Cadillac Escala Concept

2016-Cadillac-Escala-Concept-Exterior_1Perusing through the news after a long weekend, trying to find the gumption to dive into beast-mode at work, I came across a story about a new concept from Cadillac that was shown out west for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It’s a sharp looking car with less of the sharp lines of previous Caddys and is definitely more streamlined.

2016-Cadillac-Escala-Concept-Exterior-005What really caught my attention was the first thought that came to me as I was ogling…I mean viewing…the wonderful pics from the press launch.

…This thing screams Lincoln to me.

The Escala Concept introduces the next evolution of Cadillac des
The Escala Concept introduces the next evolution of Cadillac design.

There’s something about how the roofline meets the rear in the side view…or how the tail lights come together. I can’t put my finger on it but it’s there.

2016-Cadillac-Escala-Concept-Exterior-002I first saw the Escala on TheVerge.com and the headline read “Cadillac’s fantastic Escala concept is more New York than Detroit”. I think the author maybe meant to say “more Lincoln than Cadillac” but you be the judge.

Cadillac’s Escala concept previews craftsmanship and technical
Cadillac’s Escala concept previews craftsmanship and technical ideas in development for future models.

Watch the unveiling here:

 

Here’s the official press release in all it’s glory:

  • Concept showcases future design and technical systems in development
  • Flagship Sedan is a concept for a more expressive, expansive companion to the recently launched CT6
  • Dual-Theme interior includes Curved OLED displays, next-gen connectivity designs, ingenious details

The Escala Concept debuts in California tonight, introducing the next evolution of Cadillac design and previewing the craftsmanship and technology being developed for many future models. Following a series of private previews, Escala will be displayed this weekend at the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

The Escala Concept previews the design and technical ideas driving the next phase of Cadillac’s ongoing expansion.

“Escala is a concept with two clear objectives,” said Johan de Nysschen, president of Global Cadillac. “First, Escala is a statement of intent for the next iteration of the Cadillac design language, and also technical concepts in development for future Cadillac models. Secondly, Escala builds Cadillac’s aspirational character, signaling the brand’s return to the pinnacle of premium.”

Cadillac has released a new slate of models bristling with expressive design and exhilarating performance, driver’s cars taking Cadillac into a new chapter of its storied 114-year history.

“Escala is a concept car, but one based upon the unrelenting rise of our product substance,” de Nysschen said. “Depending on the development of market segment for large luxury sedans, Escala is a potential addition to our existing product plan.”

Escala — Spanish for “scale”— is a concept for a larger, more elite and expressive companion to the recently launched 2016 Cadillac CT6, the brand’s remarkable new range-topping prestige sedan. Escala is also the third in a series of concepts Cadillac has debuted at Pebble Beach in recent years, following the Ciel convertible (2011) and Elmiraj coupe (2013).

Escala is designed to be both a driver’s car and an indulgent flagship sedan. The large 4-door sedan features an expansive liftback design emphasizing the car’s considerable scale and versatility. At 210.5 inches in overall length, Escala is roughly 6 inches longer than today’s CT6.

Escala features a new and evolved face of Cadillac design that will begin appearing on production models soon. This includes a new expression of Cadillac’s vertical lighting, a brand signature since 1948. Organic light emitting diode (OLED) lighting elements are thinner and set deep within the fascia, creating a sinister look, day and night.

The concept’s details invite closer inspection, including a three-dimensional precision pattern in the grille design and 22-inch wheels with two layers of spokes.

“This concept shares how Cadillac will bring forward a new experience that is uniquely American, and unmistakably Cadillac,” says Andrew Smith, executive director of Cadillac Global Design. “Escala is an expressive symbol of reward and an exhilarating driving experience. On the interior, we pushed further. It’s about precision and ingenuity in craftsmanship, and the artistic integration of technology.”

Escala features a “dual personality” interior crafted with distinctly different zones: The front is about intensely focused modern technology, while the rear delivers relaxation.

“My brief to the designers was to create a car you desperately want to drive, and also one in which you want to be driven,” Smith said. “So rather than a single design, this interior consists of two themes. It was an opportunity for our designers to break the rules a little bit, exactly what Cadillac should do from time to time.”

An array of three curved OLED screens is a prominent feature in the front of the cabin. The very thin, curved displays are layered in front of the driver, with the back sides wrapped in hand-stitched leather embossed with the Cadillac script. The array of screens consolidate the traditional “cluster” of driving gauges with the “center stack” into one integrated unit.

Escala includes new designs for connectivity and control, providing a prototype for the user experience in development for future production models. The system features a central control module that enables the driver to execute tactile commands across the spectrum of connectivity functions, in addition to voice and gesture control technology. Inside the controller sits a new edition of Cadillac’s “flying Goddess” icon, a nod to the brand’s illustrious heritage.

Like all Cadillac models today, the interior is assembled using hand cut-and-sewn techniques. However, Escala presents several new and unique touches, blending overt luxury with covert technology. Escala makes broad use of hand-tailored fabric on the door trim and seating areas. Inspired by suiting material used by Cadillac’s partners in the fashion industry, the fabric provides a new level of hand-applied craftsmanship and color, unique in today’s auto interior landscape.

The Escala Concept utilizes Cadillac’s new RWD-centric large luxury car architecture, featuring one of the world’s most advanced body structures, which debuted on the new CT6. The mixed-material construction enables unprecedented agility and efficiency.

Escala uses a new 4.2-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine, a prototype of a new system in development for future Cadillac models. The advanced engine utilizes Active Fuel Management technology, enabling fuel-saving 4-cylinder operation.

###

Cadillac Escala Concept Basic Specifications

Model Escala Concept
Body Style 4-door expressive flagship sedan, with lift-back rear opening
Height 57.3 in / 1455 mm
Width 76.7 in / 1948 mm
Length 210.5 in / 5347 mm
Wheelbase 127.1 in / 3228
Engine 4.2-liter Twin Turbo V8

…See You Down The Road!

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This Concept Has Tons Of Karma

2014 Cadillac ELR

Cadillac continues to make great vehicles that are edgy and exhilarating and have a fun factor that the brand lacked for much of the last 30 years. It was the CTS that really brought Caddy to the forefront of American luxury and now they upped the ante with the ATS, a smaller sibling to the CTS and an extension of the Art and Science design them.

2014 Cadillac ELRTo make things sweeter, Caddy introduced the ELR at the 2013 North American International Auto Show.

Inside, ELR is all luxury and leathery goodness, with a splash of coddling.

2014 Cadillac ELR

ELR is an all-electric luxury sports coupe with a killer stance and chiseled good looks that is powered by an “electric drive unit” which has 207 total horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque from a standing start.

What is unique about the ELR’s drivetrain is its hybrid nature. ELR is the first vehicle from a major manufacturer with an electric motor and battery pack and a gasoline generator instead of a small gasoline engine. Think of it like a diesel locomotive.

Since it’s a concept, we haven’t had a drive in the ELR, but if it drives like it looks it should be as nice as the CTS-V.

Highlights From The 2012 NAIAS

Here are some highlights from the 2012 North American International Auto Show. In this group you will find, in no particular order, the Acura NSX and ILX concepts; Cadillac ATS; Chevy Code 30R, Miray and Tru 40S concepts as well as a Hot Wheels Camaro; Dodge Dart; Ford Escape and Fusion; Honda Accord Coupe in a gorgeous red; Hyundai Genesis Coupe; Maserati Kubang; Smart for-us; Subaru BRZ and Tesla Model S.

Enjoy!

The Small Truck Revolution Continues…Elsewhere

A while back I showed you some pics of the Australian Ford Ranger (below) and mentioned that I wish we could get it here in the US.

Not to be outdone, Chevrolet recently announced a new Colorado pickup to be built in Thailand for the Asian markets. It’s design is striking, rounded lines, the corporate face and more of an integrated look than the current model. According to pickuptrucks.com, the new Thai Colorado has not been announced as a US vehicle (bummer) but will showcase new engines (four-cylinder turbo diesels) and dramatic new looks (below, all from pickuptrucks.com). If you need more picks click here to go to Car Scoop!

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The all-new 2012 Chevrolet Colorado

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These two vehicles and their design philosophy got me thinking: why is it that pickup trucks don’t change that much from year to year?

Seriously, why can’t we have these sleek trucks here in the US? Perhaps they are afraid of  slow sales for making such radical changes. Perhaps they have lost their way and don’t want to spend the R&D money. Perhaps a focus group said they didn’t like it.

Whatever the case, the US automakers should take a page from Steve Jobs who helped usher in the modern era in computing, music and mobility, technology-wise. Stop listening to the committees and start listening to the gut, to common sense, to the experience of your engineers and designers.

Sure, we’ve had innovative designs like the Chevy Avalanche, with its mid-gate that enables a full pickup bed or seating for four, along with a fully covered cargo area and a tonneau cover that can hold a 250-pound person. And then there’s the epitome of cool design, the Honda Ridgeline, with its two-way tailgate and water-tight storage under the bed.

But, these are full-size trucks with plenty of room and lets of storage possibilities.

In the small truck arena, we’ve had little change in the last 20 years or so. Take the Ford Ranger for example. The styling has changed very little since the last 90s. Yes, there has been new grills and headlights over the years but the silhouette has remained static. And let’s not even go inside where anyone who owned a 1996 or 1997 would feel right at home in a 2011.

The other small truck worth note is the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon built by General Motors. Yes, these were all-new in the mid-2000s but they are still square, boxy, and frumpy.

It’s time for the small pickups to join the rest of the auto industry and get aerodynamic and sleek. Ford, GM, please bring these two stylish, good-looking and modern trucks to the US market.

And while were at it, Volkswagen, please bring us your sweet-looking pickup!!!

officially-official-volkswagen-amarok-pickup-makes-the-scene

Keep reading for two Retro Reviews!


2007 Saturn Aura XR 3.6

07aura

Like never before, indeed.

by James E. Bryson

When we first saw pictures of the new Saturn Aura, and then in person at the North American International Auto Show, we were duly impressed with its stance, crisp lines and overall character. You really can’t call this a replacement to the rotund LS-series. No, the Aura is what the LS should have been and where Saturn should have started back in the day.

With an aire of sophistication never before deemed possible by the fledgling automaker, the Aura has set a new standard for the import fighter that we can only dream will catapult the rest of Saturn’s lineup into the outer cosmos…or, at least, out near Neptune.

Driving the Aura is a pleasure usually reserved for those who plunk down big bucks for Infiniti, BMW, Acura or Mercedes, to name a few. Yes, the Aura is in that league of astonishingly fun sports sedans, but for a fraction of the cost.

With a 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing and 252 horsepower and 251 lb.-ft. of torque, a six-speed, manually controllable transmission, four disc brakes with ABS and a stout suspension, the Aura can hold its own with many of the more expensive vehicles.

On our handling loop, we found driving at 8 or 9 tenths was easily accomplished and we seemed to make record time getting through the tight, twisty turn section. Speaking of that, we noticed speeds reaching 60 miles per hour on more stretches than in previous drives. Quite a feat for a GM sedan, not to mention a Saturn.

When we first got the Aura, we thought the brakes were soft and required a little too much pressure to stop the 3600-pound Saturn. After driving our test loop, we now know that the brakes are spot-on awesome and we wouldn’t change a thing. Also, we noticed hardly any fade, and we were on the brakes more so than usual (due to traffic and the aforementioned higher speeds).

Out on the open road, the Aura is composed and a delight to pilot. With all that power on tap, passing is a non-issue and keeping pace with traffic is not needed, since you will be making the pace. Never did we notice any float or unwelcomed suspension vibrations. Our only real gripe with odd noises is the tendency of the sunroof shade to bounce on its track. It was just a bit loose and more than once we had to push it back in the open position when it slid forward. (Couldn’t have done that from our driving!)

Inside the Aura, you find a tranquil, pleasing, luxurious place to conduct the business of driving. The leather seats, wheel and shifter, coupled with the satin metallic-looking trim give this big Saturn an upmarket, sporty feel. The gauge cluster is neat and concise, with quickly read gauges and controls that fall at hand. We felt like we knew this car the first time we drove it.

If you are safety-conscious, like most of us these days, then you’ll be pleased to know that the Aura comes with a plethora of airbags like dual-stage frontal, head-curtain side impact and front-seat-mounted thorax protection. Also, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rated the Aura with five stars in both frontal and side impact tests.

Aura also comes in XE trim with a 3.5-liter V6 (224 horsepower and 220 lb-ft. of torque) and four-speed automatic, along with struts up front and the same independent rear suspension as the XR, though tuned a bit less sporty, with 17-inch wheels and tires. Expect a base price about $21k.

With the XR as the top of the Aura line, you expect it to be more expensive, but at a base price of $23,495.00, you sure do get a lot.

Expect a year of OnStar, the 3.6-liter V6 and six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel paddles, disc brakes all around with antilock, remote keyless entry and vehicle start, dual frontal/head curtain/outboard rear side impact airbags (That’s a lot of bags!) and so much more.

Such a long list of standard items means not many options are needed to make you happy, right? Well, we got some very nice ones to keep us company on the long road, wherever it takes us: For starters, our tester had the Premium trim package with leather seats, wheel and shift knob ($800); the Enhanced Convenience package came with a six-way power seat for the passenger and power adjustable pedals ($425); the sunroof ($800); XM ($199) and premium trunk and floor mats ($100) for a grand total (with $650 in destination charges) of $26,919.00.

For the price, you get a European-inspired sedan with solid looks, great handling and an interior trimmed with the finest materials this side of a BMW or Mercedes, for half the price. How can you go wrong?


2008 Cadillac CTS4

08cts4

Chalk One Up to Good ‘Ole American Ingenuity

by James E. Bryson

If you’ve seen the pictures but have not seen one in person, go to a Cadillac dealer right now. Drop whatever menial task you’re doing and go. I mean it. Go. You have got to see the new CTS up close and personal.

Redesigned for the 2008 model year, the square-ish, slab-sided, angular CTS of last year makes way for a more muscular, rounded, sporty looking vehicle. It’s definitely an evolution in the right direction. Our first glimpse of the real deal was at the 2007 North American International Auto Show and we were instantly smitten.

When we got the original call about the week’s worth of driving, we were delighted. Then came the call that there had been an accident and we wouldn’t see the CTS until maybe next year (the problem living away from the Michigan/California car centers).

Then, we get the rebound call, "I can send you the CTS. How’d that be?"
After a second of silence, the answer came out a bit snarky, "I guess if you have to send it, I can take it off your hands for a few days."

The biggest surprise of all was getting the all-wheel-drive version. Now don’t take the next few lines the wrong way, there’s nothing better than a sporty rear-wheel-drive car. But to have a 300+ horsepower automobile with a tight suspension, great brakes and the uncertainty of spring weather in the Midwest, all-wheel-drive is looked on as a blessing, not a curse.

As for the CTS’ new styling, you either like it or hate it. It’s a bit more muscular than the previous version and keeps some of the angles, though they are a bit softer. Most striking is the way the designers sculpted the body to give it more appeal and morphed it into something similar and yet completely different from the previous generation CTS.

Up front, the grill has been elongated and the headlights made more elegant (now housing xenon lights that turn as the steering wheel turns) with LED lights accenting the sides of the housing. At the rear, the taillights have been lengthened and slimed down and the center brake light is now a de facto spoiler; very classy.

08cts4_1Driving the CTS is a Zen experience to the max. With a little understeer at the limit, it scoots around corners, utilizing all the traction of all-wheel-drive for all it’s worth. On the highway, it’s another matter. Remember, this is a Cadillac and it rides like a 21st century Caddy…tight but not bouncy, with a comfy ride on the Interstate and enough control to make it fun in the twisties.

And with 300+ horses, this thing flies! We were out on the Interstate, carting a friend out into the boonies to get his car from the ‘rent’s and smack-dab in front of us was a Dodge Neon SRT-4. Now we didn’t make any move more aggressive than riding this Neon’s tail for about a mile. He got the point and took off. We were able to catch and pace that SRT-4 pretty easily. The funny part was this Neon got off at the same exit we needed. With a knowing nod, we left each other in peace to drive like maniacs on another day.

The only drawback to our driving style, the high horsepower and all-wheel-drive was an observed MPG around 20. For an SUV or truck, that’s not bad. For a sedan you might want to drive back and forth to work in, you may want to buy a Chevy Aveo for that task.

The interior is a step above. The lighting at night is spectacular, with accents that run the length of the dash and into the doors. All footwells are lighted as well as the door pulls. It’s a classy touch that makes the cabin more appealing and warm.

One little quip: We kept setting the parking brake out of habit, and pulling the hood release since it’s in the spot most vehicles that have a foot-activated parking brake have it. Annoying, but not necessarily a deal-breaker.

As it is in every car review, and life for that matter, price must be considered, especially considering the price of gas these days.

Our test car, in the prettiest shade of red (crystal red premium to be exact) based at $34,545.00, including such basics as the 304 horsepower V6, six-speed automatic transmission, independent suspension at all four corners, 17-inch wheels, traction control, tire pressure monitoring, leather steering wheel with auxiliary controls, dual zone climate control, 8-way power driver seat, airbags all around (including head curtain side bags front and rear), remote keyless entry and OnStar, to scratch the surface.

08cts4_2Of course, unless you’re a Mary Kay Sales Director, you’d expect much more, so our optioned out car included the Performance Collection ($3300): 18-inch aluminum wheels and tires, xenon headlights that turn with the steering wheel, limited slip differential, performance cooling system, 10-way power seats for both driver and front passenger with memory and heat, heated windshield washer fluid with headlamp washers; the Luxury level one package ($850): theft deterrent alarm system, rain sensing windshield wipers and the aforementioned accent lighting; the ultimate radio upgrade ($3145): MP3/CD/DVD player, 10-speaker Bose surround sound, 40GB hard drive, and a nav screen with XM Nav Traffic; all-wheel drive ($1900); Crystal Red premium paint ($995); sapele wood on center console, instrument panel and door trim ($495); All-wheel ABS with performance disc brakes ($395); compact spare tire ($250); and Sapele wood on the steering wheel and shift know ($150). Add a destination charge of $745 and you get a whopping $46,770.00 grand total…and we do mean GRAND.

The CTS is an awesome car that’s about 10 years too late. Let’s hope the General can keep these types of interesting, fun to drive cars coming in the near future!

Stay tuned for the next installment where I’ll talk about a new Hyundai…

Chrysler 300 Redesign Moves Car Upscale

Chrysler 200 Super Bowl Commercial

If you are like most American consumers then you will understand the feeling of disdain towards companies who you feel screwed you in one way or another. Whether real or perceived, those feelings may never go away.

It is unfortunate, this disdain, since we are in the worst economic times of this generation and the “Made In The USA” movement is making some think twice about where that shirt, dress, TV or any other goods came from.

No where is this felt more than in the automotive industry. Globalism has caused some strange things to happen, like calling a Honda or Toyota “American Made”. Luckily, our federal government has taken some steps that make it easier for us to know where the parts to make our cars came from, as well as where all those parts were put together.

Which brings me to this point: A company like the Chrysler Corporation needs to work a little harder getting the word out that their past quality issues have been exorcised. A lot of people out there, including myself, have horror stories with Chrysler products. My own story involves a Dodge Omni that caught fire after a few minutes of “spirited driving”. Sure, the car had a lot of miles on it but you don’t expect any car to catch fire, while sitting in the street, after said “spirited driving”. I use quotation marks because the Omni was no sports car so there wasn’t much spirit to wring out!

Mine might be an extreme example, surely there are worse, but there is also the other side…those who owned Chrysler products and loved them. There are those people, you know who you are, who aren’t as critical about the little quality issues they faced; premature brake replacement, power windows that stopped working, horrible radios, etc..

One prime example of Chrysler’s rebounding quality is the my PT Cruiser. Once we got an oxygen sensor issue worked out, one that caused the car to stutter when trying to accelerate, everything has been quite nice. Even after sideswiping a tree, and $5000 in repairs, the car is as good as new and still trucking with almost 100k miles.

The thing that Chrysler seems to be doing right is great design. Couple great design with strong advertising, including those ads with Eminem’s music and voice, and Chrysler seems to be on the right track. According to this article from Motor Trend’s website, Chrysler had its best sales in June since 2007.

Whether it’s improved quality or new, more appealing products, the Mopar brand seems to be making the right moves under Fiat ownership.

So, if you are Chrysler’s top brass, how do you keep the momentum? By keeping your products fresh and modern. The newly refreshed 300 is a case in point.

The most striking exterior changes are to the front and rear fascias. The new front clip has a large grill with the “wave” look first seen on the 200. Then there’s the new headlights! An oblong look with LED accents that double as daytime running lights. It’s a classy, polished look that gives the 300 a more upscale look.

Out back, the most notable change is to the taillights. The new units feature a more streamlined appearance with a vertical chrome accent that is rather art deco-ish and totally awesome!

 

 

The other big change is to the interior.

More refined and luxurious, the 300’s cabin is a great place to spend quality time with softer materials and higher quality components.

The other HUGE change for 2012 is an 8-speed transmission, which, according to Chrysler, will increase fuel mileage (by up to 17percent) and should add smoothness to the drive line.

Here’s one of their newest commercials, touting the fuel efficiency of the newly redesigned 300:

 


2004 Pontiac GTO

04gto

Rebirth of the Goat

by James E. Bryson

A few years ago, a sprightly rumor made its way around the auto show circuit and through the rank and file of the automotive press: The GTO may return!

And there was much rejoicing…yay.

Until, that is, the public got its first look and screamed to the tops of the highest mountains that this WAS NOT a GTO. No, it was just another bland Pontiac styling exercise, albeit, without the body cladding that made recent Pontiacs the butt of a few styling ha-has.

Since I was born just before the demise of the Muscle Car era, and weaned on the overboard 80s style of design, I find the new GTO an elegant, understated and compelling creature.

The nose is definitely Pontiac, with the familiar dual snout found on everything from the Grand Am to the Bonneville. The headlights seem to sweep out from there, making an almost hawk-like front fascia that seems to hint at what lies beneath.

In profile, the lines are clean from nose to tail and the sounds emanating from the engine bay and especially the tailpipe give you the impression that this car really means business.

The rear, on the other hand, is unlike any other Pontiac. It’s bulbous, but serves a greater purpose with the standard wing spoiler, making the car even more wedgier than a Grand Am.

The truly funny thing is this car is Australian-made, based on the popular Holden Monaro; Holden being GM’s Australian subsidiary.

As I stated earlier, I grew up in the 80s, where we had “performance coupes” like the Thunderbird TurboCoupe and Dodge Shelby Chargers. The new GTO, then, is a truly modern take on the classic muscle car. Except that it’s not based on a sedan but designed as a coupe and made for hard running.

As in the past, the automakers run at their own speed and make the rules as they go. For a muscle car to work today, global sources need to be used because our economy and culture is much more global than it was 40 years ago.

To that end, I say the GTO’s styling is right on target. It’s on the “bland” side but just enough to keep Smokey off your back. Once you get around the copper, punch the gas and see what this car is really about.

The funny thing about the “performance coupes” of the 80s was that the performance came more from looking fast than ever really going fast. Not so with newer cars, especially ones fitted with Corvette engines.

That’s right kids; the GTO has a 5.7-liter, tried-and-true, pushrod-pumpin’, gas guzzlin’ beast of a motor rated at 340 horsepower and 360 lb.-ft. of pavement-ripping torque. (The $1000 gas guzzler tax is proof that it’s a thirsty beast.)

Couple that “rad” engine with a four-speed automatic, four-wheel independent suspension, disc brakes at each corner and 17-inch P245/45 tires and it all starts making sense.

Take a corner in this beast and you can almost hear it laughing, goading you into pushing harder and faster through the twisties like no other Pontiac had the cajones to do in recent memory.

We’re thirty years down the road from the end of the Muscle era and, if they would have never died off, this is what they would be today; nothing more than a basic car with a touch of attitude on the outside and a monster motor to get the blood pumping.

“The styling is bland.” “It’s not like the original.” “At least there’s no cladding.”

These words were overheard in a parking lot where we stopped for some groceries and loitered trying to gauge reactions on the newly minted Pontiac GTO.

All I can say is…get over it. This new GTO is killer in all the right ways, but no so great in tertiary ways.

Getting into the backseat was definitely a chore. The GTO is a strong candidate for the “quad coupe” treatment Saturn has bestowed upon its Ion.

Luckily, the back seat is quite comfy once you get back there. The seats are bolstered just like the fronts; making this a true four-seater…not that anyone would really be able to ride on the hump anyways.

Then there’s the missing features: OnStar, XM, heated seats, Sunroof, no inside trunk release…You get the drift.

And, hopefully, you won’t want to go on that weeklong driving adventure because the trunk is majorly slighted because of the suspension taking most of it. (No one over said fun cars had to be practical too!)

One last gripe we found while picking up the dry cleaning: No garment hooks at all. Either the Australians don’t have their fine clothes dry-cleaned or the hooks got lost somewhere in the translation.

On the flip side, the Goat is one on the most solid GM vehicles we’ve driven, ever. If the now-gone Camaro and Firebird had build quality, awesome sightlines (except, of course, over the shoulder into the HUGE C-pillars) and great ride control like this, they would surely still be alive and well today fending off that new Mustang at every corner.

The nitty-gritty on the GTO is this: For less than 34 big ones, excluding tax, title and license, you can own a piece of new American history, albeit built in Australia.

Firebird is dead…long live the Goat.


2006 Buick Lucerne

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You Can Have A V8

by James E. Bryson

It’s always interesting to watch the cycles of the auto industry, with features and models coming and going, colors ever changing and how fashion plays its role with the design and styling of current and future models.

Take Buick, for example. In the late sixties, Buick was in the middle of the horsepower wars with big V8 power in the GS. In the 70s and early 80s, Buicks were smaller and had anemic four-cylinders, as did most cars from the era-except for the biggest of Buicks, the Park Avenue and LeSabre.

Then in the late 80s, Buick regained some of its credibility by producing the Grad National, which was touted as the fastest production car at the time, and with a turbo V6, no less. The last V8 Buick car was the Roadmaster of the early 90s, an offshoot of the Chevy Caprice, which died about the same time.

Fast forward to 2006 and, after a decade without, Buick is reentering the V8 market with the brand new Lucerne, which replaces the Le Sabre and Park Avenue models that have carried Buick through the last 20 years with aplomb.

The Lucerne is a great-looking car with smooth, rounded lines and a low-slung feeling due to its width, which leaves plenty of room inside for people and stuff. It’s a great golf car as well, with a roomy trunk that is wide and deep, big enough for your foursome and their bags.

The design seems to be an extension of the LaCrosse, with flowing lines, a few creases for dramatic effect and a wide grill and headlights that make the car look “awake” rather than mean or sleepy like some cars out there. Dimensionally, the Lucerne is close to the Cadillac DTS, of which it shares its platform and Northstar V8 (GM’s venerable 3800 V6 is the standard engine on the base-model Lucerne).

Inside, the Lucerne is spacious. The seats, buckets on our test model, were supportive for long drives but left a bit to be desired for spirited driving, more on that later. The best part of the seats was the perforations for the cooling fans to operate. There’s nothing more luxurious at this time than cooled seats; anyone can have heated seats, but only a few have the gumption to actually cool the seats.

Switchgear feel and placement are top notch in the Lucerne. Based on the new DTS, this should come as no surprise. But, what gets us is the noticeably fake wood trim found across the dash and doors. It’s not that it looks bad; it just doesn’t look like wood.

While we didn’t get the chance to make a run through our handling loop, we found the big Buick to drive well and we took most corners like we were driving a sporty car. That’s how good Buick’s engineers have dialed in the Lucerne’s suspension.

We did find some strange sensations coming from the suspension, making it through to the pedals on certain bumps and holes in the road, most notably the driveway of our residence. The bad part was the vibration continued halfway up the drive. It was the only truly negative experience with the Lucerne, and it was something we could definitely live with.

This car is great in the wet. After an evening driving on rain-soaked streets, we had a new appreciation for the technological advances in brakes (antilock) and propulsion (traction control). Both systems were difficult to out do, not that we tried. Too hard.

Power delivery from the Northstar V8 (275 horsepower/290 lb.-ft. of torque) was excellent. It’s a darn smooth engine and coupled with the electronically controlled four-speed transmission, kept the Lucerne moving.

Gas mileage is so-so with EPA ratings of 17 city and 25 highway. Our Lucerne’s computer said we got 20 miles per gallon in mixed use. Granted, our lead foot may have had a hand in keeping our mileage figures down, but we just couldn’t get enough of that V8’s throaty growl.

It was a nice surprise to see on the display that rain sensors were active and the wipers started going on their own. We had driven a BMW 3-series with this function about five years ago and it didn’t seem to work all that well. At least the technology seems to have caught up.

Our Lucerne CXL tester had a base price of $30,265 which included the Northstar V8, magnetic power steering, traction control, gobs of airbags, remote keyless entry, tire inflation monitoring, electrochromatic mirrors, 17” wheels and tires, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/Mp3 stereo, leather seats, steering wheel and shifter and rear window defogger.

Options on our tester added almost $4-grand to the total vehicle price: heated and cooled front seats ($1075), 17” chrome plated wheels ($650), remote starter/theft deterrence/rear parking assist ($595), eight-way power driver and passenger seats with memory settings for two drivers ($595), Stabilitrak stability control ($495), replacement radio with the same features as the standard one except for the addition of theftlock ($300) and heated washer fluid ($100). Giving us a grand total, including $725 for shipping, of $$34,800.

Not bad for a big car with tons of features and decent handling abilities.


2007 Cadillac Escalade

07sclade

Family Reunions Will Never Be The Same

by James E. Bryson

Like all other large SUVs in the General Motors stables (Yukon, Tahoe, Suburban), the most luxurious of them all, the Cadillac Escalade, Escalade ESV and Escalade EXT, also got a major remake for twenty-o-seven. This remake, like the others, went beyond sheer cosmetics, down to the very core of the vehicle and what a difference it makes!

On the outside, the ‘Sclade received a more angular look, akin to the CTS, STS and XLR, to make it fit in more at family functions. With a big, imposing grill slotted between stacked headlights and a HUGE Cadillac emblem, you won’t mistake this big Ute for anything other than a Cadillac.

Another major Cadillac styling feature, that is sure to be featured on more Caddies in the years to come, is the vents located on the trailing edge of the front quarter panels. It’s a good look that lends an aire of class and sophistication.

Out back, there’s another HUGE Caddy emblem on the power liftgate along with a longish third brake light atop the liftgate and standard-looking brake lights flanking the tailgate.

As with the other big GM Utes, The windows have the pillar-less look, with the glass flush with the sheet metal above and below. It’s a good look that moves the ‘Sclade into the higher echelons of luxury rides without batting an eye.

Our tester, and all 2007 Escalades for that matter, came with the 6.2-liter Vortec V8 that features variable valve timing (but not displacement on demand or flex-fuel capability) and is rated at 403 horsepower and 417 lb.-ft. of torque. With all that power under foot, the Escalade felt lighter on its toes than we expected and got going in most situations with little drama, thanks in part to the six-speed transmission.

Like any big SUV, the ‘Sclade does not like to be hurried around corners, nor does it like undulating pavement. These two items upset this big Caddy like nothing else, except for the high gas prices.

Only once in three days did we need to appease the legal beagles and consent to the “screen of no fun” by hitting OK on the nav system signifying that we understand the dangers of operating the system while driving, which is a nice change as some other systems make you do it every time you get in the car.

Rattles and squeaks did find their way to our ears, surprisingly. The roads that elicited those demons were pocked with frost heaves and small holes, but we definitely were not expecting any sounds like that. We chalked it up to (possibly) being an early production mule with a lot of miles on the odometer.

The suspension exhibited only small amounts of land-barge-like float, but there was plenty of squatting and diving in most situations. It’s difficult for a vehicle this large and heavy not to obey the laws of physics, but the big Caddy makes the most of what it has.

Way back in 2003 we tested an Escalade and it topped out at less than the base price for this 2007, my how things have changed. For $56,405.00, you get the basic vehicle (if you can call it basic), which includes the 6.2-liter Vortec V8; six-speed automatic transmission with manual control; road sensing suspension with rear load leveling; traction control; four-wheel ABS; leather; 14-way power front seats with heated cushions and backrests and second row heated seats; Bose 5.1 surround sound audio system with six-disc CD changer/DVD/Mp3 player and XM satellite radio receiver; power liftgate; heated power folding outside mirrors power adjustable pedals; heated washer fluid; airbags all around; Stabilitrak stability control; rear parking assist; OnStar and much more. We’re talking almost fully loaded in base trim.

Add the few, but expensive, options ($2995 for the 22-inch chrome wheels; the $2495 information package – rear view camera, navigation system with CD/DVD and Intellibeam, which changes from high to low beams when oncoming or leading traffic is sensed); $1295 for rear seat DVD system; power sliding sunroof for $995; premium paint for $995; the Climate package which includes heated and cooled front seats and heated steering wheel for $625 and a power release second row for $425. Couple these expenses with the $875 destination charge and you can get a similar Escalade for our as-tested price of $67,105.00.

Our biggest dilemma, then, is whether to buy this 403 horsepower behemoth for $67-large or buy two Pontiac GTO’s for about the same price, but with 800 horses between them.

Decisions, decisions.

The New Ford Fiesta!!!

I just saw a commercial of the new Ford Fiesta and wow-ee that is one hot car!!!

Check this out!!!!

2011 Ford Fiesta Offers 15 Class-Exclusive Technologies

Very sharp in deed!

Ford is also touting 15, count ‘em, 15 key features that set the Fiesta apart from the rest of the cars in its class.

Among those key features is a claimed 40 miles per gallon, available Sync, available dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmission, and integrated blind spot mirrors.

2011 Ford Fiesta Offers 15 Class-Exclusive Technologies

Fiesta will be initially available as a sedan and 5-door (shhh!!) hatch.

It will have a 1.6-liter Duratec inline four-banger with variable camshaft timing making 120 horses and 112 lb.-ft. of torque. The standard tranny is a five-speed manual, which should make the enthusiasts out there happy.

2011 Ford Fiesta Arrives at 2009 LA Auto Show

Inside, you’ll find the availability of leather seats with heat, a four-inch LCD multi-function display and seven combinations of seat material colors to choose from for the interior.

The dash looks a lot like that found in the new Buick LaCrosse; modern, stylish and somewhat sexy with the curves and different textures.

Fiesta is suspended my MacPherson struts up fron t and a twist beam in back, which should give the vehicle decent handling and a good ride.

2011 Ford Fiesta Offers 15 Class-Exclusive Technologies

The bottom line is the Ford may have done it again. They are the most profitable American car company today due to all the great product they have available in showrooms. It won’t be long before we see if Fiesta is their next big hit!

And now a Retro Review…the last of the last of 2002:


2002 Cadillac Deville DTS

02deville

A Big Car with a Plush Ride? Must be a Caddy

by James E. Bryson

What truly can be said of the latest big Cadillac? It’s the Cadillac of…Cadillacs? Can you think of another word for thesaurus?

That’s the dilemma we faced when we were given the keys to a 2002 Cadillac Deville DTS for a week’s worth of driving and critiquing. What a difficult job we have.

The Cadillac Motor Division of General Motors has been a pioneer in luxury automobiles for 100 years and is poised to lead a new generation into the next millennium with their Art & Science commingling; giving us a fresh, modern approach to the automobile with attractive angular designs and gobs of the latest technology.
Cadillac’s biggest car right now, the Deville was redesigned a few years back and was transformed into a remarkable vehicle. Some of our first thoughts, looking at the white diamond tester, were of awe. It’s clean, sleek lines and largess, coupled with the mere fact that it was the big-daddy Cadillac, gave us goose bumps just thinking about what this car is; a mode of transportation that most people can only dream about.
Granted, it’s no Mercedes or BMW, but this car can hang with the biggest of the German luxo-cruisers in size, weight and comfort. Where the Cadillac falls short is handling.

We didn’t take the car on our normal test loop because of its girth, but we did head out into the local wine country and had a blast taking the long sweeping turns at super legal speeds. What we didn’t like was the wallow that has been a Caddy trait for as long as this writer can remember. Though the suspension damped more of these sensations than on previous editions, it’s still present and is a big factor that could keep Cadillac out of certain buyer’s thoughts.

Out in the real world however, the Deville seems to demand respect everywhere it travels. We found that most people, like us, were in awe of it, if not for the high sticker price above $50,000 then for all the features and comfort items it came with.

When we first got into the driver’s seat, we were struck by the clean instrument panel and dashboard. The zebrano wood trim was tastefully placed and felt good under hand on the steering wheel. The seat itself was extremely comfortable, thanks to the “massaging air bladder” system and the firm, but comfy cushions. Finding the right driving position took some time, mostly because the 10-way seats had so much adjustability and room for movement.

The back seat, with its heated seats and rear seat climate controls, was almost as comfortable as the front. We went out one Saturday afternoon with a couple of friends and all four of us were snug as bugs in a rug. The seats held us in place during spirited maneuvers and after a good four hours of nothing but driving, we felt relaxed and ready for more. GM has always had good seats but these were above average in all resects.

And, for such a large car, we were not disappointed with the trunk. There was enough space in there for the Indoor Football League to commission it as a stadium. We liked the optional trunk tie-down (that way you don’t have to scamper around looking for something to hold the trunk closed when those long two-by-fours have to stick out a bit) and the flooring was made from a material that looked like it would last over many years of having golf bags, luggage, or whatever the owner threw into it.

We liked most of the features found in the Caddy. Of the few that stick out in our mind we enjoyed XM satellite radio the most.

Oh sure, you’ve seen the commercials. And we’re here to tell you that it is every bit as cool as it looks on TV. We had trouble getting out of the car at times because of the great programming, especially on the comedy channels. And the only time we couldn’t get a signal came when we were travelling through a heavily wooded area with a large canopy of tall trees with big leaves. Even then, we only lost the signal intermittently. Overall, we’d highly recommend XM to anyone that has a long daily commute or just plain drives a lot.

Another innovative gadget was the night vision camera and head-up display it was connected to. We didn’t get that many chances to really use it but it got our inner geek going every time it got dark and the lights came on. The most interesting thing was watching the exhaust pipes of vehicles in front of us. We got a good thermal image of a truck’s differential and the heat it was producing on the highway…too cool for any technophile.

Our Deville DTS stickered at $56,050.00. The base price ($47,780) was augmented by over $7000 worth of options, including a comfort/convenience package that consisted of rear air bags, the seat/mirror memory package, trunkmat/with decklid tie-down, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, ultrasonic rear assist and the Homelink garage door opener ($1985); Night Vision ($2250); power sunroof with express open ($1550); 17″ chrome wheels ($795); the white diamond paint ($650); XM satellite radio ($295); and destination ($745).

Overall, we found the Deville DTS to be a comfortable highway cruiser that’s sure to impress you friends with all the bells and whistles this car has. For the money, we find it to be a good deal. But, for Cadillac to regain its reputation for world luxury leader, it needs to be something more. A little dose of personality and a new persona (in the form of a reskin with more emphasis on the Art & Science theme) might just do the trick.


Thank you, once again, for stopping by!!