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2001 Cadillac DeVille DTS Road Test

Reading Time: 11 minutes
Luxury Sedan
 Category:  $45,000 – $60,000 Luxury Sedan
 Who should buy this car:  An upwardly mobile executive that wants it all. Power, comfort, lots of room, loads of technical wizardry
 Comparable models in this class:  Lincoln Town Car, Lexus LS340, Mercedes Benz S430, Infiniti Q45

For many years, Cadillac was the automotive standard bearer, manufacturing large, well-built, luxurious cars that signaled to the world that their owners had “arrived.” During the past decade, however, their reputation as the “Standard of the World” was severely challenged by the Japanese automotive industry which raised the bar, sometimes to dizzying heights, with the introduction of new luxury cars like the Acura Legend, Lexus LS400 and Infiniti Q45. These Japanese upstarts with their bold offer of world-class style and quality,remarkable technology and a pared-down price tag, even threatened the likes of Mercedes and 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 trim and the powerful thrust of its Northstar system, I believe that Cadillac can now hold its own in this highly competitive market.

It is my custom, whenever I receive a test vehicle, to walk around it to gauge its fit and 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 is just 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 might require, from Infra-red Night Vision to the Navigation Computer to the OnStar system (standard on the Bat mobile, mind you), is already on this car.

dash med

Despite my momentary flight of fancy, I actually found the DTS to be quite a serious vehicle. The gadgets work. In fact, they worked so well that they hooked me. So, let’s take a closer look.

When I pressed the “unlock” button on the remote as I approached the vehicle, it not only unlocked the door, but it automatically positioned the seat and mirrors to my comfort settings. I could program a second remote for another driver as well.

Climbing into the driver’s seat, I noticed that the steering wheel was positioned up and out of the way. Beyond the wheel, I faced a bare black panel where the instrument cluster should be, but when I put the key into the ignition switch, the dashboard came alive. First, the steering wheel, adjustable for height and reach, electrically positioned itself exactly the way I liked it. Then, as I turned the key to “start,” the gauges lit up the dark panel and danced through a self-check routine. The red needles swept right and left through their range while light pirouetted through the alpha and digital displays insuring that all segments were working. Overall, an impressive show.

These gauges were the clearest and most readable dials that I’ve ever seen in a car. The white numbers and red pointers looked like they were suspended in space(similar to Lexus) with a supplemental digital speedometer and an alphanumeric message display floating slightly behind them. I could turn off the digital speedometer if I liked or I could shutdown the analog gauges and rely on the digital speedometer, or I could leave them both on, which was the way I liked it. I explored the variety of ways that the cluster could present information to me and was surprised at how easy it was to switch from one setup to another using the clearly marked buttons positioned on either side of the gauge cluster.

front seats

The optional Adaptive Seats provided a very interesting experience. At the touch of a button on the side of the driver’s or front passenger’s seat, the cushions and seat backs came to life. Ten air sacks just under the leather upholstery on each front seat inflated and then slowly deflated while monitoring pressure sensors to allow the seat to conform to my body shape. Every few minutes, I felt subtle movements as the cushions readjusted to maintain the ideal pressure on each part of my body. The end result was comfort and relaxation that I could appreciate whether on a short hop or a cross-country excursion.

The Infrared Night Vision system activated at night when the headlights were on, projecting an image of the road ahead at the base of the windshield directly in front of me. The system displayed temperature differences in the same way that a black and white TV displays color differences. Hot items were white while cold objects were black with temperatures in between as shades of gray. People, animals and running automobiles stood out brightly in this display and were visible well beyond the range of the headlights. People and vehicles (especially the tires and exhaust pipes) showed up brightly while trees, shrubs and fences appeared as slightly warmer than the surroundings.This system provides the additional security of allowing a driver to easily spot an intruder who may be lurking in the bushes as they pull into a dark driveway.

night vision

While the infrared image was distracting at first, I soon grew accustomed to keeping it in my peripheral vision, except when something significant appeared. This system had a brightness and position control and I could shut it off on well-lit city streets. I believe that drivers who often travel on unlit rural roads will appreciate the value of Night Vision, but for city folk, it is just an intriguing novelty that is difficult to show off because the windshield display is for the driver’s eyes only The only way a passenger can see the display is if they put their head on your shoulder or they sit behind the wheel.

, 2001 Cadillac DeVille DTS Road Test

I found that the advanced navigation system of the DeVille took a little time to learn and 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 the screen and leaving a “trail of breadcrumbs” behind the car’s image to mark the route I had already traveled. This feature compensates for the tendency to get good directions to where you are going, while being left on your own for the return trip. The system also guided me by calling out turn-by-turn directions in a pleasant female voice once I input an address. The navigation display for the American market 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 for maximum readability and minimal distraction. There were 9 CDs to provide map coverage for the U.S., each disk covering a different region of the country. There are newer systems on some imported makes that can cram all this information onto one DVD disk, a convenience that Cadillac should consider.

Now to pick some nits. I found the clock display to be downright tiny and shoved off in one corner of the map display. To add to the confusion,when I switched to another screen, the clock jumped to a different corner. The radio station buttons were not available while the map was displayed and I had to press a button to change from the map to the radio display. When I tried to use the steering wheel controls for the radio, I found that they were not totally intuitive either. Just one more quibble, if I may. The inside door handles are intriguing to look at in a modern-art sort of way, but unfortunately they don’t seem to be made for human hands.

In mid 2001, Cadillac will integrate a new web-enabled Infotainment System into the display. This new technology will make available e-mail capability,web browsing, cell phone integration, voice memo recorder, voice recognition and an infrared port to communicate with handheld devices such as personal data assistants that can exchange information with the system. I am looking 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 service which 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 while using the system. You press one button on the mirror and then just talk to the advisor while you drive. The advisor can see your car on their map display and provide you with directions, make hotel reservations for you, direct you to a cash machine or gas station and, in general, assist you in ways never before possible.

The DTS had a three zone climate control system that allowed for separate temperature and fan speed settings for the driver, front seat passenger and rear seat area, each with their own separate controls. Another special Cadillac feature is automatic “Rainsense” windshield wipers that automatically sweep anytime the system detects water on the windshield. We had a chance 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 things happened. First, the outside mirrors dipped down giving me a view of the curb to assist with parking. Then the Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist system beeped, first calmly and then impatiently, to alert me that I was approaching an obstacle as 3 indicator lamps positioned above the rear window provided visual cues in the rearview mirror, showing me how close I was to this obstruction.

night vision camera

Cadillac’s hoopla over their Northstar system is apparently well-founded. The system includes an excellent all-aluminum 4.6 Liter V8 engine that produces 300 horsepower on the DTS, an electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmission and the Stabilitrack 2.0 system which is a sophisticated computerized ride and handling management system that works invisibly to help keep the ride soft and the handling competent. It accomplishes this feat by instantly changing the shock absorber valving as needed in order to stabilize the ride. If the system senses that you have entered into a corner too fast and begun to skid, it will apply individual brakes or cut engine power in order to bring you back under control. It does this so fast that, in most cases, you never realize that you were losing control in the first place.

The Cadillac DTS was very comfortable and quiet over most roads including the broken and battle worn streets of Brooklyn, NY where we spent part of a day. This car never lost its composure under any driving situations that I tossed at it. On winding roads, handling was competent and very controllable, but this car was made for the interstates. I drove this car on the highway for hours without feeling fatigued. The powerful Northstar engine was got me to any speed I wanted in short order (0 to 60 was a quick 7.5 seconds), although throttle response was a bit dull with quick stabs of the gas causing a sluggish response. I had to step on the gas and hold it to feel the power build. On some luxury cars, this feel is by design and makes for a more comfortable ride 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).

cadillac deville dts

The Cadillac DeVille DTS is an executive cabin cruiser of the first order. I normally prefer brighter colors, but this vehicle was perfect in black.. The black-on-black color 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 came away from the week-long evaluation sorry to see it end. From the wonderfully clear and readable dashboard gauges to the quiet power of the Northstar Engine, I appreciated the many comforts and conveniences that this car had to offer.

This is one great luxury car.

How would I improve this car?

  • 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 your driving style?

Conservative drivers will 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 drivers will 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

 Engine Type  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
 Horsepower  300 @ 6,000 RPM
 Torque  295 @ 4,400 RPM
 Fuel Recommended  Regular 87 Octane Unleaded
 Transmission  Hydra-matic 4T80-E Four Speed Electronically Controlled Automatic Transmission
 Tires – Standard  P235/55HR-17 Goodyear blackwall all-season performance radials
 Brakes  4-wheel power disc with 4-channel ABS, StabiliTrak 2.0 and road texture detection
 Overall Length  207.0″
 Wheelbase  115.3″
 Width  74.4″
 Turning Diameter  40.2 ft Curb to Curb
 Curb Weight  4047
 Fuel Tank  18.5 Gals.
 Miles per Gallon  EPA city 16, hwy 27
 Acceleration 0 to 60  7.5 seconds
 Base Sticker Price  $54,005 plus $495 destination charge

2001 Cadillac DTS Front Wheel Drive Luxury Sedan

Standard Equipment

  • Engine 4.6L V8 Northstar (300 hp), DOHC
  • Climate Control, Electronic
  • Continuously Variable Road-Sensing Suspension
  • Driver Information Center
  • Electronic Level Control
  • Engine Oil Life Indicator
  • Heated Front and Rear Seats
  • Leather Seating Areas
  • Lumbar Controls, 4-Way Power Driver and Front Passenger Seats
  • Mirror, Automatic Dimming Day/Night Inside Rearview Electrochromic with Electronic Compass
  • Mirrors, Right and Left Outside Rearview Electrically Powered and Heated, Left side is also Automatic Dimming
  • OnStar System (with one year premium service)
  • Personalization (Customer Programmable) Features
  • Rainsense Automatic Windshield Wiper System
  • Sound System Bose AM Stereo/FM Stereo, Cassette Tape, Single Slot CD, Weather Band, Digital Signal Processing, Radio Data System, Theftlock
  • Traction Control Full Speed Range/Brake and Engine
  • Window with Express Down Feature All Windows

Major Available Options

  • Night Vision
  • Wood Trim Package (steering wheel and shift knob)
  • Adaptive seating
  • Sunroof
  • Tire pressure monitor
  • Steering Wheel, Tilt with Telescopic Power
  • Sound System Six-Disc CD Changer
  • Navigation On-Board CD-ROM Based
  • Memory Package
  • Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist
  • Infotainment with Bose audio system
  • Wheels, Chrome
  • Cellular Phone – fully integrated, hands-free, portable

What’s new for 2002

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
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