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Expert Reviews 2 of 2
By Al Haas
October 2, 1998
In happier times, Cadillac was a synonym for automotive excellence. Part of its top-shelf reputation derived from its constant technological innovation. The redesigned Seville marks Cadillac's first strenuous effort to regain its ancient
stature -- and to become a truly global automaker in the process. And if this splendid new sedan is any indication, Cadillac will try to return to grace the old-fashioned way: through innovation. Indeed, the Seville Touring Sedan (STS)
that I tested was rife with technological wrinkles that Cadillac either pioneered or was among the first to use. The car's Northstar V-8 was equipped with Cadillac's "limp-home" feature, which allows you to drive 60 miles without coolant and not
damage the engine. Needless to say, the brilliant software that permits it has been emulated by a half-dozen automakers. The test car also was fitted with StabiliTrak, an electronic system that counteracts sideways slides by automatically
actuating the brake on a single wheel. (Cadillac actually came to market shortly after Mercedes-Benz with antislide technology, but its system is markedly different.) The STS tester's techie bits also included clever new Cadillac software called
Performance Algorithm Shifting (PAS). What PAS does, essentially, is sense when you are driving aggressively, and program the automatic transmission to act like a manual gearbox in the hands of a skilled road racer. For example, when braking for a
corner during spirited driving, PAS will shift down to the correct gear for the cornering speed it is sensing, and then stay in that gear as you power out of the corner. I tried this on a road racing course, and found it delightful to get back on
the gas and not experience one of those jolting downshifts. PAS is standard stuff on the performance-minded STS, but is not offered on the softer-sprung, more comfort-oriented Seville Luxury Sedan (SLS). Both Seville models have a
road-texture detection feature that makes the antilock brakes more effective by gauging road roughness and adjusting brake operation to it. Another Caddy development, exclusive to the Seville, is something called "adaptive seating." Employing a
technology first used in burn treatment, adaptive seating custom fits the seat to the occupant by sensing the person's position, and then deflating and inflating air cells. In addition to adaptive seating ($1,200), the STS is available with a
new-for-1999 lumbar massaging seat ($200). This is quite a scientific breakthrough, according to documents from the Cadillac Office of Spinmeistering: "The unique roller design and placement gently massages back muscles to improve blood flow to
the supporting muscles and nutrient movement within the discs. Increased circulation relaxes muscle tension, resulting in improved driver comfort and reduced fatigue." I was rendered despondent when I learned the test vehicle wasn't eq
uipped with a lumbar masseuse. My lower back cried out in the wilderness for a lumbar rub, and did Cadillac care? N-o-o-o. Fortunately, my wife agreed to accompany me on test drives in case the need for a lumbar rub arose. Of course, I had to sign
a contract obliging me to put all my dirty socks in the hamper for a month. The STS is a handsome sedan that combines the previous-generation Seville's distinctive styling with the European road car conservatism that Cadillac thinks this
automobile's clientele prefers. The interior of the test car was gorgeous, a consortium of soft beige leather and zebrano veneer that took your breath away. Thanks to the car's rigid structure and lavish use of sound-deadening materials,
the STS cabin was among the quietest I've ever been in. The car's techie, 300-horsepower V-8 is quiet business, too, although it has a wonderfully aggressive note when you kick it in the rear main bearing. Like its body, the STS's su
ension is intended to please European partisans. It is firm enough to provide composed handling, yet supple enough to give a nice ride.