The Cadillac Culinary Challenge Test Drive is a competition between two chefs and a competition between Cadillac and other luxury cars. The event featured 4 Cadillac models : CTS Coupe, CTS Sedan, SRX and Escalade Hybrid. The competitor’s cars on hand were : BMW X5, Lexus RX350, Mercedes E-Series Sedan and Coupe.
There event is broken down into food tasting and voting, parked Cadillacs that you can look inside and ask salespeople questions about, and the test drive area. First you register your information with a Cadillac Associate and receive a card. Then you stand in the line with the sign of the car you want to test drive. Four Cadillac lines by model and a fifth line called competition. On that line, you choose from the BMW, Lexus, or Mercedes models as they become available. When you get into the vehicle, there is a spokesperson that will sit in the passenger seat and explain the features of the car and answer any questions that you may have. The test drive route involved exiting the mall parking lot and looping around the mall using short stretches of highway. The entire ride lasts about 5 minutes. It is just about enough room to get up to speed and evaluate the cars through acceleration, turns and stopping. Once you are finished, you can get into another line to drive something else. You can do this as many times as you like and even drive the same car multiple times if you wish.
The Cadiillac CTS Coupe :
The CTS Coupe and Sedan are the real winners here. Styling, performance and interior are all of the highest level. I had read good things about the vehicle but I was still extremely impressed. While the sedan looks good, I prefer the more aggressive lines of the coupe. Pressing the gas pedal down on either model will give you instant power, linear and smooth with no hiccups or hesitation. And their excellent handling really inspires confidence. Gas mileage is impressive at 18 city/ 27 highway on the rear-drive model or, in the case of the AWD Coupe that I drove, 18 city/ 26 highway – both better numbers than the equivalent Mercedes. The equivalent Mercedes E-Series were nice cars, but not nearly as fun to drive and a lot more expensive as well.
The Cadillac SRX Crossover:
The Cadillac SRX is their crossover vehicle, which is basically an SUV built on a car platform, like a tall station-wagon. The advantage is that they handle more like a car, get better mileage than SUVs and usually only lack the features of real SUVs that most people never use. The SRX is a pleasant crossover and adequately fast. It has the higher driving position that some people prefer, and the navigation system has a touch screen, a feature lacking in the competition. The competition included the BMW X5 and the Lexus RX350.
The Lexus was weaker in just about every aspect. The acceleration and handling were okay, but seemed lacking in comparison with the SRX. Worse than that, the interior of the Lexus was more plasticky, used less wood and leather, and is poorly designed. The center stack is confusing and not intuitive at all. The navigation system is a mile away in a cave that apparently is meant to keep sunlight from causing glare that would make it hard to read. It is also not touch-screen and making any kind of adjustments while driving is pretty much impossible since you would have to completely take you eyes off of the road. The SRX was easily better than the Lexus, but the BMW was another matter entirely.
The BMW X5 was one of the best cars in the competition, great looking, fast, enjoyable to drive, comfortable, well laid out and with a great leather smell. Basically, the BMW X5 is absolutely better than the Cadillac SRX in every way, except the styling : the SRX is just as good looking, just in a different way. Of course the point of the competition is to prove that the Cadillacs are the most competitive vehicles. In this case, the argument is that the BMW X5 is a lot more expensive. And it is. The SRX starts at $34,615 and the BMW X5 starts at $47,200. When you add in options, the difference gets closer to $20,000. So why compare these two vehicles? They should have a BMW X3 (base price $36,750) on hand instead. As it is, they are simply saying, “Yes it’s better but it’s also a lot more expensive”. They need to have a more closely matched vehicle instead.
The Cadillac Escalade Hybrid:
The last Cadillac in the Test Drive was the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. It is large, roomy, has a very luxurious interior with heated and cooled cup-holders, and plenty of capabilities that you would expect from this type of vehicle. It is also a technological tour-de-force, utilizing a 6.0 liter 8 cylinder engine with the ability to de-activate 4 cylinders as well as work together with an electric motor, or even use the electric motor exclusively. This results in boosting the EPA mileage numbers from the regular model’s 14/19 up to the Hybrid’s 20/23. In addition, on the highway there is a system that shuts down 4 of the cylinders to achieve a possible 26-27 mpg. On the downside, the Escalade seems power challenged and awkward. Maybe it was exaggerated because the other vehicles in the test were adequate to really fast, but the Escalade Hybrid has sluggish acceleration and touchy breaking. It is not fun to drive, but in time you may be able to get used to the way it handles. Also, the increase in mileage is a welcome feature, especially when gas prices are high, but the base price of the hybrid is $11,000 more than the regular Escalade. So you would need to first overcome that amount for the savings in gasoline to take effect. In these ways, Cadillac is competing with itself. The Escalade Hybrid is an achievement, but the driving experience is lacking. Due to it’s uniqueness however, there were no competitors vehicles to drive, so if this fits the bill of what you are looking for, it is your only choice.
In conclusion, the real standout cars here are the CTS Coupe and Sedan. They are world class cars that easily trump their direct competition. The SRX is a competent and attractive crossover, better than the Lexus, but Cadillac really needs to replace the BMW X5 with a BMW or Mercedes at the same price point. The Escalade Hybrid is a high-tech science project and has mileage and features that you will not find in any other large truck, but as a result the driving experience is compromised. A couple of Cadillac special features in common with most of their models are the touch-screen navigation and the ability to run on regular gasoline while most of the competition are lacking those features.
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