When it comes to automobiles, images and perceptions don't change easily. Despite such recent cars as the sporty, import-oriented Seville and Eldorado and the recently deceased Allante convertible, Cadillac still is best known for building huge, chrome-laden V-8-powered luxury cars that are fast, plush and comfortable. And those three words - fast, plush and comfortable - best sum up this week's test car, the Deville Concours. Cadillac has made an aggressive move toward capturing a younger group of buyers with its array of fast sports sedans and coupes. But the General Motors luxury car division hasn't abandoned its older customers, those who want nothing to do with bucket seats, tachometers and floor shifters. The Concours is a traditional six-passenger Cadillac that has been outfitted with a responsive suspension system and a high-tech drivetrain. PERFORMANCE With a curb weight of just under 2 tons, the Deville Concours is one of the heaviest cars on the market. But you'd never know that by the fast pace in which it accelerates or by the efficient manner in which it uses unleaded premium fuel. Under the long, wide hood of the Deville rests Cadillac's magnificent 270-horsepower, 32-valve double overhead cam Northstar V-8. Thanks in part to its platinum-tipped spark plugs, the Northstar engine won't need any maintenance other than regular fluid and filter changes for 100,000 miles. Power, sent to the front wheels through a computer-controlled four-speed automatic, is smooth, plentiful and abundant. Cadillac says the Concours can accelerate from 0-to-60 mph in a respectable 8.2 seconds. Traction control, which prevents the front wheels from spinning on slick surfaces, is standard. Even with four passengers aboard, the Deville Concours has no trouble muscling past slower traffic. The transmission shifts through the gears without giving much notice to the driver. However, when accelerating at fullspeed, one can feel a very slight tugging to the left or right as the front tires attempt to bite the road. Using the air conditioner, I averaged 17.2 mpg in city driving and 27 on the highway. HANDLING The Concours is no sports sedan, but it handles gracefully through a curve and offers a very quiet ride. Cadillac engineers have done a nice job keeping engine and road noise out of the interior of the car. The car's underpinnings include a four-wheel independent suspension system, speed-sensitive power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. You won't expend much effort to drive the Concours. It seems to be engineered with older drivers in mind. For instance, the steering is fairly light, but it's tight and responsive. There is little or no play in the wheel. Unlike older, full-size Cadillacs, the Concours' body won't lean much as you hustle around a corner. The ride is soft and most bumps are easily di spensed with without affecting the driver's ability to control the car. That is, not much turbulence finds its way back to the helm. Overall, the car is stable, predictable and easy to live with. FIT AND FINISH Initially, I found the interior a bit awkward. When you first open the door and sit down, you feel as if you are sitting too low to the ground. The flat bench seats seem low in relation to the floor. Yet, once ensconced in the seats, you notice that front, rear and side visibility are excellent and that you are surrounded by a nicely designed and arranged interior. Most of the controls that adjust the seat are on the door panel, so, unlike other GM vehicles, you don't have to reach down to the lower portion of the seat and fumble with switches and buttons. The speedometer consists of an easy-on-the-eyes digital readout that shows you how fast you are going in big blue electronic numbers. Our test car came with a terrific Delco stere system that included a CD player. Two rear-seat passengers were impressed with the lighted fold-d own mirrors in the headliner, just behind the front seat. Makeup can be checked and freshened without undue stress and strain, they said. As with any full-size Cadillac, the Concours offers abundant room. Four of us traveled to a Sunday brunch in Mount Dora in comfort. The Concours easily could have accommodated another person. There are two things that I didn't care for. One is the fuel gauge. Actually, there isn't a fuel gauge, just a computerized readout that shows you how many gallons of fuel you have left. I prefer the old-style gauge which tells when the tank is empty. The second item is the trunk lid, which seemed flimsy. Also, when you press the remote control button on the key ring, the trunk pops open with enough force to knock out your dentures. In any case, our test car sported one of the nicest paint jobs I've seen lately, a deep metallic green that was rich and full of luster. It really gave the test car a classy look. Truett's tip: The 270-horsepower Deville Concours from Cadillac is a luxury sedan that is big, fast and comfortable.
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