But it’s about the only thing about this new challenger from America which is ambitious. The recently-formed Cadillac and Corvette Europe, an off-shoot of General Motors, only plans to sell about 450 right-hand drive versions of the executive-sized saloon in the UK this year through its five dealerships covering England, Scotland and Wales.
Which begs the question: why bother? Considering the parlous state of General Motors’ finances (its bonds were recently downgraded to junk status and it has debts of £290 billion), surely now is not the time to be relaunching the brand in Europe?
Well, yes it is, according to Malcolm Wade, managing director – UK for Cadillac and Corvette Europe. He said: ‘We are serious about the UK and GM wants Cadillac to be the prestige brand in its empire.
‘Everyone knows Cadillac, even though they think they’re 15-foot long and pink. Now we have got something which is credible and we don’t need to build a brand from scratch in the way Lexus did.
‘The last time Cadillac tried to sell cars in the UK it was a bit of a ‘hit and miss’ affair with the work done through certain Vauxhall dealerships.
‘Now we have teamed up with Pendragon, the world’s largest Aston Martin dealer, and have a dedicated organisation and five new Stratstone dealerships.’
So who will be venturing into Stratstone’s showrooms to buy a CTS? According to Cadillac, people who want something different from the German cars which dominate executive car sales.
In size, the CTS is a direct rival to BMW’s 5-series, the Audi A6 and the Mercedes-Benz E-class, but its main selling point is price – from £24,850 for the entry-level 2.8-litre V6 rising to £29,850 for the all-singing 3.6 V6.
As both trim levels – Elegance and Sport Luxury – come loaded with equipment the CTS is a value-for-money package, especially as prices compare directly with smaller prestige models such as the 3-series, C-class and A4.
The main problem Cadillac will have is steering badge-conscious buyers towards its offering.
In this market sector image is all-important, and US cars have never managed to be seen as anything other than curious, out-dated oddities in the UK (cast your mind back to the dreadful STS Caddy from a few years ago).
But the new model looks the part – and as our convoy of black CTSs left the launch venue it looked like a presidential cavalcade.
It follows the design language which was introduced on the Evoq roadster concept from 1999. With lots of sharp lines and a high waist, it still looks American, only nowhere near as bland as some of its country’s other offerings.
With the work put in on driving dynamics the CTS is the best mainstream American car ever to come to the UK.
You could argue that this isn’t difficult, but Cadillac is investing a lot of money in trying to capture a slice of prestige car sales in Europe, and next year will see the smaller BLS model arrive, in right-hand drive and with a diesel engine from launch.
Behind the wheel
GETTING behind the wheel of the CTS is something of a disappointment after the striking looks of the exterior. The cabin lacks any of its flair and is a very gloomy place, made up almost entirely of black plastic in a variety of textures and looks. The only bright spots are the slashes of token wood on the door handles, gearknob and steering wheel.
Fortunately things get better once you’re on the move. Only the range-topping 3.6-litre model was available to drive on the launch, allied to a five-speed automatic gearbox.
With 253bhp it promises strong performance, although the 0-62mph time of seven seconds seems a tad optimistic. The big V6 doesn’t intrude into the cabin when you’re driving in normal conditions, but once you accelerate it makes a lot of noise but doesn’t seem to build speed that quickly.
Where the CTS does impress is in terms of ride and handling. With a chassis designed specifically for Europe (i.e engineered to go round corners) the CTS is on a par with all of the big German marques, except BMW, which still leads the way in ride and handling.
The feel is more sport than comfort, although this doesn’t mean it crashes through ruts in the road. In fact, it remains very composed in most conditions and there’s a nicely weighted steering rack which boosts your confidence to enjoy the CTS.
ALTHOUGH it looks unmistakably American, from behind the wheel the CTS feels very European which, without trying to sound patronising to our friends across the Pond, is a great achievement. Ultimately though, the CTS will remain in the background for the time being – restricted volume and the crucial omission of a diesel engine will hold it back.
Cadillac CTS factfile
|Model||2.8 V6||3.6 V6|
|Max power (bhp/rpm)||212/7,000||253/6,200|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm)||193/3,300||251/3,200|
|Max speed (mph)||140||145|
|Comb fuel economy (mpg)||24.1||24.4|
|CO2 emissions (g/km)||278||275|
On sale: Now
Prices (OTR): £24,850–£29,850