I have experienced considerable angst over the current version of the Cadillac Seville. The Seville is the nicest-looking American luxury car you can buy. And nearly every time I see one drive by, I admire its beautiful, smoothly flowing lines.
This is an elegant, attractive, sporty luxury sedan. And yet the Seville has not been a car that I have held in high regard. When the new Seville came out four years ago, the trunk lid didn't fit properly on early models. The side moldings looked
cheap and were misaligned, and the interior was cold and uninviting. But the 1992 Seville was a product of the old General Motors. Much has changed at the world's largest automaker in the past three years. A new management team has instilled in GM's
workforce a new sense of pride. And more importantly, GM's vehicles are being designed, engineered and built much better than they used to be. In fact, some GM cars are starting to give Toyota a run for the money in the quality race. Although the
sheetmetal has not changed, the tightly built 1996 model is virtually a different car from the 1992 model. If you were turned off by previous Sevilles, you may want to take another look. After spending a week in a gorgeous, blue 1996 Seville SLS,
I am ready to cancel nearly all of the reservations I had about the Seville. It's still not perfect, but it can lay claim to being one of the best luxury cars you can buy. PERFORMANCE The front-wheel-drive Seville, offered in two models, comes
with Cadillac's impressive and innovative Northstar 32-valve V-8 engine. The engine in the SLS - Seville Luxury Sedan - is rated at 275 horsepower; the power plant in the STS - Seville Touring Sedan - produces 300 horsepower. The smooth-running
Northstar engine is a marvel. Strong, refined and quiet are the best words to describe its demeanor. As Cadillac's flagship, the Seville needed a very sophisticated and refined engine to justify its high price and to give the car the credibility to
compete with imports from Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Jaguar. Our SLS test car offered excellent acceleration and terrific fuel economy. When I buried the accelerator in the carpet, it flew away from stop lights, cruised effortlessly and sailed past slow
traffic. Seville comes with a four-speed automatic that provides near-perfect shifts. Cadillac engineers have done an admirable job of refining the Seville's performance when the car is accelerating quickly from a stop. Traditionally, front-wheel
drive has not been an ideal setup for high-powered cars, which have a tendency to torque steer, a slight pulling to the left or right during quick acceleration. Some traces of torque steer remain, but unless you floor the accelerator and hold it
there, you won't really noticeit.Also, if you drive the car as most people would, you won't even be able to tell that it is a front-wheel-drive car - the SLS is a very balanced mach
ine, and the front tires provide plenty of traction. The Northstar engine started quickly every time and performed like a thoroughbred. Fuel economy is surprisingly good for such a large car. Our test Seville turned in 19 mpg in the city and 28on the
highway. I did not use the air conditioner, however. HANDLING The Seville has a very sophisticated computer-controlled, four-wheel independent suspension system that offers a soft luxury-car ride in the SLS or a firm sports sedan ride in the STS.
The suspension's computer system is connected via a series of sensors to the rack-and-pinion steering, anti-lock brakes and shocks. When the tire rolls over a bump, the computer system helps the shocks minimize the amount of trauma the suspension
system absorbs. The SLS might appeal to older drivers who are not particularly interested in driving fast around curves. The STS, with its higher-horsepower engine, raspy exhaust and stiff suspension, is aimed mor
at the BMW or Mercedes-Benz buyer who prefers performance over smoothness. Generally, the Seville SLS behaved predictably. However, I rolled over several large dips in the road and was surprised at the softness of the car's suspension; the car bounced
much more than I expected. On flat roads with gentle, sweeping curves, the SLS is very pleasing to drive. The steering is quick, tight, crisp and responsive. The four-wheel disc brakes are strong, and very little road noise intrudes into the interior.
FIT AND FINISH Seville has a warm, inviting interior that makes you feel comfortable and pampered from the moment you sit on the attractively stitched leather seats. The front bucket seats have received numerous improvements for 1996. The
leather has been upgraded, and the stitching has been changed to offer a much more luxurious look. Also, the seats are a bit firmer than in previous Sevilles, but they provide excellent lower back support. Although the Seville is a big car with a
roomy interior, the switches and buttons the driver touches the most - such as the radio and air conditioner controls - are easily reached on the dash or the steering wheel. Two of my original complaints with the Seville still hold true: There is
a temperature sensor underneath the dash near the center of the dash that is very poorly concealed. It looks as if the wood trim doesn't fit properly. The rear mufflers for the dual exhaust hang too low under the rear bumper, and they look awful. This
gives the Seville a cheap look - imagine a house with the plumbing exposed. Cadillac tried to hide this eyesore by painting the mufflers black, but it didn't work. If I bought this car, the first thing I'd do is take it to a muffler shop and get that
mess cleaned up. In any case, our test car was outfitted with nearly all the luxury trappings you would expect to find in a $45,000 sedan. About all it needed was an electric sun roof, an option that adds $1,550 to the price. Despite a few minor
dislikes, the Seville SLS would rank very high on a short list of luxury cars I would consider owning. Truett's tip: Improved assembly and interior upgrades have enabled the 1996 version of the Seville finally to become the
high-quality luxury car Cadillac intended it to be.