Cadillac DeVille DTS Car Reviews

Review Notes: Cadillac Deville DTS
Personality Traditional Cadillac plus 21st century gadgetry and handling
Quirks Rear cigarette lighters?
Unusual features Well done electronic gadgets
Above Average for Price: Space, usability features
Needs Work In: Gas mileage, cruise control placement
Driveway Test Passed easily
Written by David Zatz

Note: this review covers a fully loaded test vehicle. Some features are not standard.

The Cadillac Deville DTS shows what you can do when you decide to change direction in a hurry - both literally and figuratively. Though it is a familiar nameplate, and has currently-unfashionable front wheel drive, the DTS is a thoroughly modern machine, brought up to date by the gadget-happy technocrats at General Motors. It boasts a variety of technologies designed for luxury, performance, and safety, and has been kept up to date.

To start with, the DTS has been restyled to have more of a German-luxury exterior, retaining the recognizable Cadillac look in front but becoming subtly classier from every angle. The interior is simple, with matching charcoal leather and plastic, and wood accents on the doors and across the dashboard to provide a sense of luxury. The instrument panel itself, with two large gauges (speed and tach) and two small ones (temperature and fuel), is striking and clean, with brightly lit, seamingly floating dials over digital displays. That includes a status display large enough to use actual words, which provides average speed and gas mileage, warnings (such as ICE POSSIBLE or HEADLIGHTS RECOMMENDED), and the air pressure of each individual tire - a helpful feature. For those who trek to Canada or Mexico, the press of a button converts all displays to metric.

Most controls are surprisingly logical, with lighting buttons and knobs, for example, clustered together. There are a variety of driver control options - whether to use automatic headlights, and if so, how sensitive they should be; high, medium, low, and backrest-only heat on the seats; and the intensity of the night vision system, for example. The steering wheel can move back and forth as well as up and down.

The steering wheel is festooned with buttons for the stereo, climate control, and communications system, so that the cruise control is relegated to the bottom of the wheel, an awkward and inconvenient place. GM seems to have issues with cruise control, and apparently hasn't noticed that its partner, Toyota, gets it right with a separate right-hand stalk. On the lighter side, the DTS remembers whether you have set the cruise on or off even after you restart the car.

The climate control and stereo are both easy to use and capable. Heat comes up almost as soon as the car is started, the Northstar V8 engine coming to operating temperature with incredible speed. The fan can be loud at higher speeds.

The stereo has the usual interesting features, such as road alerts and a digital signal processor that you can use to optimize sound for the driver, all passengers, talk radio, etc. XM Radio is available, and we heartily recommend it. Overall, the sound is excellent, with good stereo separation. We also liked the convenience of having both a glove-compartment CD changer and a slot in the dash unit for CDs - as well as a cassette player. (There is still plenty of room in the glove compartment for the usual books, maps, and manuals, as well as a Kleenex small tissue pack holder - an innovation first seen, believe it or not, in the Plymouth Neon!)

The night vision system is quite nice, especially for those who drive on back roads at night. It uses an infrared sensor to show the driver a black and white display of what's ahead, with warmer items glowing more brightly. When there's traffic, it can fulfil your curiosity as to where other cars have their tailpipes, but at other times it can help you to avoid deer and pedestrians. The display is projected on the lower part of the windshield, with an adjustable brightness control.

Speaking of gadgets, the DTS' most important bit of technology may well be the active suspension. This helps keep the heavy front wheel drive car going in the right direction, regardless of what foolish things the driver does (within reason). That means you can usually recklessly stamp on the gas while twisting the wheel, and nothing bad will happen. The DTS handles turns with astonishing ease, whipping around in ways and at speeds that many sporty cars dare not try. It's an incredible system.

The Northstar V8 is another technological tour de force, although it is not as far ahead as it was when introduced. The engine produces large amounts of power with very little sound, other than a well-tuned muscle-car exhaust note which we suspect is deliberate. Since this is a luxury car, the engine is not tuned for brute force a la Corvette or Viper. It will not push you back into your seat like a jet, but it will provide surprisingly good acceleration while seeming to be hardly working. The relativey small low end torque helps to make starts smooth and easy, while the power at higher revs aids passing, all with no fuss and no rough sounds. Gas mileage is, as one would expect, relatively low, though calm drivers can break 20 mpg.

The automatic transmission has no manual override, nor does it need one. Downshifts are rapid and the engine has a good range, so you cannot take it by surprise and have get tepid acceleration. Shift are generally very smooth, though very cold mornings seem to result in some shifting delay and a little roughness - not so much that most people would notice.

Accomodations are good for all passengers, though some may not like the through-the-seat seat belts in front. Both front windows have express up and down features. Front passengers have clever folding cupholders coming out of the console, while rear passengers can use flip-out cupholders from their own fold-down center console. The front console also includes a shallow upper area, removable deep cubbies, and a snap-in coin holder. The rear console has a storage area, as well, and everyone has a map pocket in their door. There is a well lit rear climate control section built into the back of the center console, providing temperature, fan, and mode controls so everyone can be comfortable.

A foolish addition is cigarette lighters for the rear passengers. While this can indeed be handy, it makes the back of the car moderately unsafe for younger passengers. A 12V direct current shock is no joke.

Up front, the moonroof controls are sensible divided into a vent switch and a roof open/close switch (with express open), so the driver spends as little time and attention as possible on the roof. There is also a built in garage door opener, and separate dome light switches - but the interior always seems dark, thanks to subtle lighting and the charcoal leather.

One feature which we are happy to see spreading throughout the industry is easy driver customization. A number of options - e.g. having doors lock automatically, horn honking on lock or unlock, rear view mirrors moving down on reverse to show parking space lines - can be easily set through the status display and control buttons.

Sound insulation is very good, with outside noise minimal and interior noise damped by cloth not only on the ceiling, but also on the roof pillars.

The usual creature comforts for luxury and near-luxury cars are in place - headlights and backup lights go on when you press the remote, the interior lights automatically, the stereo and power windows stay on after the key is removed. There are also some features which are taking over on luxury cars, including a hands free cellular phone system (integrated with OnStar) with voice activation and a help menu. OnStar itself, the industry leading concierge and emergency system, is available as well, with small buttons in the mirror. For $300, you can save yourself some trouble and get the backup warning system, which, with three lights and an audible alert, lets you know how much space is behind you. It's fed by five sensors mounted in the rear bumper. Finally, being a GM product, oil and transmission fluid life indicators are built in, so you can avoid unnecessary oil changes while still protecting your vehicle. The savings can add up - many drivers change every 3,000 miles, but often you can postpone that interval to 6,000 miles or more (for some, 10,000 miles is safe!).

Other nice features are heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, an autodimming rear view mirror with integrated compass, and, of course, lower door lights. More unusual, and very useful, is a sun visor extension system which helps drivers to block the sun, no matter where it might be.

The Cadillac Deville DTS is clearly a Cadillac, inside and out. A comfortable, large sedan, it has very good handling thanks to its Stabilitrak II active suspension, power to spare from its Northstar V8, and gadgets galore. If you were considering a Mercedes, Lincoln, or BMW, or similar premium large cars, consider the DTS before buying. The interior is nicer than similar German cars, build quality appears higher than Mercedes, the value is better than the Town Car, and the pricing is competitive.