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Car News:  Oversteer

Cadillac Needs Sporty SUVs to Match Its Sporty Cars

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author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2017

As many of you now know, I recently found myself in the market for a high-performance SUV to replace my aging Range Rover, which is a low-performance SUV. I considered every high-performance SUV on the market -- the Audi SQ5, the Porsche Cayenne, the BMW X5 M, the Mercedes ML63 AMG and others -- but I didn't consider a Cadillac. That's because there aren't any. But there really, really should be.

Allow me to explain. If you're a car enthusiast and you've read any publication in existence over the past 10 years, you know that Cadillac has dramatically improved its reputation, going from an also-ran brand for elderly people to a car company that makes really cool sporty luxury cars -- like the new CT6, and the CTS-V Wagon, and the latest CTS-V, and the ATS, and its performance variant, the ATS-V.

Only there's a problem: Those are all cars. Not SUVs. And Cadillac's SUV lineup doesn't quite back up its car lineup.

Here's what I mean: While Cadillac has been busy building sporty, rear- and all-wheel-drive cars that have probably dropped its average buyer age by about 20 years, the SUV lineup hasn't changed anywhere near as much. Right now, Cadillac has just two SUVs: One is the full-size Escalade, designed to compete with the Range Rover and the Infiniti QX80, and which I would concede is essential to any luxury brand. The other is the XT5, which is an excellent midsize crossover that competes with the Lexus RX and Buick Enclave and provides a smooth, comfortable ride, and uses smooth, comfortable powertrains.

And therein lies the problem. Right now, Mercedes-Benz offers the GLS, which would be their Escalade competitor. And they also offer the GLE, which would compete with the XT5. But they also have the GLA, the GLC, the GLC Coupe, the GLE Coupe, and the G-Class -- five other SUVs that are distinctive from those two. Additionally, there are high-performance versions of all seven Mercedes-Benz SUVs. Cadillac doesn't offer a single high-performance SUV -- even a hot version of the popular Escalade.

Why does this matter? Simple: Because Cadillac has placed a razor-sharp focus on overhauling their car line, and they've largely succeeded; I've owned two CTS models, and I'd happily own another -- and I say this as someone who's under 30 years old, deeply within the demographic Cadillac is trying to target. But the market is trending toward SUVs: Buyers want SUVs, and lots of them. And in that world, Cadillac is nowhere to be found.

In other words, the very same buyers Cadillac worked so hard to court when they were overhauling their car lineup are now lost when they want to move on to an SUV. The CTS-V I owned was cool, and when it's time to move on to an SUV for a family or as a year-round vehicle, I turn to Cadillac, and ... nothing. So I buy a BMW X5, or a Mercedes GLE, or whatever.

The interesting thing is, Cadillac's XT5 is doing well -- and it's not a bad car. But it's fundamentally different from Cadillac's sporty sedan offerings; it's more of a follow-up to the luxurious XTS than the sporty ATS and CTS. In a world where buyers increasingly want SUVs and performance lumped into one, Cadillac had better make some changes -- or else they might find that their reputation hasn't come as far as they thought.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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Cadillac Needs Sporty SUVs to Match Its Sporty Cars - Autotrader