Cadillac is hoping the 2007 Escalade is act two in the sales success the first Escalade enjoyed. We had a chance to take a brand-spanking-new GM Bling-Box up the coast and back down again to see how close to hitting the mark they might be.
At first glance, the new Escalade is indeed an improvement upon the previous iteration. The interior is gorgeous and the exterior stance is powerful, masculine, and very street-hip. There is no way to avoid noticing this SUV, on the road, in a parking space, wherever. It is a moving personality statement – and whereas the H2 is about brawn, the Cadillac seems to add “class” to the equation.
Had to visit the Costco in Derby just to see if it was different from the Costco stores in the USA. NO! While the merchandise is slightly different (not as much Kirkland private label merchandise), the layout is very much the same. Much larger liquor department with an emphasis on champagne and cases of wine. Still at a substantial value.
Years ago, I read an interview with a Costco exec working on the planning for Costco stores in the UK. He was rubbing his hands with glee thinking about how their strategy of merchandising could transform British retailing. The uniquely American approach to the mass market is something dramatically different than traditional British retailing.
The parking lot was the surprise. Arriving at 10:45 AM (store opened at 10AM) the parking lot was only about a third full and many of the vehicles in the lot were saloon cars (sedans with trunks) rather than the Chelsea tractors (SUVs) that are found in the USA… at least in Orange County.
Note the parking spaces are relatively generous. Not the sub-compact spaces found in most other car parks in England.
Still, felt like a touch of home.
The Cadillac CTS continues to perform flawlessly through Derbyshire (pronounced “Darby-shir”) in the East Midlands of England. A couple of Motorway blasts followed by lumping around on B-Roads shows that the CTS is very flexible in the English driving environment. Still getting a fair amount of lookieloos in the city centres. Even saw a Stratsmore dealership that carries Cadillac and several other high end brands in Derby (prounced “Darby”).
Cadillac CTS at Kedleston Hall
Cadillac CTS at Hardwick Hall
For the past few days, I have been driving a Cadillac CTS around England. This evaluation is special because the CTS is the winner of AutoPacific’s 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Entry Luxury Cars in the USA.
Cadillac CTS at Newstead Abbey – Lord Byron’s Family Home
Cadillac CTS at Calke Abbey – Stately Home in Decline
The evaluation started at Heathrow Airport, driving to the outskirts of London and then North to the East Midlands. This drive isn’t as unique as that of former-colleague Rex Parker’s when his father shipped the family 1964 Lincoln Continental convertible to the UK for an extensive driving vacation in the ’60s, but the reaction to American iron is interesting and instructive.
CTS – D-Segment Luxury Entry in Europe
The CTS is an Entry Luxury Car in the USA, but is relatively large for the English driving environment. It dwarfs smaller Renault Clios, Ford Focus C-Max, smarts, Vauxhall Tigras, Ford Kas and the myriad of B and C-Class transportation available in Europe but not in the USA.
The CTS sold in the UK is built in Belgium and has right hand drive. While the CTS may be a bit large for the local car park of B and C-Class cars, there are fair number of BMW 5-Series, Mercedes E-Class, Volvo S60, Audi A6, Peugeot 407, Renault Laguna and even the remaining Rover 75s and MG ZT saloons to compete with. With few CTS saloons sold in England, the car turns heads usually in the slow motion maneuvering through city centres. Young guys crane their heads to see what the Cadillac is.
If Nissan’s Xterra is a tough, rugged, and capable off-road, dust and dirt-gobbling machine providing owners with everything they need and nothing they don’t. Xterra’s pavement-pounding antithesis is the Infiniti FX.
I’m now convinced that Japanese is the new German in the automotive kingdom and the Infiniti FX is a testament to that fact. Fit, finish, gaps, ride, handling, and performance; the infiniti FX has it wired. Introduced in January 2003 and given a minor facelift for ‘06 the FX is more fun and fashionable than most SUV’s, but then again it’s not technically an SUV.
Mitsubishi has an all-new compact SUV for its 2007 lineup. Though it carries the Outlander name, there is little that the second Outlander shares with the first, other than the Lancer platform. This time, though, Outlander is the launch product for Mitsubishi’s all-new C-segment platform. The result is a more grown-up and sophisticated compact SUV. The first generation did not fare well in the marketplace, selling only 75,000 units between late 2002 and 2005, the new version has more to offer in all areas.
Sales begin in the United States in November 2006, and AutoPacific
were invited to be among the early drivers. Using the Hotel Vitale
in San Francisco as a home base, Mitsubishi plotted out an entertaining drive route that took us across the Golden Gate Bridge to Highway 1 and up to Bogeda Bay.
Finally, a Competitive Package
Styling has grown up; there is a modern silhouette, better overall proportions, and more attractive styling. The first Outlander looked like a short-but-tall wagon with big bumpers (click here
for images). The old underwhelming 160HP 2.4L I4 is replaced by a 220HP 3.0L V6 and six-speed automatic (magnesium paddle shifters are optional). There is an improved interior with thoughtful storage and convenience touches and optional jump seats give room for seven in a pinch.
For the 2007MY, there are several new or updated compact SUVs, including the Jeep Compass
(click for VehicleVoice Compass review
), Jeep Patriot
CR-V, and Suzuki SX4
. Against these products, and solid entries like the Hyundai Tucson
and Kia Sportage
, the Outlander brings more power, more size, and more features. The new Outlander can better justify having one of the highest MSRPs of the available Compact SUVs.
The original 1970 Datsun 240Z had a formula Americans could accept and appreciate. The first generation Z’s were lightweight, well balanced, equipped with a 2.4 liter inline six engine and due to their great handling were often compared to such admirable adversaries as the Porsche 911. First and foremost, they were very affordable giving outstanding bang for the buck (but they were rust buckets).
As the decades rolled by the Z found itself caught in a downward spiral becoming longer, heavier and less nimble with every new model change. Nissan eventually lost the Z’s pedigree and subsequently it’s huge following. It was ultimately dropped, citing production costs, in 1997.
Remember the first Pathfinder? The two-door model with the refinement of a skateboard? Well the 2006 Pathfinder has long since grown up. The current (redesigned in 2005) model has come a long way from the earlier testosterone versions. Sitting on the “F-Alpha” family platform like the Xterra, Armada, Frontier and Titan, this new Frontier performs with more comfort and sophistication than any of its predecessors.
The 2006 Chevrolet Impala is a complete reskin from its dorky looking predecessor. It now looks very purposeful and almost modern. We have read many criticisms of its freshened styling, but, while not head-turning, the Impala is a huge improvement. The interior is ergonomically friendly and everything falls to hand easily.
So, what are the gripes. In an obvious cost-reduction, the bezel surrounding the console-mounted shifter in the Impala SS does not have P-R-N-D-L or anything else to tell you what gear you are in. The only indicator is on the instrument cluster where there is a LED read out. I don’t remember any car not having the gears shown near the shift lever. Probably saved a buck.
Excitement Reigns Under Full Throttle
In another obvious goof that many buff books have identified and I can confirm, torque steer is wild. Punch the 303-horsepower small-block V8 and things get exciting fast. It’s like you can’t figure out which way the car is going. Unlike many cars having fearsome torque steer (they usually turn hard right), the steering in the Impala SS under power seems almost omni-directional. If it consistently pulled right, you could anticipate it, but the SS seems to be everywhere.
Apparently, this is fixed on the Pontiac Grand Prix GXP with the same powertrain and platform but with larger tires up front. Chevy should spring for this fix. The Impala is a premium priced model and such obvious cost cuts should not be tolerated.
Impala Best Chevy Sedan since the old Impala SS
But, enough nit-picking. The Impala SS is truly the best non-Corvette car we have driven in a long time.
Some of us grew up around friends or acquaintances who found adolescence a challenging phase. We’ve all heard stories of the ‘late bloomer’ or wished we had been nicer to the girl down the street who came into her own only after our returning from college.
Fortunately, the 2007 all-new Hyundai Santa Fe is materialistic and can be wooed with money alone. It doesn’t care to remember the snide remarks or perplexed gawking it drew from its adolescent years. It no longer looks like an overstuffed pork chop with pointy ears. The new Santa Fe has made it through puberty, lost the baby fat and come into its own.