For many years, Cadillac wasthe automotive standard bearer, manufacturing large, well-built, luxurious carsthat signaled to the world that theirowners had "arrived." During the past decade, however, theirreputation as the "Standard of the World" was severely challenged bythe Japanese automotive industry which raisedthe bar, sometimes to dizzying heights, with the introduction of new luxury carslike the Acura Legend, Lexus LS400 and Infiniti Q45. These Japaneseupstarts with their bold offer of world-class style and quality,remarkable technology and a pared-down price tag, even threatened the likes of Mercedesand BMW, the icons of the rich and famous.
Now Cadillac engineers, attempting to reclaim some of their former glory,have challenged the land of the rising sun with their new DeVille series which includes three models, all 4-door sedans. This triad of contenders includes the base model called simply DeVille, the DeVille High Luxury Sedan (DHS) andthe DeVille Touring Sedan (DTS) which is the subject of this article. Judging from the vault-like sound I heard when closing the doors on the DTS, the substantial"look and feel" of its interior trimand thepowerful thrust of its Northstar system, I believe that Cadillac can now holditsown in this highly competitive market.
It is my custom, whenever I receive a test vehicle, to walk around it to gauge its fitand finish, its overall "look and feel" and its "personality." When I walked around this car, I was struck with deja vu: this car is the "Black Beauty"and I am not just referring to its color and good looks, I mean it is THE BlackBeauty, as in the comic, "Green Hornet." The Cadillac DTS isjust waiting for Hollywood to cast a new Green Hornet movie to reveal itself as the perfect set of wheels for Hornet and his sidekick, Kato. All the studio would need to do is add the guns behind the headlamps. Every other gadget that the Black Beauty mightrequire, from Infra-red Night Vision to the Navigation Computer to the OnStarsystem (standard on the Batmobile, mind you), is already on this car.
Despite my momentary flight of fancy, I actually found the DTS to be quite a seriousvehicle. The gadgets work. In fact, they worked so well that theyhooked me. So, let's take a closer look.
When I pressed the "unlock" button on the remote as I approachedthe vehicle, it not only unlocked the door, but it automatically positioned the seat and mirrors tomy comfort settings. I could program asecond remote for another driver as well.
Climbing into the driver's seat, I noticed that the steering wheel was positioned up and out of theway. Beyond the wheel, I faced a bare black panel where the instrument cluster shouldbe, but when I put the key intothe ignition switch, the dashboard came alive. First, the steeringwheel, adjustable for height and reach, electrically positioned itself exactly the wayI liked it. Then, as I turned thekey to "start," the gauges lit up the dark panel and danced through aself-check routine. The red needles swept right and left through their rangewhile light pirouetted through the alpha and digital displays insuring that all segmentswere working. Overall, an impressive show.
These gauges were the clearest and most readable dials that I've ever seen ina car. The white numbers and red pointers looked like they were suspended in space(similar to Lexus) with a supplementaldigital speedometer and an alphanumeric message display floating slightly behindthem. I could turn off the digital speedometer if I liked or I could shutdown the analog gauges andrely on the digital speedometer, or I could leave them both on, which was theway I liked it. I explored the variety of ways that the cluster could presentinformation to me and was surprised at how easy it was to switch from one setup toanother using the clearly marked buttons positioned on either side of the gaugecluster.
The optional Adaptive Seatsprovided a very interesting experience. At thetouch of a button on the side of the driver's or front passenger's seat, the cushions and seatbacks came to life. Ten air sacks just under the leatherupholstery on each front seat inflated and then slowly deflated while monitoringpressure sensors to allow the seat to conform to my bodyshape. Every few minutes, I felt subtle movements as the cushions readjusted to maintain the ideal pressure on eachpart of my body. The end result was comfortand relaxation that I could appreciate whether on a short hop or a cross-countryexcursion.
The Infrared Night Vision system activated at night when the headlights wereon, projecting an image of the road ahead at the base of the windshielddirectly in front of me. The system displayed temperaturedifferences in the same way that a black and white TV displays colordifferences. Hot items were white while cold objects were black withtemperatures in between as shades of gray. People, animals and runningautomobiles stood out brightly in this display and were visible well beyond the range ofthe headlights. People and vehicles (especially the tires and exhaust pipes) showed up brightlywhile trees, shrubs and fences appeared as slightly warmer than the surroundings.This system provides the additional security of allowing a driver to easily spot anintruder who may be lurking in the bushes as they pull into a dark driveway.
Whilethe infrared image was distracting at first, I soon grewaccustomed to keeping it in my peripheral vision, except when somethingsignificant appeared. This system had a brightness andposition control and I could shut it off on well-lit city streets. I believe that drivers who often travel on unlit rural roadswill appreciate the value of Night Vision, but for city folk, it is just anintriguing novelty that is difficult to show off because the windshield display is for thedriver's eyes only The only way a passengercan see the display is if they put their head on your shoulder or theysit behind the wheel.
I found that the advanced navigation system of the DeVille took a little timeto learnand become comfortable with, but once I had mastered the buttons and touchscreen controls, I enjoyed its convenience. The map display moved with me as I drove, keeping the symbol of my vehicle in the center of thescreen and leaving a "trail of breadcrumbs" behind the car's image tomark the route I had already traveled. This feature compensates for the tendencyto get good directions to where you are going, while being left on your own for thereturn trip. The system also guided me by calling out turn-by-turndirections in a pleasant female voice once I input an address. The navigation display for the Americanmarket offered a choice between 5 languages: English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. The display background was light-gray in the daytime and automatically switched to a black background at night formaximum readability and minimal distraction. There were 9 CDs to providemap coverage for the U.S., each disk covering a different region ofthe country. There are newer systems on some imported makes that can cramall this information onto one DVD disk, a convenience that Cadillac shouldconsider.
Now to pick some nits. I found the clock display to be downright tinyand shoved off in one corner of the map display. To add to the confusion,when I switched to another screen, the clock jumped to adifferent corner. The radio station buttons were not available whilethe map was displayed and I had to press a button to change from themap to the radio display. When I tried to use the steering wheel controls forthe radio, I found that they were not totally intuitive either. Justone more quibble, if I may. Theinside door handles are intriguing to look at in a modern-art sort of way, butunfortunately they don't seem to be madefor human hands.
In mid 2001, Cadillac will integrate a new web-enabled Infotainment Systeminto the display. This new technology will make available e-mail capability,web browsing, cell phone integration, voice memo recorder, voicerecognitionand an infrared port to communicate with handheld devices such as personal data assistantsthat can exchange information with the system. I amlooking forward to checking it out when it becomes available.
GM's OnStar system is standard on the DTS and comes with one year of premium servicewhich includes such benefits as:
OnStar MED-NET -- Personal information (e.g., physicians name, blood type, allergies, etc.) can be stored and provided to a hospital emergency room in the event of a serious accident,
Emergency Services -- In case of a medical or other type of emergency. An Advisor locates the vehicle's position using GPS and alerts the nearest emergency services provider for dispatch to your location.
Theft Notification and Stolen Vehicle Tracking,
Routing and Location Assistance An advisor will give you directions to your destination
Automatic Notification of Air Bag Deployment An advisor can call emergency services if needed
Remote Door Unlock -- If the driver has locked the keys in the car an OnStar Advisor can remotely unlock the doors at an agreed upon time.
Convenience Services -- When a driver needs information, such as the location of the nearest restaurant, store or other point of interest.
The big advantage to OnStar is that there is a minimum of distraction whileusing the system. You press one button on the mirror and then just talk tothe advisor while you drive. The advisor can see your car on their mapdisplay and provide you with directions, make hotel reservations for you, directyou to a cash machine or gas station and, in general, assist you in ways neverbefore possible.
The DTS had a three zone climate control system that allowed for separatetemperature and fan speed settings for the driver, front seat passenger andrear seat area, each with their own separate controls. Another special Cadillacfeature is automatic "Rainsense" windshield wipers that automaticallysweep anytime the system detects water on the windshield. We had achance to test the wipers during a light sprinkle and found that they worked well.
When I put the car in reverse and started backing up, a couple of thingshappened. First, the outside mirrors dipped down giving me a view of the curbto assist with parking. Then the Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist systembeeped, first calmly and then impatiently, to alert me that I was approaching anobstacle as 3 indicator lamps positioned abovethe rear window provided visual cues in the rearview mirror, showing me how close I was tothisobstruction.
Cadillac'shoopla over their Northstar system is apparently well-founded. The system includes an excellent all-aluminum 4.6 Liter V8 engine thatproduces 300 horsepower on the DTS, an electronically controlled 4-speedautomatic transmission and the Stabilitrack 2.0 system which is a sophisticatedcomputerized ride and handling management system that works invisibly to helpkeep the ride soft and the handling competent. It accomplishes this featby instantly changing the shock absorber valving as needed in order to stabilizethe ride. If the system senses that you have entered into a corner toofast and begun to skid, it will apply individual brakes or cut engine power inorder to bring you back under control. It does this so fast that, in mostcases, you never realize that you were losing control in the firstplace.
The Cadillac DTS was very comfortable and quiet over most roads including thebroken and battle worn streets of Brooklyn, NY where we spent part of a day. This car never lost itscomposure under any driving situations that I tossed at it. Onwinding roads, handling was competent and very controllable, but this car wasmade for the interstates. I drove this car on the highway for hours withoutfeeling fatigued. The powerful Northstar engine was got me toany speed I wanted in short order (0 to 60 was a quick 7.5 seconds), although throttleresponse was a bit dull with quick stabs of the gas causing a sluggishresponse. I had to step on the gas and hold it to feel the powerbuild. On some luxury cars, this feel is by design and makes for a more comfortableride for the passengers, especially if the driver is not smooth on the gas.(we've all had our necks punished by this type of driver).
The Cadillac DeVille DTS is an executive cabin cruiser of the first order. I normallyprefer brighter colors, but this vehicle was perfect in black.. The black-on-blackcolor scheme with almost no bright trim gave this car an air of sophistication,power and attitude that made it fun to be seen in.
I will admit that I went into this road test with low expectations, but cameaway from the week-long evaluation sorry to see it end. From the wonderfully clearand readable dashboard gauges to the quiet power of the Northstar Engine, Iappreciated the many comforts and conveniences that this car had to offer.
More work needs to be done on the Navigation Center and radio interface.
Navigation system map information should be moved to a DVD disk instead of the 9 CDs
Do something with those wheels, they look like the cooling fan in my PC.
How does the DTS fit yourdriving style?
Conservative driverswill love the DTS. Easy to drive smoothly with plenty of power when you need it. Driver and passengers will appreciate the smooth power delivery and comfortable ride. Plenty of toys will keep you occupied in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Sporty drivers This is a fast car that handles and stops well, but it is also large and heavy and doesn't let you forget it. If you like a sporty feel, look elsewhere.
Fast driverswill like the powerful Northstar V8.The Stabilitrack system will keep you out of trouble while you explore the limits of this car's handling potential. The brakes are good and the tires are ok, but this car was meant to cruise, not to be thrashed around. There are other cars in this price range that are much more fun at the limit.
Cadillac DTS Specifications
4.6-liter V8, Aluminum block and aluminum heads. 2-stage chain-driven dual overhead camshafts, direct acting hydraulic roller follower, 4 valves per cylinder
300 @ 6,000 RPM
295 @ 4,400 RPM
Regular 87 Octane Unleaded.
Hydra-matic 4T80-E Four Speed Electronically Controlled Automatic Transmission
For 2002, the Cadillac DeVille DTS adds a few evolutionary improvements to an already competent automobile.
The most significant of these changes is the move to a DVD based navigation system that incorporates voice recognition to allow a driver to interact with it with a minimum of distraction. The GPS-based system has five languages and voice prompts that recognize two drivers. Along with the DVD based navigation, which includes map information for the continental United States and Canada on one disk, it will also allow you to watch DVD movies on the navigation screen while the car is in Park. Other features that are new for 2002 include:
Extended oil change interval to 12,500 miles using revised oil life monitor programming that tells drivers when they need oil changes based on their environment and type of driving.
Revised wreath and crest badging
Dual stage air bag inflators. This system detects vehicle acceleration, and provides the appropriate level of air bag inflation.
Additional power outlet on front passenger seat umbrella tray
A new exterior color Blue Onyx
Upgraded Radio Data System (RDS) functionality
Express-up front windows
We will bring you a complete report when we get our hands on a vehicle for a proper road test.