Cadillac is setting out to erase a stuffy stereotype in large cars with a new flagship sedan, the XTS, introduced Wednesday by GM's North American chief, Mark Reuss, here at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
It sports a stylish, coupe-like roof that arches almost into the trunk. Also packed with technology, the new largish midsize XTS is aimed at winning over new and younger buyers who would not have considered the brand before.
To lure them out of BMWs, Audis, Lexuses and the like, Cadillac is banking in part on its new CUE infotainment system that is controlled partly with hand gestures and aims to simplify common tasks.
The XTS replaces the grandfatherly DTS, as well as the smaller, discontinued STS -- but it has touches such as high-performance Brembo brakes that "are not something you would associate with a boulevard cruiser," says Cadillac's Don Butler. "This is shattering that image of Cadillacs as floaty boats."
Observers say Cadillac has its work cut out for it. "The biggest obstacle Cadillac has is the image," says Jesse Toprak of auto research site TrueCar.com. "Unless they make Cadillac hip, they are going to have a big challenge selling this car in the U.S."
It arrives next spring at a price yet to be announced and will be the Caddy flagship for the moment. But Cadillac is hinting strongly that a new, larger, full-size sedan is on the way.
Abarth takes cute out of Fiat
Jumbo shrimp. A "wicked" Fiat 500.
Some words just seem to contradict each other, and it's hard to imagine the Fiat 500 as anything but cute and stylish.
Yet, unveiled here at the show was the performance version for the U.S. that Fiat aims to broaden the 500's appeal.
Fiat says it's faithful to the "small, but wicked" saying coined about Fiat 500s modified in the 1960s by Karl Abarth's performance shop, which is now owned by Fiat, and for which the new model is named.
To earn its performance cred, the 500 Abarth has a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. It also has a tuned suspension and brakes, a race-inspired design and extra technology features.
JX gives Infiniti family an SUV
Infiniti pulled the cover off its new family-size crossover SUV, called JX.
Due in showrooms next spring, the seven-passenger, four-door crossover starts at $40,450 for the front-wheel-drive version, $41,550 for all-wheel drive.
It'll come with a 3.5-liter, 265-hp V-6 engine rated 23 mpg on the highway in front-drive form.
It'll also have an interesting bit of gee-whiz technology. If you are about to back into traffic, sensors warn you of the situation and trigger alerts. If you don't halt, the vehicle will apply the brakes for you.
Good idea, says Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of Edmunds.com car-research site: "The problem with all the passive warning technology is we're starting to ignore it. All the bells and buzzers and lights" are becoming just background commotion. But the Infiniti system "actually intervenes, does something" if the driver ignores the warnings, so it should be safer when backing.
Two very non-Infiniti attributes:
The JX is the first Infiniti that doesn't have rear-wheel drive. Some years back, Infiniti vowed that rear-wheel drive always would distinguish its models from the front-drive mainstreamers sold by corporate cousin Nissan.
The JX is the first Infiniti to use a CVT, continuously variable-ratio automatic transmission, instead of a conventional automatic with defined gear ratios.
Honda CR-V due in December
Honda officially pulled the covers off the 2012 CR-V and announced some additional details.
The fourth-generation CR-V will go on sale Dec. 15 and will be priced about $21,000 to $31,000, same as the current model.
The chassis is similar to the previous model's, but most everything else is changed.
The new CR-V hits an increasingly fierce small-SUV market. Ford's redesigned Escape, also unveiled Wednesday, rolls out in spring. Mazda's new-to-the-lineup CX-5 also made its debut here. Too, Hyundai's due for an updated Santa Fe next summer. An overhauled Toyota RAV4 can't be far off.
More details released about the made-over CR-V:
Better fuel economy, up 1 to 4 miles per gallon, depending on model. The front-drive version is rated 23 mpg in town, 31 highway, 26 combined (up from the 2011's 21/27/23). The all-wheel drive is 22/30/25 (up from 21/27/23).
Power's up slightly: 185 hp vs. 180, and 163 lbs.-ft. of torque vs. 161.
Standard features will include a rear-view camera with driver's choice of three viewing angles.
Interior's upgraded to answer complaints the old one seemed plain.
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