Someone pinch Cadillac. General Motors' luxury division must be dreaming.

Cadillac has introduced eight vehicles in the last four years. The company sold 230,000 vehicles in 2004, up from 172,000 in 2001. And, as former Cadillac general manager Mark LaNeve says, there is an enormous "restoration of image" at work.

The reversal started a few years ago with the SUV craze of the Escalade and has moved into overdrive since with a distinct, love-it-or-hate-it styling and a better feel for the road.

Launched this month as a replacement to the Seville, the STS (as it's now known) is a shot to the gut of Cadillac tradition.

From the grunt of the STS' powerful Northstar V-8, to its stickiness in the corners, this is a car that says times have changed.

Yes, the back seat is a little tight for rear passengers (especially on leg and general cargo room) and, no, not all of the interior plastic has found its place in the GM recycle bin. But the new STS can't be considered a next-generation Seville because it is a new standard.

It is solid, powerful, luxurious and, maybe most important, fairly priced.

Built on the same platform as the smaller CTS, the STS is longer and wider than the CTS, but it keeps the CTS' rear-wheel drive and even adds the option of all-wheel drive.

From the street, that attention-grabbing design can't be mistaken.

This is the new look of Cadillac, a very-well defined set of sharp creases and straight lines that make the STS immediately a member of the "Art & Science" family - as the design is known in GM circles.

The look is as refined as any Caddy used to be with elegant chrome, a new vertical center console setup and more wood and less of that plastic that was so common in so many Cadillac vehicles. The seats are firm, yet supple. And the 8-inch navigation screen is one of the best in the business - easy to use and logical in its system setup.

There are other elements inside that work.

On the technology side, the STS arrives in your driveway with a keyless ignition system, so the engine can be started by pressing a button mounted to the right of the steering wheel. Cadillac also presents an Adaptive Remote Start system, which will start the vehicle from distances of up to 200 feet, warming the car while you sit waiting in the house.

And there are the goodies. The STS is equipped with everything from a 15-speaker XM/Bose audio package to DVD navigation to GM's slick StabiliTrak suspension system. There's also a new Heads-Up Display system, the first on a Cadillac, that shows your speed and other information using green digits displayed on the windshield just above the wipers.

Under the hood, buyers can opt for a variety of powertrain options, including a 3.6-liter, 255-horsepower V-6, and the 320-horsepower, 4.6-liter Northstar V-8, our tester during a product display recently in Europe.

The V-8 is all guts. The engine and a specially tuned exhaust roars to life when the pedal is pushed hard. It excels on the open road and maneuvers easily through corners without the body roll of old. There is a lot of low-end torque, with a rush of power available at any speed and a zero-to-60 mph time in six seconds - impressive for a car of this body weight.

Want more? In January, Cadillac unveils the STS-v, a new high-performance model that should exceed 400 horsepower.

Cadillac can thank the Europeans for the good handling. Like the CTS, much of the tuning took place on the Nurburgring race track in Germany. And there are plenty of technological wonders, including anti-sway bars and a modified multi-link suspension package with load-leveling shocks.

On safety, Cadillac has incorporated its StabiliTrak system and Magnetic Ride Control. The combination constantly monitors road and driving conditions and is capable of adjusting the suspension in barely one-thousandth of a second.

The base STS comes in the aforementioned rear-drive configuration, but there's also an all-wheel-drive package - the latter will initially be available with the V-8, but will be added to the V-6 option list later. A five-speed automatic is the only transmission.

Don't expect the V-6 to struggle. Cadillac says the STS is equipped with variable valve-timing on both the intake and exhaust valves and an electronic throttle control.

Simple English: The V-6 will kick out 90 percent of its peak torque (that push you get off the stoplight) from 1,600 rpm all the way up to 5,800 rpm.

As mentioned, rear-seat room is a little compromised. Three will have a hard time squeezing in, and leg room was a little tight, even for short passengers. But overall, there is a lot to like.

Still not as refined as a BMW, but more exciting than a Lexus, the STS is a driver's car with road manners. Quiet. Comfortable. And, yes, definitely a new kind of Cadillac.

Let the good times roll on.

2005 Cadillac STS

Vehicle type: Rear- or optional all-wheel-drive, front engine, four-door, five-passenger sedan

Key competition: BMW 5-Series, Chrysler 300C, Ford Five Hundred

Base engine: 255 horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6

Optional engines: 320 horsepower, 4.6-liter Northstar V-8

Transmission: Five-speed electronically controlled automatic

Safety equipment: Anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, Stabilitrak stability and traction control system, dual front, side, and head curtain air bags, tire pressure monitors, daytime running lights, ultrasonic park assist, alarm system

MPG (city/highway): 17/24

Manufactured: United States

Warranty: Basic warranty is four years/50,000 miles

Base price (V-6, AWD): $40,995

Price as tested (V-8, AWD, including options, destination and delivery charges): $50,334