You don’t? Good. Because that was Cadillac’s first attempt at a small luxury car for the American market. And it was little more than a rebadged Chevy Cavalier. (For those who don’t know the art of ’badge engineering’ just understand that it’s a Very Bad Thing.)
So Cadillac gave up. Later, in the mid-2000’s Cadillac started selling a recrafted Saab 9-3 in Europe (the not so popular BLS) but that car never made it back to the States.
In the meantime, compact luxury cars exploded in the US with seemingly every upwardly mobile “junior executive” (as Hammond calls ‘em) buying a BMW (3-series), Mercedes Benz (C-Class), or Audi (A4) instead of a homegrown Caddy.
Cadillac was being spanked on its own shores. The homeland wasn’t secure.
So maybe all of that changes with today’s introduction of the Cadillac ATS, their first modern 3-series fighter for The America.
Kicking off the Detroit show’s debuts was a local car [Cadillac] wants to tackle the world’s best. The Cadillac ATS, its maker earnestly believes, will finally get the Americans on level terms with the German big three premium makers. It’s is a direct rival to the 3-series, C-class and A4, at least at home in the USA.
The lead engine is a 2.0 turbo four that kicks out 270bhp, kicking sand in the face of even BMW’s brand-new 245bhp 328i engine. Just to prove it’s aimed at people who don’t just waft down the freeway all day, Cadillac even specced a new six-speed manual box as an alternative to the auto that everyone in the US will surely buy, won’t they?
There’s magnetic-fluid adaptive dampers for the suspension. The body is full of fancy light materials, so the base weight undercuts the C-classes and 3-series of this world.
There are no real instruments and few buttons. It’s all reconfigurable displays, and you do most of the switching by touching and sliding your finger on the tablet-style centre screen.