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Cadillac; Suzies Prius; Audi; VW Management and More in This Months Letter From Europe.

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By Andrew Frankl
European Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel

A couple of years ago I’ve sent a letter to Bernd Pischetsrieder-boss of VW on the subject of their products. I suggested that maybe they shouldn’t have taken on BMW and Mercedes at the top end of the market.

I got a very polite letter back saying that VW were determined to be best in every segment. Well, their big car is history as is old Bernd, chopped by the Board. He is not doing too well, not that long ago he was also given the boot by BMW, hardly the sort of CV I would like to present to my next employer. Should he find one.

His successor, Martin Winterkorn is the current boss of Audi and a very successful one too. His cars are rapidly catching their rivals, his division is one of the leading proponents of 4 wheel drive cars and on the race track they cleaned up at Le Mans with their diesel cars-a first at that venerable track.

What will happen to Bernd’s protégé Wolfgang Bernhard remains to be seen, he was lured away from Chrysler and could be looking for alternative employment as well.

Amazing, just like a very high-prized poker game, shuffling talented executives from here to there to everywhere.

By the way Peugeot also has a new boss who recently left Airbus and who can blame him. What a mess! Anyway, back to cars. Even though Audi make fine cars I was disappointed in their 2007 A4 quattro.

Solid as a rock and quite economical it is but all in all just too small for 4 grown-ups. I took some members of the family-three in all- to see the new James Bond movie and they were most uncomfortable. I would regard it as a two plus two and if we were to regard it such then it would be fine. Mind you, charging 750 dollars for what they call, and I quote “ocean blue pearl effect” is plain silly.

One very nice feature-the Sirius radio was very easy to use and with the names appearing in front of the driver it saved a lot of hassle. The sound system was fine well. Audi make fine cars but this particular one was one size too small. For me at least and with all the good bits added on it was quite pricey at over 40 thousand dollars.

I’ve promised to give you an update on Suzie’s Prius. We took it to LA with just 500 miles on the clock. With the back seats folded down it swallowed absolutely everything that we could throw at it. San Francisco to LA is about 400 miles and the little car did it in exactly 6 hours, an average speed of 66 miles per hour which included one bathroom stop. At one stage we did 240 miles per hour in exactly 3 hours, averaging 80 miles per hour at 40 miles per gallon!

I wonder how many other cars are there in production that could do that? There may be some and I am sure in the future there will be several.

One car that will never do it is Cadillac’s DTS. Silly as it may sound in politically correct Marin County I got lots of dirty looks for driving such a thing. This folks is Prius country, pure and simple. Not that I had any problems with the Caddy. At a basic price of 43 thousand dollars it is an awful lot of automobile for the money, certainly a lot more than its German rivals.

The 4.6 liter Northstar engine is an awesome piece of work and with a judicious right foot I was able to get 25 miles per gallon on the highway. It was very comfortable and very easy to drive. As I am writing this letter on the day of the elections I would also respectfully suggest that it is very much a red car. The sort of car that would be very much at home in Orange County. Big, comfortable and with a soft suspension. If fact that was my biggest problem. The suspension was so soft that on certain roads I felt positively sea-sick.

Unlike in a BMW where one can spend 10 thousand dollars on extras the Caddy is fully equipped with just about everything with the exception of the sunroof and the in-dash CD changer. All in all the DTS is very good value for many of you are looking for a piece of Americana which-should it break down- could be fixed by any mechanic in any town right across the United States. Try that in your foreign exotica and see how far you’ll get!

Talking of Cadillac I also had a chance to spend an afternoon in their hottest offering, the STS with a V engine. The neighbors thought it looked very bling bling but you know what? For bling bling people who want their cars to stand out this beast in just perfect.

It also seats 4 people in total comfort and goes like smoke. We took it to a Count Basie Orchestra concert in a howling gale and the Caddy was solid as a rock. With the suspension tied down there was no motion sickness, no roly-poly, it was great.

It certainly in pricey at around 77 thousand dollars but you get more, honest to goodness American muscle car engineering than in any other four seater I can think of.

More next month; I wish you and yours a very happy holiday season.