Cadillac takes another step into rear-wheel-drive territory with its new STS sedan, which replaces the front-wheel-drive Seville. Built on a Sigma-based architecture, like the automaker's smaller CTS sedan and SRX sport utility vehicle, the STS is the first rear-drive version of the luxury performance sedan in more than 25 years. All-wheel drive is also available, which is another Cadillac first. Cadillac initially used the Seville name in 1956, and the STS is the sixth generation of that vehicle.
Introducing the STS at the 2004 New York International Auto Show, Gary Cowger, president of General Motors North America, said the sedan will deliver "serious performance credentials." One of two engines can be installed: a 3.6-liter V-6 or a Northstar 4.6-liter V-8. STS models fitted with V-8 power can have either rear- or all-wheel drive. When equipped with the V-8 and rear-wheel drive, Cadillac says the STS can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 6 seconds or less.
Technology, both standard and optional, is a big part of the STS picture. A Performance Algorithm Liftfoot system controls transmission operation in a way better suited to spirited driving. Two-mode Magnetic Ride Control, with performance and touring modes, is optional. With Keyless Access, keys become unnecessary to enter and start the vehicle as long as a special key fob is carried. Smart Remote Start operates from up to 200 feet away.
Optional Adaptive Cruise Control uses radar to maintain a set distance from vehicles ahead. Intellibeam automatically selects either the high- or low-beam headlights in response to oncoming lights. The driver also gets a four-color head-up display. A ZF performance steering gear is optional.
Considered Cadillac's global luxury performance sedan, the automaker describes the STS as a "distinctly American package." Scheduled to go on sale in the fourth quarter of 2004, it's the largest sedan in the Sigma family.
Designed with a chiseled look, the four-door STS features what Cadillac says is a "faster profile" with "more rake" than the CTS. All told, it's considered "more sophisticated, a little smoother, a little cleaner, a little more grown up" than the CTS, according to lead designer Kip Wasenko.
Cadillac styling touches include a wide "airfoil" grille with dual horizontal slats, a "dihedral-shaped" hood and vertically stacked headlights that consist of twin projector units. Bodysides are devoid of decoration. LED taillamps bring up the rear and have indirect optics to provide a more even lighting pattern than traditional LEDs.
Built on a 116.4-inch wheelbase, the STS is 196 inches long overall, 72.6 inches wide and 57.6 inches tall. Body-panel gaps promise close tolerances, and the deck lid is made of aluminum. The STS comes with either 17- or 18-inch wheels.
Like the previous Seville, five occupants fit inside the STS, which has soft all-leather seats. Heated and ventilated seating is an option. The headliner and pillars are covered in woven fabric. Genuine eucalyptus wood and aluminum trim are used in the interior.
Eight-way power front seats include four-way power lumbar adjustment, and a memory feature is optional. A leather-wrapped heated steering wheel is also offered. Trunk space totals 13.8 cubic feet.
Options include a Bose Studio Surround Sound system with 15 speakers and 300-watt output. An optional in-dash DVD/CD changer can play DVD audio discs as well as MP3 programs. A DVD-based navigation system is available. GM's OnStar communication system includes automatic crash notification.
Under the Hood
Available only with rear-wheel drive, the 3.6-liter V-6 engine produces 255 horsepower and 252 pounds-feet of torque. Cadillac's 4.6-liter Northstar V-8 generates 320 hp and 315 pounds-feet of torque and can work with either rear- or all-wheel-drive. All-wheel-drive models have a rear bias torque split. Both engines have variable valve timing and drive a five-speed-automatic transmission with Driver Shift Control for manually selected gear changes. Three final-drive ratios are available for V-8-powered models.
Six airbags, including seat-mounted side-impact airbags for the front passengers and side curtain-type airbags that protect outboard front and rear occupants, are standard. All-disc antilock brakes include Panic Brake Assist, which can increase the braking force in an emergency situation. All seat belts have pretensioners. GM's StabiliTrak electronic stability system is standard.
Cadillac's Seville has been known for years as a potent and appealing road car. The new STS builds solidly upon that reputation, adding a stylish exterior and ample technology.
Smooth-riding and well-controlled on good pavement, the STS isn't especially troublesome on rougher patches, either. Steering with a light feel, the sedan comports itself neatly on wet pavement and yields confident sensations.
Unfortunately, the ride was worse in an STS with Cadillac's Magnetic Ride Control system. When rolling through broken or lumpy pavement, that AWD-equipped sedan version felt less confident than a standard model. All-wheel drive enhances driver confidence on slippery surfaces but isn't particularly evident otherwise.
Because the V-6 engine delivers plenty of zest, there's not much need to move up to the more powerful and costly V-8. Automatic-transmission shifts may be heard, but they're typically not felt and barely noticed.