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On The Road

New Caddy proves step in right direction for GM

Photo By: courtesy of Cadillac
Photo Courtesy Of Cadillac

The Cadillac ATS, with run-flat tires and stiff suspension setup, offers a harsh ride that is distinctly different from older models.

Even before the recent economic debacle, many observers had given up General Motors for dead, believing the company had become bloated with too many near-duplicate car lines and managed by executives totally out of touch with markets.

Once the dominant force in global automotive manufacturing, GM was already on the verge of bankruptcy before economic conditions nearly tipped it over the edge into free fall.

Now under new management, with a financial clean slate and several brand names consigned to museums of automotive history, GM is emerging with some solid new products from both Chevrolet and Cadillac.

Last month we drove the recently introduced Cadillac ATS, the company’s entry in the challenging $50,000 sport sedan marketplace. Overall, we’re pleased to say that the marque – which once represented achievement in the United States – is now back in its rightful place at the top of the U.S. pantheon.

Reviewers are favorably comparing it with models of similar size and price from challengers in Germany and Japan. Evaluated on ride, handling, cabin comfort and interior trim, we definitely agree.

Even better, we found the version we drove – with all-wheel drive and 3.6-liter, 321-horsepower V-6 engine – to offer one more characteristic. It feels like a Cadillac should: solid, stable and satisfying to drive. In that respect, we would frankly rate it above the foreign competitors.

However, we weren’t as impressed by the styling touches in the cabin. Accent materials of embossed and brushed aluminum just didn’t seem in keeping with the deep luxury of the leather upholstery and chrome-trimmed switchgear. It’s not a deal breaker, and some colors and trim packages do look better than others, but we think it needs a little attention.

Worth mentioning in the “some will, some won’t like it” category is the ride comfort, which is distinctly different from the Cadillacs our parents drove (if they could afford them). The combination of run-flat tires and stiff suspension setup gives a harsh ride that is definitely not what we expect from a Cadillac (MSRP: $45,695).

Unfortunately, a deal breaker for us is the new interior control system that Cadillac calls “Cue.” Sure, it’s a technological triumph, relying on finger touch and haptic feedback (it clicks when you push it) for virtually all controls. No knobs that turn, no central joystick control – just a slick screen with a changing arrays of icons that function by touch.

Never mind that the Cue system is complicated – live with any system for long enough and the owner will get used to it – but it’s way too sensitive to be appropriate for an automobile. Try hitting the exact quarter-inch spot on the screen to turn on the defroster when the windshield starts to fog over on a bumpy road – at best you may simply hit the lid release that causes the display to rotate up, and at worst you may wind up missing the turn in the road ahead.

We’d love to love the Cadillac, but for now we’ll wait until they redesign the Cue system, as Ford had to do with its touch-screen system a year ago.

Longtime Los Altos residents Gary and Genie Anderson are co-owners of Enthusiast Publications LLC, which edits several car club magazines and contributes articles and columns to automotive magazines and online services.

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