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DRIVEN: Cadillac's 3 Series rival

2006-10-12 07:30

New Cadillac BLS will arrive here in 2007

John Oxley

Pitched head-on at such cars as the BMW 3 Series, against which it is likely to be priced, the new "small" Cadillac has General Motors' Epsilon platform, which is used successfully in other GM models such as the Saab 9-3 and Opel Vectra in Europe, and some Chevrolet and Buick cars in the US.

And it shows on the road. This is one refined motor car, with perfect manners, super performance, and styling which is cutting edge - in more ways than one.

The Saab genes come to the fore the moment you put your foot down, and the BLS accelerates like well, muck off a shovel!

Three versions of the BLS will be on offer from launch next year - a 110 kW 1.9-litre common rail turbo-diesel, a 131 kW 2-litre four-cylinder petrol, and a 188 kW 2.8-litre V6 with twin-scroll turbo and variable inlet camshafts.

The turbo-diesel model is offered with a six-speed manual transmission, while the four-cylinder petrol gets a choice of five-speed manual or automatic transmission. The V6 comes with six-speed automatic transmission including sequential manual.


We managed to get our hands on the manual petrol and an auto V6, and in both cases were highly impressed, to say the least.

The cars have front-wheel drive, but you'd be hard-pressed to know that, for handling is quite, quite neutral until you get right to the ragged limit and a touch of understeer creeps in, quickly cut off by the electronics

We drove through Robertson Pass outside Oudtshoorn and the Outiniqua Pass near George, so the cars got a really good workout.

Switching drivers allowed us to get a good look at the interior, too, and we think potential buyers are going to be well pleased with what Cadillac has come up with, giving a refreshing new look to a market segment which has become heavily biased towards German products.

In short, the cars are comfortable and luxurious, with a lot more space in the back, especially, than much of their competition.

The BLS is built at GM?s state-of-the-art facility in Trollhättan, in Sweden, and features sharply defined contours with a striking wedge shape and a drag coefficient of 0.31.

?The most striking feature of the styling is the use of vertical lines at the front and rear,? GM design chief Ed Welburn said at the surprise reveal of the new cars in George yesterday.

?The V-shaped chrome grille, a traditional Cadillac styling cue, is picked up on the boot lid. The large side faces communicate a sense of strength and solidity.?

Bold grille

Big headlamps, fog lamps integrated into the body-coloured bumper, and a wide air intake below the grille define the front end of the BLS, while the latest LED technology is used in the central high mount stop light.

This is positioned on the boot lid and extends across the vehicle, and also functions as a spoiler.

And there are big vertical taillights.

As mentioned the BLS interior has high quality fabrics and materials with black decorative elements on the entry level model, or tortoise-shell on higher-grade models.

We were particularly taken by the superb build quality and fit and finish, with absolutely no sign of rattles or squeaks even though these were early build versions.

Trim is either cloth or leather, and we especially liked the analogue instruments, especially the high-class centrally mounted clock.

GM says the car's front headroom of 988 mm and rear legroom of 892 mm are the best in class, while the boot capacity of 425 litres can be expanded by dropping the folding rear seat which has a 60:40 split.

Standard features include a radio/front loader CD with seven speakers, two-zone automatic climate control, electric windows and mirrors, as well as ABS anti-lock brakes with brake assist, and traction control.

Cornering control

There's also cornering brake control (CBC) which regulates the brake pressure at each wheel individually to increase cornering stability if the brakes are applied in a corner.

Additional safety features include front air bags for both driver and front passenger, and side curtain air bags which provide protection for the driver, front passenger and occupants of the outer two seats at the rear.

Active headrests fitted to the front seats reduce the risk of whiplash injuries.

The front suspension has McPherson struts while a four-link system is used at the rear.

Large diameter ventilated brake discs come front and rear.

Key dimensions

  • Length 4 679 mm
  • Width (exc. mirrors) 1 762 mm
  • Height 1 449 mm
  • Wheelbase 2 675 mm
  • Track front/rear 1 524/1 506 mm
  • Boot capacity 425 litres


    These are exciting new cars, and we expect GMSA is going to make an impact with them.

    This is no half-hearted attempt to introduce Cadillac, as has happened in the past, but a full-on onslaught, part of a global strategy that will see Cadillacs sold alongside Saab models and Chevrolets around the world.

    The BLS is the right car for our times, combining classic Cadillac virtues of high quality and powerful engines with modern-day requirements of taut precise handling, safety, and comfort, as well as good economy.

    And there are two other models in the starting blocks to follow the BLS - the bigger STS, aimed at the BMW 5 or 7 Series market, and the SRX, a luxury "crossover" station wagon with permanent four-wheel drive.

  • CLICK HERE for more info about the Cadillac model ranges

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