Versus the competiton:
The Cadillac Seville makes my heart ache.
Without question, the elegantly styled Seville is the sexiest-looking Cadillac ever made. To these eyes, the sleek Seville doesn’t have a bad angle or awkward line.
The Seville has the looks and character so badly lacking in large Japanese luxury sedans, and it has the muscle and style usually found in European luxury cars.
But a 1,000-mile test drive left me feeling that owning this car would be something of a love-hate relationship.
I would love the Seville for its head-turning looks, refined performance and exceptional fuel mileage.
But I would hate the car for the things it does not have, namely, a sunroof – a standard fixture on cars this expensive – memory seats, a better air conditioning system and better assembly.
And frankly, despite its many strong points, the Seville’s price is a major sore point with me. The current generation of the Seville started out three years ago at just under $35,000. Except for the addition of the wonderful Northstar V-8 engine and a sophisticated new automatic transmission, the car is basically the same. I don’t see $7,000 worth of improvements.
This year the Seville comes in two distinct models: the sporty Seville Touring Sedan (STS) and the softer-riding and quieter Seville Luxury Sedan (SLS), which I tested.
Cadillac has a world-class engine in its powerful, dependable 4.6-liter Northstar V-8. This 32-valve, four-cam V-8 delivers 275 horsepower and is capable of propelling the Seville to 60 mph in just 7.5 seconds. That’s an impressive show of force.
Horsepower and exhaust system noise are two major differences between the Seville SLS and the STS. The STS has more of both. It comes with 25 more horsepower and a rumbling dual exhaust system. The 275-horsepower SLS is quieter, perhaps geared to older buyers.
Cadillac has designed the Northstar so that it requires little maintenance. Other than changing fluid and filters, no tuneups or adjustments are required until the car reaches 100,000 miles.
Cadillac engineers have tuned the Seville well. It is very responsive from a stop; just a light touch of the accelerator is all it takes to get moving quickly. Once in motion, GM’s exceptionally refined four-speed automatic makes a nearly seamless transition from one gear to the next.
Thanks to computers that link the engine to the transmission, shifts – up or down – are barely discernible in most instances.
I took the car on a long trip – a 750-mile excursion to Pensacola and back. With the cruise control on and the air conditioner running, the Seville used a gallon of premium unleaded every 26.9 miles. That is nothing less than astounding for a large V-8-powered, four-door luxury sedan carrying three passengers.
In the city, the Seville returned nearly 19 mpg.
The Seville, Cadillac says, can go 500 miles on the highway between fill-ups. I know of no sim ilar gasoline-powered foreign or domestic car that uses fuel more efficiently.
The Seville’s four-wheel independent suspension system is equipped with a maze of sensors connected to a computer. Cadillac says the Seville’s brake, traction control, steering and suspension systems monitor and react to different driving conditions.
I have to wonder what this sophisticated hardware really adds to the Seville’s handling characteristics. I have tested other luxury cars that didn’t have electronically controlled suspension systems, and I can tell you that the differences between them and the Seville are small at best.
The Seville SLS, a very refined touring sedan, has a semi-soft ride, powerful brakes and crisp steering. The STS on the other hand, offers a stiffer suspension and a more aggressive ride.
On a long trip, the SLS devours the miles. Generally, the car is quiet over the road. (There was, however, a trace of wind noise from the area near the mirrors.) But on concrete roads the tires slap the seams between the slabs o f concrete, and the noise finds its way into the cabin.
Overall, though, the SLS is an easy luxury sedan to drive because the visibility is excellent and you feel comfortable and in control almost immediately.
The power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering has a wonderfully smooth and consistent feel, and it reacts sharply to slight movements.
Seville SLS is outfitted with a set of strong four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes.
FIT AND FINISH
During the past three years, Cadillac has made great strides in improving the way it builds the Seville.
The first of the new Sevilles had a slew of problems – components didn’t work well or trim parts didn’t fit together properly.
Today’s models may look the same, but the increased attention to detail is clearly evident.
I remember the first time I drove a new Seville. I could see a portion of the temperature sensor for the air conditioner sticking out from a slight indentation under the dash just to the right of the instrument panel. It looked as if there was a hole in the dash.
That temperature sensor is still in the same place, but unless you specifically look for it, you won’t notice it. The top of the dash appears to fit tighter.
A minor point, yes. But if Cadillac is asking more than $46,000 for a car, the vehicle should meet the high quality standards set by Lexus and a few other automakers.
With one minor exception, our gorgeous blue test car was assembled well. The weather stripping near the windshield didn’t look as if it was installed properly. It did not seal tightly against the body, and it looked as if water could easily get between the seal and body. Although I drove through a heavy downpour, I saw no leaks.
That said, our test car came with a supple and attractive set of tan leather bucket seats and a handsome floor-mounted shifter. A full length console – complete with a rear-passenger-controlled fan – added a touch of class to the European-inspired interior.
The instrument panel, however, was unimpressive. The plain-looking analog speedometer and tachometer are fairly small, and they are flanked by controls for the air conditioner on the right and the computer system on the left.
To work the controls for the air conditioner or to access information from the car’s computer, you have to reach to either side of the steering wheel – not a very user-friendly setup.
Unlike other similarly priced luxury cars, you can’t fine-tune the Seville’s air-conditioning system. That is, if you want air directed only at face level or only at your feet, you are out of luck.
Also, the only way you can shut off outside air (setting the system to recirculate inside air) is to lower the computerized air-conditioning system to its coldest setting. There is no recirculate button, as found on many other cars. That means that if you a re driving down the road and a smoke-belching diesel truck is spewing fumes in front of the Seville, you can’t just press a button to quickly switch to recirculated air.
However, on hot days the air conditioner’s ample cooling power makes the interior comfortable very quickly.
As you would expect on any Cadillac, room in the interior and trunk is abundant.
Our test car came with a superb AM/FM cassette/CD player. The powerful audio system proved easy to use.
Although our test car had built-in holders in the overhead console for a garage door opener and sunglasses, the interior proved a difficult place in which to store small things.
Unless you open up the somewhat bulky center console – which is designed to hold CDs – there really is no convenient place to store such items as a set of keys or a wallet. All the Seville really needs here is pockets in the front-door panels.
Here’s my recipe for the perfect Seville: Keep the exterior styling exactly asit is, get rid of the costly computerized suspension system, outfit the car with a more expressive and functional interior (one that includes better controls for the air conditioner and nicer-looking gauges) and price it at $40,000.
The way I see it, that price would make the Seville a more reasonable alternative to such vehicles as the mechanically similar Oldsmobile Aurora ($33,000), the new Lincoln Continental ($41,000) and imports such as the BMW 540i ($45,000).
Truett’s tip: Cadillac’s Seville SLS is a superbly engineered luxury sedan that offers excellent performance, a soothing yet sporty ride, terrific fuel economy and gorgeous styling – all at a rather hefty price.