Cadillac STS 4.6 V8

After two failed attempts at grabbing a slice of the UK car market, Cadillac bosses have accepted that there is no future in trumpeting the past when developing new products for British car buyers.

Big and bold, Caddy's flagship for Europe is a muscular, but not muscle-bound, rival to the usual German exec suspects. The cabin lacks the class and finish of rivals, and the STS is more likely to be considered by new Lexus GS buyers. The V8 will be well equipped - although second-hand values could still prove to be a real deterrent.

After two failed attempts at grabbing a slice of the UK car market, Cadillac bosses have accepted that there is no future in trumpeting the past when developing new products for British car buyers.

Despite the badge's history, there is a perception that the US manufacturer is unable to produce a genuine BMW and Mercedes rival. But that has not put it off - which is why engineers have spent the past four years on a development mission, thrashing a prototype of the STS saloon across Europe.

Cadillac now believes it has a model capable of exorcising memories of unwieldy and poorly finished cars such as the front-wheel-drive Seville - and is ready to launch its flagship on this side of the Atlantic. Expectation is high - and Auto Express took to the wheel of the STS to see if it is justified.

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The car is certainly substantial. Slab-sided in profile, the saloon is six inches longer than BMW's 5-Series, plus wider and lower. But Cadillac has worked hard to ditch the Yank tank image. Chrome trim - beloved in the US - is absent and the fussy and cluttered tail looks less messy in dark, solid colours.

Inside, the leather and wood dash blends well with the console "infotainment" unit and air-con buttons. However, fit and finish is not on a par with the Audi A6 or new Lexus GS. Details such as the over-sensitive electric steering wheel adjustment irritate, and the door pockets have a naff, rubbery finish.

The big Caddy bristles with hi-tech gizmos, from adaptive radar-controlled cruise control to a head-up instrument display. On the road, the technology is not intrusive, and the STS feels more compact than its bulk implies.

Powered by a 325bhp 4.6-litre V8, the rear-wheel-drive machine has a five-speed auto gearbox, as well as uprated steering, suspension and braking, which combine to make it surprisingly nimble.

Downsides include a lack of chassis feedback in sweeping corners, plus a tendency to fidget over uneven surfaces in sports mode. The V8's likely £42,500 price sounds a lot, but this car shows US engineers have listened, learned and applied important lessons.

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