1998 Cadillac Seville

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1998 Cadillac Seville
Available in 2 styles:  Seville 4dr Sedan SLS shown
Asking Price Range
$269–$7,665
Estimated MPG

17 city / 26 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 10

By 

Los Angeles Times

Place the 1998 Cadillac Seville STS in a luxury lineup with its European and Asian peers, and the American sedan will blend and snuggle quite nicely.

Such similarity bordering on anonymity is very, very good news for Cadillac and its buyers.

It means . . . that after years of discussing what it wanted to do to the overseas competition, Cadillac finally has shaped a car that might actually do something to the overseas competition, even carrying the campaign to their turf.

Place the 1998 Cadillac Seville STS in a performance face-off against Bimmers and Benzes, Infiniti and Lexi, even Jaguars, and the once-clumsy Cad will take off, run with and generally scorch the shorts off the world's most elite four-doors.

It means . . . that after decades of wrestling to refine a better balance, Cadillac's mighty 300-horsepower Northstar V-8, when mated to a shorter platform and superior suspension geometry, offers a technological parity that will have the imported ones sitting up and taking notes.

It also means . . . that Cadillac's huge shapes, gaudy hangings--and enough chrome to cover the North Forty--are history. The Yank Tank so beloved by chorus queens and mattress kings has waddled away. Interior ostentation and grilles that were bucktoothed whales have been muted.

Yet the best of the Cadillac image and heritage survives, as does the perception of these automobiles as undisputed lumps of Americana.

Overseas, there has been a surge in appreciation of significant portions of our culture. Indy and stock car racing to Australia. The NFL to Britain. Long-necked Buds to Paris. Levi's and Tony Lama boots to new and unpronounceable places in Eastern Europe. Harley-Davidsons to wherever motorcycles are ridden. And Bo Diddley ruling everyplace else.

Therefore, it makes great sense for Cadillac to look beyond our borders, mine its traditions, and start marketing a Caddie that still zags to whereverUncle Sam's stuff is selling well. Especially Europe, where Cadillac has been an American icon since the '40s and the American occupation of London, when my sister was dating an 8th Air Force navigator from Buffalo.

(To detour a little, back home, Buddy drove a 1939 Ford, a five-window coupe, which I considered dowry enough. Alas, he returned Stateside without Sis. She lives in Cheltenham and drives a Renault.)

But back to Cadillac and this smaller, more tightly wrapped 1998 Seville, which unpacked its bags not at Detroit or Los Angeles auto shows, but in Frankfurt and Tokyo. When the car goes on sale next month, the United States launch will be concurrent with its debut in Japan. Popcorn giveaways here, free rice cakes over there.

Sevilles are being built with steering wheels on the wrong side for England, South Africa and the Far East. Electronic readouts of the car's engineering systems can be ordered in French, German, Japanese and Spanish, as well a s English. By 2003, says Cadillac, more than 20% of Seville production should be heading overseas, compared to 5% as of yesterday.

*

But precisely how does the Seville compare to European aristocracy--the Mercedes-Benz E420, the BMW 540i, Jaguar XJ--and the Asian upstarts--the Lexus LS400 and Infiniti Q45--with their 150-mph top ends and interior designs that are clubby and pubby, very rich and inherently elegant?

It is an incredibly close resemblance.

For openers, the STS indeed has a 155-mph top end.

Just like Mercedes, the Seville is a rigid roll cage on wheels with cross cabin castings for a structure designed not simply to get by in the United States, but to meet global safety standards.

Just like BMW and Jaguar, it is quiet, remarkably composed, and aces our personal 60-90 test. That's where the car motors so placidly at 90 mph that it feels like 60 mph. Do not quote this reference, nor rely on the equation when next stopped by the serious men and women who never really look comfortable in trooper khakis.

The Seville's elegant interior could have been lifted from Lexus. Real wood is polished to the luscious limits of a Rolls-Royce. The leather upholstery suggests that Coach is using Cadillac's leftovers these days. There's also a soft, contemporary Asian sweep to a dashboard that shades backlighted instruments and is blessedly devoid of digital readouts.

The basic sound system is good, but the optional eight-speaker Bose 425-watt stereo will set earlobes quivering with depth and definition typically associated with custom-component systems in the nation's better bachelor pads.

And all this for a base of $46,995, which is several thousand dollars less than the programmed rivals.

On the grayer side of positivism, Cadillac being Cadillac just has to continue its custom of silliness among the satin. This time it's air bladders in the front bucket seats, 10 per chair, constantly adjusting to occupants' shapes and movements. We felt nothing new, except a strong desire torelegate this $1,000 option to the next Sharper Image catalog.

In handling, the Seville has leaped from darkest Detroit in 1976 to levels that are norms for Osaka and Stuttgart. OK, its feel and flatness still have a hint of hesitation that one will not find when slinging a BMW around interesting terrain. Which is exactly what European enthusiasts do with their cars.

But by widening the track, extending the wheelbase a smidge and relying heavily on automatic, continuous, electronically adjusting shocks, Cadillac certainly has built the slickest handler in its history. Contributing toall this poise is something called StabiliTrak: It plays traction controls against anti-lock brakes and speed-sensitive steering, until even bad handling in icky weather will not get the back end to yaw.

*

The car still feels like a large automobile, just like a real Cadillac, and is indeed roomy enough for five well-fed occupants. But thanks to a shorter platform--the same rigid and proven GM chassis attached to the Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Aurora--the Seville handles like a mid-size.

The automatic transmission--although we question the wisdom of staying with a four-speedwhen others in the class are offering five-speeds--is a smoothie with wizardry. It's called PSA, which stands for Performance Shift Algorithm, which is something out of Euclid. Or another startling example of computer reasoning.

Of primary benefit to highly skilled drivers when honking along, the system bases decisions on a driver's immediate braking, acceleration and steering demands--then programs the transmission to behave as if that same driver were operating a manual gearbox.

The veteran Northstar V-8, introduced a decade ago as a bit of a thug, has evolved into a velvet grizzly. Pushed hard, it rages at the low end and roars in mid-range. Keep the pedal down and there's power well beyond the capabilities of sensible drivers and even the ambitions of the marginally insane.

And the sound from two wide and rectangular rear pipes is a wonderful snore of high performance on the loose.

Two Sevilles will be offered, the slightly less expensive SLS, with a base of $42,995 and a 275-horsepower Northstar, and the STS, with the lustier 300-horsepower engine.

Cadillac says its car will meet the needs and wants of customers in more than 40 countries.

There's even a very good chance it also will satisfy their passions. Or, to adapt a World War II phrase: It's over-engineered, underpriced and over there.

1998 Cadillac Seville STS

The Good: Reshaped, re-engineered, ticket purchased and bags packed, this all-American--the best Cadillac ever--is shipping out to take on the rest of the world. Shorter, stiffer Seville has power to rival Jaguar, handling to compete with BMW, quali ty to match the best of Lexus. Glitter and gaudiness has been exorcised, and its high-performance luxury is priced well below the competition.

The Bad: Handling could still be tightened a notch, and there's some expensive silliness in its systems.

The Ugly: Nothing we noticed.

Cost Base, estimated: $46,995 (includes standard dual front and side impact air bags, air-conditioning, Bose sound system, cruise control, security system, yaw and traction controls, anti-lock brakes, power seats, leather seats, wood trim, tilt steering, automatic transmission, central locking). Price as tested, estimated: $50,000 (adds chrome wheels, high-performance tires, sun roof, CD sound system, destination charges and luxury tax).

Engine 4.6-liter, 32-valve, V-8 developing 300 horsepower.

Type Front-engine, front-drive, five-passenger luxury sedan.

Performance 0-60 mph, as tested, 7.5 seconds with four-speed automatic. Top speed, manufacturer's figure, 155 mph. Fuel consumption, EPA city and highway, 17 and 26 mpg.

Curb Weight 4,000 pounds.


    Expert Reviews 2 of 10

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