The Verdict: Cadillac CTS - doing rather well over here

American cars don't often cross the pond to great acclaim - 'Yank tank' comes to mind - but this model from GM's luxury brand could change that. What do David Wilkins and our testers think?
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The Cadillac CTS is American, of course, a representative of General Motors' most prestigious US brand. But it is probably notable less for what it is than for what it is not, because GM seems to have made a determined effort to eliminate as many as possible of the obstacles - real or imagined - that have prevented American cars from selling in large numbers in the UK.

For a start, the CTS isn't especially big or heavy, even by European standards. And, while it wouldn't be at the top of most economy-minded motorists' shopping lists, it isn't really a gas guzzler, either. Most important, it isn't a wallowy, under-damped mess. In fact, to borrow from those old Hanson TV commercials, it's a car from over there that stacks up surprisingly well when you drive it over here.

The CTS doesn't invite you to chuck it about on twisty routes - it's a bit too grown up for that - but it shows terrific composure when you set it up on long sweeping curves like those on motorway interchanges. The steering wheel feels as though it's actually connected directly to the front wheels.

And, on the subject of its steering, unlike some American cars that have made it to these shores, the CTS doesn't have the disadvantage of being available only with left-hand drive. US manufacturers seem to have finally woken up to the fact that, in the UK and many other countries, it is normal to drive on the left.

It's easy to mock, of course; engineering a right-hand-drive version of an LHD design is an expensive business. The very fact that it has been done shows how serious Cadillac is about selling more cars outside its home market. So what remains of Cadillac's American character in the CTS? Good ride comfort and outstandingly relaxed cruising, certainly, as well as generous equipment levels, which include excellent air-conditioning and sound systems.

Less positively, it has a drab cabin for a comparatively expensive car. It's closer to what you'd expect to find in GM's own mainstream European vehicles - Opels and Vauxhalls - than in a BMW or Audi. The only exception are the classy dashboard air-vents, which are similar to those fitted to the latest models from Saab (which is also a GM brand these days).

Despite Cadillac's efforts to adapt the CTS to European and British conditions, for buyers with £30,000 to spend it still probably isn't going to be the obvious candidate. But, unlike some previous American efforts I can think of, it is certainly a defensible, perhaps even respectable, choice.

Alan Smith, 42
Youth worker from Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex
Usual car: Mazda MX-5
The Cadillac always makes a statement. In profile and from the rear, this one looks handsome, but in general it is ugly. The leather seats aren't convincing, although the aroma is pleasing and they are comfortable. The dash is equipped with a plethora of buttons, some of which are marked solely with a white dot which are not user-friendly. The foot-operated parking brake liberates space between the front seats, but is awkward to release, and the convenience of the electronically-operated boot release is negated by the lack of a handle with which to close it. The engine propels the car reasonably well, although it doesn't invigorate in the way a V6 can.

Daniel Hackett, 35
Occupation: project management from Chelmsford
Usual car: Audi A6 Avant V6
I have to admit to some generally negative preconceptions about American cars, but first impressions of this were favourable. The CTS looks good. Interior and exterior styling are fairly restrained; it has normal UK large-saloon proportions; and the finishing and trim were better than I expected. Not Audi standard, but not bad. On the move, I was even more impressed; it felt faster and more agile than my Audi with no sacrifices in ride comfort, and a pleasure to drive. Overall, I really liked it. Sadly, it could end up competing with the likes of the Peugeot 607 or Vauxhall Signum rather than Mercedes, BMW or Audi.

Matthew Lawrance, 29
Financial analyst from Chelmsford
Usual car: Volvo S80 T6
I have always liked the look of this car and expected a relaxed, smooth engine and cheap interior - and for it to drive like a blancmange. I was wrong. Well, not on all counts; the interior isn't even close to its European counterparts. The CTS has all the kit you could want and the fit and finish are solid, but the quality of materials and design of the centre console let it down. The surprises? The ride was firm, but it coped well with bumpy country roads. The engine, smooth and quiet when cruising, changes when you put your foot down, becoming intrusively loud, and sounding rough and stressed. It isn't a bad car by any means; just not quite good enough.

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