I SAID I liked the car. She smirked."You're not that old," she said. "We're not that old." She folded her arms and sat stone-faced in the front passenger seat. Spouse Person was upset. It had something to do with her approaching birthday, an event that would put her smack dab in the middle of middle age. She was uncomfortable about this, and more than chary about anything that would signal her proximity to age 50, and this coming birthday puts her close to that turning point. I'm sure that's really why she didn't like the 1995 Cadillac Sedan DeVille. "Even the name sounds like an old folks' home," she said. "I hate this big ol' car." But it was this week's testmobile. So we drove it, and she complained: about the seats, "too low, too wide. Does Cadillac think that all old people have fat butts?"; the power seat buttons, "too many and poorly arranged"; the power window buttons, "too many"; and the side-view mirrors, "too narrow." Background: Spouse Person had a point. The huge, front-wheel-drive Sedan DeVille is designed specifically for people "over 50," according to Cadillac's marketers. To wit: "DeVille is for accomplished and confident people with active and diverse lifestyles, over 50, who want a prestigious large luxury vehicle which offers distinctive styling and superior power, comfort, convenience, and value," according to Caddy promotional material. But the reality is that the average age for a DeVille buyer is 67 -- still active, perhaps, but at least two years past retirement. Those buyers have an average household income of $75,000, according to a Caddy marketing survey. Some 44 percent of DeVille buyers are college graduates, 69 percent are male, and 83 percent are married. When DeVille buyers leave Cadillac, they go to one of three places: Heaven, Hell or to a Ford Motor Co. dealership, where they buy a Lincoln Town Car. Thus, Cadillac does what it can to make these customers as comfortable as possible in a bid to hold on to them as long as possible. That's why all four of the sedan's doors are wide. That makes it easier for less-nimble people to slide in and out of the car. That's why the seats are not too high -- older people often don't want to climb up into a car. And comfort is why the front passenger seats are sooo wide. The Sedan DeVille is a puffmobile. It has a 4.9-liter V-8 engine, which is not to be confused with Cadillac's Northstar 32-valve V-8. The Sedan DeVille's V-8 is a relatively conventional affair rated 200 horsepower at 4,100 rpm with torque set at 275 pound-feet at 3,000 rpm. The DeVille engine is quiet and reasonably capable of moving the car, which weighs 3,761 pounds. Of course, dual-front air bags are standard along with anti-lock brakes, traction control, wiper-activated headlamps (wipers on, lights on), and all of the appropriate side-impact barrier protection equipment, which reportedly allows the car t o be struck laterally at 15 mph without serious injury to vehicle occupants. The Sedan DeVille seats six full-size adults comfortably, and it has enough trunk space, 20 cubic feet, to carry their stuff. Complaints: The seats are a bit too low and wide for younger backsides. There are too many buttons in disparate places to operate the power seats and windows. The side-view mirrors are too narrow. Praise: An excellent full-size sedan -- a cruiser, easy to drive. Once you get accustomed to the DeVille's seats, it's quite comfortable to drive too. Heck, I like the thing, flaws and all. Head-turning quotient: Dignified. Respectable. Responsible. Stiff. Ride, acceleration and handling: Superior ride. The Sedan DeVille literally floats. Very decent handling, considering the size, weight and less-than-sporting intentions of the car. So-so acceleration, zero to 60 in 9.4 seconds. Very good braking. Mileage: About 23 miles per gallon (20-gallon tank, estimated 440-mile range on usable volume of required premium unleaded), running mostly highway with two occupants and light cargo. Sound system: Ten-speaker AM/FM stereo radio and compact disc, GM Active Audio System. Very good. Price: Base price is $34,900. Dealer invoice price is $36,051. Price as tested is $38,337 including $1,965 in options, $837 in federal luxury taxes and a $635 destination charge. Purse-strings note: The Cadillac Sedan DeVille is truly one of a kind. You either hate it or you love it. The closest competitor is the Lincoln Town Car, which has a more European flavor.
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