Cadillac CTS

When you think of Cadillac, does your mind wander to huge, pink convertibles with gigantic fins? If so, you'd better think again. The American brand is coming to the UK in the new year with a line-up to take on the premier league of executive saloons, SUVs and luxury sports convertibles.

It's rare to find an executive saloon which is genuinely different, but that's what the CTS is offering. It may not have its rivals' dynamics, but it's a real head-turner, and will be competitively priced. The lack of a diesel will deter some buyers, but the Cadillac is likely to find favour with those looking to stand out from the crowd.

When you think of Cadillac, does your mind wander to huge, pink convertibles with gigantic fins? If so, you'd better think again. The American brand is coming to the UK in the new year with a line-up to take on the premier league of executive saloons, SUVs and luxury sports convertibles.

The US firm's most important model is this BMW 5-Series-sized CTS. With the first few cars to arrive in the UK set to be left-hand drive, Auto Express took the wheel of a Dutch-registered example on British tarmac to see what the new four-door has to offer.

One of the key factors in anyone's purchase of a US saloon is its styling. Cadillac's designers have clearly tried to cash in on the European obsession with all things American, and the CTS is a striking, angular executive.

Although its looks clearly divide opinion, the CTS's high waistline, angular bonnet lines and massive tail-lights turned as many heads as a supercar would on our varied test route. The only thing we would change is the wheels - the 16-inch alloys on our example didn't fill the wheelarches.

On the road, the CTS feels anything but small. Even though Cadillac wants to tempt customers away from executive rivals, this is a limousine-sized saloon. With the added obstacle of left-hand drive, it proves unwieldy on twisty stretches. The good news is that steering response and the dynamic ability of the rear-drive chassis are better than you would expect from a model originally designed for the US market, which favours softly sprung cars.

Most examples are likely to spend their time on the motorway. But despite the CTS's more advanced suspension set-up, potholes and rough surfaces are more evident than in class-leading rivals, as is wind and road noise.

Buyers in the UK will have a choice of 179bhp 2.6 or 215bhp 3.2-litre V6 petrol powerplants. Our test car was fitted with the more potent unit, mated to a five-speed automatic gearbox. The engine sounds hoarse and, combined with the lacklustre transmission, lacks mid-range punch. Although final prices and specifications have yet to be confirmed, all CTS variants are tipped to be luxuriously equipped.

That means buyers can expect to find leather fitted as standard, but they will be less impressed with the quality of some of the plastics used. Rear seat passengers are also likely to be complaining as space is limited, given the large external dimensions.

The CTS has its work cut out. Although it's an adequate performer, it's up against some impressive competition. However, the American image will be tempting enough for many, and a 'bargain' price of around £25,000 for range-topping models will be an incentive to buy. Cadillac is clearly facing a tough challenge if it wants to become a household name in the UK, though.

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