The Truth About Cars » Cadillac The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 11:00:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Cadillac General Motors Issues Six Recalls For 720,000 Vehicles Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:00:59 +0000 2014 Chevrolet SS in Red

Wednesday, General Motors issued six recalls for a total of around 720,000 vehicles, all assembled within the last five years.

Autoblog reports the following have been recalled:

  • 2010 – 12 Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain/Cadillac SRX; 2011 – 12 Chevrolet Camaro, Buick Regal, Buick LaCrosse: Bolt used to secure height adjustor actuator in vehicles with powered seats may loosen on its own, if not fall out, allowing the seat to move freely; 414,333 recalled.
  • 2013 – 14 Cadillac ATS, Buick Encore; 2014 Chevrolet Caprice/SS, Cadillac CTS, Cadillac ELR; 2014 – 15 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra: Incomplete weld of seat hook bracket assembly, may require track replacement; 124,008 recalled.
  • 2011 – 13 Buick Regal; 2013 Chevrolet Malibu: Single-bulb burnout of turn signal failing to notify driver of issue, reprogramming needed; 120,426 recalled.
  • 2014 Chevrolet Impala: Bad electric ground on power steering module of belt-driven electric steering models — caused by misplaced paint — may lead to sudden loss or reduction of steering power; 57,242 recalled
  • 2014 – 15 Chevrolet Spark: Improperly fastened lower control arm of Korean-built models could lead to separation from the steering knuckle; 1,919 recalled.
  • 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon Denali: Incorrect retaining nut in interior roof rail could puncture or tear roof-mounted airbags upon deployment; 22 recalled.
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Rental Review: Cadillac ATS 2.0T AWD Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:58:05 +0000 photo (40)

11 years ago, Cadillac told us that they were “The Standard of the World”, in a blast of Zeppelin-backed TV spots and aggressively geometric styling. The 2003 CTS wasn’t even the standard for North American luxury cars, but hey, it took Audi another 30 years to even come close to making that claim. Cadillac seems to be moving at a much quicker pace.

Despite Cadillac’s confidence in their excellence, they are reticent to lend any press vehicles to TTAC. The timing of a recent trip required a one day rental, and the local Avis counter advertised a special on the “Cadillac CTS” for just $80 a day with unlimited mileage. It turns out that Avis does indeed rent out the CTS, but our particularly branch did not. Instead, we were assigned a silver ATS4 (all-wheel drive) with the 2.0T engine and 6-speed automatic. Remember kids, if it seems to good to be true…

It would be incorrect to say that I was disappointed, but I had hoped for the CTS precisely because a) the relentless hype had me curious about its overall competence b) we are lacking in reviews of the car and c) every ATS I have driven thus far has been a letdown. Around the time of its launch, I briefly sampled a rear-drive 3.6L with all of the bells and whistles, and found it underwhelming. A second drive, in a 2.0T with the 6-speed manual, did nothing to dispel my skepticism. The 6-speed manual was unequivocally one of the worst gearboxes I’ve ever sampled, and the engine’s NVH characteristics were shockingly coarse for a luxury sedan. I could not, for the life of me, understand the praise being heaped upon this car.

After a solid day’s drive, I have a better picture in my head of why the ATS is so highly regarded. Part of it comes down to the fact that the team of engineers, product planners, designers and marketers have managed to great a truly worthy sports sedan. The other half of that equation is that the competition has miraculously managed to recede in overall competence to the point where the ATS is the class leader by default.

The ATS can reasonably lay claim to “The Standard of the World” title by virtue of its 2.0T engine, which is, well, the new standard of the world for virtually every mid-size car that would normally have used a V6 engine, thanks to a combination of regulations and economies of scale. The 2.0T in the ATS isn’t particularly charming or refined, but it does bring 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque at just 1700 rpm. Like most of these new turbo four-bangers, the torque builds down low and stays fairly robust throughout the rev range that you’d use in any realistic situation, including spirited back road driving.

Acceleration, passing on two-lane roads and any other task that relies on forward thrust is accomplished with minimal fuss, and it’s hard to see why anyone would bother with the V6 when the power on tap here is so usable in everyday situations. The 6-speed automatic transmission is the superior choice versus the manual, but it doesn’t feel terribly responsive or sophisticated. However, this gearbox will likely be replaced by either the 8L90 GM 8-speed automatic, or the Aisin 8-speed from the Cadillac CTS, so dwelling on its shortcomings is a bit of a moot point.

The most compelling part of the ATS is the chassis, which stands out as a credit to GM’s engineering team. It’s hard to think of a car that is able to so expertly balance ride and handling, delivering a smooth, composed ride no matter what the road surface, while also delivering on the “sport” part of the equation. Befitting its rental car specs, our ATS had a smaller wheel and tire combo than what I normally see on the road, and that may have contributed to the ATS being a bit more sedate. But through twisty stretches of road, the ATS still delivered in a big way, with flat cornering, eager turn-in and communicative, if not particularly weighty steering.

A spirited drive makes it plain why the ATS was met with such a chorus of approval when it debuted. GM has finally made a proper sports sedan that is better to drive than the current BMW 3-Series. Part of this has to do with the fact that current F30 has lost its way in such a severe manner that the ATS assumes this mantle by default: I have not driven the Lexus IS350, our EIC’s favorite sports sedan, and I know that an E90 328i is superior in every way, but right now, the ATS is without a doubt the best handling luxury sports sedan on the market.

Unfortunately, it has two glaring flaws.

  1. The back seat is tiny. Cadillac stole a lot of good things from the BMW playbook. One of them seems to be the size of the E36′s rear seat area. My two passengers, at 5’8″ and 6’2″, were initially enthusiastic about my rental car selection. By the end of it, they were cursing the Caddy.
  2. CUE is unequivocally the worst infotainment system on the planet. By comparison, the early renditions of MyFord Touch look like something running iOS. The haptic controls never quite worked the way they were meant to and even the slightest bump or pothole in the road can send your finger veering off to the tab or menu item that you didn’t intend to touch, leaving you to navigate through a confusing menu system that only leads to distracted driving.

With more time, a more thorough evaluation of the ATS, but for now, I can only determine that somewhere within the bowels of the RenCen, there are a talented group of engineers that are capable of making something that truly is “The Standard of the World”. Their electronics division is another matter…


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2016 Cadillac SRX May See Local Production In China Wed, 09 Jul 2014 12:00:29 +0000 01-2013-cadillac-srx-ny

On the strength of rising SUV sales in China, General Motors will likely add production of its next-generation Cadillac SRX in the emerging market in order to better capitalize on said sales.

The Wall Street Journal reports Cadillac as a whole is doing well in China, sales rising 72 percent from January through May 2014 to 33,760 units with the SRX making up the bulk of those sales at 14,496 units, a rise of 23 percent for the crossover in the same five-month period compared to 2013. The current model goes for ¥420,000 ($67,770 USD), and has been on sale in China since 2009.

The new SRX would likely arrive as a 2016 model, with the hope Chinese production would help the automaker avoid tariffs on imported models; the crossover is only assembled in Mexico at the present. GM itself has big plans for its premium brand, including a $1.3 billion plant in Shanghai, and a goal of 300,000 units sold/10 percent share of China’s premium market by 2020.

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General Motors Digest: July 3, 2014 Thu, 03 Jul 2014 13:00:31 +0000 General Motors headquarters in Detroit, Michigan

In today’s General Motors digest: GM recalls a recall; the automaker gains market share in spite of itself; its bankruptcy judge believes it may have committed fraud; the U.S. Senate gets ready for a second February 2014 recall hearing; and Anthony Foxx vows to keep the heat turned up on GM.

Detroit Free Press reports the automaker’s recall of the 2013 – 2014 Cadillac CTS over an ignition switch issue similar to the one affecting the 2010 – 2014 Chevrolet Camaro, as well as the issue that kicked off GM’s recall parade back in February, only affected 264 coupes and wagons assembled before the redesigned sedan left the factory floor; the sedan was incorrectly listed among the 8.4 million vehicles recalled worldwide Monday.

In spite of said recall parade, Automotive News says GM gained market shared in the first six months of 2014, jumping from 16.9 percent in January to 18.8 percent in June. Further, June 2014 sales climbed 1.2 percent to 1.42 million units — instead of falling 2.6 percent as some analysts had predicted — fueled by new models entering the showroom and more lease deals. In turn, the annualized selling rate rose to 16.98 million, the highest rate seen since July 2006, and one higher than 2013′s 15.9 million in the same period. GM hopes to keep up the pace by offering Cobalt owners and owners of other recalled vehicles a $500 incentive to trade-in for a certified used vehicle, and employee pricing on new models; so far, 21 percent of Cobalt owners have taken the automaker up on its offer between March and May 2014.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber, who presided over the automaker’s bankruptcy proceedings in 2009, may have to haul GM back in on fraud charges if evidence is found, pointing to then-CEO Fritz Henderson’s possible knowledge — and obfuscation — of the ignition switch problem. Should the evidence be there, Judge Gerber could force the automaker to pay billions of dollars to any of the plaintiffs in the 90-plus lawsuits now waiting for his approval to proceed, which could come as soon as September 15.

Over in the Beltway, Reuters says a consumer protection and product safety subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee will hold a second hearing on the February 2014 recall July 17, though no announcement has been made as to who will be invited to testify as of this writing.

Finally, The Detroit News reports U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration both vow to “keep putting the screws on [GM's safety efforts] until it gets right.” The agency, who is monitoring the automaker for the next three years as part of the latter’s settlement with the federal government, will look into the newest recalls to determine if GM issued them in a timely manner, though Foxx thinks the automaker is acting in good faith.

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General Motors Recalls 8.4 Million Vehicles Mon, 30 Jun 2014 22:05:04 +0000 GM RenCen Storm Clouds

General Motors has issued a total of six recalls affecting some 8.4 million vehicles in North America, the majority of which have ignition-related issues.

Autoblog reports the following group totals 7,610,862 — 6,805,679 in the United States — and are being recalled for unintended key rotation:

  • 1997-2005 Chevrolet Malibu
  • 1998-2002 Oldsmobile Intrigue
  • 1999-2004 Oldsmobile Alero
  • 1999-2005 Pontiac Grand Am
  • 2000-2005 Chevrolet Impala
  • 2000-2005 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
  • 2004-2008 Pontiac Grand Prix

The second group totals 616,179 — 554,328 in the U.S. — and are being recalled for unintended key rotation due to bumping of key fob:

  • 2004-2006 Cadillac SRX
  • 2013-2014 Cadillac CTS

The third group totals 20,134 — 2,990 in the U.S. — and are being recalled for potential damage to the engine block heater power cord’s insulation under extreme cold conditions:

  • 2011-2014 Chevrolet Cruze
  • 2012-2014 Chevrolet Sonic
  • 2013-2014 Chevrolet Trax
  • 2013-2014 Buick Encore
  • 2013-2014 Buick Verano

The fourth group totals 117 — 104 in the U.S. — and are being recalled over the Superjoint fastner not being torqued to spec prior to leaving the assembly line:

  • 2014 Chevrolet Camaro
  • 2014 Chevrolet Impala
  • 2014 Buick Regal
  • 2014 Cadillac XTS

The fifth group totals 12,002 — 9,731 in the U.S. — and are being recalled due to the underhood fuseable link potentially melting through electrical overloading, leading to smoke and fire damage to other electric wiring components:

  • 2007-2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD (with auxiliary battery)
  • 2007-2011 GMC Sierra HD (with auxiliary battery)

The sixth and final group totals 188,705 — 181,984 in the U.S. — and are being recalled over the potential for an electrical short to the driver’s door module disabling the power lock and window switches, as well as overheating the module itself:

  • 2005-2007 Buick Rainier
  • 2005-2007 Chevrolet TrailBlazer
  • 2005-2007 GMC Envoy
  • 2005-2007 Isuzu Ascender
  • 2005-2007 Saab 9-7X
  • 2006 Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT
  • 2006 GMC Envoy XL

In the press release issued by the automaker, CEO Mary Barra said her company undertook what she believed “is the most comprehensive safety review in the history of [GM] because nothing is more important than the safety of [GM's] customers.” She added later on that if any other issues come to the automaker’s attention, GM would “act appropriately and without hesitation” to recall and repair those vehicles. The automaker has recalled a total of 28 million vehicles since January of this year.

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Cadillac’s Peffer Resigns Amid Falling Sales Mon, 23 Jun 2014 11:00:15 +0000 bill-peffer

Sales of Cadillac’s lineup have fallen as of late in comparison to last year’s figures, prompting the brand’s U.S. vice president of sales and service, Bill Peffer, to resign his post.

The Detroit News reports Peffer handed the reins over to interim vice president Kurt McNeil last Tuesday. McNeil is General Motors’ vice president of U.S. sales operations, and held Peffer’s post once before, from 2011 through 2012.

Peffer was hired last autumn by GM from Nissan, where he served as the latter’s CEO for the brand’s operations in Australia, replacing the previous brand’s VP, Chase Hawkins, for “violating a company policy.” Hawkins was VP for one year prior to his firing.

Sales in the United States are down 2.3 percent year-over-year from January through May of this year, the XTS and ATS leading the way with 20 percent less sales in the same period compared to what they were in 2013. Though GM leadership are hoping for double-digit growth in 2014, Peter Nagel of IHS claims Cadillac will only gain 5 percent in U.S. sales this year, far from the 22 percent experienced the previous year.

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GM Recalls 3.36M Vehicles Over Ignition Problem Tue, 17 Jun 2014 10:00:55 +0000 GM-building-US-Flag

In today’s digest: General Motors issues another ignition-related recall; has fixed a handful of those affected by the original ignition recall; and unveils plans for three new compacts to be sold in emerging markets.

Autoblog reports GM has issued six total recalls of some 3.41 million North American vehicles built between the start of the new century and the present:

  • 2000 – 2005 Cadillac Deville; 2004 – 2005 Buick Regal LS, GS; 2004 – 2011 Cadillac DTS; 2005 – 2009 Buick Lacrosse; 2006 – 2008 Chevrolet Monte Carlo; 2006 – 2011 Buick Lucerne; 2006 – 2014 Chevrolet Impala: Ignition switch; 3.36 million recalled
  • 2013 – 2014 Cadillac ATS; 2014 Cadillac CTS: Shift cable/bracket separation in automatic transmissions; 68,887 recalled
  • 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500/3500 HD; 2015 GMC Sierra 2500/3500 HD: Potential poor connection of power steering hose clamp connection to power steering pump; 57,192 recalled
  • 2011 Cadillac CTS AWD: Premature rollover airbag deployment linked to gasket leak between constant velocity joint and rear propeller shaft; 16,932 recalled
  • 2014 Chevrolet Corvette: Premature passenger seat side airbag deployment linked to unbelted child and door trim in models with the Competition Sport Seat option; 712 recalled
  • 2014 – 2015 Chevrolet Silverado; 2014 – 2015 GMC Sierra: Movement of driver-side all-weather floor mats due to missing attachments in vinyl-floor models; 184 recalled

The automaker expects to take a $700 million charge in addition to the $400 million already forecast for Q2 2014.

Regarding the original ignition-related recall of 2.6 million vehicles back in February of 2014, Bloomberg reports 154,731 of the affected models have been fixed thus far. GM has also shipped 396,253 repair kits around the world to help dealer service bays repair the problem. Production of the parts has been non-stop for its supplier Delphi, where the line has been going strong through multiple shifts seven days a week.

Finally, Just-Auto says the automaker plans to unveil three new compact vehicles under the Amber project. The new compact sedan, SUV and hatchback will be designed in Europe and assembled in Brazil, with the finished products heading for emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India, Mexico et al. Potential global production is expected to reach between 1 million and 1.2 million units annually beginning around 2018 at the earliest.

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Barclays: GM Recall Parade To Last Into Mid-Summer Fri, 23 May 2014 10:00:04 +0000 Blurry Renaissance Center

Automotive News reports General Motors’ recall parade could, according to Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson, last well into the middle of the summer season. The data mining conducted by the automaker’s team of 60 safety investigators on 10 sources reporting potential problems — including consumer complaints and reports from its dealership network — will likely bring more recall requests before GM’s senior executives. Johnson adds that the investigators are working on likely defects on a per-issue basis instead of per-vehicle, which may mean a number of vehicles will be called back multiple times as the recall parade marches on; he also notes that its hard to discern if recalls of past vehicles have already peaked.

Detroit Free Press says GM product chief Mark Reuss will be leading a new team of five execs in choosing who all will be on the parade route, determining when and if a recall should be issued on any given vehicle with a potential problem. The team’s creation aims to accelerate the automaker’s response to said safety concerns, as well as better enable communication with its consumer base and the federal government. In addition, the 60 investigators, led by global safety boss Jeff Boyer, will comb social media to gather evidence of problems that haven’t been found from within.

Over in Canada, Reuters reports government officials are investigating GM Canada over the possibility that, much like the mothership across the border, it, too, delayed product recalls. Transport Minister Lisa Raitt instructed her group of officials to ask GM Canada “when did they find out” about the out-of-spec ignition switch, proclaiming that if they knew before the recall was issued, the Canadian subsidiary “could be in violation of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.” If found guilty, GM Canada could be fined anywhere between $100,000 and $1 million CAN depending on the conviction issued, far less than the $35 million levied against GM by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration earlier this month.

The Detroit News reports those affected by the recalls of newer vehicles, including the 2014 Cadillac CTS and 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, are receiving free loaner vehicles much like those affected by the February 2014 ignition switch recall. In the case of Cadillac, however, the free loaners are standard practice for recalls related to the brand’s products, as they fall under warranty. Meanwhile, the Chevrolet and GMC loaner programs, according to spokeswoman Ryndee Carney, was at the automaker’s discretion; as the recall involves tie-rod defects — including a park-it-now notice — GM made the decision “to offer owners of those trucks courtesy transportation.”

Finally, Automotive News says those who purchase a 2015 Chevrolet Impala with the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder will include stop-start technology as standard equipment, which aims to boost the engine’s fuel efficiency by 5 percent. According to spokesman Chad Lyons, the stop-start tech “will become more prevalent in GM vehicles” as time goes on; the 2.5-liter Impala is the second to have the tech standard, after the 2014 Malibu. Those who prefer their Impala to come with more power via the 3.6-liter V6, stop-start won’t be available standard due the engine’s heavier weight negating potential fuel savings.

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Volkswagen’s Cervone Returns To GM As Global Communications VP Tue, 20 May 2014 10:00:01 +0000 GM Next

Autoblog reports Volkswagen Group of America executive vice president of group communications Tony Cervone is returning to the GM fold as the automaker’s senior vice president of global communications. According to CEO Mary Barra, Cervone “brings an ideal mix of outside perspective and experience that compliments a deep background in GM and today’s global auto industry.” Prior to his return, he also served as the vice president of communications for United Airlines and Chrysler Group, where he spent 14 years before his decade-long previous service to GM. Cervone succeeds Selim Bingol — who resigned from the company in April “to pursue other interests,” and will report directly to Barra.

Speaking of “outside perspectives,” Automotive News chronicles the story of how a trio of Southern gentlemen helped to bring the spotlight upon the out-of-spec ignition switch at the heart of the February 2014 GM recall. Leading the charge, attorney Lance Cooper had sought answers into the death of Brooke Melton at the wheel of her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt. Cooper retained a number of experts in his case, including auto shop owner Charlie Miller and materials engineer Mark Hood, both of whom discovered the switches in Melton’s Cobalt and related vehicles performed differently than those found in 2007 and later models. The evidence gathered would help cement the settlement for his client’s family, as well as pave the way for the recall.

Moving toward the present, victim compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg may end up sorting through a mountain of data as he works out the details for a compensation package between GM and the 35 families affected by the switch. Between the time the first vehicles left for showrooms in late 2002 through 2012, 1,752 individuals died in accidents involving the vehicles under the February 2014 recall. Though the link may be tenuous in most of the cases, each one may open an opportunity for affected groups to lay some of the blame at the door of GM’s comptroller.

Looking toward the future, GM and AT&T will offer a number of 4G LTE connected-car packages beginning next month to consumers, ranging from $5 for a few hours of streaming music to $50 for several showings of “Frozen” for the little ones in the back. However, demand for the service may not be what the automaker expects, as consumers who don’t have company on the road often may wonder why they need a connected car with 4G. The concern isn’t helped by the delay of an app suite — featuring offerings from NPR and The Weather Channel — which would allow owners access without using their smartphones; the delay is over quality concerns, according to GM.

In brand news, GMC is doing very well for itself as of late, being the healthiest among GM’s four brands left standing after the 2009 bankruptcy. The “professional-grade” line of trucks, SUVs and crossovers are leaving their bow-tied brethren behind for the premium market, bumping into Cadillac more often than may be comfortable for some within GM’s hallowed halls. That said, GMC’s demographic prefers to remain low-key in opposition to the flash that brings the celebs to Escalade’s yard, even if the Yukon XL Denali is within spitting distance of the Caddy’s $72,690 base price.

Leading the charge is Buick-GMC boss Duncan Aldred, who is looking forward to where GMC will go while shaking off the shadow of Buick’s “senior citizen” image within the United States. The former Vauxhall managing director sees similarities between Buick and Vauxhall/Opel, and aims to rehabilitate its image through a marketing strategy that may use “shocking and polarizing” messaging to prove his point. As for GMC, Aldred says he sees its future “as really exciting in an Audi-esque kind of way,” with plans to push the Denali line further up the mountain toward the summit.

Finally, CarNewsChina has the first official photos of the facelifted Chinese-market Chevrolet Aveo, which takes its looks from the upcoming Cruze. The Aveo will be priced between 81,800 yuan and 114,800 yuan ($13,113 to $22,732 USD), with power from 1.4- and 1.6-liter engines under the bonnet. Made by the GM Shanghai joint-venture between GM and SAIC Motor, the newly styled compact will arrive in showrooms in June for the sedan, July for the hatchback.

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Reader Review: 2014 Cadillac SRX Thu, 08 May 2014 16:44:18 +0000 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Reader “Bunkie” aka Peter Hansen, sends us his impressions of the 2014 Cadillac SRX, versus his 2010 CTS Wagon.

There are times when it’s a good practice to review long-held beliefs. I’ve never owned an SUV or a CUV. I have owned two Rangers, back when I lived in Columbus and had the whole house/2 kids/2 cars/mortgage-in-a-new-subdivision sort of life. I loved my Rangers. The last one came in really handy when that life imploded and I needed to ferry my things to the storage unit that I referred to as the “museum of my former life”.

Since then, it’s been a life lived in Manhattan with a progression of 3 Taurii (wagons) and 2 Cadillac sedans Now, I drive a 2010 CTS Wagon purchased as a CPO car back in 2012. We keep our car in a garage, which is an unholy but necessary expense. Our usage pattern is to escape the city on Fridays, driving about 120 miles to a weekend house in Pennsylvania. This results in about 15-18K miles per year.

Two cars back, we got our second Cadillac (a CPO STS with the Northstar) from R.J. Burne in Scranton, and I returned to the dealer to purchase our CTS. When our CTS Wagon went in for service, R.J. Burne was kind enough to give me a loaner SRX, since they’re quite a distance away from New York City, and I was interested to see how a CUV would compare to my beloved station wagon. By the time I pick up my car (which should be as you read this), I will have put almost 200 miles on the SRX, over a mix of highways and very rough back roads.

I like a certain amount of functionality in a vehicle. I love sports cars, but we live in the real world with a single vehicle, so I must compromise. That’s exactly why I worked so hard to locate a CTS Wagon. The biggest letdown is the 3.0L V6, which feels inadequate compared to the torquey turbo 4 in my sister’s 328xi. I hadn’t yet tried the new 3.6L V6, but the SRX loaner afforded me that opportunity.

Like most CUVs in this class, The SRX’s shape and size is defined by its mission to provide a high level of comfort and space. To me, it looks short and squat with overly large wheels. I can’t say that I’m a fan of the new grill, as it appears too busy. I’ve always liked the vestigial tail fins that are part of the tail lights, largely because I’m a child of the 1960s and loved the befinned Caddies of my youth.


Maybe it’s my age, but my very first impression was how damned easy it is to get into the driver’s seat. I’m about 6’2” with long legs for my height. I usually swivel my butt over and drop into the seat then swing my legs into the car. In the SRX, I was able to just step in and sit down. Like Etta James, the SRX appears to be built for comfort, not for speed. The second impression is that the driving position is more upright. This SRX was a Luxury trim, which included a thigh support. I’ve seen this feature on other cars, but the seat height has been to low for it to make a difference. Here it worked wonderfully and, for the first time, the weight of my upper legs is actually supported by the seat, not my knees and hips.

Visibility isn’t quite as good as our CTS Wagon. The A-pillar is huge. This SRX has deeply tinted rear and passenger windows, but at least the side mirrors are large and have a blind-spot monitoring feature. The rearview camera is acceptable, with a curving path graphic when you turn the wheel.


This was my first experience with CUE, and I found the learning curve to be brutal. Nothing was intuitive and every action, from setting the climate control, to finding Deep Tracks on SiriusXM, took a long time. The sound system is from Bose and, frankly, the sound quality isn’t very good. As someone who builds speakers as a hobby – and onced worked for Bose – it’s disappointing to think of how many superior components are out there.

I have yet to find the way to reset the fuel mileage and trip computer, I suspect that I won’t get time to figure this out. Having said all that, we must accept that if we want this level of control and this rich feature set, there will always be a learning curve.

The driving experience far surpassed my expectations. Compared to the most recent CUV I’ve driven (an Ecoboost Escape), the SRX felt well-planted, free of the usual top-heavy sensation through curves. The steering does an excellent job of pointing the car despite lacking feedback. The primary characteristic when pushed hard into a corner is mild understeer. Body roll is well-controlled. The brakes are nice and linear, well-suited to the car’s weight. Ride quality is another surprise. Compared to my CTS, the SRX feels sharper yet the effect of this year’s crop of monster potholes barely unsettled the car. Road surfaces that have the CTS transmitting every small irregularity to the seat bottoms are no problem for the SRX. You feel them, but the amplitude and impulse are greatly reduced. Another side benefit is that the car is very quiet, more so than the CTS.

The difference between the 3.0L in the CTS and the 3.6L in the SRX is vast. In the 3.0L, there’s simply no torque below 4000 rpm – manual shifting and driving like a lunatic are needed to extract its full performance. The SRX is almost 1000 lbs. heavier than the CTS yet it feels much stronger. Put your foot in it, and it needs one less downshift to find the ponies. Shifts are smooth but leisurely. Manual mode is better, but compared to the 328, they are slow – not that any GM/Cadillac transmission I’ve experienced has performed with authority.


From a practicality perspective, the SRX has a shorter cargo area than the CTS wagon, by about 4-5 inches. Depth is better and hatch height is much better. The CTS manages barely 19 inches while the SRX is about 28 inches.

Feature-wise, I like the driver info center. This is an area where all cars have been getting better with more customization. My loaner SRX has the Intellibeam automatic headlight-dimming feature. We had this on our STS and, at times, it required manual intervention. The SRX is much improved. It dims when following other cars, and isn’t fooled by reflective signs. I miss the fog lights and adaptive lighting from my CTS, however.

Now we come to re-examining part. I’ve stated publicly that I don’t like CUVs all that much. But as my needs are changing, I have become more impressed with the segment – provided that they are executed properly. Since I can’t have a pickup, I own a cheap trailer and can tow it behind my CTS. While my car is only rated for 1000 lbs, the SRX can tow 3500 lbs. I probably won’t even exceed the CTS’ rating, but it’s nice to know the extra capacity is there.

As someone who needs one vehicle to do it all, the SRX really won me over. I like the idea of the higher ground clearance and AWD (even with proper snow tires, the CTS does require more care in winter weather). The better seating position and larger cargo capacity are welcome. The 3.6L is a gem, and makes the 3.0L mill in my car look stone age. I may need to re-consider my biases against CUVs. At the very least, the SRX is a way for Cadillac to keep us CTS Wagon owners (all 4 of us) in the fold.

Cadillac Flagship, Redesigned LaCrosse To Be Made In Detroit By 2016 Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:30:16 +0000 2013 Cadillac Elmiraj Concept

In light of General Motors’ recent announcement of a $384 million investment in its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, two vehicles from Cadillac and Buick could wind up being produced alongside the next-generation Volt.

Edmunds reports IHS Automotive senior analyst Stephanie Brinley expects Cadillac’s all-new flagship to be produced in late 2015, with the Buick LaCrosse — currently assembled in Fairfax, Kan. — joining the flagship in 2016 for the latter’s next redesign.

Though GM hasn’t said much about the flagship, industry insiders claim the vehicle will be aimed at the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS and Mercedes S-Class, and may be priced as much as $100,000.

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GM Seeks Aid From NASA, Issues New Ignition-Related Recall Fri, 11 Apr 2014 09:00:47 +0000 gm-headquarters-logo-opt

Autoblog reports 2.19 million of the same vehicles under the current General Motors ignition recall are under a new ignition-related recall, as well. The new recall warns of a problem where the key can be removed without the switch moved to the “off” position. According to GM, the automaker is aware of “several hundred” complaints and at least one roll-away accident resulting in injury, and is instructing affected consumers to place their vehicles in park or, in manuals, engage the emergency brake before removing the key from the ignition until repairs are made.

Regarding the original recall, The Detroit News reports has called upon NASA’s Engineering & Safety Center to review whether or not the 2.6 million affected Chevrolets, Pontiacs and Saturns are safe to drive with just the ignition key in position. The agency, which has performed similar reviews in the past, will look over the work performed by the automaker in the latter’s effort to make the affected vehicles safe to drive, as well as review its overall approach to safety concerns.

On the financial front, Automotive News says GM will take a $1.3 billion charge in Q1 2014 for the original recall, 40 percent greater than the $750 million charge originally estimated at the end of last month. The charge — which includes repair costs and loaners for affected owners — comes on the heels of a $400 million charge tied to currency challenges in Venezuela, the total sum of which threatens to knock out most if not all of the automaker’s Q1 2014 earnings set to be announced toward of end of this month.

Meanwhile, The Detroit News reports Michael Carpenter, the CEO of former GM financial arm Ally Financial, says his company will complete its exit from government ownership by Election Day of this year:

The U.S. Treasury is quite happy today. My own view is they will definitely be out before the election and we are close to having Treasury and U.S. government ownership in the rearview mirror.

By the end of trading Thursday, Ally’s IPO netted taxpayers $17.7 billion with a profit of $500 million on the $17.2 billion bailout of the consumer finance company, while the Treasury currently holds 17 percent of its remaining shares after selling 95 million for $25 per share at the opening bell; share price fell 4.4 percent to $23.50 at the closing bell.

In lawsuit news, Automotive News reports GM settled with the families of two Saturn Ion drivers who lost their lives in 2004 when their respective cars’ airbags failed to deploy. The two fatalities were identified by the publication as the earliest of 13 linked to the out-of-spec ignition switch at the root of the current recall crisis. In addition, while one case was settled out-of-court in September of 2007, the second case drew its settlement terms after the automaker filed for bankruptcy in June of 2009, placing the plaintiffs and their lawyer with other unsecured creditors.

The Detroit News reports Cadillac and Buick are at the top of their respective lists for dealer service satisfaction as determined by the J.D. Power & Associates U.S. Customer Service Index Study. Cadillac’s dominance over the luxury brand category comes as former No. 1 Lexus — who held the top spot for five consecutive years — falls to third behind Audi, while Buick leads Volkswagen, GMC, Mini and Chevrolet in the mass-market brand category.

Finally, Autoblog reports the last of eight Corvettes swallowed by the sinkhole that formed inside the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky. back in February has been recovered. The 2001 Corvette Mallett Hammer Z06 will need extensive work performed to bring it back to its original state, but not before it joins its brethren in a new exhibit entitled “Great 8″ beginning next week. The exhibit will last until the museum’s 20th anniversary in late August, at which point GM will begin restoration work on the eight Corvettes.

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GM Invests $449M Into Next-Gen Volt Production Wed, 09 Apr 2014 14:10:01 +0000 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-001

General Motors announced Tuesday that it would invest $449 million into the two plants responsible for assembling the Chevrolet Volt in preparation for the next generation of the plug-in hybrid’s arrival in 2016.

The Detroit News reports $384 million will immediately go into the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant for body shop tooling, equipment and other plant upgrades, while the remaining $65 million heads for the Brownstown Township battery assembly plant for expanded production of GM’s advanced lithium-ion batteries, as well as any future technologies that come down the road. The investments are expected to last for the next two years, and would add 1,400 new jobs to both facilities.

As for what fruit the investment will bear, GM vice president of North American manufacturing Gerald Johnson announced the next generation of the Volt will roll into showrooms in 2016 as a 2016 model, with production slated to begin in the autumn of 2015. Though he didn’t go further into what the new Volt would bring to the table, a number of analysts said the PHEV would likely gain an improvement in range over the 38 miles currently provided in electric-only travel.

Further, two new vehicles will accompany the new Volt within the next couple of years, including the Buick LaCrosse — expected in mid-2016 — and an all-new large Cadillac sedan set to be the brand’s flagship that would begin production around the same time as the next-gen PHEV.

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Ellinghaus: Cadillac Could “Easily Flourish” In Australian Market Fri, 14 Mar 2014 10:05:57 +0000 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

Sometime in the future, Cadillac global marketing boss Uwe Ellinghaus believes Cadillac could enter the Australian market, being able to “easily flourish” under the proper conditions established on top of the goodwill the brand already has in the country.

Auto Advice reports however the main goal for Cadillac is to go after what Ellinghaus calls “low-hanging fruit” markets:

We see the opportunity [in Australia] and we want to expand into as many markets as we can afford, but it’s also fair to say we have so much growth potential unexploited in China, even in the US, Canada, Russia, Dubai, Mexico… This is the lower-hanging fruit.

We have limited resources and great opportunities elsewhere that we need to make a very careful plan when to enter which market.

Regarding where Cadillac could enter the Australian market, he says the space soon to be vacated by the Holden Commodore would be the perfect point of entry. Offering the brand for Commodore prices, though, would be easier said than done as far as a business case is concerned, pointing toward both the BMW M Series and Mercedes AMG as to where pricing would occur for Cadillac’s high-performance lineup. He also had high hopes for the CTS, and the SRX and Escalade, with the latter two finding huge success in Australian burgeoning SUV marketplace.

As for when Cadillac would enter the scene, Ellinghaus says an introduction would occur near the end of the 2010s at the earliest, and would be headed by one or two models converted to right-hand drive. This follows an near-entry into the market back in 2008 before turning back at the last moment, though not before exporting a few vehicles and appointing dealers to sell them.

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Early ELR Adopters Receive Free Charging Stations Wed, 29 Jan 2014 18:00:56 +0000 2014 Cadillac ELR

If you should become one of the early adopters who purchase a Cadillac ELR soon, the brand has announced that they will throw in a free charging station as a gift for paying $75,000 over the next 36 to 72 months for the luxury plug-in hybrid.

Normally, the 240-volt charging station would be installed at an owner’s home starting at $1,000, with financing available for installations between $1,000 and $3,499 spread over 24 months at 0 percent and $0 down, and 2.99 percent over 84 months with $0 down for installations above $3,500. The price range is determined after Bosch Certified Contractors look over factors affecting installation, including age of the home, location of installation, permits et al.

On top of the incentive, ELR owners will also acquire the services of their own ELR Concierge Representative, who will help their owner with information on battery care, home charging, service scheduling and other concerns regarding their purchase.

No word on when Cadillac will cease offering free stations, though the $699/month lease incentive for well-qualified consumers currently on offer will end on January 31 of this year.

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2014 Cadillac ELR to Lease for $699 a Month Wed, 22 Jan 2014 12:00:08 +0000 2014-Cadillac-ELR. Photo courtesy

If you thought the $75,000 price of admission for ownership of the 2014 Cadillac ELR was too high, the luxury automaker may have another option for your consideration: A lease contract of $699/month with a few stipulations.

In order to lease the luxury plug-in hybrid — based upon the $34,000 Chevrolet Volt — you’ll need to either own or lease a GM product screwed together from 1999 forward. Next, you’ll need around $5,000 at signing for a lease that will last just 39 months. Then, you’ll have to deal with the usual tax-title-license-dealer fee-optional equipment gauntlet, plus whatever price the dealer sets for the whole thing.

Finally, whip out your magnifying glass and reading glasses: The fine print states that price of the ELR has an MSRP of $76,000, and that you can only drive a total of 32,500 miles before paying 25 cents per additional mile; if you were to average 13,476 miles/year — the national average, as it turns out — the additional 11,297 miles would total $2,824.25 over the limit.

If interested, you have until the end of January 2014 to sign the papers.

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Review: 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T (With Video) Fri, 27 Dec 2013 14:00:48 +0000 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-001

It’s been decades since Cadillac produced the “Cadillac” of anything. However, when car buffs dismiss the only American luxury brand left, they fail to see Cadillac’s march forward. 2002 brought the first RWD Cadillac since the Fleetwoood. A year later the XLR roadster hit, followed in 2004 by Cadillac’s first 5-Series fighter, the STS. Not everything was rosy. The original CTS drove like a BMW but lacked charm and luxury fittings. The XLR was based on a Corvette, which made for excellent road manners, but the Northstar engine didn’t have the oomph. The STS sounded like a good idea, but the half-step CTS wasn’t much smaller and ultimately shoppers weren’t interested in a bargain option. That brings us to the new ATS and CTS. Ditching the “more car for less money” mantra, the ATS has been created to fight the C/3/IS leaving the CTS free to battle the E/5/GS head-on. Can Caddy’s sensible new strategy deliver the one-two punch fans have hoped for? I snagged a CTS 2.0T for a week to find out.


Click here to view the embedded video.


I found the outgoing CTS a little discordant, but 2014 brings an elegant more aggressive refresh. GM’s Art and Science theme has matured from “cubism gone wrong” to shapes that flow and jibe with a larger grille and softer creases. The 5-Series continues to go for elegant and restrained, I find the XF and A6′s design a mixture of plain-Jane and snazzy headlamps while the Infiniti Q5o and Lexus GS are going for flowing elegance.

The demur side profile continues with a simple character line to draw your eye from front to rear. One thing you’ll notice during that eye-movement is the distinct RWD proportions that separate the CTS, E, 5, GS, XF and Q50 from the long-nosed Audi A6 and near-luxury FWD options. Out back the CTS’ rump is a bit less exciting but employs all the latest luxury cues from hidden exhaust tops to light piped tail lamps. I was hoping Caddy’s fins would be further resurrected,  but the “proto fins” on the XTS are absent. Pity. Obvious from every angle is an attention to build quality absent from earlier generations with perfect panel gaps and seams.

Structurally, the CTS has jumped ship to a stretched version of the Alpha platform the smaller ATS rides on. Thanks to the automotive taffy-pull, the CTS is now 2.3 inches longer than a BMW 5-series. However, because of the Alpha roots, the CTS has actually shrunk for 2014 by 3 inches in length while getting 2 inches wider and a 2 inch roof height reduction.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-006


GM has proven they are able to create a car that drives competitively and looks sexy on the outside, but interiors have always been a mixed bag. The last gen CTS felt as if it was built with a mixture of custom parts and Chevy hand-me downs. No more. Like the ATS, the Caddy shares little with the rest of GM’s mass market-rabble. It is hard to find fault in the CTS’s dashboard’s combination of injection molded soft touch plastics, leather, faux suede, real wood, carbon fiber and contrasting stitching. Cadillac continues their dedication to shiny touch buttons on the dash and no luxury sedan would be complete without a little gimmicky drama. The CTS’s motorized cupholder lid ties with the XF’s automated air vents for the feature most clearly designed to brag about. I’m not sure how long that little motor will crank away, but it can’t be any less reliable than Jaguar’s theatrical air vents.

Because of the way Cadillac chose to stretch the CTS’ donor platform, cargo and interior space aren’t the primary beneficiaries. This means that rear legroom actually shrinks for 2014 to the smallest entry in this segment by a hair. Trunk volume also drops from a competitive 13.6 cubes to 10.5 which is a 20% reduction compared to the Lexus and BMW and 30% smaller than the Mercedes. The CTS makes up for some of this with comfortable thrones all the way around and when equipped with the optional 20-way front seats the CTS ranks #2 in the segment just behind BMW’s optional 24-way sport seats in comfort. Taller drivers and passengers beware, dropping the CTS’ roof height made the profile sexier but cuts headroom to the lowest in the segment.

2013 Cadillac ATS Instrument Cluster

2013 Cadillac ATS Instrument Cluster

There is one glaring flaw. The decidedly dowdy base instrument cluster is shared with the ATS (pictured above) and the XTS. Our Facebook followers were so put-off by Caddy’s base dials, the fervor spawned a Vellum Venom Vignette. While the ATS is saddled with the four-dial layout, the CTS and XTS have a savior: the most attractive LCD disco dash available. (My tester was so equipped.) Perhaps it is this dichotomy that is so vexing about the base CTS models. If you don’t fork over enough cash, you’ll constantly be reminded that you couldn’t afford the Cadillac of displays.

The 12.3-inch cluster offers the driver more customization than you fill find in any other full-LCD cluster. Unlike the Jaguar and Land Rover screens that simply replicate analogue gauges, you can select from several different views depending on whether you feel like analogue dials or digital information and the amount of information overload you prefer. (Check out the gallery.) My preferred layout contained a high res navigation map, digital speedo, fuel status, range to empty, average fuel economy, audio system information with album art and track information and the speed-limit on the road I was traveling on.

2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-001


I have been critical of Cadillac’s CUE system but 2014 brings some important software fixes resolving the random system crashes and demon possessed touch controls I experienced in the ATS and XTS. After driving the CTS for 852 miles, the CUE system proved rock solid in terms of reliability. Unfortunately, little has been done to address the sluggish response to inputs, unintuitive menus and old-school nav graphics. Despite the still flaws, I have to stick by my words when MyFord Touch landed: I’d rather have slow infotainment than none at all. BMW’s iDrive still ranks 1st for me because the interface is intuitive, attractive, responsive and elegant. BMW continues to add new features to their system and, unlike other systems, the new features in general operate as smoothly as the rest of the iDrive interface. You may be surprised to know that CUE ranks second for me.

CUE’s graphics are more pleasing to my eye than MMI, COMAND, Sensus, MyLincon Touch, Enform or AcuraLink. COMAND’s software should have been sent out to pasture long ago. The graphics are ancient and trying to load any of the smartphone apps is an exercise in frustration. Instead of reinventing their software, Lexus reinvented the input method taking their system from most intuitive to least in a single move. Senus isn’t half bad but Volvo’s screens are small and the software lacks the smartphone integration found in the competition. MyLincoln Touch is well featured but lacks CUE’s more modern look and the glass touchscreen.

2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-006

The scratch resistant glass touchscreen and proximity sensors used by Cadillac are part of what give the system a clean modern look. Most systems use resistive touchscreens which are pressure sensitive and require that the surface of the screen actually move to sense your touch. This means they need to be made of a ductile plastic which is several layers thick. The consumer comparison is to think of your iPhone or Android phone vs a color Palm Pilot from years past. Cadillac uses the screen to allow intuitive finger-sliding gestures and the proximity sensor to reduce visual clutter when your finger is away from the screen. Move you hand closet to the screen and the less critical interface buttons reappear.

Cadillac continues their relationship with Bose, giving the base model an 11-speaker sound system that brings everything but navigation to the party. Our model was equipped with the up-level 13-speaker Bose sound system, navigation software and the optional single-slot CD player hiding in the glove box. Compared with BMW’s premium audio offerings, the Bose systems sing slightly flatter and lack the volume capable in the German options. However compared to Lexus’ standard and optional systems the Cadillac holds its own.

Ecotec 2.0L I-4 VVT DI Turbo (LTG)


Thanks to the new GM Alpha platform, all three engines sit behind the front axle which is ideal for weight balance. Base shoppers get the 2.0L direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder worth 272 ponies and 295 lb-ft of torque, besting BMW’s 2.0L by 32 HP and 35 lb-ft. On “Luxury” trim and above you can opt for GM’s ubiquitous 3.6L V6 (321HP/275 lb-ft) for $2,700, but I’d probably stick to the 2.0L turbo if I were you. Aside from being lighter, the turbo delivers more torque at lower RPMs and has a more advantageous power delivery which make it a hair faster to 60.

Shoppers looking for more shove and willing to part with $59,995 can opt for a 420 horsepower twin-turbo V6 in the CTS V-Sport that cranks out 430 lb-ft. Despite sharing thee 3.6L displacement of the middle engine, GM tells us that only 10% of the engine components are shared. Sending power to the pavement in the 2.0T and 3.6 models is essentially the same GM 6-speed automatic transmission BMW used to use in certain models of the 3-series until recently. Optional in the 3.6L and standard on the twin-turbo V6 is an Aisin 8-speed automatic that is essentially shared with the Lexus LS.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-014


Unfortunately, the first thing you’ll notice out on the road is the coarse sound from under the hood. GM’s 2.0L engine is no less refined than BMW or Mercedes’ four-bangers, but the difference is you can hear the engine in the CTS. In fact, based on the overall quietness of the cabin (a competitive 67 dB at 50 MPH), I can only conclude that Cadillac designed the engine to be heard. I don’t mind hearing the 3.6L V6, but most luxury shoppers would prefer not to be reminded they chose the rational engine every time they get on the freeway. On the bright side, because GM does not offer start/stop tech, shoppers are spared the inelegant starts and stops that characterize 528i city driving.

While I’m picking nits, the 6-speed found in the 2.0T and most 3.6 models lacks the ratio spread and shift smoothness of the ZF 8-speed automatic found in most of the competition. While I prefer GMs 6-speed to the somewhat lazy 7-speed automatic in the Mercedes E-Class, the rumored 8-speed can’t come soon enough. The 8-speed used in the V-Sport (optional on the 3.6L) solves the ratio and marketing issue, but the Aisin unit feels just as up-shift happy and down-shift reluctant as it does in the Lexus LS 460. As a result when you use the shift paddles, your actions feel more like suggestions than commands.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-013

The reason I label those flaws as mere nits is because of how the CTS accomplishes every other task on the road. Acceleration to 60 happens a 4/10ths faster than an E350, a half-second faster than the 528i,  a full second faster than a GS350, and practically years ahead of the A6 2.0T. Part of this has to do with the engine’s superior torque curve and higher horsepower numbers, but plenty has to do with curb weight. At 3,616 lbs, the CTS 2.oT is 200lbs lighter than the BMW or Lexus, 400lbs lighter than an E350. The comparable Audi A6 would be the front-wheel-drive 2.0T model with the CVT at 3,726. If you think that’s an unfair comparison, the 2.0T with Quattro is 3,900lbs and does little to correct the A6′s front-heavy weight balance.

As a result of the CTS’s near perfect 50.3/49.7 % weight balance and the light curb weight, the CTS feels more agile and responsive on winding mountain roads, especially when you compare it to the V6 competitors. The steering is as numb as anything on the market thanks to electric power steering, but you can get faint whiffs of feedback now and then and the steering weight is moderate rather than strangely firm in the 528i. Admittedly we’re splitting hairs here when it comes to steering feel, as there is precious little difference between the CTS, GS and 528i. Even the hydraulic system retained in BMW’s 550i doesn’t feel as crisp on the road. Helping out the handling is a standard moderately firm spring suspension or an optional MagneRide active suspension as our tester was equipped. The adaptive dampers feel more refined than in previous versions, despite them not changing the vehicle’s personality much from regular to sport mode. The CTS never felt out of sorts on rough or uneven terrain and despite being moderately firm, never felt punishing. This places the CTS right in line with the modern Germans. Toss in standard Brembo brakes and the CTS is far more willing to hike up its skirt and dance than the establishment competition.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-007

For 2014, Cadillac added $6,035 to the MSRP and put “value” on the back burner. At $45,100, the CTS starts $4,400 less than the 528i and $2,600 less than the GS350. Of course the Caddy’s base model has fewer features, so an apples-to-apples comparison brings the delta up to around $1,500 less than the BMW. That’s a much smaller window than there used to be, and it’s not surprising when you consider the CTS’ interior is finally equal to or better than the Germans. The pricing deltas get more interesting as you go up the ladder. The CTS 3.6 is a few grand less than a BMW 535i. In that mash-up, the BMW provides superior thrust but when the road gets winding the CTS is more enjoyable. Then we get to the CTS V-Sport. The V-Sport brings a twin-turbo V6 to a twin-turbo V8 fight. At 420 HP and 430 lb-ft the numbers are stout to be sure, but trail the 443 HP and 479 lb-ft from BMW’s 4.4L V8 and most importantly, the V8 delivers a far superior torque curve delivering all of its torque 1,500 RPM earlier. Still, the Cadillac is 325 lbs lighter, handles better, is $4,830 cheaper and by the numbers gives up little in terms of straight line performance.

The two sweet spots for the CTS are a nearly loaded 2.0T with the LCD disco dash and a moderately well equipped V-Sport. The 2.0T offers the best road manners of its direct competition at a reasonable value. The V-Sport on the other hand offers BMW shoppers an interesting alternative. At an $1,800 up-sell over a comparably equipped 535i and $4,800 less than a 550i, the V-Sport is probably the best value in the luxury segment for 2014. After a week with the middle child Cadillac, GM seems to finally be on the right path with their luxury brand. As long as the XTS is replaced with a large rear driver sedan soon I might even say that the American luxury brand is on a roll. While I can think of a few reasons to buy a BMW 5-Series over a CTS (the base CTS instrument cluster is a good reason), shoppers have no reason to dismiss the CTS as they might have done in the past. Although the CTS is still 20lbs of sound deadening and an 8-speed automatic away from being the Cadillac of mid-size sedans, it is a truly solid competitor.


 GM provides the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.3 Seconds

0-60: 5.9 Seconds

1/mile: 14.36 Seconds @ 97.5 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 24.8 MPG over 852 Miles

Sound level at 50 MPH: 67 dB

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The Cars We’ve Lost in 2013 Tue, 10 Dec 2013 12:30:12 +0000 2012 Acura ZDX-014

Every year, new cars arrive in the showrooms. Some are brand new to the world, others go through evolutions and revolutions. Yet, every year, some cars are sent off to the showroom in the sky.

This year, we’ve lost seven vehicles. Some died due to poor sales, some to improper marketing, and others to horrible execution. 2014 will bring about the deaths of these seven vehicles.

  • Acura ZDX 
  • Cadillac Escalade EXT 
  • Nissan Altima Coupe  
  • Toyota Matrix 
  • Volkswagen Routan
  • Volvo C30
  • Volvo C70

In some cases, like the ZDX and Routan, the product was poorly conceived and faced an equally poor reception in the marketplace.  In other cases, like the Escalade EXT and Altima Coupe, they were based on previous generation cars and the business case wasn’t strong enough to justify a replacement. The Volvo twins and the Matrix weren’t necessarily bad cars, but they were long in the tooth and faced declining sales, thus leading to their euthanization.

2013 Volvo C30 Polestar. Photo courtesy Car and Driver. 2013 Toyota Matrix 2012 Acura ZDX 2013 Volvo C70 2013 Nissan Altima Coupe 2013 Cadillac Escalade EXT Volkswagen Routan. Photo courtesy ]]> 105
Chevrolet In Duel With Volkswagen For The Heart of China Mon, 28 Oct 2013 17:53:54 +0000 #8 Chevrolet Cruze. Picture courtesy

When one thinks of General Motors’ relationship with China, Buick flashes into the mind like a brake light in the Beijing smog. Sometimes, Cadillac comes up, as well. However, with Volkswagen preparing to slingshot past them in a manner akin to Danica Patrick being flung toward the front of the pack with help from Tony Stewart, CEO Dan Akerson is planning to aggressively push Chevrolet through the choking air, and into as many Chinese garages as he can find.

As Automotive News reports, the push will be directed by GM China’s chairman Tim Lee, who will also add SUV sales goals to the maturing market:

We got still a lot of mother brand-building to do for Chevrolet and we will resource that appropriately and get that job done… It’s a brand that has a total history in the country of about seven or eight years, so based on that relatively short time in the marketplace, our brand awareness is good, our product consideration is good. But can it be better? I guess.

The first volley fired in the upcoming battle for Chinese automotive supremacy will be the introduction of the second-generation Cruze to spur demand in the country’s burgeoning western sector, as well as smaller — and, one hopes, fully occupied — cities. GM aims to add 1,000 dealerships to this area by 2017, backed by an $11 billion investment through 2016 that promises to establish four new assembly plants manufacturing locally around 5 million units per year. GM also plans to bulk up Cadillac’s presence in China with a locally built version of the ATS come 2014.

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Cadillac Predicts Sales In China To Triple by 2016, Or Was That Globally? Wed, 27 Mar 2013 13:48:05 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

Watching the live streaming video of Cadillac’s reveal of the all-new larger and lighter 2014 CTS last night in New York City, something GM Vice President Global Cadillac Bob Ferguson said caught my ear, about Cadillac tripling its sales over the next three years. That’s quite an improvement, so after the event I watched the recorded video and now that I’ve listened to Ferguson’s remarks a few times, and even transcribed it, I’m not sure exactly what he meant. From the context, really the word “and”,  it’s hard for me to tell if he was talking about tripling Cadillac’s sales in China, currently the world’s largest market for luxury cars or if he meant overall, globally. Let me know what you think, the transcript is after the break.

Ferguson also said that so for the first two months of 2013 Cadillac sales are up 32% in North America and that 70% of ATS buyers have never bought a Cadillac before. He didn’t say whether or not they had owned or cross-shopped a BMW 3 Series, the benchmark for the ATS and other cars in its class, or what brands of cars they used as trade-ins.

We hope you like what you see and we hope you find the trajectory of Cadillac is clear, expanding, growing, elevating to another level and the new CTS will help propel us there. As you know the new ATS sports sedan is the North American Car of the Year. What you may not know is that 70% of ATS buyers are new to Cadillac and that’s helping to move us forward as well. Through the first two months of 2013, sales are up 32% here in North America. In China, the world’s largest luxury market, we’re taking big steps forward [not a great leap forward? - RJS] and we expect sales to triple over the next three years.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks – RJS

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Review: 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD (Video) Wed, 06 Feb 2013 10:15:05 +0000

BMW’s 3-Series is always the benchmark, always the target, and always on a pedestal. So when GM announced Cadillac would once again “complete head-on” with BMW’s money-maker, the world yawned. Then an interesting thing happened, publications started fawning over the ATS, proclaiming the 3-Series has met its match. Could such a thing be true? Even our own Michael Karesh was smitten by the ATS at a launch event. To find out how the ATS matches up with its German rival, Cadillac tossed us the keys to a loaded ATS 3.6 AWD. Can Cadillac beat BMW at their own game? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.


While the ATS fails to make a dramatic new statement of Cadillac’s “Art and Science” design, it is the most balanced rendition of the form to date. Compared to the 3-Series, the ATS strikes a more aggressive pose in the parking lot thanks to the hard lines and aggressive stance. Up front, Cadillac has kept the bold angular grille we’re used to, but ditched most of chrome bling found on other Cadillacs. Out back you’ll find a short trunk overhang with a perky tail light/spoiler and “mini-fins.” You may laugh, but I think the resurrection of Cadillac fins and funky tail lamps are some of the best touches on the ATS.

Does that make the ATS better than the 3 on the outside? Not for me, but your mileage will vary. The ATS is undeniably more expressive, flashier and aggressive compared to the plain-Jane A4, dowdy C350 or the elegant (but very reserved) 3. Oddly enough it’s BMW’s understated elegance and limo-like proportions that do it for me. What does that mean for you? If you’re a traditional BMW 3-Series shopper, then the  ATS is more likely to be your thing. If you’re after a soft entry level luxury sedan but the ES350 is “too FWD”, the 3′s long hood, soft suspension and graceful lines will seal the deal. In my mind the 3 and the ATS tie in this category.


The ATS wears, hands-down, the best production cabin GM has made. The styling may not be your cup of tea, but the interior possessed none of the strange quality concerns I noticed in the new XTS. Does that mean the Caddy has the best cabin in the segment? No, that award still ends up a tie between Audi and Volvo. However, the ATS’s cabin is nearly the equal of the 3-Series. Why nearly? It’s all about consistency.

Everything inside the BMW’s cabin is of a similar quality, from buttons on the dash to the headliner, everything is exactly what you expect from a $30,000-$55,000 car. The ATS on the other hand is full of “highs and lows.” Caddy’s highs include perfect dashboard stitching, comfortable seats and an excellent tiller. Sadly the gauge cluster didn’t get the memo. Instead of the SRX’s funky new three circle gauge cluster, buyers get the frumpy base gauges from the “this is your Grandfather’s Cadillac” XTS. Still, it would all have been OK if Caddy had offered the XTS’s  gorgeous full-LCD cluster as an option, but sadly it wasn’t to be. In our Facebook page’s weekly “hit it or quit it” contest, the ATS’s dials received a unanimous “quit it.” The fervor even spawned a Vellum Venom Vignette. What was all the drama about? Check out the day/night comparison below.

The ATS is available in an impressive array of interior colors, something lacking in many European sedans. While our tester arrived wearing a Germanic black-on-black-on-black ensemble, a quick trip to my local dealer revealed (thankfully) that the tasteful red and black interior and light grey interior with brown dashboard and door treatments were easy on the eyes and plentiful on the lots. Another rarity I noticed is a passenger seat with the same range of motion as the driver’s seat making long journeys more comfortable for your spouse.

When it comes to seating and cargo hauling, Cadillac benchmarked the last generation 3. As a result, front and rear accommodations are comfortable but snug with leg room coming in several inches behind the 3 and A4. The trunk also comes up short at 10.2 cubes vs the 12.4 cubes from the A4 and C350 or the ginormous 17 cubic foot trunk in the BMW. While the ATS represents huge strides in quality from GM, the tighter quarters and lack of consistency shown in cabin trappings gives the BMW the edge in this category.

Infotainment & Gadgets

Today’s compact luxury sedans come with more computing power than a 1990s dorm room. While the Euro players favor infotainment systems driven by a knob and button array, Cadillac has followed Lincoln’s lead with a 100% touch-screen driven interface called “Cadillac User Experience” or CUE. Caddy makes the system standard on all but the base 2.5 and 2.0 turbo models of the ATS although base shoppers can add it as a $1,350 option. The heart of the system is a gorgeous 8-inch LCD. Up till now, most touchscreen systems have used the older “resistive” touchscreen tech which uses a soft, matte plastic surface to detect digits. Displays like this (MyLincoln Touch uses this type of screen) can easily scratch and images can look “fuzzy” since you are viewing the image through the touchscreen layer. Cadillac stuck out their neck and used a more expensive “capacitive” touchscreen with a hard surface that is easy to clean, scratch-resistant, and delivers graphics that are crisper than any system I have seen to date. What was Caddy’s muse? Think iPad.

Cadillac tossed in “natural” voice commands for the entire system (including USB and iPod control), three high power USB ports (capable of charging an iPad), and smartphone app integration. If you want to know more about CUE, check out the video at the top of the review.

In comparison to BMW’s iDrive, the ATS’s touch buttons and iPadesque operation wow for a while, but proved less elegant and less reliable than iDrive after the first few hours. Keep in mind that CUE is in its first release while iDrive is the product of a decade of software development. The difference shows. While I haven’t seen iDrive crash since 2002, CUE crashed several times during the week. In addition, “multi-touch” gestures for “zooming” the map sound cool, but the response time was slow and the process proved more aggravating than useful. Cadillac’s mapping software is a notch below BMW’s in terms of visual appeal and the system just isn’t as intuitive as the latest build of iDrive.

Cadillac counters their “youthful” software with a bevy of standard and available features that you won’t find on many of the non-BMW competition including a full color heads up display, magnetic ride control, cross traffic alert, dynamic cruise control, collision prevention, and front and rear automatic braking in low-speed parking situations. When all the bells and whistles are tallied, the number comes out even, but BMW’s more elegant software gives the Bavarians the edge.


Competing with the 3 properly, means offering your wares globally and providing a range of small displacement and turbocharged engines. As a result, the drivetrain chart for the ATS starts with a brand-new high-compression 2.5L direct-injection four-cylinder engine designed to battle BMW’s budget 320i. While GM tells us the same engine will find its way under the hood of the Malibu and Impala, Cadillac’s version gets a power bump to 202HP and 192lb-ft with a high 7,000 RPM redline. While this is the engine of choice for rental cars and lease specials, it competes quite well with BMW’s discount 320i with 180HP and 200lb-ft of torque.

Competing with BMW’s 328i (and costing $1,805 more than the 2.5) is GM’s thoroughly redesigned 2.0L turbo. The direct-injection mill packs a serious punch with 272HP and 260lb-ft of twist compared to BMW’s 240HP and 255lb-ft. While Cadillac’s torque curve isn’t as low as the German’s, Cadillac has kept their curb weight low ringing in around 40lbs lighter than the 328i. The difference is small but shows Cadillac was paying attention.

If six cylinders is your thing, Cadillac will jam their 3.6L direct-injection engine under the ATS’s hood for an extra $2,200. The 321HP six-pot cranks out more HP than BMW’s 3.0L turbo I6 (300HP) but delivers less torque (274lb-ft vs 300lb-ft) and of course the lack of a turbo means the 3.6L engine has a torque peak instead of a plateau. Once again Cadillac counters by being lighter, this time by 94lbs.

Regardless of your engine choice, all engines use the same 6-speed GM automatic transmission. If you want to make your BMW owning friends scratch their heads, this is essentially the same transmission used in a variety of BMW 3-Series, X1 and X3 models before BMW started buying the ZF 8-speed. If you opt for the 2.0L or 3.6L engines, Cadillac will drop their AWD system ($2,000) or a Tremec 6-speed manual into the ATS, but sadly the options are mutually exclusive.

As much as I like BMW’s torque-happy 3.0L I6 turbo, Cadillac’s naturally aspirated V6 sounds better. The BMW is still faster to 60 (thank the torque deficit), but the ATS ties with the BMW in my book thanks to the combination of a great sound, no turbo lag and excellent power delivery characteristics. The small turbo match up is more cut and dry. GM’s turbo four cranks out more shove and matches the German mill in terms of refinement. Meanwhile at the bottom of the pile, BMW’s base 320i engine provides more useable power than Caddy’s base engine, but the 2.5L four has a better sound, no lag and is eager to rev.

Refinement and aural sensations are one thing, balanced performance is another and this is where the ATS shines (just not in a straight line). The ATS’s moves on the track are defined by several things: a suspension that is firmer than the sport line 3-Series, excellent weight balance, 225 width rubber on all four corners and “only” six forward gears. Starting with the transmission, while it has a negative impact on MPG numbers, having fewer gears translates into less “hunting” while craving your favorite mountain road. That brings us to the suspension and tires. You’ll find plenty of 335i “sport line” models on the showroom floor with staggered rubber (225 in front, 255 out back) which gives you a bit more traction in the rear for stoplight races. The unequal rubber also causes the 335 understeer a bit more when taking a corner sans-throttle, a situation most drivers find more predictable than oversteer. The ATS on the other hand is extremely neutral in almost every situation. Cadillac’s AWD system turns the moderately “tail happy” ATS into an Audi-esque corner carver sans Audi’s nose-heavy tendencies. Last, and least, the ATS’s steering feel matches or exceeds the feel in the 335i. Why least? Because anything with EPAS is going to be rubbery and numb. If you hadn’t guessed by now, the ATS is the performance winner.

According to my tally sheet, the ATS is one point behind the 3 as we enter the final stretch: pricing. The ATS starts at $33,095 and the new 320i undercuts it at $32,550. If that sounds bad for Cadillac, BMW cuts corners by making leather a $1,450 option among other “decontenting” tricks. For most shoppers the ATS 2.0 is going to be the starting point at $35,795, at which point the ATS is lower than the comparable 3-Series ($36,850) both on paper and at the check out counter. Load up your ATS to the gills with a V6 and AWD and you’re talking $54,000, about $4,000 less than a similar 335xi. Toss in inevitable GM discounts and cheaper financing, and the ATS is the value leader.

Checking back with the tally sheet reveals a dead heat. Is this where the import biased press says “being German gives the 3-Series an extra point“? Not quite. I’m going to resort to an entirely different cop-out: it depends on what you’re after. Huh? Personally, the ATS falls just sort of “beating” the 3-Series, but that’s based on my preferences. If however you’re a BMW fan boy who thinks the new (F30) 3-Series has gone soft (Trust me, it has. That’s why I like it.), the ATS is your “new” E90 BMW. Think of it as E91 by Cadillac. Seriously. The ATS drives like an E90 with a naturally aspirated engine and a slightly dulled steering response. What then is the ultimate driving machine? With BMW succeeding as the “new Mercedes” and Cadillac trying to be the new BMW, your guess is as good as mine. There is one thing I know for sure however: it’s a day to remember when we can talk about a BMW 335 and a Cadillac in the same sentence without any irony.

General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 1.92 Seconds

0-60: 5.2 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.66 Seconds @ 103 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 23 MPG over 598 miles


2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Rear Spoiler Brake Light, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Fins, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Finlet, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Infotainment, CUE, Cadillac User Experience, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Cargo Area, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, dashboard, CUE, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, front door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, Dashboard, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, rear HVAC vents, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Engine, 3.6L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Engine, 3.6L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Lights, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 68
Review: 2013 Cadillac XTS (Take Two) Tue, 29 Jan 2013 09:40:36 +0000

As car enthusiasts, we’re obligated to despise the Cadillac XTS. A decade ago the marque seemed on the path to glory with exclusive rear-wheel-drive platforms. Now we get this front-driver that shares its architecture not only with a Buick but also with a mere Chevy. Such backsliding mustn’t be condoned, much less rewarded. Unfortunately for me, a Mercedes-Benz E550 had muddied the waters.

Even after seeing the XTS all over metro Detroit (they’re thick on the ground in these parts) for months, I remain of two minds about its exterior appearance. We’ve got a tall, blunt nose; a high beltline; and a long tail topped by a short deck owing to C-pillars that just won’t quit. With such odd proportions, the XTS isn’t beautiful by any conventions I’m aware of. Yet I’m intrigued, and find the car oddly attractive despite an inescapable feeling that I should not. In comparison, the oh-so-three-box E-Class is…boring.

Inside, the XTS is more inarguably attractive, with two-tone upholstery, thick chrome trim, contrasting stitching, and vivid liquid-crystal displays providing tasteful visual interest. Anything that looks like it could be luxuriously padded is. GM’s interior designers clearly sweated every last detail. Check out the area where the instrument panel meets the door. Four different levels come together perfectly.

The manufacturing engineers must have shit a brick. (Maybe they’re still shitting it.) Though also highly detailed, the E550’s interior is less artful and more reserved. At the same time, the XTS’s cabin retains enough “art and science” flavor that it lacks the warm, cosseting atmosphere of a late-model Jaguar or current Infiniti.

The reconfigurable LCD instruments in the XTS are at once beautiful, highly informative, and functionally unnecessary. The contents at the center of each circle can be customized. Yet, when supplemented with the comprehensive head-up display (HUD), there’s little need for the instruments’ primary functions. The CUE infotainment interface is less successful. While I experienced none of the crashes reported by others, and was generally less frustrated by the system, I often wished that the home button (an actual button on the center stack) and the back button (a virtual button on some screens, but not others) were present at the top left of every screen. To my great surprise, the Chevrolet Malibu I drove the following week had the buttons I wanted, where I wanted them. For this and other reasons, the less comprehensive, less powerful system was much easier to use. The CUE folks need to talk to the MyLink folks.

I first sat in an XTS at last year’s NAIAS, and its seats were the most comfortable I’d experienced in recent memory. Because the tested car wasn’t a prototype, or because it was the next-highest trim level rather than the highest, or because I hadn’t been toting a heavy bag around Cobo for hours, its seats weren’t as comfortable. They’re still more comfortable than most, “most” including the E-Class, but less cushy and form-fitting than I recall from the show. Forward visibility is much better than in the related LaCrosse, thanks to thinner (if still far from thin) pillars and an instrument panel that seems less massive. But better than awful isn’t necessarily good. The XTS doesn’t approach the conventionally packaged Mercedes in this area.

GM expanded its “Epsilon” midsize vehicle architecture as far as sound engineering principles would allow for the XTS. Consequently, the cabin of the XTS seems somewhat narrow for a 59.5-inch-tall, 202-inch-long sedan. Three adults can fit in back, but they’ll be rubbing shoulders. Length, on the other hand, can be extended quite easily. Perhaps to compensate for merely adequate shoulder room, GM endowed the XTS with an abundance of legroom. Unfortunately, as is too often the case in luxury cars, not enough room was left beneath the front seat for feet. I had to scooch mine back a few inches, in the process lifting my legs off an otherwise sufficiently high seat cushion. Note to seat engineers: if the second row passengers cannot fit their feet beneath the first row, you’ve essentially sacrificed at least four inches of rear leg room.

Interior storage is better than in many current luxury sedans. Not one but two “superzoom” cameras can fit inside the center console. At 18.0 cubic feet, the trunk of the XTS is among the largest in any car (though that in the Lincoln MKS holds another cube). Just be sure to use the cargo net for groceries, or you’ll have to climb halfway in to retrieve items that have slid forward.

Last week I found little point to 402-horsepower in a luxury-oriented sedan, and suggested that the E350’s 302-horsepower V6 was a better fit. So the 304-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 in the XTS should serve plenty well? Close, but not quite. Thanks to a combination of too little low-end torque and overly tall gearing, the powertrain in the 4,215-pound (with AWD) XTS cannot deliver the effortless thrust off the line American luxury sedan buyers often desire, even expect. The 3.6 does come alive at 4,500 rpm, but even if you use the paddles to hold first gear this doesn’t happen until 30 mph. The paddles also must be employed for speedy corner exits. Left to its own devices, the automatic transmission often hesitates to fill pedal-issued orders for moar rpm. (Oddly, the transmission was much more responsive in the Chevrolet Malibu 2.0T I drove the following week.) Granted, the engine and transmission in the XTS are far from awful, and many luxury sedan drivers could be completely satisfied with their performance. But anyone asking for much more than adequate will find them wanting. They are the weakest parts of the car.

Perhaps they redeem themselves with excellent fuel economy? The EPA rates the XTS with all-wheel-drive at 17 mpg city, 26 highway. The trip computer reported 17.5 in suburban driving, pretty close to the estimate, but only 22.7 on a 75 mph run to the airport. At this speed in sixth the engine is spinning only 2,000 rpm, but with an eight-speed automatic it would be spinning even more slowly. An Audi A7 on the same route managed nearly 30. Judging from its 19/29 EPA ratings, an E350 would similarly out-eco the XTS. Only compared to the 18/26 Lincoln MKS do the Cadillac’s numbers seem competitive.

Given the platform employed, it might seem silly to have dinged the XTS for powertrain responsiveness at corner exits. After all, this is the DTS successor, and anyone desirous of a largish Cadillac that handles should wait for the next CTS, right? Well, the chassis engineers didn’t get the memo. They fitted the XTS with a HiPer Strut front suspension to minimize torque steer and maximize front tire grip, Magnetic Ride Control dampers to control body motions, rear air springs to keep the car level, an active rear differential (with the Haldex AWD system) to help the rear end around, and Brembo front brakes. Not just this loaded XTS. Every XTS. Of course, applying complicated technology to a basically flawed chassis fails to hit the mark more often than not (e.g. the Lincoln MKS and more than a few previous Cadillacs). But in the XTS the technology has been tuned to work in concert and deliver. When hurried, the XTS feels more balanced and composed than the Mercedes and far less clumsy than its Taurus-based archrival. Blip the throttle while turning, and my-oh-my there’s even some oversteer. The non-defeatable stability control system will kick in before things get out of hand, but it has a reasonably high threshold. This chassis could handle far more power. Perhaps a turbocharged V6 to match that in the MKS is on the way?

You might have noticed that one key system wasn’t mentioned in the above list of chassis enhancements. The steering in the XTS is overly light and nearly as numb as the tiller in the Benz. Many luxury buyers do want light steering, but the suspension doesn’t seem to have been tuned with the silent majority in mind. Instead, this feel-free steering might, at least in part, be a by-product of the HiPer Strut front suspension. Reducing the scrub radius has definite benefits, but steering feel isn’t among them. (The much simpler, much cheaper Malibu 2.0T scores another surprising win in this area.)

The XTS rides more firmly than a traditional Cadillac, but those who prefer well-damped control to cushy float will find it comfortable. Especially at low speeds the sport-suspended E550 has a thumpier ride. Unless the somewhat unrefined V6 is being prodded towards its power peak, the optional 245/40VR20 Bridgestone Potenza RE97 all-season tires are the largest contributor to the small amount of noise that survives the trip into the cabin.

The big Cadillac starts at $44,995. The tested XTS Premium with AWD ($2,225), adaptive cruise control ($2,395), 20-inch wheels ($500), and red tintcoat paint ($995)—but notably without the sunroof($1,450) or rear sunshade ($250)—lists for $60,620. Drop the paint and add the missing options, and the sticker checks in at $61,325. Clearly, Cadillac isn’t overly focused on the crosstown competition, as a similarly loaded up Lincoln MKS lists for $8,860 less. Adjust for the Cadillac’s additional features using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, and the gap is still a touch over $6,000. Compared to a Lexus GS, the XTS is $2,165 less before adjusting for feature differences, and about $3,200 less afterwards. And the Mercedes-Benz E-Class? It doesn’t make sense to compare the E550, since the E350 can keep up with the Cadillac. But even the V6-powered E-Class costs $9,000 more before adjusting for feature differences, and a cool ten grand more afterwards.

In the end, we’re as confused as the car is. The Cadillac that shares a platform with lesser GM offerings handles well enough that absent steering feel is missed. With a proper rear-wheel-drive basis, the E-Class should be the better behaved, more satisfying car to drive, but it isn’t. The E550’s V8 power could be put to better use in the nose-heavy Cadillac. So we’re left wanting that as well. Similarly, GM’s designers were given some insane hard points to work with, yet managed an intriguing, up-to-date, expensive-looking car…while on the other side of the studio their colleagues modeled a C-Class with Cadillac facias. In these and a few other areas (shoulder room, CUE), the XTS team came so close to transforming a sow’s ear into a silk purse that we’re left perceiving the glass as one-tenth empty. We don’t despise it. We even admire it. But we’re not quite at peace with it.

All cars mentioned in this review were provided by their manufacturers with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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Review: 2013 Cadillac XTS Wed, 31 Oct 2012 13:00:01 +0000

Once upon a time, being the “Cadillac of <insert a noun here>” meant something magical. The problem is: it’s been 60 years since Cadillac was “The Cadillac of cars.” While the phrase lingers inexplicably on, GM is continues to play off-again/on-again with a flagship vehicle for the brand. The latest example is the all-new XTS. Instead of being “the Cadillac of flagships,” the XTS is a place holder until a full-lux Caddy hits. Whenever that may be. In the mean time, Detroit needed to replace the aging STS and the ancient DTS with something, and so it was that the XTS was born of the Buick LaCrosse and Chevy Malibu.

Click here to view the embedded video.


Engineers might have tried stretching the STS, or re-skinning the DTS yet again, but cash was in short supply so Caddy found their platform further down the food chain. Engineers took the Epsilon II platform (shared with everything from the Opel Insignia to the Roewe 950), stretched it to 202-inches long and hey-presto, the XTS was born. Unfortunately Cadillac wasn’t allowed to change the platform hard points, so the same 111.7-inch wheelbase and 62-inch track as the rest of the Epsilon rabble remains. With the wheelbase staying the same, the cabin had to be pushed as far to the wheels as possible to maximize interior space. For some gangsta feel, the belt-line was kept high, and for practical reasons the cabin was extended over the trunk to create a coupe-like profile and more rear headroom. Just for kicks the XTS’s narrow nose was raked to create a “cowcatcheresque” profile. The result is a sedan with awkward proportions, especially when parked next to the CTS, ATS, STS or DTS. (Wow that’s a whole bunch of TSs.)

Of course, style seems to be a problem for American luxury brands lately. Lincoln’s new nose took the recently refreshed MKS from country-farm-girl to tragic-farming-accident and while Chrysler doesn’t pretend to play in this segment, the new 300 is less attractive than its predecessor. (The 300 is unquestionably the most attractive and commanding sedan in this trio however.) What redeems the XTS? It still has plenty of bling and the fin is back. I must admit, I have the fin-love that dare not speak its name. Honestly.


The problem with an awkward exterior is that first impressions matter. Pity. The XTS has GM’s best interior ever. Aside from the bugaboo of a plastic airbag cover (an ailment many luxury brands suffer from), every  touch point is near perfection. From the tasteful two-tone stitched dash to the microfiber headliner, the XTS’s materials would pass an Audi taste test. Compared to the MKS, the Cadillac is more attractive and assembled with more precision. Compared to the Chrysler 300′s new luxury level interior, the Caddy is the place to be even though the 300′s leather dash is sublime. Unfortunately every silver lining has a cloud, and so it is with the XTS. There was a pleather dash part that was strangely crinkled and the glove box would routinely fall open beyond its stops and crash completely to the floor. (Check out the video for that.)

Thanks to the XTS’s odd profile, rear seat legroom measures out at 40-inches, 1.4 ahead of the MKS while also providing 46-inches of legroom up front (four more than MKS.) In addition, the XTS provides more head room in the rear and much nicer trappings. As proof that more traditional body shape provides more rear room, Chrysler’s 300 bests the XTS by 1/10th in rear legroom and rear headroom but in true-livery fashion leaves less space to the driver. Because the XTS is narrower than the competition, sitting three abreast in the rear is a “cozy” affair.


All XTS models get the new “Cadillac User Experience” or CUE system controlled by a gorgeous 8-inch LCD in the dash. Most navigation systems use a resistive touchscreen with a matte plastic surface that can easily scratch and causes images to look “fuzzy” at times. Cadillac stuck out their neck and used a more expensive capacitive touchscreen with a glass surface that is easy to clean and delivers graphics that are crisper than any system I have seen to date. What was Caddy’s muse? Think iPad.

Powering the LCD is software that gives MyLincoln Touch a run for its money. CUE supports “natural” voice commands to control the majority of system functions from iPod control to destination entry. Cadillac has gone USB crazy with three USB ports that all provide enough power to charge an iPad, something very few systems can do. CUE takes a novel approach to using multiple USB devices, the system indexes them together as if they were one music library so there’s no need to switch from one to the other to look for a song. CUE also sports the best iOS device integration available, for more information, check out the video at the top of the review.

Base XTS models come with an 8-speaker Bose system while upper trim levels of the XTS get a 14 speaker surround system with speakers integrated into the front seat backs. The 8 speaker system is well-balanced but seemed unable to handle moderate volume levels without some distortion. Thankfully the 14 speaker system proved an excellent companion and competes well with the up-level systems from the Germans.

As you would expect with a first generation system, I encountered a few hiccups. Despite the screen being large and high-resolution, CUS uses fairly “chunky” maps that lack detail and aren’t as attractive as iDrive. In addition, the “soft” menu buttons around the map cut the window down to a narrow slot making it difficult to use CUE as a map when navigating around downtown. The ability to “multi-touch” gesture on the screen for zooming sounds cool, but the response time is slow and the process proved more aggravating than useful. Lastly, much like Ford’s Touch system, CUE crashed frequently (four times in a week). While the crashing is a concern, my statement about Ford’s system applies equally to CUE: I can handle occasional crashing as long as the rest of the system is snazzy and does everything I want my car to do. Still, let’s hope Cadillac has a software update pronto.



The XTS is a conflicted vehicle. For every awkward exterior angle, there is a tasteful dash seam. For every complaint I have about CUE, there is a 12.3-inch LCD “disco dash” that stole my geeky heart. Sure, the cost of LCD-admission is the $54,505 XTS Premium, but this is the best LCD instrumentation ever. Yes, Jaguar/Land Rover/Mercedes have been toying with large LCDs for a while and even Dodge has a moderately configurable screen in the Dart, but the XTS makes use of the LCD. Huh? In JLR products, the LCD has one “look” (imitating traditional dials) and if you don’t like it that’s just tough. Cadillac gives you four layouts that range from traditional gauges to a modern digital theme and allows sections of the display to be further customized.

In addition to the LCD gauges, the XTS offers available pre-collision warning, lane departure warning, cross traffic detection, blind spot monitoring, heads-up display, adaptive cruise control and a system that will automatically stop you if you try to back over Jimmy on his skateboard. Most of these systems communicate with you through your backside via a seat that vibrates the cheek corresponding to the side of the vehicle that is in danger. Sound strange? It was, yet I found myself changing lanes sans signals so the “Magic Fingers” would feel me up.


Under the stubby hood you’ll find one engine: GM’s 3.6L direct-injection V6. Instead of the 321HP/275lb-ft tune the baby Caddy uses, this mill produces a more sedate 304HP at 6,800RPM and 264lb-ft at 5,200RPM (400RPM higher than the ATS’s peak). While there are rumors of a twin-turbo V6, I will believe it when I see it. Until then, all the power is sent to the front wheels via the GM/Ford 6-speed transaxle, or to all four wheels if you opt for a $2,225 Haldex AWD system.

Our AWD tester hit 60MPH in 6.1 seconds so it’s hard to call the XTS slow, but neither is it fast. The problem is the 260lb-ft versus a 4,200lb curb weight. While the base MKS (3.7L V6) is slower at 6.5 seconds, Lincoln’s twin-turbo bruiser gets the job done in 5.1. The 300 hit 60 in 6.3 thanks to its greater mass, but the 300′s 8-speed transmission allowed it to tie the XTS for a 14.9 Second 1/4 mile at 93 MPH.


My week with the XTS started with a journey to sample the 2013 Chevy Malibu turbo. The event made me wish GM’s new 2.0L turbo had been jammed into the XTS. Why? Because the Malibu hit 60 in 6.2 thanks to 260lb-ft plateau from 1,500-5,800RPM and delivered 24.7MPG in mixed driving. Our AWD XTS eeked out 18.9MPG in a highway-heavy cycle and FWD XTS shoppers should only expect one more MPG.

Acceleration quibbles aside, the XTS’s road manners are impeccable. The XTS proved a faithful companion on Northern California mountain highways thanks to the AWD system, GM’s “HiPer Strut” suspension design and Magnaride electronically controlled dampers. The oddly named suspension design moves the steering axis to a more vertical orientation closer to the center of the tire, reduces the scrub radius and helps keep the contact patch more consistent. Whatever the name, the system just works. The benefit is most obvious in the FWD XTS where it quells the torque steer demon but it also pays dividends in the AWD model by keeping the wheel more vertical thereby improving grip. While I wouldn’t call the overall dynamic “sporty,” the XTS is confident and predictable. Of course the 300′s rear-wheel setup makes it more fun and the MKS exhibited less body roll, but the XTS’s well sorted suspension and Magnaride system make it an excellent all-around performer.

I left my week with the XTS more confused than when we met and I’m no closer to understanding who the XTS is for. The Chrysler 300 makes a better performance vehicle with the 5.7L V8 and a better livery vehicle due to the rear seat dimensions. Lincoln’s twin-turbo V6 is insane and addictive in its own way, and Lincoln will (optionally) toss in quantities of real-wood that would make Jaguar blush. BMW, Audi and Mercedes have better brand names, more polished interiors and a complete line of engines that range from normal to 400+ horsepower. The XTS on the other hand is a confident-handling technological four de force dressed in a corduroy leisure suit. With leather elbow patches. And a fedora.


Cadillac provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of fuel for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.48 Seconds

0-60: 6.1 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.9 Seconds @ 93 MPH

2013 Cadillac XTS, Exterior, Tail Fin, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac XTS-002 2013 Cadillac XTS-003 2013 Cadillac XTS-004 2013 Cadillac XTS, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac XTS-006 2013 Cadillac XTS-007 2013 Cadillac XTS-008 2013 Cadillac XTS, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac XTS-010 2013 Cadillac XTS-011 2013 Cadillac XTS-012 2013 Cadillac XTS, Engine, 3.6L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac XTS-014 2013 Cadillac XTS-015 2013 Cadillac XTS-016 + 2013 Cadillac XTS-018 2013 Cadillac XTS-019 2013 Cadillac XTS-020 2013 Cadillac XTS, Infotainment, CUE system, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac XTS-022 2013 Cadillac XTS-023 2013 Cadillac XTS-024 2013 Cadillac XTS-025 2013 Cadillac XTS-026 2013 Cadillac XTS-027 2013 Cadillac XTS, Infotainment, CUE system, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac XTS-029 2013 Cadillac XTS-031 2013 Cadillac XTS-032 2013 Cadillac XTS-034 2013 Cadillac XTS-035 2013 Cadillac XTS-036 2013 Cadillac XTS-037 2013 Cadillac XTS-038 2013 Cadillac XTS, LCD Digital Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac XTS, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac XTS-041 2013 Cadillac XTS-042 2013 Cadillac XTS-043 2013 Cadillac XTS-044 2013 Cadillac XTS-045 2013 Cadillac XTS-046 2013 Cadillac XTS-048 2013 Cadillac XTS-049 2013 Cadillac XTS-050 2013 Cadillac XTS-051 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 81
Capsule Review: 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe Thu, 25 Oct 2012 10:01:07 +0000
Upon graduation from Belfast Teacher’s Training College in the late ’60s, my father found himself summoned into the headmaster’s office. A heavy oaken drawer was opened and an object placed upon the green baize of the blotting pad: “Ye’ll be needin’ this.”

“This” was the strap, thick leather symbol of martial law in the classroom. Dad left it lying where it was, left behind the tobacco-scented claustrophobia of that small office, left behind the small-minded bigotry of that blood-soaked island, and built himself a new home in the wilds of British Columbia.

From my birth, this has been my template for the masculine ideal: resolve, courage, intelligence, compassion. In the latter stages of his career, my father – long an administrator – could walk in and quell any classroom by his mere physical presence. And so, I’ve endeavoured to emulate him. To refrain from roarin’ an’ shoutin’. To be calm, yet firm of purpose. To be a man.

Of course, five minutes behind the wheel of this thing and it’s, COME AT ME BRO!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m awfully fond of the CTS-V, particularly in wagon form. It’s just not particularly subtle.

While I won’t go into an involved discussion of the design (read Sajeev Mehta’s thorough critique here instead), it’s sort of a visual caps-lock. You get the sense that they’d have built the entire thing out of grille if they’d have been able to get away with it.

When I remarked that going from a black/black FR-S to the ‘V felt like Robin-to-Batman, Jack B dubbed it the “Batbro,” and I can’t do better than that. If your utility belt is filled with hair-gel capsules and cocaine, then this is the sled for you.

Moving into the interior with some difficulty, due to the fiddly ‘Vette-style door latches, one finds a surprisingly high seating arrangement and a colour-combination clearly put together by a Boston Bruins fan. The details are fairly nice though.

Not as nice as the interior of a high-trim ATS however – the upcoming CTS update should fix things up a little, but this design has been around a while. Also, and I’m kicking myself for not snapping a quick shot of it, there’s a three-inch piece of fake carbon-fibre trim to the right of the steering wheel, and it’s stuck on at about fifteen degrees off the correct angle. Shoddy.

This centre-stack will doubtless soon be supplanted by the CUE system and all its haptic-touch trickery. I sort of prefer the buttons, myself, but the retractable navigation screen wobbles quite a bit when you go over bumps.

Two really great things to note: first, the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel is excellent, and great at wicking away moisture from sweaty palms. Second, they’ve put the traction-control toggle right on the steering wheel.

Which brings us around to the question of performance.

Yes, the CTS-V is a bit of an automotive tribal tattoo – Conan the Vulgarian. On the other hand, great googly-moogly does it back up those looks with volcanic power levels.

The supercharged 6.2L LSA is nearly imbecilic in its ferocity, howling and bellowing out those twin centre-mounted exhausts. Flick off the overworked traction control so that it can go off and have a therapy session, and the blown V8 scorches the tires and rams repeatedly into the rev-limiter with a noise like a T-Rex choking on Jeff Goldblum.

I know, I know. Mr. Hyperbole’s come to tea again.

I assure you, this car both looks like Brock Lesnar and punches things in the face like Brock Lesnar. It’s not an alternative to an M3, it’s an alternative to PCP.

While a six-speed manual is also on offer, the higher take rate will surely be this, the paddle-shifted six-speed automatic. It works quite well, although there’s so much power, you could probably hook the LSA up to a two-speed Powerglide and it’d still be fine.

Cadillac/GM’s magnetic-ride suspension is here too, and the widened track and lowered height of the coupe certainly makes this ‘V much nimbler than the last one I drove (a wagon). I don’t think you’d call it a sportscar though.

Leave the traction-control sensibly on, and the CTS-V is quite a nice street car, apart from the mail-slot visibility. The Brembos scrub speed just fine for street-applications, and the zero-delay power-delivery is endlessly entertaining. And expensive.

Here’s the thing though. This car might be perfectly capable of smacking around some of the normally-aspirated German stuff, but like Mr. Lesnar, it’s gotten a bit old for the ring. It’s not in MMA competitions any more, it’s more like a member of the WWE.

Herein lieth some redemption: even with the clock-cleaning Shelby out there and ridiculous twin-turbo Teutons on the rise, the ‘V is still a character-filled car. It’s entertaining and burly and something of a self-parody.

But look out – that guy’s got a folding metal chair!

Cadillac supplied the car and insurance. I supplied the fuel, more fool me.

Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 59
Review: 2013 Cadillac ATS Mon, 23 Jul 2012 15:13:31 +0000

Smaller grille than CTS, but clearly a Cadillac.

Size and weight are a big part of GM’s DNA. They beat Ford not with a frontal assault on the Model T but by offering a larger, heavier, flashier car. They thought they could do the same to BMW. But, even as the Bavarians packed on the inches and pounds, car buyers “in the know” saw the additional size and weight of Cadillacs as a sign that the General either lacked technical competence or just didn’t “get it.” Well, maybe the “new GM” really is different. With the 2013 Cadillac ATS, the company has pulled out all the stops to directly challenge the BMW 3-Series with a rear-wheel-drive car that is—surprise—a few tenths of an inch smaller and a few pounds lighter. Could the people who tried to sell us the Cimmaron have gotten this one right?

Standard 17-inch wheels.

From looking at the ATS, you’d never guess that GM was swinging for the fences, because the exterior designers weren’t. Instead, they were instructed to bunt. The first CTS was a brash yet largely successful attempt by Cadillac to carve out a new visual identity. The second one smoothed off the first’s edges, but its muscular fenders and enlarged grille oozed swagger. Many people loved it, but some also hated it. The ATS’s leaner, less dramatic body sides and trimmer grille are better for aero, packaging efficiency, and not scaring off buyers who want to blend in. The longer you look at it, the better it looks, but such subtly stylish sheet metal won’t sell the ATS all by itself. Instead, it might maximize the number of people willing to check out the rest of the car. This is the opposite of GM’s past practice, where often the hope was that dramatic styling would lure buyers to overlook the rest of the car.

Red interior with real carbon fiber trim.

Crack open the front door, get in, and the ATS’s second impression is a strong one. Nothing crazy here either, but the design and materials are at least as good as others in the segment. No direct competitor has fully upholstered the upper surfaces of the instrument panel and doors. This covering has a tighter, more precise fit than in the CTS. Seven different interiors are offered, and all are attractive, some strikingly so. The large screen for the touch-based “CUE” infotainment system (standard on all but the base trim) has vibrant graphics that combine the visual punch of Ford’s system with the superior usability of Chrysler’s. I noted only one part of the interior that appeared cheap, a faux chrome start button. They’re already planning to change the finish.

Black interior with real aluminum trim.

Look forward over the hood, and the driving position could hardly be better. The instrument panel seems lower and less massive than in a BMW, the A-pillars are downright dainty by current standards, and, in some refreshingly original thinking, the armrests are at different heights to support the left arm while steering and the right arm while shifting. The steering wheel has a smaller diameter than the standard GM tiller, and its rim isn’t overly padded. The front seats could be better. With headrests that adjust fore and aft and side bolsters that, on the top two of the four trim levels, adjust in and out, the right boxes were checked. But even at full-tight the bolsters provide only middling lateral support. They’re undersized and the center of the seatback feels slightly convex instead of concave. As with the exterior styling, GM has avoided driving away any potential buyers (in this case the widest ones). They could have offered more aggressively bolstered seats as a standalone option rather than making these “sport buckets” mandatory on the top two trim levels, but this would have driven up build combinations (more on this later).

Front seat set for 5’9″ driver. Can go back 2-3 more inches.

Jump from the front seat to the back, and if you’re over six feet tall (luckily, I’m not) you’ll wish you hadn’t. Second row leg room isn’t far off that in a Mercedes-Benz C-Class or Audi A4, but the latest BMW 3-Series has vaulted well ahead of the field in this area. Multiple ATS team members confided that they hadn’t foreseen the 3er getting so much bigger than their car. When I pointed out that the F30 is only three-tenths of an inch longer than the ATS, 182.5 vs. 182.2, and so still far from CTS territory (191.6), one of them noted that overall length isn’t the best indicator, as the small Cadillac has pointier ends. The BMW’s wheelbase is significantly longer, 110.6 vs. 109.3, and the additional inch-plus seems to have gone entirely into rear seat knee room.

Intrusive suspension and goose neck hinges.

But rear seat room isn’t the ATS’s largest weakness. The Cadillac’s trunk volume barely tops ten cubic feet. This is a fair distance short of the previous-generation 3’s twelve (matched by the C-Class and A4), and far less than the new one’s seventeen. What happened? Judging from the intrusiveness of the rear suspension, GM might have given ride and handling much higher priorities than cargo volume when making tradeoffs.

Note holes punched to save weight.

Actually, there’s no question that handling was the team’s top priority. They wanted to beat the 3-Series in direct competition, by being better at what it does best, and the BMW hasn’t dominated the segment for three decades by having the biggest trunk. The ATS team designed every excess gram out of its body structure and employed significant amounts of high-strength steel, aluminum, and even magnesium to get the curb weight to 3,315 pounds with the 201-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder base engine, 3,373 with the 272-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four, and 3,461 with the 321-horsepower 3.6-liter V6. A CTS with the same V6 weighs nearly a quarter-ton more. A 240-horsepower BMW 328i automatic weighs 3,410 pounds, a 300-horsepower 335i weighs 3,555. The ATS team is rightly proud of this win. Beyond curb weight, the team fitted a BMW-like double-pivot front suspension, developed Cadillac’s first five-link rear suspension (a mere 30 years after the pioneering W201 Benz), optimized the angles of all of the beautiful alloy suspension links, and forward rack-mounted an electric power steering (EPS) unit by ZF (which also supplies Audi and BMW). They then called on the same people who made the heavyweight CTS-V dance to fine tune the half-ton-lighter new car.

Lots of aluminum.

Jump back into the front seat to evaluate their work, and you’ll find a very balanced, highly precise, fairly agile, and altogether pleasant-handling car. Damping seems much better than in the latest, looser 3-Series even without the FE3 suspension’s magnetic ride control shocks, and especially with them. With rear-wheel-drive and a limited-slip rear differential (included with the FE3 suspension or the manual transmission with either suspension), the rear end can be rotated progressively with the throttle much like in the CTS. (As in the larger car it helps to switch the stability control out of its slightly too conservative default mode.) The front brakes are strong Brembos with all but the base trim 2.5. This is an easy car to drive quickly along a curvy road.

What you won’t find, due to a combination of EPS and a desire to appeal to mainstream luxury car buyers, is steering that communicates every nuance of what is going on where the rubber meets the road. I suspect they’re withholding this for a future V. Even as it stands, the Cadillac’s moderately light steering feels at least as good as that in the Audi or BMW, much less the hopelessly numb Mercedes. It’s a precision instrument, just not an overtly engaging one.

Five links.

On the streets of north Georgia, the ATS rode well, even with the firmer FE3 suspension. Aiming for the largest road imperfections, I failed to elicit a harsh reaction. But the largest road imperfections in north Georgia aren’t very large. A more thorough ride evaluation must await a week-long test in Michigan. Noise levels aren’t the lowest, but they are fairly low, partly due to active noise reduction (via the speakers). As in many cars, rough concrete poses the toughest challenge.

It’s tempting to write off the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine (a new generation Ecotec) as suited only for people who care nothing for performance. But, facing the lowest expectations, it actually performs well enough in the ATS that in the north Georgia hills I didn’t find myself wishing for one of the others. Refinement is also very good for a four—and better than with the turbo 2.0-liter (also new, not the same engine found in the Buick Regal GS).

The boosted engine definitely feels stronger, but not to the extent suggested by the specs or the stopwatch (5.7 vs. 7.5 seconds to 60), and it sounds buzzier when revved. It’s not the sort of racket produced by earlier GM fours, just a soundtrack more suited to basic transportation. A car that performs as well and costs as much as the ATS deserves a less pedestrian-sounding engine. The V6 feels stronger still when revved (GM claims 5.4 seconds to 60, and it makes a larger difference over 60), but it lacks the midrange punch of the boosted sixes in the Audi S4 and BMW 335i. The V6 has a much throatier sound than the fours, but also could sound more like well-tuned high performance machinery (the heretofore unmentioned Lexus IS gets a win in this area). All three engines are passable, but none stands out the way the chassis does. If you want the well-executed manual transmission, then your decision among the three engines is made for you. The base four and V6 are auto-only.

Set well back, for 50-50 weight distribution with manual transmission.

EPA ratings with the three engines, automatic transmission, and rear-wheel drive are 22/33, 22/32, and 19/28, respectively. The fours are close to the admirable figures achieved by the latest BMW, the V6 not so much. GM notes that the ZF transmission in the BMW has two more ratios, for a total of eight, but there’s more to the story than this. The far heavier CTS tests nearly as well, 18/27. Reasonably precise real world figures will require more time in the car. Hustling a 2.0T ATS with all-wheel-drive through the hills, I observed low twenties on the trip computer. In straight highway in an all-wheel-drive V6, I observed 26. While the automatic transmission functions well in performance driving, it needs more ratios to deliver class-leading fuel economy.

At Atlanta Motorsports Park.

So, how much are those upholstered interior panels, fancy suspension bits, and pricey alloys going to set you back? The Cadillac ATS starts at $33,990. Add $1,805 for the turbo (available with all four trim levels), but deduct $1,180 for the manual transmission. Add $2,000 for all-wheel drive, which can’t be paired with the manual transmission or the base engine. For leather, you choice of interior trims (wood, aluminum, carbon fiber), a folding rear seat, CUE (optional on the base trim), additional amenities, and the option of adding the V6 for another $1,800 on top of the turbo four, step up to the $38,485 “Luxury” trim. For the sport buckets, xenon headlights, and shift paddles, you must opt for the $42,790 “Performance” trim. This price also includes the formerly optional turbo four, Bose surround sound, and a basic safety package. The last includes forward collision alert and a lane departure warning that vibrates the seat instead of beeping—much less annoying. But the folding rear seat is lost. To regain the folding rear seat, and add magnetic ride control shocks, quicker steering, firmer FE3 tuning, and a head-up display, you must get the $45,790 “Premium” trim (deduct $1,475 for the manual). This price also includes 18-inch wheels and navigation, both optional on the mid-level trims. Put another way, to get the best-handling ATS you must also get the most expensive ATS.

Sound like BMW territory? Close, but not quite. A 2012 328i starts nearly even with the 2.0T ATS, $35,795, but includes less standard equipment. Equip the BMW to the same level, and it lists for $2,545 more than the Cadillac. But adjust for remaining feature differences using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, and the Cadillac’s advantage is a mere $1,290. Load both cars up, and this advantage becomes more substantial, with a sticker of $47,440 vs. the BMW’s $52,310 (for a difference of $4,870). The adjustment for feature differences is negligible. Other competitors cost less than the BMW. The Infiniti G37 remains the segment’s bargain play.

Tan interior with real wood trim.

Overall, the Cadillac isn’t priced low enough to sell based on price alone, but isn’t priced so high that even those who prefer it will opt for the much more established BMW…unless you happen to require the most athletic suspension, and little else. In this case, the BMW lists for over $5,000 less with a manual transmission, and over $6,500 less with an automatic. Yes, the Cadillac includes about $7,000 in mandatory additional features, but some enthusiasts won’t want them.

I pressed a number of ATS team members about this inflexible packaging. Their response was that they had to keep the build combinations very low, 915 to be precise. GM feels that matching the BMW’s 1.2 million build combinations would substantially drive up costs and harm quality. I believe that they believe this, but I’m nevertheless skeptical. How does it significantly help cost or quality to always install nav when you install the FE3 suspension? I don’t doubt that reducing manufacturing complexity helps, but I don’t think all additional build combinations are equally harmful (as assumed by GM math).

Another rationale makes more sense. One team member said that they’re undercharging for the adaptive shocks and other FE3 bits. Since these are deleted when AWD is added, some easy math yields a $900 price. This is cheap. To make this low price financially viable, they must force you into a heavily optioned (and so more profitable) car to get it. Personally, I’d much rather see the FE3 suspension available on lesser trims, even if it then had to cost more. Until then, I’d advise people uninterested in all of the Premium’s features (or at least uninterested in paying $45,000+) to settle for an FE2 car. I drove the two suspensions along the same road, and while the FE3 car handles better the difference is far from night and day. The character of the car remains the same.

Aside from rear seat room, trunk capacity, and option packaging, the Cadillac ATS approaches, meets, or beats the 3-Series in every area. The car’s curb weight might be only a little lower than the BMW’s, but even this represents a seismic change for GM. A large number of details done right suggests a well-functioning team that intensively studied the market. Interior styling and handling are clear strengths. I had hoped for a more visceral driving experience, but luxury car manufacturers typically reserve such an experience for special performance variants with stratospheric price tags. If I had to choose from among the cars that are actually available in the segment, this would be the one.

Cadillac provided the tested cars, fuel, insurance, airfare to Atlanta, one night in a nice hotel , very good food, and five laps around Atlanta Motorsports Park (two of them with a driver far more skilled than I am).

Michael Karesh operates, an online source of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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