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  • 2016 Cadillac ATS Coupe

    Luxury coupe gets more powerful V-6 engine

    By Nina Russin

    Cadillac ATS Coupe

    Cadillac ATS Coupe

    Since its debut five years ago, the sporty Cadillac ATS has captured the hearts of buyers loving the performance of the larger CTS, but preferring a more compact package. Available as a sedan or coupe with rear or all-wheel drive, the ATS is a serious competitor against the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

    For 2016 Cadillac raises the bar with a new V-6 engine that is both more powerful and fuel efficient, and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Cadillac was one of the pioneers of cylinder management systems in the 1980s. Although early versions weren’t known to be particularly reliable, the new ones are and operation is seamless to the driver.

    Cylinder deactivation on the newest ATS stretches highway fuel economy to 30 miles-per-gallon. Automatic stop/start at idle enhances gas mileage around town.

    The V-6 comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, enabling drivers to make the most of the engine’s 333-horsepower.

    Base price for the rear-wheel drive premium grade tested is $50,835. Options on the test car include an active safety package that adds adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, an electric parking brake and automatic safety belt tightening, power sunroof and metallic red exterior paint, bringing the final MSRP to $56,415. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 2.0T RWD Premium

    Compact sport coupe styled to turn heads

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

    2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

    It’s hard not to fall in love with the Cadillac ATS sports coupe. It’s long, sleek hood, bullet profile and masculine grille are purposefully sexy. While the Cadillac brand has always been synonymous with luxury, its context within that segment has covered both ends of the spectrum. The ATS coupe reaches a new performance apex, appealing to the current generation of driving enthusiasts.

    The V-16 Cadillacs of the pre-War era were engineering marvels, but they were also among the most elegant cars of their day. After the War, the brand’s styling became edgier, with some of the biggest fins to come out of the 1950s.

    Twenty years later Cadillac said goodbye to the full-sized Eldorado convertible, and with that entered into a new phase of more fuel-efficient but less dazzling cars.

    Beginning with the new millennium, the brand changed faces again, utilizing technologies such as direct injection and turbocharging to infuse its small engines with big engine power. Styling got a kick in the pants as well, veering away from the conservativism of former models. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Cadillac Escalade 4WD

    Full-sized SUV combines beauty and brawn

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Cadillac Escalade

    2015 Cadillac Escalade

    It would not have been my choice to drive an eighty thousand dollar Cadillac Escalade on the day that Phoenix, Arizona was hit with a hundred-year record rainfall. After four-and-a-half inches of rain, the flooding made national news.

    But the Escalade was what I had and that is what I drove. In retrospect, it was kismet, since I learned that the Escalade is a much more serious performer than I imagined it could be.

    Perhaps it was the car’s large chrome grille and 22-inch wheels that made me write the Escalade off as another pretty face, or the fact that it’s old school luxury. While other automakers are phasing out large engines in favor of small, more fuel efficient ones, the Escalade continues to sport a 6.2-liter V-8 with a rip roaring 460 foot-pounds of torque. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is less than six seconds. Although fuel economy isn’t great, the rear-wheel drive version can tow an 8,500-pound trailer.

    Imagine combining the power of a Corvette with the utility of a light duty truck and luxury interior. On dry smooth roads, the Escalade floats along like the QE2 on placid water. But when the going gets tough, the Escalade transforms itself into the kind of warrior Beowulf would have been proud of.

    The 2015 model I tested is the fourth generation of the vehicle first launched in 1999. Its three rows of seating can hold up to seven passengers. The V-8 engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, with an all-wheel drive system that automatically transfers engine power to the wheels with the best traction.

    Magnetic ride control, a technology first introduced on the 2002 Cadillac Seville and on subsequent generations of Corvettes, uses a rheological fluid to automatically adjust suspension settings according to driving conditions. A locking rear differential works with the all-wheel drive system to maintain traction.

    The Luxury edition comes fully-loaded with convenience features including a Bose sound system, Cadillac’s Cue infotainment system, Bluetooth, heated and cooled seats, keyless entry and start, tri-zone automatic climate control and more. Final MSRP, including the $995 destination charge is $79,290. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0 Luxury Collection

    Sport sedan raises Cadillac performance to a new level

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Cadillac ATS

    Cadillac’s compact ATS sport sedan combines performance comparable to the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series with a high level of standard comfort, convenience and safety features. With a base price starting under $35,000, the ATS should be on driving enthusiasts’ short lists.

    Drivers can choose between a base 2.5-liter engine, turbocharged two-liter block and 3.6-liter V-6, all direct injected, with variable valve timing to enhance gas mileage. Premium fuel is recommended but not required for the turbocharged engine, due to its high compression ratio.

    There are two transmissions, a six-speed manual gearbox and six-speed automatic. Available all-wheel drive adds four-season capability.

    The test car is the premium version of the turbocharged rear-wheel drive model, priced from $39,395. The CUE system that includes voice-activated navigation and an upgraded Bose surround-sound system adds $1,295. Final MSRP, including the $895 destination charge is $41,585. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Lexus GS 350 RWD

    Five-passenger sport sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Lexus GS 350

    The all-new GS might be the best car Lexus has ever produced. Its performance is flawless, and because of that, the GS poses a serious threat to rivals such as the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6.

    Equally important is the fact that the GS is in no sense derivative of its German competition. In this writer’s opinion, it is as much pure Lexus as the more expensive LS, albeit with a few less bells and whistles.

    There are three variants: the base GS 350, GS 350 F Sport and the GS 450h gasoline/electric hybrid. The GS 350 is also available as an all-wheel drive sedan for buyers needing better traction in wet weather.

    MSRP for the rear-wheel drive base model is $48,900 excluding the $875 destination charge. The test car comes with a luxury package that adds rain sensing wipers, 18-inch alloy rims, adaptive variable suspension, adaptive front lighting, semi-aniline leather upholstery, three-zone climate control and 18-way power front seats ($5750).

    Other options on the test car include blind spot monitoring ($500), Mark Levinson audio system ($1380), navigation ($1735), intuitive park assist ($500), a cargo net ($64) and trunk mat ($105), bringing the price as tested to $57,809. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Cadillac ATS AWD 3.6L

    Compact luxury sedan with world-class performance

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Cadillac ATS

    In 1999, Cadillac turned the automotive world on its ears by unveiling the Evoq concept. The two-passenger show car, produced as the XLR, ushered in a new generation of performance which is as powerful today as it was fourteen years ago. Each subsequent model: the CTS, SRX and CTS-V, has expanded upon the idea of world cars created with a distinctly American lexicon.

    The ATS is the newest member of Cadillac’s sport sedan family. Power comes from a choice of 2.5-liter, two-liter turbo or direct-injection V-6 engines. The turbocharged car is available with a manual gearbox, while other models come exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission. The driver can use the gearshift lever to select gears manually.

    The compact sport sedan features new suspension technology, high-performance exhaust, Brembo brakes and available all-wheel drive. Buyers can upgrade from standard seventeen-inch wheels with run-flat tires to 18-inch rims. Engineers stretched the sedan’s wheelbase to 109.3 inches and widened the track to maximize its stability at speed.

    The ATS is the first Cadillac available with CUE: an infotainment system which integrates HVAQ, navigation and audio controls, plus information from up to ten Bluetooth-enabled smart phones on a single touchscreen. Safety systems such as lane departure warning use haptic feedback, which is less distracting than audible alarms.

    Base price for the V-6 luxury grade with all-wheel drive is $43,195, excluding the $895 destination charge. CUE adds navigation, Bose surround-sound system and a CD player ($1295). A cold weather package which includes heated front seats and a heated steering wheel costs $600, bringing the price as tested to $45,985. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Cadillac SRX Premium

    New V-6 engine gives mid-sized crossover extra punch

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Cadillac SRX

    The SRX is the smaller sibling to the full-sized Escalade sport-utility vehicle. While the SRX can’t match the Escalade’s cargo and towing capability, the smaller package has a lot of appeal for buyers who want a more nimble chassis with a passenger car-like ride.

    This year, the engineers at GM have added some pizzazz to an already appealing package with a new direct injection V-6 engine rated at 308 horsepower. Peak torque, 265 lbs-ft, is available at 2400 rpm, so the driver can easily accelerate without sacrificing gas mileage. An eco feature alters shift points on the six-speed automatic transmission to further enhance fuel economy. Using the feature on my 150-mile test drive, I averaged 21 miles-per-gallon: two mpg better than the EPA estimate.

    The upscale premium grade priced from $45,975 comes loaded with every conceivable convenience option except the DVD entertainment system, which adds $1395. That, plus an $875 destination charge brings the price as tested to $48,245.

    As luxurious as the SRX is, the crossover vehicle is also practical, with up to 3500 pound towing capacity, standard roof rails, a bicycle-friendly cargo area and a storage area under the cargo floor. Standard adaptive xenon headlamps swivel according to steering input to light the way on dark suburban streets. Navigation is also standard, as is a rearview camera. Camera images and navigation maps appear on an eight-inch screen which rises from the dash when the driver turns on the ignition. The large graphics are heaven to my less-than perfect eyes.

    A digital display in the gauge cluster tells the driver the speed limit of the road he’s traveling on, as well as giving driving range, fuel consumption, instant and average fuel economy and trip meter readings.

    Keyless entry and start saves the driver from digging into his pocket for a fob, adding a measure of safety for those who drive alone after dark. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon

    Interior versatility meets sports car performance

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

    Americans need to get over their collective dislike of station wagons. Times have changed since Ozzie and Harriet Nelson ferried little Ricky around in their ‘56 Pontiac Nomad. The mom-and-pop cars of yesteryear have given way to a new generation of sport wagons, which are as powerful and fun-to-drive as they are versatile.

    Meet the Cadillac CTS-V sport wagon: a 556-horsepower supercharged bundle of joy. The only thing I don’t like about this car is that I can’t afford its $63,000 sticker, although I might consider selling my house to raise the money. Most of what I really care about would fit into the cargo area.

    Buyers can choose between a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearbox. The test car comes with the Tremec manual. Magnetic ride control, a real-time damping system, comes standard with all models. So do 19-inch wheels, high-performance Michelin tires and Brembo brakes.

    Base sticker price is $62,165, not including the $825 destination charge and $1300 gas guzzler tax. Options on the test car include Recaro seats ($3400), wood trim ($500), a sueded steering wheel and shifter ($300), bringing the price as tested to $68,590. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 Cadillac CTS-V

    Potent sport sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2010 Cadillac CTS-V

    2010 Cadillac CTS-V

    Driving the CTS-V can make the sun shine brighter and the road irresistibly beckoning. It’s that good. The tuner version of Cadillac’s sport sedan is basically a race car with back seats. With 556 horses under the hood, the Cadillac CTS-V is the Corvette Z06 of the sedan world.

    To attribute the CTS-V’s other worldly performance solely to its engine would be doing the car a disservice. Features such as magnetic ride control transmit power to the ground in a highly refined fashion.

    Having said that, the Cadillac CTS-V is not a car for everyone. In addition to its high-luxury  price tag, the chassis is engineered for speed rather than versatility.

    It’s not particularly suited for snow. Buyers who plan to drive the car in the winter should expect to invest in a spare set of rims and snow tires. The standard performance tires are too hard in cold weather to provide adequate traction.

    Ground effects enhance high-speed handling, but make it virtually impossible to take the sedan off pavement without damaging components. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 Cadillac SRX

    Second-generation crossover offers better fuel economy and all-wheel drive

    By Nina Russin

    2010 Cadillac SRX

    2010 Cadillac SRX

    This year, Cadillac replaces the original SRX with an all-new model, designed to compete in the same segment as the Lexus RX, Audi A5 and BMW X5. Whereas the first SRX was a relatively minor player, Cadillac hopes the new model will reach the heart of the mid-sized crossover market.

    The 2010 models come with a choice of two engines: a 3-liter V6 available launch, and a 2.8-liter turbocharged V6 that rolls out this fall. There are four grades ranging from the base model to the upscale premium. Luxury, performance and premium models are available with all-wheel drive.

    The all-wheel drive system can transfer up to 100 percent of engine torque to the rear axle, and up to 85 percent of torque from wheel to wheel. Standard safety features include front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control with rollover mitigation and trailer stability control. The car structure meets European standards for pedestrian protection.

    Pricing ranges from $34,155 on the base model to $48,365 for the all-wheel drive premium. MSRPs will be slightly higher for cars equipped with the 2.8-liter turbocharged engine that arrives late in the year.

    To simplify the buying process, there are few stand-alone options. They include premium paint, a rear-seat entertainment system, a trailer hitch and towing package that increases towing capacity to 3500 pounds. Read the rest of this entry »