From the September 2012 issue of Automobile Magazine
by David Zenlea
, Eric Tingwall, Georg Kacher, Jason Cammisa, Joe DeMatio
, Joe Lorio
Photographs by: A. J. Mueller, Morgan Segal, Tom Salt
Based on the Chevrolet Sonic architecture, the Encore is tiny by Buick standards -- or by almost any standards. It's more than a foot shorter than a Verano, and its 100.6-inch wheelbase is only 1.2 inches longer than a Sonic's. Powering the Encore is GM's 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder, which will bring to bear an estimated 140 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque on the crossover's 3190 pounds (3309 pounds with all-wheel drive). Active noise cancellation -- a first for Buick -- should help drown out the engine's droning, allowing occupants to concentrate on their stylish surroundings. The cabin features blue ambient lighting, a seven-inch touch-screen radio, available leather, and a choice of three color schemes. As for the exterior, the Encore's undulating lines and tall-boy proportions may look odd in America's wide open spaces, but they should appear just right in the crowded urban environs of Shanghai and Beijing, which is probably far more important.
On sale Early 2013
Price $25,000 (est.)
Engine 1.4L turbo I-4, 140 hp, 148 lb-ft (est.)
Smaller than...a Verano, by 15.4 inches in length and 1.5 inches in width, but it's 6.4 inches taller.
Buick Verano Turbo
The Buick Verano compact sedan, introduced last year, trades on its superquiet, well-appointed interior. The Verano Turbo, which arrives this fall, adds another selling point: power. Its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes 250 hp -- enough to whisk this sedan to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds -- and it can be ordered with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.
Still, Buick is being careful not to position the quickest Verano as a performance car. The cabin is even more luxurious than in the base version. The dampers are slightly firmer than the base car's, and the steering is tuned to be a bit heavier, but both are still biased toward comfort. Tires, brakes, and bushings carry over, as does the bevy of sound-deadening materials.
On sale Late 2012
Price $29,500 (est.)
Engine 2.0L turbo I-4, 250 hp, 260 lb-ft
Elusive buyer Star of The Fast and the Furious: Century Village Bingo Night.
The BMW 3-series may be the industry's most targeted -- and most difficult to target -- vehicle. On paper, at least, the Cadillac ATS hits the bull's-eye. It casts the same shadow as the BMW, measuring within a half inch of its foe in every dimension and faithfully mimicking its proportions. The Caddy likewise follows a similar price structure, with a turbocharged four-cylinder and a six-cylinder that match up closely (in the former case, exactly) with their BMW counterparts. Cadillac's direct-injected, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces 270 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. There will also be a cheaper, 200-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder, and Cadillac's familiar 3.6-liter V-6 serves as the top engine. The ATS makes do with a six-speed automatic transmission for now -- an eight-speed is on the way. The turbo can also be paired with a six-speed manual.
The ATS's most impressive marksmanship may be its weight. With the manual and the 2.0-liter turbo, the ATS weighs less than 3400 pounds, which is, again, a dead-on match for the BMW, not to mention some 400 pounds lighter than the current CTS. The secret sauce is an all-new rear-wheel-drive architecture known as Alpha. Judicious use of lightweight materials such as high-strength steel and aluminum, along with an intense focus on limiting the weight of every component -- from control arms to nuts and bolts -- yields a light platform that will be flexible enough to underpin other cars, including the next CTS. The suspension features a multilink setup in back and struts with dual lower ball joints in front. Like most other Cadillacs, the ATS will be available with magnetorheological dampers and Brembo brakes.
On sale Now
Engines 2.5L I-4, 200 hp, 188 lb-ft; 2.0L turbo I-4, 270 hp, 260 lb-ft; 3.6L V-6, 320 hp, 267 lb-ft
Worth the wait A Cadillac that looks to be fully competitive with the BMW 3-series.
Cadillac bills the XTS as a replacement for both the rear-wheel-drive STS and the front-wheel-drive DTS sedans. Those with longer memories will find that it's essentially a rebirth of the late-1990s Seville. Like that car, the XTS attempts to maximize the capability and luxuriousness of a corporate front-wheel-drive platform, in this case the Epsilon architecture that underpins everything from the Chevrolet Malibu to the Buick LaCrosse. In old-school Cadillac tradition, the XTS is big -- longer than a BMW 740i -- but its $44,995 base price allows it to compete against mid-size luxury sedans like the Audi A6. Under the hood, a 304-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is optional. The top-of-the-line Platinum model, which starts at $59,080, has the dubious distinction of being the most expensive front-wheel-drive new car you can buy.
The XTS's less sporty, more luxurious pretensions are readily apparent in its styling. Whereas the smaller CTS looks like it was chiseled from a hunk of granite, the XTS is more like a block of marble that's been lovingly kneaded into an intricate sculpture. And where the CTS is pointedly undecorated, the XTS has all manner of nicely executed details.
No amount of detailing, however, can hide the stubby-hood, long-overhang proportions typical of a front-wheel-drive car with a transversely mounted engine. The XTS's layout does afford an advantage when it comes to interior packaging -- the car has more legroom than the aforementioned 7-series, and its eighteen-cubic-foot trunk looks ready to swallow a small boat. More important, the cabin feels genuinely expensive. One is hard-pressed to find a cutline or a trim piece that hasn't been the object of close attention and, in some cases, tasteful experimentation. The Platinum model, for instance, features smooth leather on the upper dashboard; perforated, purple-tinged leather facing the driver and front passenger; and semianiline leather on the seats. It looks and smells lovely.
The other big experiment inside is a new infotainment system known as Cue. Much like MyFord Touch, Cue banishes buttons and dials in favor of an eight-inch touch screen and a piano-black center console that incorporates touch-sensitive controls. The graphics are crisp, and the capacitive (rather than the older resistive) touch-screen technology responds to most inputs as quickly as an iPad. The problem is that you use an iPad when you're sitting on your couch, not (we hope) when you're swerving through Los Angeles traffic. Cadillac has attempted to make the system easier to use by incorporating haptic feedback -- the screen vibrates when you hit an icon. In our short test, at least, it failed to facilitate muscle memory the way physical controls do. Like most systems, Cue also responds to voice commands. Unlike its competitors, the XTS also has General Motors' excellent OnStar service, so when the automated system, say, fails to recognize your hotel in West Hollywood and tries to route you two hours north, you have the option of getting help from a human being.
Cadillac makes no bold claims regarding the XTS's performance, instead noting that it already has plenty of cars for buyers who care about Nuerburgring lap times. Still, engineers went to some effort to make sure the XTS doesn't betray the brand's performance ethos. All models have four-piston Brembo front brakes, magnetorheological dampers, and GM's HiPer Strut front suspension that decouples the steering and suspension geometries to minimize torque steer and improve on-center feel. Bombing along the switchbacks of Mulholland Highway outside of L.A., the XTS displays commendable body control and reasonably sharp reflexes. The light power steering firms up at speed, and the Brembos don't fade on fast downhill stretches. The familiar 3.6-liter V-6 puts in its usual solid effort, although it can be caught a bit out of breath when accelerating out of a corner in second or third gear. Most surprising and impressive is the paddle-shift manual mode for the transmission: it serves up smooth and quick downshifts and will hold a gear right up to the rev limiter. As with the design, however, the nice details can't entirely make up for the front-wheel-drive underpinnings. The nose-heavy XTS understeers in tight corners where most European sedans -- not to mention the CTS -- would hold their line.
The XTS is not the large car that Cadillac ultimately needs to regain worldwide recognition and profitability. For that, we'll have to wait for the next CTS (due next year) and, we hope, for a production flagship based on the Ciel concept. But the XTS is a car Cadillac needs right now. It's competent, comfortable, and can bank on the interest of traditional buyers.
On sale Now
Price $44,995- $61,305
Engine 3.6L V-6, 304 hp, 264 lb-ft
Boomer appeal The sort of comfortable car boomers' parents used to drive but with interior technology their kids will love.