Cadillac’s presence in the UK market has been a quiet one. With GM UK taking over the reins from previous importer Kroyman’s, they hope to make a bigger splash this time.
The Cadillac BLS has been around for a couple of years now, yet if you were to ask the general public, most wouldn’t have heard of the BLS. The launch of the new estate version, dubbed Wagon, has given General Motors an opportunity to shake things up and try to put the executive car onto the radar for the buying public.
Designed to give a more European flavour to the American makers line-up, including the first diesel model in the UK, the BLS is based upon the ageing Saab 9-3 platform and is even built in the same Swedish factory. It makes good use of its underpinnings and engines, almost mirroring the 9-3’s line-up. While the facelifted 9-3 is quite distinctive in its own right, the BLS trumps the Saab, with sharp chiselled lines and a touch of drama about its appearance. The distinctive LED rear lights brighten up the rear end, giving a visual link to the rest of the Cadillac line-up.
Anyone familiar with a modern Saab will immediately feel at home when sat in the drivers seat. The interior has been re-profiled in places and to my eyes is better resolved than the Swedish original, but the overall feel and look is pure Saab. There are plenty of good quality soft-touch plastics, giving a well made, built to last impression. The only things to let all of this down are the flimsy feeling indicator stalks, which feel as though they’ll snap off at any moment. The full leather seats are cosetting, though they lack lateral support. At the business end, there’s 419 litres of space, which extends to 1,285 litres with the seats folded.
On the road, it is easy to draw comparisons with the car’s Swedish brother as they feel pretty similar. The new 1.9-litre turbodiesel engine was born out of a joint venture with Fiat and GM, and the Saab 9-3 was one of the first applications of the new unit. It’s powerful – producing 178bhp – but in automatic guise as tested the gearbox isn’t a good match. It feels ponderous, very often meaning that there is a distinct lag from when the loud pedal was pressed until anything happens. The same engine mated to the six-speed manual feels like an altogether better bet. That aside, once up to speed, the BLS is a comfortable and relaxed cruiser, with the suspension tuned for comfort rather than agility. The American maker has certainly pulled out all the stops when its comes to standard kit, as it wants for nothing. DVD satellite navigation, cruise control, electric heated leather seats, parking sensors, Bluetooth hands free mobile phone connectivity are all included in the £23,895 asking price. Anyone looking at buying one of the BLS’s rivals, would need to turn to the options list for some of this equipment. However it isn’t all rosy, with so few dealers around (currently six in the UK) and its relative scarcity, depreciation is likely to be quite high due to it being a bit of an unknown quantity.
ON SALE: Now RANGE STARTS AT: £21,495 for Wagon Elegance 1.9 D (150)
- Engine: 1910cc, 4 cylinder, twin turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed automatic
- Max Power: 178bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 273lb ft at 2,000-2,500rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,600kg
- Combined Consumption: 40.9mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 182g/km (E)
- 0-62mph: 9.8secs
- Max speed: 130mph
- Insurance group: 15
Well equipped, well priced, distinctive looks, comfortable to drive
Ponderous gearbox, flimsy indicator stalks, distance to nearest dealer, mainstream rivals offer better dynamics