2003 Cadillac DeVille

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2003 Cadillac DeVille
Available in 3 styles:  2003 Cadillac DeVille 4dr Sedan shown
Asking Price Range
$1,568–$9,284
Estimated MPG

18 city / 27 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 3

By 

Cincinnati.com

For a modest extra charge, you can get one with a live-in chauffeur; so don't expect the Cadillac DeVille to be a great deal of fun to drive. In fact, the rear compartment is probably the best place to be.

What the DeVille is about is luxurious transportation for four adults, luxurious being defined as a high-quality environment and considerable riding comfort. Judged by that measure, it stacks up quite well. And considering how prices of equivalent Japanese and European full-size luxury sedans have gone through the roof, the Caddy starts to look like a bargain, even though it's the price of a pair of nice midsize sedans.

There are three series of DeVille. The base DeVille is $44,345, freight included; the higher-trim DHS, $48,995, and the DTS, also $48,995.

The DTS is the touring sedan version, for those who desire something just a quantum more sporty than the stock DeVille. That's what we're riding in this week. Slide in through the wide portal; ease down on the soft leather, and relax.

Mechanically, the DTS only differs in small ways from the more fogey-ish series. It has electronically-adjustable shocks, bigger wheels, a more aggressive final drive ratio and a more powerful engine, sort of.

Actually, GM is doing a little smoke-and-mirrors stuff with the engine specs. In either case it's the justly-renowned 4.6-liter Northstar V-8, double-overhead-cam, 32 valves, aluminum head and block.

In standard tune, it delivers 275 hp at 5,600 rpm and 300 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000. In the DTS, it's rated at 300 hp - this time at 6,000 rpm - and 295 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400.

In essence what they've done is bump the horsepower to a nice round number for the marketing gals, giving away some torque in the process. All things being equal, this should result in inferior acceleration and responsiveness in the 0-70 realm to which we're legally confined. That's where the different final drive ratio comes in. By raising it from 3.11:1 to 3.71:1 - a hefty jump as these things go, and effected without any change in intermediate gear ratios - they've made sure the engine will turn faster at every road speed, compared with its sibs. It thus will perform at least as their equal (and will burn more gasoline, too, in real life, though the EPA ratings are the same).

Whichever engine you choose, you'll be pleased to the extent of 20 cents a gallon to find the Northstar thrives on 87-octane fuel, a good trick for such a high-tech powerplant. EPA mileage ratings are 18 mpg city, 27 highway. I logged 22.7, with a mix for fast freeway driving and lots of country cruising.

At a curb weight of just over two tons, the DTS is relatively svelte, considering the weight of luxury-oriented midsize sedans. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class, with which Cadillac somewhat implausibly compares the DTS, weighs a bit more and has fewer horses in its base trim. The other point of comparison, the Lexus LS430, weighs a little less than DTS, has almost as much horsepower and more torque. From the outside, the DTS has that familiar Caddy look, although it has been buffed and smoothed for the new millennium. Restrained or bland, depending on your point of view, it offers nothing to love or hate.

The inside, however, is a place you might not be just willing, but rather prone to spend extended stretches. The leather and wood trim are elegant and not overdone. Amenities include 10-way power seats for both driver and co-pilot that incorporate not only heaters (separate for seat and backrest), but also adjustable lumbar support with massaging action. The driver in particular will appreciate this coddling, because the seats per se are not supportive enough for the long haul.

Two intrepid test subjects tried the rear compartment and didn't want to leave. There's enough room for the lanky to luxuriate and leave the driving to Jeeves.

With independent suspension front and rear, as well as road-sensing shock and hefty coil springs, the DTS strikes a nice balance between handling and comfort, certainly biased to the comfort end of the spectrum. Which is not to say the handling isn't pretty good for a car of this type. It gives away a modicum of on-the-edge response by being front-wheel drive, unlike the named competitors. But the presumed upscale, mature folks heading for the lodge or country club will likely appreciate the interior room (115 cubic feet) and big trunk (19 c.f.) more than a theoretical ability to pull Gs.

In the spirit of scientific enquiry, I tossed the big boy around rather more vigorously than any passengers would tolerate and it behaved itself quite well. Some credit must go to the all-speed traction control and GM's StabiliTrak system. The latter reins in the G-happy by applying braking force to the appropriate wheel when what the driver asks is more than the car has to give, considering the instantaneous coefficient of friction. I found it quite subtle, and, imagining myself a chauffeur for some swell the target of a kidnap attempt, was surprised at how well the DTS went along with the game.

The test car was fitted with a $2,250 night vision system. This is basically an infrared sensor, similar to those the military and police use, for discerning heat sources (including errant animals and people) at night. The sensor in the center of grille picks up heat signals and relays them to a projector which displays a black-and-white "head-up" window in front of the driver, just above the base of the windshield.

It's cute and fun to fiddle with for a while, but in my opinion, nearly worthless. The picture is low-resolution and, in the one tested, of low sensitivity, too. What's the value of looking at an electronic display of oncoming headlamps? I'd rather have xenon headlamps. Which unfortunately are not offered - definitely a demerit in this class.

The far more useful "premium luxury package" gets you things like rear side air bags, and automatically-dimming outside rearview mirror and power tilt and telescope steering wheel. The piece de resistance is the sonar rear parking assist, which starts beeping a few feet from a relatively solid object and increases in frequency as you near the danger. Diodes mounted inside and above the rear window augment the audible warning. On a car that stretches 207 inches, that's very useful.

Other nifty features include real-time monitoring of each tire's pressure, an XM satellite receiver and large, diode-driven turn signals in the outside rearview mirrors. The stop lights also use diodes instead of conventional incandescent bulbs, because they respond more quickly and are unlikely to ever burn out.

I had fun watching the tire pressures climb by a couple of pounds as the tires heated on a extended freeway run. More importantly an alarm is triggered if pressures are too low.

GM has embr aced the XM satellite radio service - there's only one competitor, Sirius. Both require a special antenna, a digital receiver and a subscription. The sound quality - through the standard Bose 8-speaker stereo - is excellent and the programming quite diverse, from Latin music through hip-hop, Discovery Channel to CNN. The big sell is that all 100 channels are received from coast to coast. I must say, the comedy channel (R-rated, by the way) made traffic jams infinitely more endurable.

The DTS and its stablemates have disc brakes front and rear. Stopping distances were quite good, considering the mass, and the stoppers were easily modulated with good pedal feedback. In the government's crash tests, the front-impact results are listed as "under review", which probably means GM's lawyers raised a stink. The side-impact tests got the DeVille a four-star rating (out of five) for protection of front and rear occupants.

The insurance industry bashers have not had their way with eVille. With its mass and front and side air bags, it certainly should offer a decent level of protection, but I'd like to see side-curtain air bags, too, in this price range.

In addition to the luxury and night vision add-ons I mentioned, the test car also was graced with a power moonroof ($1,550), 17-inch chrome wheels ($795), 6-disc CD changer ($595), integrated cell phone kit ($325) and the XM rig ($325). Total suggested price, with freight: $56,745. Sure is easy to tack on eight grand, isn't it? Good news: Edmunds.com surveys show most buyers are wangling about $3,000 off.


    Expert Reviews 2 of 3

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