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THANKS BUT NO YANKS? (some text hidden)
BY Jonathan Crouch
Introductionword count: 120
Perhaps it seemed a good idea at the time. Clothe a Saab 9-3 in angular Cadillac styling and you have a car that has cost very little to develop but which offers the Cadillac brand a toehold in the European market appealing to a different buyer profile than its Saab sibling. What could go wrong? Quite a lot as it happened. A patchy dealer network and little in the way of marketing support meant that the BLS, an otherwise decent car, withered on the vine. In March 2009, shortly before the BLS was discontinued, Cadillac managed 11 UK sales. Bentley managed 125 and Porsche moved 930 vehicles. Exclusivity is certainly on your side if you can find a used example.
Modelsword count: 12
MODELS COVERED: (BLS saloon and estate: 2.0 and 2.8 petrol, 1.9 turbodiesel)
Historyword count: 168
Built at Saab's factory in Trollhattan, Sweden, the Cadillac BLS was actually about as American as Gravadlax and Surstr mming. Due to this artful deception, Cadillac was confident at launch that it would allow them a meaningful sales presence in Europe and appeal to a younger, more extrovert client base than the Saab 9-3 upon which it was based. Contrary to widespread belief, the BLS wasn't actually the first Cadillac to be offered with a diesel engine. That honour falls to a car launched in the dog days of the oil crisis back in 1979. The Seville with a 5.7-litre LF9 diesel engine, itself a rather clumsy conversion of the petrol Oldsmobile V8, might well be remembered as possessing by far one of the worst engines ever installed in a vehicle. Both saloon and estate models were offered, but due to piecemeal dealer backup and a lack of concerted promotion, the BLS never got out of the blocks. Just three years later, Cadillac decided to call it quits.
What You Getword count: 308
Despite its catastrophic marketing, the Cadillac BLS wasn't a duffer. Granted, it was some way off the pace of the leading Audi, Mercedes and BMW models but then it was priced accordingly. Think of it as a Saab 9-3 in a zoot suit and you're not far off the mark and the Saab has always been a solid performer. If you just want to enjoy the distinctive styling and the fact that it's doubtful anyone else in your area will have one, the BLS has something to commend it. There's a choice of saloon or 'Wagon' estate body styles. Go for the estate and you'll find that unlike many vehicles that campaign in this class, the Caddy offers some serious carrying capacity. There's 419-litres available with the rear seats in place and a respectable 1,273-litres with the seats folded down. Rear seat space is not a Caddy strength though. Still, there's plenty of kit to compensate. The 'Elegance' trim level is supplied with premium equipment such as leather trim, powered and heated front seats, a BOSE Surround Sound 11-speaker audio system, DVD sat-nav, hands-free Bluetooth phone system, dual zone climate control, cruise control, park distance sensors and StabiliTrak electronic dynamic stability control. The exterior styling is distinctive with a wedge-shaped profile and a look that isn't going to be confused with any other marque on the road. The huge vertically-stacked headlights and tail lights are interesting design touches and there are V-shaped motifs within the grille and the number plate surrounds. The crease along the car's hipline looks sharp enough to slice prime rib and the interior is certainly a cut above the usual American fare. There's often a disappointing sensation of getting into a cheap hire car at LAX whenever we sit in an American import but the BLS offers a clean if not adventurously styled fascia.
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Scoring (subset of scores)
Category: Luxury Saloons and Estates
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