Despite the warm hotness that is the CTS-V, the words "Cadillac" and "small" go together like "male porn star" and "small." Cadillac obviously forgot to learn that lesson back in '81, when they released the "Cimarron by Cadillac". The badge-engineered Chevrolet Cavalier — complete with in-line four and four-speed manual — was the smallest, nastiest, most heinously over-priced Cadillac ever produced — followed closely by its replacement, the Catera. (People watching Saturn's decaying orbit should note that the Catera was a rebadged Opel Omega, imported from Germany.) And now, finally, the Cimmaron has a proper suck-cessor: the BLS. It's a Euro-only model, and Motor Trend's de-capitalized paul horrell likes it.
Cadillac remains one of those American things that just keeps getting lost in translation, especially in Europe, where the Standard of the World sold just a couple of thousand vehicles in 2005. If Cadillac is to get itself dug in over there, it needs a compact sedan. That's where all the other luxury brands maintain their balance- and a small car by itself just isn't enough.
But it has a re-bodied Saab 9-3. Well, now it does. Rather than attack Cadillac for badge-engineering a product for a thoroughly disinterested overseas market — when their North American operations still haven't quite got the measure of that whole corner-turning thing — horrell worries if the BLS will cannibalize Saab sales abroad. If only.
Well, if you rely on looks alone, the new Cadillac is sufficiently differentiated not to cause the Swedes too much angst. Of the skin, only the glass and roof are shared; and some cunningly applied matte black paint disguises the greenhouse similarity quite nicely.
A modern six-speed auto should shift smoothly every time, but this one occasionally stumbles. The front-drive tires are overwhelmed if you give it the max in a tight corner; otherwise you can take curves with little roll. Steering is accurate, too, though entirely without the feedback you'd want in a European sports sedan. The recompense is the ride, which is one of the most placid in this class.
This is a 16-valve unit that revs happily beyond 5000 and kicks out 236 pound-feet at 2000 rpm. This sort of torque performance, together with real-world 30 mpg (US) even in rapid European driving, is why people love diesels over here.
The BLS hides the fact that it's something of a stopgap conceived after the Saab and sharing a platform with some honest but inauspiciously non-premium machines, the Pontiac G6 for instance. GM's next-generation Epsilon platform is already under development to feed into now fewer than nine brands around the globe, and among them will be a BLS version developed from the start of the program. It'll likely get cabrio and five-door sportwagon body styles, too. And if the U.S. market is clamoring for a more fuel-efficient Cadillac by then, it might just make it over the pond.
[Jalopnik's Between the Lines column parses the rhetoric of the automotive industry, and the media that covers it, from the point of view of that kid at the back of the class with ADD, a genius IQ and a thirst for mayhem.]
Between the Lines: Motor Trend on the Chevrolet Tahoe [internal]