    If we’re getting picky, the Tundra’s top engine is a 5.7 liter only shared with other Toyota trucks on the same platform (Lexus LX570).

    Your point is still well taken though.

    Also, pictures may suggest the SLS interior is as good as an S-Class or 7-Series. In real life, it’s a very good interior, but nowhere close to those cars.

  • avatar
    whatsanobeen

    Frankly speaking, TTAC, I’m getting a little tired of reading about the endless stream of snide remarks about GM-related brands.

    Lambaste their past and current products? Sure, but don’t start spouting off about speculated upcoming vehicles which they may not even produce until you can actually review them and judge for yourself.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    re: Justin Berkowitz:

    The LS460 and Tundra have the same basic engine, but with different displacement:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_UR_engine

    The 4.6 liter and 5.7 liter versions are probably much closer than the LS_X engine that would be used in a US market SLS and the small blocks in GM trucks:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gm_ls_engine

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GM_Vortec_engine

    The plastic and leather in the SLS might not be on the same level (I haven’t been to China), but the SLS has things like a fixed rear center console, wood tray tables, a full leather dash, and an absolute ton of real wood – things that are either options or not available in the competition. Although if the car does make it here (highly speculative) it is even more speculative that the interior would remain on the same level.

    http://www.autoblog.com/2006/11/11/more-on-chinas-cadillac-sls/

    There is no denying that a US market SLS would have to have to be a significant value proposition compared to the top tier German sedans to succeed in the US market. And this is a niche where leasing difficulty could be very bad for sales.

  • avatar
    kovachian

    Methinks this article got chopped off in mid sentence.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    I find the full size stretched wheelbase luxury flagships a bit confusing. Stretching the wheelbase and adding lots of amenities for rear-seat passengers seems to aim cars such as the SLS, A8L, 760iL, etc, into the realm of chauffeur driven limos, but they at the same time add lots of technology and luxury for the driver. I find it hard to believe that the upper few percent in net worth who these vehicles are aimed at are driving their families around themselves very often, so who exactly are these cars aimed at? Are they for those who have to one-up the competition by having a longer sedan, or for those wealthy individuals who really want to pamper their drivers?

    For being driven about in the back seat, the Town Car does just as well as the S class, 7 series, or A8 for less than half the money in real world prices. For driving ones self a 5 series, E class, or Bentley Continental GT are better propositions in the roomy luxury department.

    While the SLS interior looks nice in pictures, I’d like to see one in person. Also, I find that the current Cadillac ‘Art and Science’ design language doesn’t translate very well to large cars. The CTS looks far better than the STS or DTS, whose drooping noses make them look as if they are mentally deficient. I will give credit to getting rid of the Northstar in favor of the LS series of engines however. The LS V8s are perhaps the finest example of the price/performance/reliability/versatility sweet spot of any V8s currently being made, by any automaker.

    While I believe DOHC combined with DI and forced induction is surely the wave of the future, GM has invested so much more time and money into the ancient pushrod tech of the LS engines, and in return developed powerplants that surpass even their own line of ‘high tech’ V8s, that it seems silly not to take advantage of that.

  • avatar
    CommanderFish

    no_slushbox:

    A fully-loaded, extended wheelbase Walter P. Chrysler 300 starts at around $50k, the 300C SRT-8 is mid $40k’s.

    Now why anybody would spend that much money on a 300 is beyond me, but there you have it.

  • avatar
    carsinamerica

    @NulloModo:

    Actually the SLS isn’t best compared to the A8/7-Series/S-Class crowd.

    It’s actually a response to a trait peculiar to the Chinese market. In China, the BMW 5-Series and Audi A6 are both sold in long-wheelbase versions (the former as the 530Li, the latter as the Audi A6L). A stretched M-B E-Class is expected this year.

    This is a similar phenomenon to stretched taxi and chauffeur-driven models in the USA (Like the Crown Vic taxi and the Lincoln Town Car L). The point is to offer the rear-set legroom of a full-size executive car without packing on all the massive engines and fancy electronics of a flagship sedan.

    So far, none of the Germans seem inclined to offer their stretched executive saloons anywhere other than the Land of the Dragon, but who knows, maybe Cadillac’s SLS will be the first stretched-midsize to make the leap.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — any future Cadillac flagship sedan needs a V-12. It won’t sell in volume, so the CAFE implications are limited. A luxury flagship almost always needs a flagship engine to match. The Germans all use V-12s, and Lexus has their high-powered hybrid LS 600hL, and Jaguar has a supercharged V-8. If Cadillac wants to be a credible global player, it needs that top-flight sedan, and the engine to match.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    I foresee bad things in Cadillac’s future.

  • avatar
    commando1

    Is it just me or am I seeing the once cohesive plan for Cadillac becoming a schizoid attack on multi-fronts from executives in full panic mode?

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    carsinamerica:

    BMW has stopped using V12 engines, the best engine available in the new 7-series is a turbo V8.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    If there was ever a “Cimarron” in Cadillac’s future, it is the Converj.

    Cadillac buyers don’t want a $40/50/60k economy car that requires two fuels and has mediocre performance. Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should.

  • avatar
    akear

    Cadillac was on its way down when they cancelled the Ultra V8 program. The division is headed to mediocrity again.
    I foresee Cadillac losing a lot of customers to the new Genesis.

    GM is reverting to its old ways again. However, instead of being large and mediocre they are now smaller but still mediocre.

    Putting unrefined Chevrolet engines in a Cadillac is a recipe for disaster. Heck, the aging Northstar is a better alternative than this.
    If Hyundai can design a brand new world-class V8 why can’t Cadillac. Are they now even behind Hyundai!!!!


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