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Cadillac Turning Heads Again with Boldly-Styled, Powerful, Comfortable SUV - 2003-12-13

Cadillac once advertised itself as "the standard of the world." But in the 1990s, General Motors' flagship division found itself an also-ran, shoved aside in the race for luxury car sales supremacy in the United States by the likes of Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Now though Cadillac is hot once again.

The Cadillac division is boasting one of its best Novembers in 13 years. For the first time in two decades, Cadillac is on course to sell 200,000 vehicles in a calendar year.

The chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, David Cole says the GM division is in the midst of a renaissance.

"Essentially, their whole portfolio of products is being rejuvenated," he said. "Their sales are up rather dramatically, so they're once again a player in a very important segment of the industry."

Cadillac marketing person Kim McGill traces the starting point for the turn-around to the introduction of the sport utility Escalade in 2002.

"That's when younger people outside the domestic market, outside Cadillac's loyal family, really began to look at Cadillac in a different way," she said.

Next came the CTS sports sedan, with its aggressive, hard edged styling. David Cole says that, too, was part of the turnaround.

"Certainly another factor is a rather bold step to a much more creative styling theme which is quite a separation from where they were historically," said David Cole.

Which brings us to the new SRX sport utility, or as Cadillac describes it, "luxury utility". SRX is car-based, says the marketing manager for the SRX, Schryse Crawford-Williams. It shares underpinnings with the CTS.

"It's built off a performance car platform," explained Schryse Crawford-Williams. "However, it has all the utility that someone who, perhaps, would be seeking a truck for cargo room or people room, you can get that in this vehicle, but you're not compromising the ride and handling that you would experience in a sports sedan."

SRX has been compared favorably with some established competition, such as the BMW X-5 and the Lexus RX-330. So we asked Ms. Crawford-Williams that important pocketbook question.

"There's a V-6 model that starts at $38,690, which includes the destination and freight charge," she said. "Our V-8 model starts at about $47,000 and, if you get all the 'bells and whistles' [options], including the V-8 engine, you can get up to, I'd say, oh, about $56,000, 57,000."

For that kind of money, one gets a boldly-styled, powerful, comfortable and well-appointed sport utility vehicle with the accent on luxury. It seems just the kind of vehicle that should do very well for the resurgent Cadillac.

As for the future, we turned again to David Cole of the Center for Automotive Research.

"Cadillac has really discovered, at least for now, the right formula," he said. "The only question is: can they maintain the momentum?"

Cadillac will need lots of momentum. Because the company is still number four in the U.S. luxury segment behind Lexus, BMW and Mercedes Benz.