Sunday, March 4, 2007

This Really Is a Revolution

If, in 1977, you had told me that I would someday seriously consider a Cadillac, I would have thought you were nuts. Cadillacs were everything that I found detestable in automobiles: softly sprung behemoths designed to isolate the driver from the outside world, too large and inefficient to justify the reasonably good acceleration (at least, in a straight line) that their engines could offer. They were popular among certain status seeking ethnic groups where I grew up as a way of saying, "Hey! I've made it! I'm rich enough to buy a top of the line car!" Consequently, when I was in high school, Cadillacs were variously called (by others, not by me) a "Jew Canoe" or "Kosher Cruiser" or, with lowered suspension and the stereo turned up too loud, "Pimpmobile."

But General Motors seems to have learned a few lessons over the last few years--and Cadillac is part of the revolution. This review of the 2005 Cadillac STS will shock people that haven't been paying attention:
Cadillac's latest effort, the rear-wheel-drive STS luxury sport sedan, is looking to woo customers away from the Lexus LS 430, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series. And it has the hardware to do so. It looks good on paper and, more importantly, it feels good on the road. It's all here, and it's wrapped up in signature styling that unabashedly states, "I'm a Cadillac, and proud of it."

It Can Dance if It Wants to

If you still think a Cadillac handles like an ocean-going vessel, you're living in the past. The 2005 Cadillac STS comes with an independent, sport-tuned suspension with performance shocks and automatic rear leveling.

Our test car had the optional Magnetic Ride (MR) suspension, which is included in the Premium Luxury Group and the Luxury Group option packages, both of which list for over $8,000. It offers two modes, Touring and Performance, and works by automatically changing the damping force by electrically charging particles in the shocks' hydraulic fluid. When charged, the fluid's viscosity increases and firms up the suspension, when discharged the viscosity decreases and softens the ride.

In practice, it's all transparent and it works. Attack your favorite road and MR tightens up the STS' shocks instantly to provide more response.

Initially, we left the STS in the Touring mode, which provides a cushy ride and composed handling. The Cadillac STS dives into the turns with unwavering composure and never felt sprung too softly.

We even tested the STS at the track in this mode, where it posted an impressive 61.5 mph speed through the slalom, falling between an E500 (59.9 mph) and a BMW 530i (63.9 mph).

We assume an STS fitted with the optional Performance Handling package, which is essentially 18-inch wheels and high-performance tires, would handle even better.
Or this Canadian review of the 2006 STS V6:
The most important point of departure in today's STS is its rear-wheel-drive, or all-wheel-drive configuration. Gone is the front-wheel-drive format that led the previous gen STS, and I couldn't be happier. Along with sending power to the "correct wheels," GM engineered a very rigid body structure for the latest STS. When encountering beat-up pavement, the solidity of the car's unibody construction becomes immediately noticeable thanks to the absence of suspension noise, body-flex and cabin shudder. The fully independent arrangement smoothly absorbs bumps and potholes while keeping the vehicle stable and connected to the road. There is no float or excessive rebound to suggest the chassis under foot is anything but sound. The placid, but well-controlled ride of the STS enhances the sense of relaxation that comes with driving a refined luxury car.

That refinement carries over to the sedan's V6 powerplant as well. Now before I go further, let me say that I have never been fond of the V6 engines found beneath most domestic hoods. In my view they seldom match the "silkiness" I so admire in Acura and Audi products among others. But stop the presses; Cadillac has altered my perception of reality. The 3.6-litre (217 cu in), 255-horsepower V6 in the STS stands shoulder to shoulder - or should that read air cleaner to air cleaner - with the best the aforementioned marques have to offer.

The operation of this mill is polished and unobtrusive until the right foot sinks, at which point an exhilarating high-performance growl imparts a sophisticated exhaust note. And there is plenty of punch on-tap to accompany the ear candy, as the engine delivers its maximum torque of 252 pound-feet at 3,200 rpm. En route to its 6,500 rpm redline, the power output remains steady as the 5-speed STS autobox smoothly switches cogs. Should the desire arise, a manual-mode allows greater humanoid input into the shifting process, but lest we forget, this is not the hot V8 edition of Cadillac's midsize 4-door. Nevertheless, a zero to 100 km/h time of only 7.1 seconds is achievable, and that's very commendable for a V6-powered sedan tipping the scales at 1,750 kg (3,857 lbs).
Or this review of the 2006 CTS-V (the more compact sedan):
It seems a particularly wicked act to shoehorn a six-liter Corvette engine into a Cadillac CTS, so where better to put this high roller through its paces than in the original Sin City - Las Vegas.

Over 1,000-or-so miles covered in Caddy's uber-powered CTS-V from our base in LA, I'd wager that about 800 were driven pretty softly on freeways or in traffic, with the rest spent pushing the car to its limits, and indeed the speed limit, on straight, desert roads alongside the 1-15.

And the ease with which the CTS-V negotiated both driving conditions explains why this car beats a significant proportion of the competition in the performance-sedan sector - foot-down, the V can compete with either BMW's M3 or Volvo's S60 R but, in slow-moving traffic, the CTS-V does not struggle like a puppy on a short lead, gasping for space to run. Even in the manual variant which I took out to test through the gears, it proved a pleasure to drive in the slow stuff.


But such is the acceleration on tap - it boasts a massive 400hp at 6500rpm - that hitting the tachometer's red section on any public road proved almost impossible - the CTS-V is just too quick. Outstanding performance figures include sub-five seconds to hit 60mph, a 0-100mph time of 12.8 seconds, and a quarter mile of about 13 seconds, the later two figures according to the Cadillac owners' forum - I didn't, after all, wish to attract the attention of Nevada's highway patrol.

But the V got us to Vegas in a shade under four hours, in a comfortable and luxurious manner that befitted such a prestigious marque. Noticeably, the ride is super firm - in contrast to Caddys of old and as expected in a performance car - but never to the point that the stiffness of the Sigma chassis bit into the driving experience. Also noticeable was its firm sports suspension system, perfected on Germany's Nurburgring racetrack.
Unfortunately, the CTS or CTS-V don't have all wheel drive (yet--but in 2008), so there's no chance of finding a used CTS that could deal with my snow problem. I'm not sure that I would be willing to spend the money for a used STS with AWD.

Unfortunately, the 2007 CTS-V only comes with a six-speed manual transmission--an automatic isn't even available. Hmmm. As much as it would be nice to have the power of the Corvette engine, I'm not sure that I want it that badly.

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