Cadillac is a minute player in Europe. Joe Bloggs in Kensington High Street won’t understand it’s GM’s posh brand in the States – but cars like the new CTS Coupe might shift expectation somewhat. That’s why GM is relaunching Cadillac in Europe – and this distinctive coupe is spearheading the fightback.
Don’t underestimate that total lack of brand awareness. Cadillac sold just 177 cars in the UK last year; no one model line broke beyond double figures, the BLS shifting 85 copies, the SRX crossover 31 and the CTS hitting an almighty 30 in 2009. Minuscule sales weren’t a recessionary one-off; in 2008, Brits bought just 171 Yank tanks.
Still, they’ve nothing if not persistent. This must be the fifth time in the last two decades that GM’s ‘relaunched’ Cadillac in Europe. The last distributor, Holland’s Kroymans group, went bust in the recession and this time GM’s going it alone with a standalone distribution network. CAR’s met up with Cadillac top brass and driven the entire Euro range of Caddies to see if they’ve got a fighting chance this time. Look out for our news and first drive reviews in the next few days.
Cadillac CTS-V Coupe: the lowdown
The CTS sedan has been with us for eight years, but then in 2008 Cadillac showed off a sleek coupe spin-off. It made production relatively unchanged and here it is: the production CTS Coupe. Pick from a 3.6-litre V6 petrol (rear- or four-wheel drive, manual or auto) or this range-topping 6.2-litre V8.
It’s the latter we tested. The cheapest CTS Coupe retails at £47,536, while the V spec tops a heady £69,785. At present there’s only a single UK distributor in Manchester, but Cadillac’s planning a second sales centre, regional servicing depots and a new way of handling customers (for instance, possibly picking up cars for service etc).
£69,785! For a Cadillac! The M5 can rest easy…
There’s no getting away from the fact that these new Cadillacs are pricey. But remember there is precious little in the way of competition. Audi and BMW don’t yet make two-door A6 or 5-series models (the Six is a different proposition), leaving the Mercedes E-class Coupe as the only direct rival. And even the loftiest E500 two-door costs ‘just’ £51,185.
At least the CTS-V Coupe has serious firepower to back up that lofty price. With the supercharged 6.2-litre V8 more often seen under the hood of a Corvette, the top CTS produces a faintly ludicrous 556bhp and 551lb ft. Cadillac quotes 4.4sec and 175mph (191mph with the manual transmission) for the CTS Coupe, and it feels every inch as fast.
Talk us through the driving experience then…
The CTS is one surprising car. I usually have serious reservations about American cars brought to this side of the Pond. Chrysler and Dodge have proved exactly how not to do it in the UK, and Cadillac has produced some howlers in the past. But there is something eerily European about the CTS.
The CTS Coupe has the same vibe. The exterior style is pure Americana, emphasised by the pointy rump of the CTS Coupe. It’s like an anvil back there. And the V spec model has aggressive centrally banked exhausts and the mother of all mesh grilles. Nineteen inch wheels aren’t too OTT though, hinting at the depth of engineering behind the veneer of style.
And inside the CTS Coupe?
Another result. No, it won’t get you sprinting out from your Mercedes and Audis, but it won’t send you hunting for the ejector seat button either. The design is crisp and friendly, the materials are generally good, although you will find cheap and nasty surfaces away from the line of sight. Steer clear of the optional sunroof; with it, taller drivers will bond tonsure with rooflining. Not good.
But everything’s where you’d expect it and although we’re not keen on the faux carbonfibre trim, the leather and most plastics look and feel right and the driving position is spot on. Those rear seats are tiny, though – and especially hard to access. The CTS Coupe’s boot is small at 298 litres (the E-class Coupe musters 450); although sensibly shaped inside, it has an equally restrictive opening.
Cadillac CTS-V driving impressions
This is the best bit. The CTS Coupe doesn’t fall down at the first dynamic hurdle. Grip the tactile, suede steering wheel and notice the red tracer LEDs that follow the tacho needle. You can have the CTS-V as an auto or manual, but we tried the slusher. Select D and trickle away.
The CTS-V is a refined beast. It can pootle all day, wafting around on that mountain of torque. In fact, if anything it could be too quiet and refined. Even when you nail it, you don’t get quite the V8 scream you’d expect from a Detroit lump. Perhaps we could blame the supercharger. Mind you, we drove the CTS-V Coupe in the wet and were circumspect with the throttle after feeling the rear shimmy in third gear under full beans. The traction control keeps everything tidy.
That blown V8 is epically strong. Find a long straight, pin the throttle and it slingshots you into tomorrow, as the speedo hones in on its 330kph (205mph) top calibration. Perhaps our hilly and rural test route might explain our woeful 12.7mpg claimed by the trip computer. This car is horrendously out of kilter with the times.
Fast in a straight line, a mess in the corners?
Not at all. As well as possessing a fine ride, the CTS-V Coupe has poise in spades. The structure feels stiff and the steering’s not too heavy – the car feels incredibly nimble on its feet for one knocking on the door of two tonnes. One criticism of the adaptive dampers unique to the V: we could discern too little difference between the Sport and Tour modes. Mind you, the car rides very well in both modes, which is a rare blessing in an age when most Germans patter and hop on low-profile rubber.
Straight out of the box, the CTS Coupe feels a convincing alternative to a Merc E-class Coupe and even the very best M, RS and AMG rivals. On dynamic grounds, at least.
I’d never driven a CTS before. I was expecting mediocrity and found at the very least competence in a few areas, excellence in many parts.
What will surely hinder the CTS-V Coupe’s chances in Europe are that high price tag and a customer base unsure of what a Cadillac is. Unproven residuals and dealer support will force many to look elsewhere and the brash American style will prove too gauche for some buyers.
But my overwhelming memory of this car will be how European it is. It’s bloody good fun and a fine achievement by Cadillac.