Part hot rod, part luxury sedan.
by Mitch McCullough
Base Price (MSRP) $41,935
As Tested (MSRP) $53,245
With its brilliant acceleration, crisp handling, and Gibralter stability, the Cadillac Seville makes no apologies to expensive imported sports sedans. This car is just the thing for covering lots of real estate in a big hurry, cruising effortlessly at 80-90 mph like a high-performance sports sedan.
Around town, it's smooth and comfortable. The Seville comes loaded with features and technology designed to deliver comfort, safety and performance. Cadillac's StabiliTrak system is smart enough to respond to a skid before you're even aware there's a problem. OnStar, with enhanced capabilities for 2001, can automatically locate your vehicle and alert emergency personnel in case of an accident. Bose Infotainment, also new for 2001, integrates cell phone, personal data assistant, navigation, and audio-entertainment functions into a single system.
Two models are available: The $41,935 SLS comes with nearly every luxury feature you can imagine, powered by a 4.6-liter Northstar V8 producing 275 horsepower.
For $48,045, the high-performance STS boosts horsepower to 300 and adds continuously variable road-sensing suspension (CVRSSl), speed-rated Goodyear Eagle LS in place of the mundane Goodyear Integrity tires, fog lights, and a super-deluxe interior with perforated leather, 14-way power seats, and memory functions for just about everything.
Given that the current-generation Seville is now four years old, it's a little surprising that this car still draws admiring glances on the road. On the Interstate, our 2001 STS had people slowing down and matching their speed to ours to look it over. I'm not normally a big fan of chrome wheels, but the optional 17-inch chrome wheels are very tastefully designed and look great on this car.
Dressed in Sable Black paint, the Seville STS looks part luxury sedan, part hot rod. Its bold, egg-crate grille and strong, vertically oriented taillights are traditional Cadillac cues. Edges are soft and sculpted, however, presenting a refined look. The standard wrap-around projector headlights have a jewel-like quality. High-intensity discharge (HID) low-beam headlights are optional on STS and improve visibility on dark nights.
It's a handsome interior with Zebrano wood trim and black leather upholstery. The front bucket seats are plush, but not overstuffed, with enough lateral support to keep the driver firmly planted when maneuvering the Seville through tight curves. Yet the side bolsters are low enough to make getting in and out easy. The seats adjust every which way with adjustable lumbar support. I had trouble adjusting the lumbar to a comfortable position, but eventually came to terms with the seats. The front seatbelts are anchored to the seat, so they fit more precisely and feel much more comfortable to wear. Front and rear seats have heaters for cold mornings and bad backs.
Seville offers an optional adaptive seating system that many potential buyers may dismiss out of hand as just another costly ($995) gadget. For short commutes and around-town driving, they'd probably be right, but on long drives, the system is comfortable and noticeably less fatiguing. Hidden under the plush leather upholstery are special sensors designed to measure a body's pressure points and then automatically adjust ten strategically placed air cells in the seat cushion.
The Seville's interior looks great and is highly functional. The center console, sweeping up into the instrument panel, houses an attractive radio and climate-control center. The gauges use a three-dimensional Vacuum Fluorescent, or VF, display that is as easy to read as it is sophisticated. The digital readouts are in blue, which is fine, except that the blue high-beam indicator is buried alongside blue trip odometers and other digital readouts, so it's very easy to ride around unaware that the high beams are on.
Like many of the interior features, the Bose 4.0 sound system uses computer technology to enhance both driving attributes and creature comforts. It's something audiophiles should consider. It punches out nearly 425 watts of music power through its eight speakers, which include a 12-inch subwoofer. The Bose system is smart enough to automatically adjust volume and tone levels to compensate for changing cabin sound conditions. Steering wheel controls allow volume adjustments and surfing among your preset stations. A weatherband gives up-to-the-minute weather reports.
Everything is programmable, including the security system, so you don't have to listen to a horn when you lock the car, or put up with automatic locking every time you put it in drive. A computer tells you when one of your tires is low on air pressure, and warns when it's cold enough for ice to be on the road.
For 2001, Cadillac has added a $1995 Infotainment system, with a personal digital assistant, hands-free cell phone, infrared port, CD-ROM, satellite navigation, voice recognition and, in some areas, e-mail, all integrated into the Bose 4.0 stereo. The navigation system features a five-inch color display with bright, clear graphics, centrally located in the instrument panel. Passengers operate the system by touching the screen and following turn-by-turn instructions, or by referring to the map displayed on the screen.
Previously optional, but now standard on all Sevilles is GM's OnStar system. OnStar combines cellular technology with a Global Positioning Satellite, or GPS, receiver that constantly tracks the vehicle's position. No additional cellular contract is needed to use the system. Pressing a button connects you to an OnStar service center that can provide directions, call for a tow truck or remotely unlock the doors if you've left the key in the ignition. The service center can make airline reservations, provide restaurant recommendations, or send flowers for a special occasion. Most important, they will check in on you immediately after an airbag deploys and will summon help to your location if you don't respond.
Seville's sophisticated airbags use sensors designed to prevent deployment of the front passenger's bag when the seat is empty or a small child is sitting there. According to Cadillac, this system provides safety benefits to children that cannot be realized with dual-stage or multi-stage inflation systems, which deploy with varying degrees of force depending upon the size of the passenger and the severity of the crash. Cadillac's weight-based sensors and pattern recognition technology can distinguish between a small adult female and a large child strapped into a child safety seat; if it's a small child, whether in a child safety seat or not, the airbag will not deploy. An indicator light on the rearview mirror tells the driver whether the airbag is enabled or suppressed. (Cadillac still recommends the back seat as the safest place for children, but its research indicates that people want, when absolutely necessary, the ability to properly restrain children in the front seat.)
The optional ultrasonic rear parking assist system is really slick and very well executed. When backing up, it offers a chime as you approach a garage, a kid on a tricycle, or another parked car. A small yellow light above the rear windshield, visible in the rear view mirror or when looking over your shoulder, illuminates. A second yellow light illuminates as you get closer. A third red light illuminates when you're right on top of the object. Besides the safety benefits, it's very useful when parking the car or maneuvering in tight locations.
This car is fast. Its Northstar 4.6-liter V8 engine delivers 300 horsepower on the STS model. Punch it and this thing really takes off. It offers excellent throttle for brilliant passing performance. Step on the gas and you're by the offending vehicle in a flash. There's plenty of torque off the line to quickly propel you into Scofflaw County, and you can cruise all day at socially irresponsible speeds.
Cadillac's Northstar V8 engine is tuned differently for the SLS and STS models: The version used in the SLS produces 275 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 300 pound-feet of torque at 4000. The engine in the STS delivers 300 horsepower at 6000 and 295 pound-feet at 4400 rpm. That makes the STS the better choice for drivers who want a high-performance sports sedan, and the SLS better for drivers who prefer quietly cruising in luxury. Both will do fine in each mode, however.
The transmission works great. Cadillac's four-speed automatic transmission features a Performance Shift Algorithm that analyzes your driving style and adjusts shifting appropriately. Hammer the throttle and it mimics the crisp shifts of a manual transmission. Accelerate gradually and the transmission shifts smoothly. Go through a corner under hard acceleration and the system is smart enough to delay shifting until you are through the turn for improved handling balance. If desired, it's easy to pull it straight back from Drive into third gear. In fact, shifting it manually is as easy as shifting one of those fancy semi-automatic shifters that are the fad nowadays.
The steering is sharp and responsive. It has, in fact, been sharpened for 2001 with subtle changes to the front control arms, steering knuckles, front subframe, and front anti-roll bar. The Magnasteer rack-and-pinion steering system relies on an optimized 14.8:1 ratio throughout the steering range; rather than varying the ratio, the system uses a magnetic field to vary effort directly with speed or other conditions. It works well, giving the car a feeling of stability at high speeds and accurate steering on winding roads, yet it's light to the touch in parking lots making the Seville easy to park.
Standard on both models is the StabiliTrak system. It uses an accelerometer to sense even a minor skid. Then, by applying the brakes to individual front wheels and deftly controlling the throttle, it brings the car back under the control-often before you noticed anything was wrong. The latest StabiliTrak 2.0 also incorporates side slip-rate control, so if the Seville is sliding sideways, both front brakes are momentarily applied to slow the vehicle and allow it to regain stability and lateral traction.
The brakes are superb. They are easy to modulate in normal driving. In a panic stop, the ABS kicks in, quickly bringing the car to a halt without drama; understandably, they are prone to fade when used repeatedly in this manner.
Seville's Magnasteer steering system is linked to StabiliTrak's sensors, so steering effort is altered according to how aggressively a driver takes a corner. StabiliTrak even raises steering effort in low-traction or emergency-maneuver situations to enhance driver control.
The Continuously Variable Road Sensing Suspension, or CVRSS, comes with the performance-model STS. This active suspension system continuously monitors changing road conditions and instantly alters shock-damping rates to find an optimal balance between ride comfort and handling. This system, too, has been tweaked for 2001 to improve handling response. The ride quality is smooth and well controlled. A small amount of road vibration can be felt through the steering wheel.
This car is smooth and quiet around town, stable and secure at speed on the highway, and sporty and competent on winding roads. Out on the open road, it makes no apologies to BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, Lexuses and Infinitis. You can keep up with them, pass them, or let them go while you relax in your luxurious surroundings.
The Cadillac Seville delivers the refinement, performance and handling expected from a BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus or Infiniti. The Seville is a sedan that truly loves to be driven, whether you're winding down back roads or commuting through traffic with the Bose sound system on. The STS feels like a true sports sedan.
© New Car Test Drive, Inc.