Sometimes only a modest change will make a major difference.

The 1994 Cadillac Seville is an example of how you need only fiddle but not fool with a car to make it more appealing to the consumer.

For 1993, Cadillac offered the Seville in two versions, luxury sedan and top-of-the-line STS luxury performance sedan. For 1994, Cadillac offers two Sevilles again, the luxury SLS sedan and the STS luxury performance model.

What makes the ’94 SLS different from the ’93 Seville minus any fancy letters after the moniker is the substitution of Cadillac’s 4.6-liter, 32-valve, Northstar V-8 engine under the hood for the 4.9-liter V-8 that had rested there. And some will say “rested” is an appropriate term when talking about an engine that wasn’t a member of the Northstar family.

The 4.9 generated 200 horsepower. The 4.6-liter develops 270 horsepower in the SLS (295 horsepower in the STS) and it does so quickly and smoothly, yet still obtains the same mileage rating as the old 4.9-16 m.p.g. city/25 highway.

The Northstar has other attributes, such as being able to run without coolant for up to roughly 50 miles, until you can steer into a shop for service. While any car owner who would deliberately run a car 10 feet without coolant should have his or her head examined, it’s nice to know that if the unthinkable should occur, a seized engine isn’t the price you’ll have to pay.

The 4.6 has another admirable feature: starter interlock. The starter automatically renders itself inoperative if you should pull the ultimate blunder-turn the ignition key on with the engine running. With other cars such an act of stupidity is greeted with a screech and squeal. People turn their heads to get a look at the idiot who forgot his or her engine was running. With the Northstar starter shutoff, if you forget and turn the key-which is easy to do since the engine idles at about minus 10 decibels-the starter disengages. Noscreech, no squeal, no embarrassment.

There’s one other out-of-the-ordinary feature worth noting. The power door locks are disabled if the ignition key is left in the ignition when the engine is off. If you open the door and hit the power door lock button the system is inoperative, a warning that you left the keys in the ignition.

A V-8 that can run without coolant and not allow you to grind the starter down to the nub and a system that alerts you before you lock your keys in the car: Technological and engineering innovation is what Cadillac had been known and respected for before the corporation lost sight and thought designing cars that looked like Oldsmobiles was what the customer wanted.

A tip of the chapeau to Cadillac general manager John Grettenberger and crew.

The 4.6 propels the SLS off the line with more gusto than the 4.9-liter V-8 did a year ago. The 295 h.p. version of that 4.6 in the STS, however, is still noticeably quicker. The SLS rides on 16-inch Michelin tires rated at a top speed of 113 m.p.h. while the STS sits on Z-rated Goodyear 16-inch performance tires speed rated at 150 m.p.h.

The SLS has better road manners and less body sway or lean when the road starts to twist than the former Seville. The STS has even better road manners and sits perfectly flat even when the road doesn’t. Both cars have the same suspension system, but the SLS is tuned for a softer ride while the STS is calibrated for a firmer ride for those who expect a bit more performance out of their machines.

You’ll feel weight in the wheel of the SLS-and many Cadillac owners still insist a luxury car isn’t worth its sheet metal unless you have to strain as if navigating the Queen Mary with wooden oars-but with standard speed-sensitive power steering the car responds quickly and effortlessly to fingertip movement of the wheel when parking or pulling into the passing lane.

The SLS comes equipped wi h dual air bags, four-wheel antilock brakes and traction control that senses loose gravel or wet road surfaces when accelerating or cornering.

Base price of the SLS is $41,430, or roughly $9,000 less than a Lexus LS400. Base price for the STS is $45,330. Standard equipment, in addition to that noted above, falls into the you-name-it category.

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