2006 Cadillac BLS

April 9, 2006

 2006 Cadillac STS-V by TCC Team (4/9/2006)
Driven to thrill.


Will Caddy’s BLS Crack the Euro Code? by TCC Team (4/9/2006)
Is this the right way to finally crack the European market?



It sounds wrong somehow — a Cadillac that will go on sale in every market except North America . But that’s what’s happening; GM’s determination to turn Caddy into its global luxury brand is moving on apace with the launch in Europe of the BLS, the company’s smallest sedan to date.


The car isn’t being built in the US either; this BMW 3-Series rival is going down the same Swedish production line that churns out Saabs. TheCarConnection drove it on the twisty back roads of Wiltshire, Great Britain , in right-hand drive form.


Featuring Caddy’s first ever turbodiesel — borrowed from the Saab 9-3 and Opel Vectra — the BLS enters the fiercely competitive compact executive market. Across the Atlantic, that’s territory dominated by the BMW, Mercedes’ C-Class, and the Audi A4.


On styling, the BLS is certainly different to its rivals. The familiar design with the egg-crate grille and vertical lamps has been carried over from the larger CTS and DTS, Inside, the design is much more to European tastes than those other models, and there’s a definite improvement in quality, too. It’s ironic that the BLS actually feels better built than its more expensive siblings. Saab enthusiasts will recognize bits of it, but the black dashboard, with silver detailing and wood inserts on the door and gearbox base, looks modern and smart. The SE version gets cloth upholstery, while the Luxury model get leather.


Turn the key and you know you’re in a diesel, but on the move the 1.9-liter engine is refined and smooth. There’s good power delivery from low down the rev range, and the six-speed manual gearbox is easy to use. The stick is smooth into the gate, though there’s too much travel on the clutch because of the deep-set pedals.


2006 Cadillac BLS

2006 Cadillac BLS

The steering could be better: it’s not pin-sharp and there’s a definite vagueness to it either side of straight-ahead. The ride and handling are both acceptable, and fuel economy is an impressive 38.6 mpg in the Euro combined cycle.


We had the chance for a quick blast in the gasoline-powered flagship model, the 2.8-liter turbocharged V-6 delivering 255 hp. It’s obviously quicker — performance figures are 6.7 seconds to 60 mph, a top speed of 155 mph, and 21.8 mpg on the auto version we drove — but it’s not as rewarding as the diesel. There’s an unpleasant whine from the turbo almost all the time, and while the steering is sharper there’s a hint of torque steer if you accelerate hard.


The car is on sale across Europe now, but there’ve been few advanced orders. GM bosses say that’s because the public knows very little about the car. European pricing is set 5-10 percent lower than rivals, so the entry-level 1.9-liter diesel, the SE with six-speed manual gearbox, is £19,950 ($34,700). The cheapest V-6, the Luxury with the same transmission, is £30,200 ($52,500).


Will the BLS challenge the might of the Germans in this sector? No, but GM Europe knows that and sales targets are deliberately conservative. For customers looking for something a bit different it’s worth considering, though.


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