It's really hard to place Cadillac's new CTS luxury sedan on paper.
Personally, I was expecting something more along the lines of the established compact luxury sedans, when it is quite a bit bigger in the metal. Think of its size as a cross between Audi's A6 and the 3 Series from BMW.
Any way you look at it, this Cadillac is the first of the current crop to really demand one's attention, making the towering SRX and the "pimp-mobile" STS fade into insignificance.
Looks familiar, but...
Sure, CTS is graced with the family face incorporating strong V shapes, sharp lines and an oversized mesh grille, but while this appearance may be rather severe on its bigger siblings, it takes a softer edge on this model.
Similarly, the vertically stacked rear lights with their clear lenses are meant to be reminiscent of the large-finned Caddies of the past, but yet manage to be very current. A third brake light integrated into the bootlid and a chrome strip running along the boot's shut line creates symmetry, while the twin tailpipes help bolster CTS's athletic appeal.
Then again CTS was designed, from the outset, to capture the attentions of the masses as the first truly global car from Cadillac. But does it have what would be required for it to succeed?
Firstly, and this is not something common to most American cars, CTS can corner. In a bid to woo more demanding European drivers, CTS's sports suspension was honed by lap after lap after lap of testing at the notorious Nordschliefe at the Nurburgring.
That this has paid off was made most evident at the media event where delegates were unleashed on some of the more picturesque (and twisty) parts of the Cape South Coast. Using a rear-wheel drive configuration with a limited slip rear diff and a fully independent suspension, ride and handling is superb and cornering grip levels are high.
The sensation through the speed-sensitive steering system is good, too, and handling is predictable.
CTS, in South Africa, is powered by a sophisticated 3.6-litre quad-cam V6 that uses variable valve timing and direct high-pressure fuel injection to generate 229 kW at 6 400 r/min and peak torque of 374 Nm 5 200 r/min.
Power is put to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox. This may seem rudimentary, and an extra gear or two may have been appreciated for the sake of efficiency if nothing else, but the six-cylinder certainly is effective at hauling the big-boned CTS around.
Whether allowed to shift on its own, or accepting driver input via the simple (left is down, right is up) steering wheel paddles or the gearshift, changes are so slick that if you're merely ambling along, you could be mistaken for thinking they hadn't been effected at all.
CTS seems equally at home cruising B roads as it is cruising the suburbs and comes without an impatient twitchiness sometimes evident on larger-engined models.
However, it's reassuring to know that an electronic stability programme and traction control system are able to back up the performance brake system with ABS, brake assist and electronic brake distribution should you overstep your skill level. Six airbags, and if you have younger passengers, a child seat restraint system, offer added assurance.
Another thing not too often seen on cars slapped into shape at an American plant, is a welcome interior. This car has a cabin to behold. Fit appears good and the finishes are a mix of stitched leather, Sapele wood veneers and soft-touch plastics.
Just enough metallic shimmer has been added to the central drop-down to add some character to the cabin. The analogue clock is a bit of an anachronism, but everything else within the cabin is well laid out.
That the interior space is deceptively huge is a bonus and on those longer cruises (very possible with a 68-litre fuel tank capacity and a claimed combined fuel consumption of 11.1 l/100 kms) you're likely to run out of steam before cabin fever sets in.
And if you’re looking for entertainment, the audio system is particularly good. It comes with a large touch-screen display, six-disc CD player, DVD drive, MP3 player, 40 Gb hard drive with USB, voice controls and Bluetooth pre-wiring. Steering wheel controls for the audio system and cruise control are standard too.
Furthermore, there are three additional packages to choose from, adding accent lighting, power adjustment for the steering wheel and heated/ventilated front seats along with a few other goodies.
There's more good news: the stunning CTS coupe seen in production form at this year's Detroit Motor Show will be coming to South Africa around this time next year. The bad news? The potent CTS-V performance model is produced for left hand drive markets only and will not be offered in here.
But it's not all bad news. R399 000 for the "more sedate" CTS would give you a fair dose of V6 fun, un-American levels of refinement and gadgetry in bucketfuls.
And while the global shift may be towards smaller, more efficient motors, Cadillac hopes there'll still be room for its bigger powerplants.
The mid-sized luxury sedan market is not the biggest in South Africa, but is considered important enough for GMSA to contest and South Africa is one of the first right-hand drive markets in which CTS is being introduced. Eventually, up to 90% of its Cadillac sales are expected to come from this segment.
- CTS 3.6 V6 - R399 000
- Luxury level 1 package (rainsense wipers and accent lighting, LED spot lights with lighting pipes) - R5 000
- Luxury level 2 package (heated/ventilated front seats, power rake wheel and telescopic steering column, EZ key passive entry system) - R15 500
- Power Ultra View power double-sized, tilt-sliding with express-open and sunshade - R18 500