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Cadillac CTS - Cadillac Reloaded


Let us get a few things straight before we drive off. General Motors is all set to conquer a few new markets with this Cadillac. They have already put in place a plan that would see Cadillacs being assembled in China. It will be for the first time in the history of the marque that it is built outside America. GM has engineered a few cars that can take on the very best of what is on offer from Europe and Japan. They are also engineering right-hand drive versions of these cars, since they have quite a fan following in Japan. GM won’t tell, but these RHD Cadillacs might come to India sooner that you may believe. Phew!

Now that I have explained why we are going a bit over the top with Cadillacs in this issue, let me go to the car that might open a European and Asia-Pacific assault for the famous laurel and crest. The CTS is what Cadillac calls an entry luxury segment car, or, in simple terms, the machine that is supposed to take on the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class – though dimensionally it is bigger than both and will happily run alongside the 5 Series and E-Class from Munich and Stuttgart respectively. And don’t even mention M-Power and AMG, since some very angry men at Cadillac are busy putting together what they call the CTS-V, which will have a Ferrari-challenging 400 bhp engine under its hood. 

For the time being however, I had to be satisfied with a 255 bhp engine mated to the Hydra-Matic five-speed, electronically controlled automatic gearbox. I was on a narrow Californian highway with more twists than the Matrix trilogy and there was not much room for error. It can be even trickier when you have to get used to left-hand drive and countering Mack trucks that come hurtling around the corner. But the CTS was quite a revelation and before I knew it, I felt absolutely one with the car. It is not for nothing that the good men at Cadillac took the CTS to Nurburgring, of all places, to fine-tune handling. Exceptionally crisp handling and sharp steering mean you can actually explore the capabilities of the 3600cc V6 motor with variable valve timing. The CTS is built on the acclaimed GM Sigma rear-wheel drive platform and features all-independent suspension with uneven length arms up front and a multi-link unit doing the job at the rear. A full range traction control system is available across the board too.   Things got a bit hot when a cherry red Mustang appeared in the rearview mirror. There was no room for him to pass me but he was visibly upset at the fact that he was following a Cadillac. I turned up the wick of the V6 and realised it isn’t all that much a pussycat when confronted with pedal to metal situations. It can catapult you to 100 kph in less than 9 seconds and that did surprise the Mustang driver (okay, so he soon did leave me in the aftermath of a V8 rumble before I could celebrate). Given a nice interstate minus the troopers, the CTS would have stayed in the mirror of the Mustang for quite a while, posting a decent 225 kph top speed too. 

To look at, the CTS is more contemporary chic than anything else and is living proof that those flamboyant lines, first seen in the Evoq concept can be extended well to a practical, yet very bold, sedan. Stare at it and you will see sharp forms, angular shapes and crisp edges that mimic stealth fighter cues. Apart from aircraft, the CTS design reflects various other American geometric influences, according to Cadillac. I can assure you that the Big Mac is not one of them. 

Amongst all those lines you can still see the trademark egg-crate grille that dates back to the 1930s and the vertically stacked opticals, front and rear, which were first seen in Cadillacs as early as in 1965. The interior is built around the driver and though Cadillac would love to use words such as cockpit, high tech and computer-like, I can describe it in two words – totally cool. Luckily, traditional luxury bits of wood comes into play only in body contact areas and thereby do not mar the otherwise sophisticated living-room that that the CTS interior is.   So what is its pitfall? The CTS does not offer the kind of ride quality you would expect from a Cadillac – or for that matter, what you take for granted in any Mercedes-Benz. Spirited handling and good ride quality are things that really don’t go well and it looks like the Caddy engineers settled for the former. Makes sense, since in this, the entry-luxury segment, people do not employ chauffeurs. But it will be a good idea to re-dial some ride into the equation as Cadillac enters the Asian markets, where people who prefer the rear seat will mostly buy cars such as the CTS.

Remember, till very recently Cadillac relied on badge-engineered, front-wheel drive Opels to serve the entry-luxury market – remember the Catera? Today, in the CTS, they have a genuine front-engine, rear wheel drive car that can compete with the best from Germany. Will it come to India? I did ask a few key people about the possibility and even worked out a pricing strategy for them – seriously, I tried my best. The CTS with the base 3200cc V6 will cost a minimum of Rs 27 lakh as it hits the roads in India – and that means it will be more expensive than the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Now, that is a problem area for GM, who would ideally like to make some money out of its CBU operations here. The CTS still holds a chance if GM decides to bring it on as SKD kits from China and sell it in our country. Go ahead, Aditya Vij and Co – Mercedes can certainly do with some competition and why wait till BMW arrives in a big way? And if you do see Cadillacs on Indian roads, you know whom to thank!