CTS marks Caddy Revolution No. 2

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Cadillac's getting ready for another revolution.

There are big, big changes coming this fall for the CTS, Cadillac's entry level luxury car. If you're car savvy, you might remember that it was a CTS that launched Cadillac's last revolution, which resulted in Cadillac vaulting to the top of the heap in the luxury car field over the last few years.

The CTS -- with its elegant, rich look, totally revamped interior and new engine -- will be the first of Cadillac's models to enter phase two of next Caddy revolution. But if you want to see where the company is heading, a good place to start would be the Escalade line for 2007.

The 2007 Cadillac_CTS.
Click photo for larger image.

It's big. It's bold. It's bling. It's bodacious.

But despite all the glitter, the Escalade SUVs and pickup are actually pretty elegant, with tasteful strips of chrome adorning their flanks. OK, the grilles are larger than life, but hey, we're talking Cadillac here.

The new Escalade is powered by an all-new 6.2 liter aluminum V-8 that puts out 403 horsepower. Handling as been vastly improved by a new rack-and-pinion steering system and a new frame.

What's especially interesting about the Escalade is that somehow it looks much smaller than the old model. The combination of tauter lines, more defined character details and those huge chrome laden wheels all combine to give the impression of a smaller product.

Inside, you'll find tasteful bits of aluminum and gaps that are so tight as to be non-existent, which wasn't always the case with General Motors products in the past.

Door panel designs and other interior elements are not shared with the rest of the GM line. The Escalade comes in three versions: the EXT sport utility truck with the midgate panel that lowers and provide even more room for lengthy, narrow pieces brought home from the hardware store; the ESV, an extended length model that shares new powertrain, chassis, safety and other features with the other Escalades; and the regular Escalade, which is about the size of Chevy's new Tahoe. Prices for the Escalade line start at $54,220 and go up to $59,175.

Performance has been a strong point with Cadillac since the rebirth of the brand began a few years ago, and the STS-V has played a large role in that. The STS-V is powered by a 469 horsepower, 4.4 liter supercharged "NorthStar" V-8 engine that's hand-assembled by a single craftsman.

The 2007 model's biggest change will be a switch to Cadillac's "cut and sew" approach to interiors, which refers to leather-wrapped interior surfaces that are created by craftsmen who cut, wrap and sew leather components together individually.

Having driven the STS-V, I can tell you that it is more like a high-performance German sedan than anything else ever introduced by an American manufacturer. The steering is suitably taut, responsive and eager for driver input. The handling is firm, acceleration awesome and the sound from the exhausts is exhilarating. It's a "don't miss" car for performance enthusiasts with the money: the base price is $74,640.

Another star of the Cadillac performance stable is the XLR-V, a knife-edged, sleek two-seat roadster that has helped upend Cadillac's earlier reputation for stodginess. Awesomely fast, a ferocious corner turner and big-time head turner, you'd best not be a wallflower if you're going to drive one of these. It starts at $97,460.

CTS-V, the intermediate size bombshell that carries the battle into BMW M3 territory, makes up the third weapon of Cadillac's high performance arsenal. It's powered by a 400 horsepower, 6.0 liter V-8 with a six-speed manual transmission and performance tuned suspension.

Meanwhile, other CTS models add OnStar's Connections and Directions to its NavTraffic service. Connections and Directions features access to driving directions, vehicle diagnostics, remote door unlock, stolen vehicle location assistance and concierge service. CTS-V prices begin at $51,160, while CTS prices start at $29,660.

One of the few knocks against Cadillac's well-received luxury crossover, the STS, has been that its interior was mediocre-looking. That should change in 2007 because the car gets a completely redone interior with a new instrument panel, hand-wrapped upper trim, console, center stalk door trim, wood trim, analog clock and steering wheel. It too, uses Cadillac's new cut-and-sew interior process.

It also gets a new six-speed transmission for better gas mileage and performance. SRX prices starts at $36,920.

DTS, the volume large sedan for Cadillac, was all new last year, so changes are at a minimum, including redesigned chrome wheels and the inclusion of XM satellite radio, cargo mats and rear sunshades to be part of more top-of-the line option packages.

And in a bow to the increasing popularity of Cadillac in Arab nations, Arabic replaces Italian as an option on the driver information center. DTS prices begin at $41,170 and climb to $48,540.


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