CADILLAC will maintain a range of rear-wheel-drive models aimed at driving enjoyment and refinement rather than outright fuel savings.
The news will be welcomed by Australians, who will soon be able to buy Cadillacs locally, possibly before local production of large, rear-wheel drive cars ends by late 2017.
Speaking at the Detroit motor show, General Motors chief engineer David Leone said rear-wheel drive would remain a staple of future Cadillacs, predominantly the larger sedans.
“Our primary sedans will remain rear-wheel drive,” said Leone. “I feel Cadillac has to have rear-wheel-drive entries in the primary sedan space to be able to have the driving character that we want to lead with. It’s a requirement for that.”
Leone said a rear-drive layout – increasingly rare in a world fixated on reducing emissions and lowering fuel use – could deliver superior driving dynamics.
He said attributes rear-drive delivered were “fantastic steering precision and very sophisticated ride control” that produced a car capable of hitting a race track while still providing “refined, luxury ride with precision handling”.
Leone said Cadillac’s place in the GM family – as the flagship brand in a broad portfolio – gave it more flexibility than European rivals, including BMW, which will switch its top-selling 3 Series family to front-wheel drive for the next generation.
The news comes as GM looks to continue its Cadillac rollout to other countries, including Australia.
“We’re working it,” said Leone when asked directly about Australian distribution, something that would be easier without the Holden Caprice that currently occupies similar prestige space to some Cadillac models.
But he said Australians would likely have access to “selected models” from the soon-to-expand Cadillac family (with diesel engines, and a smaller SUV to sit below the SRX).
But there is plenty of work to prepare the quintessentially American luxury brand for Australia, especially as plans were shelved at the eleventh hour in 2009 as GM battled bankruptcy (Cadillac even showed cars at the 2008 Sydney motor show).
“If it were to come back to Australia, everything has to be right,” said Cadillac design boss Andrew Smith, an Australian who once designed Commodores.
“There’s a plan for the whole globe. We’re talking a lot about Cadillac.
“My strong preference would be to get my dad in a Cadillac, and my brother-in-law as well.”
Leone reiterated there were many steps before Cadillacs would again be sold in Australia.
“We don’t have a Cadillac distribution system right now, so we need to have that in place,” he said.
“You can’t bring just one of them … it takes far more than a right-hand-drive CTS to be able to have the dealers be successful.
“So it’s a very careful coordination and planning process that takes lots of cooperation to make that successful.”