An American in Europe

9 Jun 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on An American in Europe
Cadillac BLS

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02#American cars; too big, too brash and too thirsty; or so is the perception of many a journalist and buyer on European land. The Cadillac BLS aims to change that perception. The last time Cadillac decided to sell cars in the UK, the exercise ended with the company retreating with its tail between its legs, the product having been totally unsuitable for UK tastes.

This time it’s different, as the BLS is a Europe-only Cadillac; the Americans can’t even buy one in their home country. Our first drive in the BLS showed promise; time to live with the car for a week and give the full verdict.

Now I must admit to a little bias – I am a Cadillac owner; a proper, full-size American market Cadillac Escalade double cab pick-up truck owner. It’s tough to think of many vehicles less suited to Europe and to be honest I wasn’t holding out much hope for the BLS despite what my colleagues thought.

At Cadillac got the styling right. It’s all sharp edges in a way that Europe has abandoned with curves more akin to jelly sculpture. But it works; the BLS is different in a good way; elegant and striking.

It gets all the right kind of attention. It’s not quite perfect though; the styling cues from concepts such as the Evoq and fabulous Sixteen are there – the V shape theme is everywhere, even in the dashboard – but it’s almost like the designers tried to cram too much into a car too small to carry the details off. The rear is a perfect example; we’ve got the large upright red coloured lights, but the boot lid mounted brake light is massive and almost reaches to the edges of the boot lid.

It might sit well on a full-size US saloon, but that would be a foot wider than the BLS. Up front there are the same upright projector type headlamps (bi-xenon) and egg crate grille just the same as on my Escalade, but smaller. The front is more successful in my eyes although the grille sits maybe too far proud of the headlamps. It’s subjective I guess. #p##02# But there’s nothing here to feel ashamed off at the golf course.

And your colleagues won’t laugh at the interior either. Our car was silver outside with all black cloth inside, with some aluminium finish strips and bits of black plastic ‘wood’. Surprisingly, it looked pretty good; the plastic black wood was almost convincing and passengers all commented favourably. The analogue clock taking top centre of the console looks very classy; the three dial instrument panel a model of almost BMW-like clarity.

Everything fitted together well too. No it’s not an Audi, but it’s certainly a Saab.

Oh yes, the Saab connection. Cadillac is under no illusions that it can break into the European market overnight. Sales targets for the BLS are conservatively low and there’s no way such low expectation sales levels could provide a return of investment on an all-new car.

The Cadillac BLS borrows heavily from Saab. It’s a Saab platform and there is some Saab switchgear, but it’s a looker in a way no recent Saab ever has been.

Our Cadillac BLS came with a 175bhp 2-litre soft turbocharged engine, but it’s no sports car. It had only a five-speed gearbox, and fifth is geared at around 30mph/1000rpm. There are conservative tyre profiles (215/55 R16), not the rubber bands on cotton reels favoured by the German prestige marques nowadays.

No, what the Cadillac BLS is, is relaxing, brisk and surprisingly refined. Drive normally, up to about 75% effort and the BLS feels fairly quick. The turbocharger installation is seamless; you’d never know it’s a turbocharged engine.

There’s no boost gauge nor any tell-tale shove in the back as the boost cuts in; just seamless torque that is available from as low as 1000rpm. South of 2000rpm the engine is pulling strongly although not earth shatteringly so. No, more like a bigger non-turbo engine might. #p##09# Wring its neck out and you realise that the BLS isn’t that quick after all; 0-62mph takes 8.5 seconds although the 137mph top speed is par for the course and a tribute to the 0.31 co-efficient of drag.

The BLS engine revs willingly enough to the red line, but again the big power you would associate with a turbocharged engine just doesn’t materialise. It drives just like a non-turbo engine, but one that’s big enough to provide good mid-range acceleration when overtaking traffic. The high profile tyres are a good choice; 17-inch or 18-inch wheels on this car would look too bling in my opinion; the 16s are just the right size and pay back dividends in ride comfort.

I was really shocked, as I fully expected the BLS to be more American in feel; more wallowy to achieve any sort of ride comfort, but body control is up there with the better European cars providing excellent ride without the wallow.

Cadillac BLS

The Cadillac BLS even goes round corners; grip levels were again a surprise and drive at 75-80% commitment and it really impresses. Sure, there’s not much feel through the steering and there is a hint of torque steer out there somewhere, but it passed the test of ferrying passengers with flying colours. My son likes to go quickly, but doesn’t like to feel he is going quickly.

A brisk drive with him in the back saw him completely undisturbed from the more important task of winning the World Cup on his PSP, despite some rather push-on driving on my part. Wind noise is very low on the BLS, although this car exhibited a little more road noise than was reported back at last year’s launch. Perhaps a little more time in the car brought it to our attention.

Only when really trying does the Cadillac finally fall down; it can be hustled quickly enough, but at full chat there is insufficient feedback as to what is going on. Many have criticised Audi cars of this and it has not done that company’s sales any harm, although approaching the limit the BLS started to get a little ragged. If weekend trips to the Nordschleife are your bag, you’re probably not going to get on with this car.

If your tastes are a little more mellow, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised by the BLS. Even allowing for my bias, I really enjoyed my time with this car. Now can I have the 2.8-litre turbo V6 please? 2007 Cadillac BLS range overview

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UK (£ on-the-road)

Cadillac BLS
Cadillac BLS
Cadillac BLS
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