Price: £26,995
Top speed: 127 mph 0-60mph 9.0 seconds
Consumption: 25.7mpg
CO2 emissions: 263g/km
Best for: American dreamers
Also worth considering? Chrysler 300C, Honda Legend, Lexus GS

General Motors has been remarkably persistent in its efforts to establish Cadillac – its US luxury brand – in Europe but has not so far been rewarded with much success. That's a pity, because the latest models from Cadillac have largely eliminated the traditional weaknesses of US cars – space inefficiency, soggy handling and inattention to detail – without entirely losing their distinctively appealing American swank.

Today's Caddies look completely different – they're a lot smaller for a start and have the slightly sinister, angular looks of America's radar-defying "stealth" warplanes. The first of these was the original version of the CTS, introduced in 2002, a likable and generally competent car but one that was let down by its slightly low-rent interior.

This second-generation CTS fixes that deficiency and edges the game forward in other areas too. It's also good value when set against the fancier German models with which Cadillac would probably like it to be compared – although buyers need to bear in mind that the company can't provide the sort of extensive dealer network set-up in which BMW and the rest have invested so heavily.

CTS engines start with the 2.8-litre V6 petrol unit fitted to the car we sampled – a larger 3.6-litre version is the other option currently available. The 2.8 displays a slightly un-American eagerness to rev and delivers its maximum power at a high 6,800rpm; the tall gearing of the standard automatic transmission makes for quiet and relaxed motorway cruising but doesn't seem to help too much in terms of fuel economy.

Equipment levels are generous: the powerful and effective sound and climate systems are fairly straightforward to use compared with those fitted to European prestige cars, which are operated through much more complicated multi-layer menu systems.

One CTS quirk is a slightly preposterous speedometer dial that reads all the way to 270mph, more than twice the (entirely respectable) top speed of which the 2.8-litre version is capable; that's not a bad metaphor for Cadillac's efforts in Europe – holding out a lot of promise and then falling short. These cars probably deserve to do better here and planned estate and diesel versions of the CTS will help Cadillac close the gap.

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