First DriveNew BLS estate gets decent engine and good motorway manners; falls short in other areas
First DriveStylish and certainly stands out from mainstream competition. Refined, too, but lacks the sparkle of an Alfa 159 or build quality of a 3-series.
What is it?
Cadillac’s comeback car which, along with the CTS saloon, will relaunch the moribund US luxury brand on the UK.
The new BLS Wagon is an estate version of the BLS saloon, a car that’s been on sale since 2005, but hardly made any impact with UK buyers. Based on the Saab 9-3, the BLS Wagon has a new roof, new glass and new sheetmetal from the B-pillar aft. It’s a few millimetres longer than a BLS saloon, but that’s merely down to the design of the new rear bumper. Otherwise, it’s identical to the saloon, including the suspension and interior.
Engines are also shared with the saloon and include a 148bhp 1.9-litre TD and soft-turbo 2.8-litre V6 petrol at the top of the range. A key new diesel is the twin-turbo 1.9 D, which makes 178bhp and a hefty 294 lbft.
What’s it like?
American-style, with a European flavour to the handling and performance, best sums up the BLS. The Wagon’s crisp-edged sheetmetal has great presence and the cheese-cutter grille can’t be confused with any other car.
The BLS’s strength is its motorway cruise when it’s pretty refined and relaxed, largely because the twin-turbo diesel delivers its power smoothly and effectively. It’s not so at home on back roads, though, even with sport suspension , a set-up that’s near identical to Saab’s Aero chassis.
The BLS doesn’t really feed much steering or chassis feel back to the driver. The softer standard suspension, itself a tad softer than Saab’s standard chassis, has less body control and pretty vague steering.
Inside, headroom for the rear passengers is improved over the four-door, visibility is good and there’s a 419-litre boot that extends to 1285-litres with the rear seats folded.
A few years ago those were reasonable figures. Unfortunately for Caddy, new models like the Audi A4 and Merc C-class have grown in size, and next year’s Avant and Estate will dwarf the BLS’s carrying capacity. The Merc, for example, has a confirmed 1500-litre maximum boot size.
Should I buy one?
If style and individuality are high priorities, then the BLS Wagon makes a case. Performance and relaxed cruising are good, too. But otherwise the BLS struggles to match the compact executive class average on too many factors.
It’s not exactly helped by being based on a seven-year-old platform. Several newer, volume-badged large estates, like the Ford Mondeo, do a better dynamic and load-lugging job.
Cadillac UK is still jostling with the factory over price, too. There’s a big danger that the BLS will be saddled with premium-pricing and average equipment levels, a combination that’s already scuppered the BLS saloon and first CTS model.
If Caddy can get a £20k Wagon to the market with a high standard equipment spec, then it’ll be worth a test drive come January. But don’t bet on that.