Advantages A Very Nice Clock. Huge Boot.
Disadvantages Too Many To List Here.
WHAT IS IT?Difficult to answer that. I suppose in simple terms it is a medium sized (say Mondeo / 3 Series BMW) four door saloon car.
What it is in political or manufacturing terms is something else altogether. Cadillac is a huge American luxury car yes? Not this one, not huge, not really luxury (despite its’ model designation – with a capital “L”) and ….shhhh…..but it is actually Swedish and not American!Some bright spark at General Motors HQ – owners of Cadillac, Saab and Vauxhall, amongst other brands, decided that what the European market really needed was another four door saloon car, after all, Rover had just gone out of business at the time – taking the rather good 75 with them.
Eureka! Saab had surplus manufacturing capacity, re-style (uglify) the 9-3 slightly, add quite a lot of chrome, a traditional Caddy cheese-cutter grille and then glue as many Cadillac badges and logos on it as possible and you have the very car that the company car market has been screaming out for!Were GM right? Maybe this review will go some way to answering that too!
WHICH SPECIFIC MODEL?I am assuming that this car – the 173bhp 2.0 litre petrol turbo version - is the one that Detroit THOUGHT would sell like hot cakes, not only here, but on the continent too. The 175 Luxury at £24,278 actually sits towards the bottom of the range, only the less luxuriously equipped SE at £20,728 is below it.Diesel fuel in the US is still very much regarded as for “trucks only”, the number of passenger cars being sold Stateside powered by oil burners is still tiny. Ironically, the 1.9 litre Vauxhall sourced turbo-diesel unit (also shared with the Fiat Alfa group) is an outstandingly good engine – pity that the US market will probably never comprehend that!
IN WHAT CAPACITY AM I REVIEWING THIS CAR?I am reviewing this car in exactly the capacity that Cadillac invited me to drive it i.e. as a fleet manager, responsible for a small number of cars – all chosen by their drivers. GM see this as the ultimate “user chooser” company car, for those who want to stand out as being slightly different in the golf club car park.test drive their new car. The letter went on to state that at the three day event the BLS model had received a rapturous welcome from the fleet managers in attendance…..funny that, we saw quite a lot of scratching or shaking of heads going on!
COSTSCadillac are up against it before they even get bums onto drivers seats here. A group 16 insurance group is going to put off many potential purchasers, the near identical Saab 9.3 2.0t is rated two groups lower, cars such as the iconic (in this market sector) BMW 320i are in group 13 as are comparable Audi’s and Mercedes.
The BLS’s 193g per kg CO2 rating puts it into the 25% tax band for company car drivers. That is class competitive for a 173bhp turbocharged 2.0 litre car.The bald pence per mile figure over three years and 36,000 miles is 57.0p.
A comparable Audi A4 would cost 53.5p per mile, a BMW 320i – 49.0p.p.m, Jaguar X-Type - 59.0p.p.m, Lexus IS250 – 54.2p.p.m, Mercedes C200 – 56.6p.p.m, SAAB 9-3 (on which it is based) 55.4p.p.m and the Volvo S60 – 56.3p.p.m. (Incidentally the BMW’s extraordinarily low cost figure there is due to the first three years servicing being included in the purchase price.)As you can see from the above list of directly comparable cars, in terms of cost and market presence, the Cadillac BLS is out of touch on overall costs.
Probably inappropriate to throw it into the equation here, but I would have to argue that any one of those cars listed above has more golf club car park credence too!PURCHASE COST 3 / 10
This is one very expensive car. Before you even sit in it or drive it, comparing it to those cars listed above it is, at £24,278, more expensive than all of them in standard showroom trim. I fail to see how Cadillac can charge more for it than Saab do for the more stylish, equally well equipped 9-3 Vector.My sources also indicate that there are no discounts available on the Cadillac – any Saab dealer will knock a couple of thousand off for the asking, more if you pursue the brokers.
I actually view this car as attempting to compete £5,000 above its’ natural market position, I hope that this is not merely a built in prejudice of mine, but I rather see this car as a natural competitor to the far eastern brands, Kia and Hyundai, rather than the established mid range prestige executive models listed above.A US citizen would choke on his Big Mac at the prospect of stumping up almost $50,000 for this car, why should they attempt fob it off on us at this inflated price?
As a matter of interest, the BLS is a European only model, Stateside they do not have the opportunity to invest in one of these!THE OPTIONS GAME: 7 / 10 or “How much do I need to spend to make it habitable?”
As you would have the right to expect, at THAT price, it does come very fully equipped, ticking most (but far from all) of the usual executive models options boxes. A sun roof will add £675, metallic paint £550, satellite navigation £1550, Bluetooth connection £150 and Bi-Xenon headlamps £525. Add those and you have a whopping £27,728 invoice.Should I mention here that a Honda Accord 2.4 Executive with all that equipment on it, as standard, would be a mere £21,527…….
……maybe better not!DEPRECIATION 3 / 10 – Always the biggest running cost.
This car has only been on the UK market for a year which makes depreciation a little hard to predict, but not THAT hard! They are having a devil of a job selling these new, a car that is overpriced and does not capture the imagination new, is unlikely to prove a second hand hit. It will need to be cheap to sell, so yes, you’ll be driving the proverbial plummeting stone here.The “book” (What Car?) is telling me that one of these will be worth just £8479 in three years and 36,000 miles time. Personally, with them being so unpopular, I would be very surprised if a three year old one would be worth anywhere near that value. All of the above listed cars will fare much better than that and would be a far wiser place in which to put your money.
In the first four months of this year Cadillac only sold 32 cars here – not 32 BLS’s, but 32 cars in TOTAL!FUEL ECONOMY 9 / 10
Going on the assumption that having blown £5000 more than you needed to on a car in the first place, one would also be inclined to assume that the cost of putting fuel into it is not going to worry you too much.However, on this score, actually, considering its’ 173bhp engine and 1500kg weight, the quoted average fuel consumption figure of 37.2mpg is very good indeed. This equals BMW’s highly efficient 318 (four cylinder) and 320i (six cylinder) models.
A 12.7 gallon fuel tank, whilst not huge, when combined with a real world 33mpg will give you an acceptable range of over 400 miles between fuel stops.SERVICE & MAINTENANCE COSTS 6 / 10: are you going to make the dealer rich?
Your first problem is going to be finding a dealer! Here in Brighton we actually have one of only a very small handful across the country. Once you locate a dealer, expect to spend just over £1000 with him over three years and 36,000 miles – again that is class competitive.The 10,000 mile service intervals are short by today’s standards – and bearing in mind that you may live a very long way from your nearest dealer – may well also prove further discouragement to purchasing one of these.
Oddly, a Saab dealer only wants to see your car every 12,000 miles – odd, because mechanically it is an identical product!Let the “fun” begin! You want to know what this car is like to live with and to drive and be driven in…….
THE EXTERIOR:STYLING 2 /10: A very subjective category here.
OK, this is a case of very much “beauty being in the eye of the beholder” this is my review that makes me the beholder, so here goes!In my opinion, this is THE worst lash up of mid-Atlantic styling that it has ever been my misfortune to be seen behind the wheel of. The box in which you sit, i.e. the area bounded by the doors, roof, windscreen and rear window are directly from the Saab 9.3. The front and back are substantially re-styled. The whole looks like three cars that have been welded together and re-sprayed in an attempt to cover the joins.
Apart from the design of the alloy wheels, there is nothing that I like about the exterior appearance of the Cadillac BLS at all.OVERALL BUILD QUALITY AND FINISH 9 / 10 Does it look as though it was slung together?
No, in all honesty, it does not. American cars, built in America – especially the mass market ones such as this - have an abysmal reputation for build quality, but then, they are very cheap to buy.In getting Saab to build this car, Cadillac have ensured that everything fits properly and that it has a very good paint finish. The one that we drove was black, it had obviously been prepared for the event, but it was as shiny and lustrous in quality as it would be possible to be.
SAFETY 6 / 10 If it comes to the worst, how well are you and your family going to come out of it.Saab again here. As already stated, the passenger box is a Saab 9-3, right down to the important bits that you cannot see, airbags all around and world class safety features built into the structure. On this score there was no better manufacturer to share the components with.
Why only six out of ten then?Unfortunately, the bits that Cadillac have changed, the suspension settings, and most importantly here – the seats, should have been carried over in tact from the 9-3 too.
My wife and I did not feel very safe in this car whilst driving on the, admittedly, very twisty and steep handling course at Millbrook. This was an absolutely fair comparison though, as many other cars were driven on the same day here – including the Saab, none threw us about in the car, the way this one did.Blame the flat, shiny leather seats, or the fact that the American’s simply do not understand European driving conditions when developing suspension systems. Whichever, if you are being thrown about inside the car you are unable to safely control it at a time you most need to.
Of all the different cars that I have driven over the last ten years (well over 200) this is the one that, as a driver, I felt most liable to crash!THE INTERIOR:
ERGONOMICS 7 / 10 Before I can start the engine and drive away I need to feel at home in the “working environment”. The relationship between the controls and how I, the driver, am able to instinctively operate those controls is, all important. This for me is make or break, before I drive a car, if it does not instinctively “feel” right in this department then I will never like it or ultimately buy it.Thanks to Saab, again, the basics are pretty well correct. This is an easy car to jump into – electrically adjust the seats – and drive away in. Regrettably the Saabs single worst feature the, styled for the sake of it, hand brake lever, has been carried over entirely un-changed.
VISIBILITY: 9 / 10Far better than most in this class of car, you sit up high and have a panoramic view through the huge sweeping windscreen.
The view to the sides and rear is equally commanding.The rear view mirrors are also excellent.
SPACE: 3 / 10:The 9-3 is disappointing on this score and the Cadillac with its’ unique (and dreadfully uncomfortable) front seats, actually manages to be yet less accommodating. Once again the American’s make a fine job of proving that they understand little about interior packaging, rear space is decidedly cramped.
The BLS does however come with an impressively huge boot – presumably to take the caddy as well as a couple of sets of golf clubs!STYLE 4 / 10:
My notes, made on the day, state that the BLS felt like a down market Saab 9-3 inside. Just as with the exterior, the interior has been uglified. The expensive bits – the instrument cluster, steering wheel, column stalks and central console – are all identical components to the Saab.A rather nice, square, analogue clock has been given pride of place in the centre of the dashboard; this was undoubtedly the Cadillac’s best feature – the clock!
MATERIALS, FIT & FINISH 2 / 10: Aspreys or Ratners?Ratners! The 9-3 only scored four points here – the Cadillac manages to worsen even that meagre score. Plastic wood that looks like plastic and real leather that also looks like plastic found us sitting in the cheapest interior of the day.
It is starting to dawn on me why only 32 Cadillac’s found homes during the first four months of 2007!AUDIO & CLIMATE CONTROL SYSTEMS 6 / 10: Strange grouping?
The Climate Control system is identical to the latest model Saab 9-3 and is very much simpler to use than the old multi-push button one. This is a world class system as you would expect from the Scandinavian manufacturer.The radio however looks more like a set from the 1990’s with its shiny facia and rather crude controls. Here the 9-3 is infinitely better with its fully integrated audio system.
ON THE ROAD……..……Time to start it up and to offer you a driving assessment.
NOISE, VIBRATION & HARSHNESS 8 / 10 Silk purse or sow’s ear?The four cylinder 2.0 petrol turbocharged engine is smooth and quiet and suits the compact executive saloon image.
As you would expect general road and wind noise levels are comparatively low thanks to the donor car. It is a while since I drove a petrol turbo Saab, but to the best of my memory in all respects the Cadillac BLS felt identical in terms of refinement. For an additional £5000 here you have the right to expect more.PERFORMANCE 6 / 10 Sh*t off a shovel or a constipated tortoise?
How many BHP? My regular car, a Honda Accord Diesel has 136bhp, on the road the Cadillac felt well down on that to me, like a good 50bhp short of the claimed 175. Its pace had a decidedly relaxed and lazy feel to it, this is not a car to be hurried.Whilst the GM six speed gearbox, as in all its’ other applications, is smooth and fast shifting, I could not help thinking that the Cadillac was an obvious candidate for an automatic gearbox – it simply did not feel right driving a car with THAT badge on the steering wheel and changing gear myself!
RIDE & HANDLING 5 / 10The Saab 9-3 is a car very sensitive to wheel and tyre choice, on oversized wheels and ultra low profile tyres it has a harsh, unforgiving ride. Whilst it is a safe handling car, it would not be my first choice amongst its competitors for a fun blast down a country road.
The Cadillac has a softer spongier ride, likely to induce car sickness in those prone, but due to those awful and very slippery front seats I was deterred from attempting to go anywhere near its handling limits.CONCLUSION – Would I buy one myself and would we want to drive it to Poland in a day?
Do I REALLY need to answer that here?I would probably gain more satisfaction from flushing £50 notes down the toilet than from owning a Cadillac BLS. This car makes no sense at all – not as a private purchase, new, or second hand – nor as a company car.
Personally I see no need for its existence – the Saab 9-3 is much better looking, more desirable and vastly better value for money.Drive to Poland in it? I wouldn’t want to drive from here to the Cadillac dealer in one – and they are just down the road from here!
FINAL SCORE: 95 / 170 - 55.9%The score puts this car firmly where it belongs at the bottom of the table and by a big margin! It is several decades since I have driven a car that I found as dislikeable – or plain pointless as this one.
Sorry Cadillac, but if you are serious about selling cars in the UK, let alone mainland Europe, you are going to have to do a good deal better than this mid-Atlantic lash up.Putting that score into perspective are the following cars based on identical scoring criteria:
ALFA ROMEO 147 1.9JTD Lusso (5 Dr) - 67.8%
CADILLAC BLS 175 LUXURY 55.9%
FIAT PUNTO GRANDE SPORTING 130 Mjet – 75.9%
HONDA ACCORD i-CTDi Saloon - 80.0%
HONDA CIVIC 1.8i VTEC SE – 78.2%
HONDA CIVIC 1.8i VTEC S i-SHIFT 68.8%
HONDA JAZZ 1.4 SE CVT-7 (Automatic) - 74.7%
SAAB 9-3 TiD Vector - 68.2%
SAAB 9-3 TiD Linear CONVERTIBLE (2007 Mondel) – 74.1%
VAUXHALL ASTRA TWINTOP 1.9 CDTi DESIGN – 78.8%
VAUXHALL MONARO VXR - 71.1%
VW PASSAT TDi 140 S ESTATE – 71.7%
VOLVO S60 D5 SE - 70.6%
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