The Renaissance, as Cadillac executives like to call it, is well underway.
Gone are the stodgy DeVilles, Sevilles and Eldorados. In theirs place is a portfolio of high-profile sport-utility vehicles, sexy sedans, posh and practical crossover wagons and even a couple of expensive, rarin-to-go roadsters.
Sales are up, quality is up and average buyer age is creeping downward. Cadillac is all new almost.
What about that big old soft and sloppy Sedan Seville, the one-time corporate mainstay that has attracted an aging, but loyal customer base over the years?
Actually, its been refined, restyled and renamed. Forget DeVille. Remember DTS. Handling sloppiness is out and predictable response is in.
Dont get the idea that Cadillac has forsaken the aging buyers who have made the DeVille/DTS the best-selling full-size sedan in the United States. The comfort-first crowd still gets a smooth and powerful, 276-horsepower, NorthstarV-8 engine; seamless four-speed automatic transmission; long list of available luxury features; convenient controls; quiet, upscale interior; and a suspension calibrated primarily for a comfortable ride.
But Cadillac also sees the DTS as a possible choice for a younger, more performance-oriented buyer. For them, it has developed the DTS Performance Sedan.
There is nothing on the outside to separate this model from the rest, but beneath the sheet metal there is one important feature that puts it in a class by itself.
Its called Magnetic Ride Control. Heres how it works:Inside the shock absorbers an electromagnetic coil controls the alignment of magnetic particles suspended inside a specially developed fluid. The coil can realign the particles every thousandth of a second to increase or decrease the amount of shock-absorber resistance to up and down movement by the wheels.
And heres what it does: Magnetic Ride Control allows more wheel movement on smooth, straight roads to absorb road imperfections and provide a smoother ride. When the road gets bumpy or twisty, it increases the resistance to increase driver control.
Combined with a sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch wheels, Magnetic Ride Control is particularly effective in the DTS Performance Sedan because it counteracts the natural tendency of a heavy sedan with more than a 60/40 front-end weight bias to resist a change in direction and lean heavily in turns.
It cant turn the large sedan into a lively sports car, of course, but it does make the DTS significantly more responsive to driver inputs. During a week with the car, I found myself becoming more and more confident in the Cadillacs abilities as I encountered unexpected sharp turns or nasty imperfections in the road. And, when the road was smooth, ride quality was ideal.
Because of understeer (a front-wheel-drive vehicles natural resistance to turning inputs), Cadillac helps out with Stabilitrak, its stability control system. Should a driver seriously miscalculate the tightness of a turn, it will apply the brakes automatically to one or more wheels to keep the car from skidding off the road.
For the Performance Sedan, Cadillac has also upgraded its 4.6-liter Northstar engine to produce 292-horsepower. Not only can it hustle the big car from a stop to 60 mph in about seven seconds, it produces a lusty exhaust note more reminiscent of a performance coupe than a sedate sedan.
The four-wheel, antilock disc brakes are adequate, but, the DTS performance sedan falls short in one important respect. The magnetic, variable-assist steering is light and not particularly forthright in reporting what is happening where the wheels meet the road. A driver must concentrate to hold the proper line on the high-speed curves.
In addition, the Performance Sedan is short at least one gear. The smooth-shifting four-speed transmission will seem fine to push-the-pedal-and-forget-it drivers, but it really doesnt make the best use of the modern engine. Another cog, maybe even two, could increase performance and fuel economy. During my week with the car, I averaged between 13 and 19 miles per gallon of regular fuel, far below the 17/24 figures estimated by the EPA.
Inside, the interior has been thoroughly upgraded. Seats are comfortable, and the leather, wood and plastic trim is tasteful and of high quality. Controls are easy to operate and gauges are easy to see. The optional chocolate and beige interior on the test car was a perfect complement to the metallic blue exterior.
On the outside, all DTS models retain their familiar look, but styling changes bring the DTS more into line with the design of Cadillacs other sedans.
Safety features include standard dual-stage driver and front passenger air bags, roof-rail curtain air bags, and front seat side-impact air bags.
All of the comfort and convenience features available on the Luxury DTS models come standard on the Performance Sedan. They include tri-zone climate control, eight speaker premium sound system with 6-cd changer and MP3 player, power front bucket seats that massage and are heated and cooled, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, key-fob remote start, heated windshield washer fluid; rain-sensing wipers; power folding outside rearview mirrors with turn signal indicators; and automatic on/off headlights. Special mention should be made of the ultrasonic park assist. Whenever the Cadillac is about to run into or over something in front or back of the vehicle, the driver gets an audio signal and a visual signal. Its a feature that probably should be standard on all cars and trucks, because there is no way a motorist can see what is directly behind or directly in front of a vehicle.
For 2007, Cadillac has added turn-by-turn navigation to its OnStar emergency communication system. Press the OnStar button, tell the attendant the address of your destination and a program will be downloaded that tells you how to get there every step of the way.
On the plus side, it eliminates the need to manually enter destination information into a dashboard-mounted navigation system and costs only an extra a month, compared to ,000 for the fully integrated in-car system.
On the negative side, it is not yet available in all geographic areas, does not have a screen with a map to show the route visually and it is entirely dependent on digital phone signals so it simply doesnt work in certain remote areas. Cadillac apparently is hedging its bets on which system buyers will prefer. The test car contained both.
Base price of the DTS Performance sedan is ,540. Add the optional Tehama Full Leather Interior and the navigation system and the price jumps to ,300, including delivery charge.
Navigation systems aside, the DTS Performance Sedan does what Cadillac intended increase driver involvement and pleasure. It may not meet the standards of the serious enthusiast, but it should satisfy the performance requirements of most other motorists who require a roomy, full-size luxury sedan.