Cadillac's current advertising blitz promises 1994 cars that will cater to every whim and whine.

The bumper-to-bumper new DeVille Concours goes one better. As an example of total servitude, it's a bigger no-brainer than Beavis and Butt-head.

Automotive functions once handled by chauffeurs--even the monitoring of maintenance schedules--are now performed by Cadillac's on-board computers. With a noticeable difference. Computer responses are smoother, quicker and much less talkative than driving Miss Daisy.

How much protection left in the oil, gallons left in the tank, or miles left in a fuel load? Press a button on the DeVille's dashboard and a data bank answers. You want that in kilometers or miles, ma'am? Press another button.

At dusk, or when groping among the cobwebs and murk of an underground parking lot, the DeVille's head- and instrument lights automatically come on, switching off when daylight and full vision return.

Interior and headlights can be programmed to burn bright for three minutes of added security in a dark driveway. That's certainly long enough to get inside the house, kiss the dog, pat your mate, and watch the top of the news.

The risk of hostile takeover is considerably reduced by doors that lock tight when the gearshift snicks into D or R. Sure, other GM cars have this trickery, but only Cadillac offers the complete courtesy of doors that unlock when the shifter returns to P.

About the only effort expected of a DeVille driver these days is to start the engine, steer port or starboard and remember to avoid large and hard objects.

High gadgetry, of course, is as typical of Cadillac as is great size, overstuffed interiors for six and enough horsepower to budge a grounded tanker. Cadillac customers demand such conveniences. That is their American way, maybe even a constitutional right.

They also are of a mind, age and income where manual operations are considered needless drudgery and five-speeds the instruments of reckless grandchildren.

Should the callow choose to snicker at that, remember: Cadillac has been America's best-selling luxury car for 45 years. And last year's sales were higher than Mercedes, Lexus, Infiniti and Jaguar combined.

No wonder Cadillac continues to coddle seniors.


On the other hand, old Cadillac owners always die, and woe befall the company that ignores juniors following in their tire tracks.

Hence a Sport Coupe version of the Cadillac Eldorado and the Seville STS aimed squarely at the younger and cooler of heart. Both cars show softer European styling in the grand touring tradition. Both are equipped with Cadillac's powerful new Northstar engines--either 270- or 295-horsepower--good for acceleration on par with the snarly and low slung.

This month, DeVille joins these racier Cadillacs with the Concours. And it shows those sportier lines with the thunderous uppe rcut of a 270-horsepower engine beneath a finely chiseled facade. The base DeVille is equipped with a tamer 200-horsepower V-8.

"We've got people who have been purchasing Fleetwoods for 20, 30, even 40 years," explains Cadillac spokesman Chuck Harrington. "We can't alienate these people.

"But the purpose of the Concours is to attract younger persons, to drop the DeVille's buyer profile from the early 60s to the mid-50s. It also is designed to show that we can do a large performance car . . . one in the flavor of the Europeans, but still a large American car."

Concours certainly is that.

It is almost five inches wider, four inches longer and 1.3 inches taller than last year's DeVille, which was 17 feet long. There is 117.5 cubic feet of interior room. Many students live in less. The trunk is 20 cubic feet, which will hold whatever can be stuffed into two Honda Civics.

So we have large.

The shape isn't a savage departure from last year The trunk still lines up higher than the front, with the look of being borrowed from another model.

As with the STS and Sport Coupe, the Cadillac wreath is mounted on the grille, which should prevent it becoming a gangbanger's jewelry. The silhouette is smoother, more rounded and much softer than 1993.

And the interior is all perforated leather with Zebrano wood trim and deep-pile carpets, rather like the American Bar at the Savoy.

So we have European.

The 270-horsepower, all-aluminum Northstar is well on its way to becoming an American icon. Its 4.6 liters breathing freely through 32 valves propels this two-ton automobile from rest to 60 m.p.h. in 8.5 seconds. Which is right there with Mercedes, Lexus and Jaguar.

And there's nothing quite like snuggling next to a Camaro at a freeway on-ramp, noticing a glance that dismisses the geezer in a Caddy, then sucking the bulbs out of the Chevy's headlights as you explode free and into traffic.

So we have performance.


What we don't have with the Concours (Francophiles will pronounce it Con-coor,as in concours d'elegance) is the optimum combination for the broadest possible audience.

The car's bias still tilts to the older buyer. There is indeed firecracker performance to entice younger owners, but it's all straight-line oomph.

Younger, more athletic motorists may well be turned off by a suspension that remains a little too soft for the vehicle's weight, and steering, albeit speed-sensitive, that supplies more mush than precise feedback.

A touch of wallow and roll is to be expected in a base DeVille. But even a whisper of waddle and float has no place in an upgraded Concours trading hard on its claim as the world's most powerful front-wheel drive, six-passenger sedan.

Cadillac might also consider taking a second look at Concours' anti-lock brakes and traction controls. On dry roads they're fine; on wet, they're a bit lazy.

Granted, there's only a hint of lockup, just a trace of lateral motion with the steering off-center. But it's enough to produce flutters in even experienced drivers.

Internally, Concours is everything you would expect from a Cadillac: ancient and modern. Digital readouts. Foot parking brake. Sofas for seats. Holes and compartments for garage door openers and the Wall Street Journal. Bells to bong warnings for everything except upcoming potholes.

As a lump of honest luxury, as a traditional American bus dripping comfort yet still coming to market for $10,000 less than Infiniti and Lexus, it's hard to dislodge Cadillac from anyone's affections. Let alone their buying habits.

For what it has done in recent years--consumer suggestions heeded and sophistication applied to what once were hopeless buckets of lard--Cadillac deserves much admiration.

It still builds huge, heavy vehicles--but cars that deliver 25m.p.g. on interstates while the competition is still paying gas guzzler taxes. From air bags large enough to cover three front-seat passengers, through crash cages to five-position shoulder belts, Cadillac safety remains uncompromised.

Its technology was first to embrace the era of platinum-tipped spark plugs and ignition systems without moving parts, which means an incredible 100,000 miles between tuneups.

And Cadillacs, once the despair of all environmentalists, are now very politically correct.

The DeVille Concours has a new sound-absorbing headliner.

It is made from 38recycled two-liter plastic pop bottles.

1994 Cadillac DeVille Concours

The Good In luxury and prestige, to America what Rolls-Royce is to England and Mercedes to Germany. Thunderball engine. European styling and undersells global competition. More room, comfort and labor-saving conveniences than most condos.

The Bad Added performance better in straight ines. Still big-car float and handling numbness.

The Ugly Digital readouts.

Cost Base price: $36,590. As tested: $38,126 (includes leather upholstery, automatic air conditioning, Northstar engine, anti-lock brakes, driver and passenger air bags, traction control, Zebrano wood trim, power seats with memories and 11-speaker audio system.)

Engine 4.6 liters, 32-valves, aluminum Northstar V-8 developing 270 horsepower.

Type Front-drive, six-passenger, full-size luxury sedan.

Performance 0- 60 m.p.h., as tested, 8.5 seconds. Top speed, electronically regulated, 125 m.p.h. Fuel consumption, EPA city and highway, 16 and 25 m.p.g.

Curb Weight 3,984 pounds.