July 9, 2009 at 1:00 am

Scott Burgess

Expect evolution from new Cadillac

2009 CTS )

The work to create a new face for Cadillac began long before General Motors Corp. filed for bankruptcy, and it started at the bottom: the CTS, Cadillac's entry level luxury sports sedan. Automotive customs typically require new technology and design cues to trickle down from the more elite vehicles to the more common. Cadillac turned that model upside down.

The second generation CTS debuted as a 2008 model and was overhauled in all the right places. It's the vehicle that helped propel Cadillac into the No. 3 spot in initial quality by J.D. Power and Associates this year. It is Cadillac's new gold standard.

As the brand evolves in the new GM, it's going to continue to see dramatic changes. Vehicles will carry stronger design similarities while boasting exclusive technologies. It will act like the premiere brand it is, with a sharper focus on performance.

Down the road, the legendary DTS large sedan and STS will give way to a single large sedan and the V-8 will become a footnote, only seen in the high performance V-Series. Cadillac will begin building most of its 2010 lineup next month as it ramps up production.

In the coming years, Cadillac will roll out a true entry-level vehicle in its lineup, a sporty luxury compact car that will try to lure younger buyers who now turn to BMW and Audi for the 3 Series and A4.

Here's a model-by-model breakdown.

2009 CTS

Starting price: $37,385

Features: Sporty handling and rear-wheel drive performance and all-wheel drive capabilities

Notes: Entering its second generation, the future bodes well for the CTS, which will become more refined and get GM's new 3-liter direct injection engine to push its highway mileage near 30 mpg.

The critical success of this vehicle is well-deserved. The European-like performance, 304 horsepower V-6 and state-of-the-art interior meld the right amount of luxury and performance. It's a world class luxury sports sedan. A coupe version will soon be available.

2010 CTS sports wagon

Starting price: Around $40,000

Features: A direct injection 3-liter V-6, and 3.6-liter V-6

Notes: A new entry for Cadillac, the CTS wagon is the natural European derivative to the sedan. American distaste for wagons remains but Cadillac needs to match its German counterparts with a luxury wagon that can get up and go. This is the Caddy I would gladly park in my driveway.

V-Series

2009 CTS-V

Starting price: $60,700

2009 STS-V

Starting price: $84,320

Notes: Cadillac needs the V-Series vehicles to put some enthusiast polish on its brand. These are the vehicles that create legends. The CTS-V, with its supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 is the most powerful Cadillac in the brand's storied history with 556 horsepower. This car blisters tracks but is surprisingly fun on regular roads. The STS-V ends production this year.

2009 DTS

Price: $47,200

Notes: Every time I've tested the DTS I've ended up at the airport. A favorite among car services, the DTS represents the old face of a Cadillac. Its big soft ride, front wheel drive and V-8 are all elements Cadillac wants to change. Eventually, the DTS will be replaced by a better performing large sedan, most likely with all-wheel drive abilities.

2009 STS

Price: $47,670

Notes: The technology tester for Cadillac, the STS feels more like the natural progression from the CTS, demonstrating how a family resemblance can move a brand forward. However, like the DTS, it will eventually disappear, replaced by a new large sedan, likely to carry the name XTS. Cadillac says the new model will offer powerful direct injection V-6 and firmer suspension and play a role as Cadillac's flagship inside and out. No official word on whether it will be front wheel drive or rear wheel drive, though it will likely be all-wheel drive. If Cadillac wants to remain true to its performance mantra, the rear wheels need the power first.

2010 SRX

Price: $34,155

Features: 3-liter direct injection or 2.8-liter turbo charged V-6 and new all-wheel drive system

Notes: The premier five-passenger crossover could bite into the luxury crossover competition, though it will more likely take a few nibbles. Redesigned for the 2010 model year, the SRX debuts Cadillac's 3-liter direct injection V-6 and a turbo charged 2.8-liter V-6 will arrive later this year.

While the previous generation SRX looked like a square peg in Cadillac's edgy lineup, the new model looks like the portly brother to the CTS. Its

well planned and executed interior will win some new customers, though

it faces stiff competition in this growing segment. The vehicle's performance is significantly sportier than the outgoing model and the new all-wheel drive system chews through snow and ice.

2009 Escalade

Price: $63,155

Features: Two-mode hybrid model, luxurious interior and distinctive exterior

Notes: Cadillac's flagship, it carries the message: "I've made it." The success of the hybrid model has propelled sales for this high-end luxury vehicle. The standard 6.2-liter V-8 provides 403 horsepower and the vehicle's performance is good, especially for its size. But this SUV's future may not be as bright as the age of excess has finally come to an end and gas prices climb. Will it be around in 2016? Perhaps, but more likely in much smaller numbers.

Cadillac compact

Cadillac plans to build a luxury sport compact car that will be priced below the CTS to go up against the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. In order to capture a younger crowd, the compact Cadillac will need to feature a plethora of high-tech items, out style the stylish European vehicles and cost less. A CTS-like interior, and great performance both on the road and at the pump could help the car stand out. More importantly, it needs to be priced considerably lower than the CTS to pull new customers into the Cadillac family.

Cadillac Converj

There are no plans to build a Cadillac Converj, brand officials say. But the idea makes sense. An electric Cadillac built from the foundation of the Chevrolet Volt, an electric car with an extended range gas engine, could score the brand much needed public relation points as well as showcase the brand's technological prowess. People may not pay $40,000 for a Chevy, but they might spend that much on a high-tech Caddy.

2010 CTS sports wagon
V-Series
2009 DTS
2009 STS
2010 SRX
2009 Escalade
Cadillac Converj
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