Here, finally, is a Cadillac that can lock horns with the big guys from BMW and Mercedes, Audi and Jaguar

We were hoping Cadillac’s all-new STS would be a dog. Just like the old front-drive Seville STS. Then we wouldn’t have minded too much about Caddy’s decision not to put a steering wheel on the right and sell its new flagship in the UK.

But here, finally, is a Cadillac that can lock horns with the big guys from BMW and Mercedes, Audi and Jaguar. A Cadillac that looks fresh, has the rock-solid feel of an S-class, the dynamics of a 745i, and the silky smooth refinement of a Lexus. And all for thousands less.

Part of the secret of the new STS’s success is that it is based on a stretched version of GM’s global rear-drive Sigma platform that has done such great things for the smaller Caddy CTS and SRX.

With the new STS, which goes on sale Stateside this month and in continental Europe next spring, there are three flavours to choose from. The base model is the STS V6, powered by a 255bhp, 3.6-litre six. The STS V8 comes with Cadillac’s impressive 4.6-litre, 320bhp Northstar eight-pot. While the top-of-the-line is the STS V8 all-wheel drive with Northstar power and a drivetrain extracted intact from the SRX 4x4.

The new Caddy measures 4986mm stem to stern. That’s 172mm shorter than an S-class, 43mm shorter than a 745i, and identical to Lexus’s LS430.While the car’s styling carries over many of the hard-edged design cues of the smaller CTS, the lines and creases have been softened.

No, it doesn’t have the visual drama of a 745i, or the bold confidence of an A8, in fact in profile, the STS looks positively dull. But with its shield-like grille, and bold, vertical lights there’s no mistaking the car as a new-age Caddy.

The big Northstar V8 coupled to GM’s smooth-shifting, super-responsive, five-speed Hydra-Matic 5L50 automatic gearbox is a mightily impressive combo. It fires the STS from standstill to 62mph in 5.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 154mph. And with 315lb ft of torque, there’s also plenty of low-down guts.

After the V8, we were expecting the V6 to be a non-event. It’s anything but. This all-alloy 3.6 – just like the one in the CTS – cranks out 255bhp and 252lb ft of torque and punches the 1735kg Cadillac from rest to 62mph in a shade under seven seconds.

A super-stiff body structure and well-judged suspension are the basis for the Cadillac’s quick, athletic reflexes. Throw in GM’s impressive four-channel StabiliTrak semi-active suspension and optional Magnetic Ride Control, with its two-stage dampers, and the STS rewards the most demanding of drivers.

Yes, the ride is on the firm side, and the steering in the base cars feels light, but the STS carves curves with great poise and agility. And braking, courtesy of big, ventilated discs, is impressive.

Inside, however, the Cadillac’s cabin makes even the Jag XJ’s feel cavernous. Rear legroom is snug for a luxury car, and isn’t helped by not being able to slide feet completely beneath the front seats. Boot space is also tight and not helped by a rather small opening.

But the cabin is beautifully trimmed, Lexus-style, with acres of polished wood and buttery-soft leather. All the instruments and switches are simply laid out, and don’t require a degree in computer science to operate.

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This is the best-driving Cadillac ever and a worthy alternative to the class leaders. If not having a right-hand-drive version is a disappointment now, you won’t want to hear about the BMW M5-rivalling, 435bhp STS-V that’s coming next spring.

Howard Walker

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