When it first debuted, just after World War II, the Cadillac DeVille was glamorous, a car to aspire to. Fast forward to the new millennium, and DeVille seems more like a car you expire in.
With the rest of the Cadillac line having been re-engineered and restyled with a more youthful vigor, the largest car in the line-up was overdue for a similar treatment. But Cadillac had to tread carefully.
The DeVille is the favorite of its most loyal customers, even if they are a bit more, um, mature. That doesn't mean that the new DTS is the old fart Caddy.
For 2006, Cadillac took the basic DeVille platform and refined it. The result is the DTS feels more refined than the outgoing DeVille. Unlike other members of the Cadillac line, which are either rear- or all-wheel-drive, the DeVille soldiers on with front-wheel-drive.
A Northstar 4.6-liter V-8 engine is mated to a four-speed Hydramatic automatic transmission. There are two states of tune, 275 horsepower is standard, 291 horsepower optional. As with the DeVille, GM didn't stint on safety technology, with anti-lock brakes and traction control, four-channel StabiliTrak with Brake Assist, and Magnetic Ride Control included as standard equipment.
While 275 horses may not sound like much, there's plenty of power on tap. The car is smooth, quiet and responsive, being more spry than you might expect. The suspension is well-controlled, and GM's Magnetic Ride Control delivers a good balance between a comfortable ride and adept handling. Torque steer, where the vehicle wants to pull to one side, rarely rears its ugly head in hard launches, although there is still some body lean while cornering.
Still, the DTS's handling is much improved over the previous DeVille, even on the base car. The previous DeVille's tendency to wallow has been eliminated, replaced with a suspension with supple responses that quickly regains its composure.
While the surprisingly nimble handling might surprise you, the fact that this car is loaded with all the mod cons might not.
The options are bundled into three levels of options packages, Luxury I, Luxury II and Luxury III. The test vehicle had the Luxury II package, including heated and cooled front seats; heated rear seats; heated steering wheel; standard tri-zone climate control; factory-installed remote start and heated windshield washer fluid. Other options available include rain-sensing wipers; power folding outside rearview mirrors; front and rear ultrasonic park assist; automatic high-beam headlamps; in-dash six-CD changer and MP3 Bose audio system.
Safety gear is plentiful as well, with standard dual front air bags, roof-mounted curtain air bags, and front seat side-impact air bags, and OnStar. Radar-based cruise control, XM Satellite Radio, and DVD navigation system are on the options list as well. While the list doesn't differ from many luxury cars, the interior presentation does in one important respect: its simplicity.
Unlike the Lexus GS, buttons aren't hidden behind drop-down doors. Unlike German cars, an engineering degree isn't required to change the radio station. This is the ultimate luxury.
The DTS does this while coddling its occupants in sumptuous leather and acres of tasteful wood trim. The carefully assembled interior is revised this year, and the results are crisp, modern and much less cartoony than the outgoing models. Seating is available for five (with bucket seats and a center console) and six (with a bench seat.)
The interior changes mirror the outside ones, where new front and rear styling lend the car a crisp modern style, in keeping with the Cadillac line.
Cadillac is hoping all these changes will lower the average buyer age of this model from mid-60s to high 50s.
It might just happen. GM's prestige nameplate has artfully updated its largest sedan, and not a moment too soon. According to AARP, every 7.5 seconds, a Baby Boomer turns 50. Half of all people age 50- to 74-years-old is a Boomer.
If you fit that category, and you need some serious comfort, room, handling performance and heavy doses of hedonistic pleasure, the new DTS will pleasantly surprise you.
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THE DETAILS: CADILLAC DTS LUXURY II
Engine: 4.6-liter Northstar V-8
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 115.6 inches
Length: 207.6 inches
Width: 74.8 inches
Weight: 4,009 pounds
Cargo volume: 18.8 cubic ft.
Towing capacity: 1,000 pounds
Base price: $43,695
As tested: $47,080
EPA rating: 17 city, 25 highway
Test mileage: 21.3 mpg
Fuel type: Regular
Built in: Detroit
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