With the introduction of the new DeVille, Cadillac is once again trying to regain the prestige lost to decades of bad management and inferior products.

I was reminded of this while driving a new 2000 DeVille DTS with some friends to the Kruse Auto Auction in Atlantic City recently.

This is the same band of troublemakers who escorted me to Macungie last year in their 1940 Cadillac convertible sedan. That car is handsome, conservative and tasteful, something that Cadillac could use.

For too long, tail fins, vinyl roofs, gold trim, fake convertible roofs, continental spare tires and other tacky adornments have sapped the DeVille of dignity. So, too, has poor engineering, such as the famed 8-6-4 engine of the early '80s or the pitiful Cadillac Cimmaron. After all this, it's hard to remember the greatness that once was Cadillac.

So does this DeVille reach that summit? No. But it's a lot closer.

For 2000, the DeVille is recast to woo younger buyers (baby boomers and their expanding waistlines and wallets) while retaining traditional Cadillac clientele (are you listening Harry Highpants?).

As in 1999, there are three trim levels: base, which has a digital dashboard; DHS (or DeVille High Luxury Sedan), which replaces the cheesy-named d'Elegance, and DTS (or DeVille Touring Sedan), which replaces the unfortunately named Concours.

The platform is a version of the platform used for various large GM models from lesser divisions. The overall size is smaller than last year. The width has been reduced by 2 inches and the length by 3 inches, which, combined with sleek, chiseled lines, results in a trim looking DeVille with a somewhat heavy Germanic look.

The blunt front end, with its bulbous oversized headlamps and grille takes some getting used to. Out back, there's a new take on the traditional vertical tail lamp. The tail lamp uses 168 LEDs rather than the traditional lamp bulb. The result is a lamp that lights quicker and a car with a more modern look, one that resembles the sleeker, more muscular Seville. It is also the last Cadillac styled before the Evoq show car. All future Cadillacs will have a more angular appearence, according to GM.

If the outside isn't a dramatic departure, what's underneath it is.

For the DeVille, Cadillac has stuffed every technological goodie it could muster into this vehicle. Is it too cool for your mate and too hot for your kids? They each have their own climate controls. Back seat passengers get heated seats, just like those up front. DHS models get rear sunshades and adjustable lumbar in the back as well.

Up front, the seats massage their occupants, which feels more like the seat is breathing than a true massage. The windshield wipers automatically adjust their speed depending on how hard its raining.

But Cadillac's reputation as a rolling living room would lead you to expect options such as these. It's the other good ies that make this car superior.

The biggest innovation is Night Vision, Cadillac's version of the thermal imaging technology that was first used in the Gulf War in the early '90s. It's based on infrared energy. All objects emit infrared energy, with living things emitting more than inanimate objects.

A sensor mounted in the front grille reads the energy that the human eye can't see. It translates that image into a black and white image that is projected onto the windshield in front of the driver in a letter box format. While disconcerting at first, it's especially useful for driving in rural areas or in inclement weather, allowing the driver to see farther down the road than the headlamps can project. The system comes on when the automatic headlamps sense it's dark.

Switches mounted low on the dash allow the image to be adjusted for the height of the driver or allow it to be shut off altogether.

Also available is a Global Postioning System, integra d with the audio system. The 5-inch screen replaces the audio system on the dash. Combining this feature with the hands-free OnStar service makes a car that's truely wired.

Technology also finds its way to the car's drivetrain. The engine is carryover; it's the sophisticated 4.6-liter double-overhead-cam 32-valve Northstar V-8. Horsepower ratings are identical to last year as well with 275 horsepower for base and mid-level DHS and 300 horsepower for the top-of-the-line DTS.

In case of coolant loss, this engine can run on four cylinders in its limp-home mode at speeds of up to 50 mph for about 50 miles without damage.

All DeVilles come with StabiliTrak which compares the steering wheel angle with the way the vehicle is responding. If it doesn't agree, the system uses traction control and anti-lock brakes to help keep the vehicle going in the desired direction.

DTS models also get what Cadillac calls a Continuously Variable Road Sensing Suspension. Using sensors throughout the car, the system measures speed and steering wheel angle and adjusts the damping of the vehicle accordingly. The result is a car that doesn't sacrifice the smooth-as-silk ride for sporty handling. While no sports sedan, the handling prowess of the DTS test car is miles beyond previous Cadillacs of any stripe and real competition for cars such as the Lexus LS400.

As if all this isn't enough, the car is also available with ultrasonic rear parking assist. Four sensors mounted in the rear bumper activate at speeds below 3 mph when the car is in reverse. The sensors send out waves. When the sensors pick up the wave's echo, it calculates the distance and sends a signal to the driver. The driver is alerted by three lights mounted above the rear window. As the object gets closer, more lights activate and chimes sound. It's quite handy and will prevent you from running over the neighbor's sleeping Rottweiler.

All this technology wouldn't be worth it if not hooked to a satisfying car. The drivetrain is strong, smooth and silent. The Northstar V-8 pulls strongly, with some side-to-side tugging at the front wheels only on hard accelerations, but it's to be expected.

This is the world's most powerful front-wheel-drive car. The transmission shifts smoothly and promptly, though not quite sharply enough for hard-edged enthusiast types.

The DTSA gets front buckets and a console, while other models get a more traditional column-mounted shifter and split bench front seats. Handling will impress even the most cynical boomer. Take the car through a bumpy turn and accelerate in mid-bump. This upsets all but a few vehicles and failed to upset the DeVille which stayed on course thanks to StabiliTrak and the CVRSS. There's even some road feedback through the wood-trimed steering wheel.

The dash is nicely laid out and easy to use. The analog instrumentation is styled ala Lexus. But a switch allows for all the gauges to be shut off, except for vehicle speed. This allows for less distraction at night.

The cabin was roomy and comfortable. The seats proved to be the equal of Cadillac's reputation for comfort. The trunk had a bumper-level lift over and had lots of room in addition to a cargo net and various tie down points.

So all is right with this car except for two intangibles, things which are personal and have little to do with the otherwise satisfying experience this car provides.

One is Cadillac's new marketing theme: art and science. The science is here, with the DeVille offering technology that the Lincoln Town Car lacks, but is commonly available on imported cars costing $20,000 more.

But the art isn't here, and it's that design element that seems half-hearted. Looks sell cars, especially at this level. Here the car is less successful, both inside and out.

The second is one of image. Decades of mistakes can't be erased overnight. Having grown up knw ng only the Cadillac of excess, many buyers under 50 can't imagine buying one, no matter how good. This is the comment I frequently heard while driving the car.

Too bad for them, they're missing a fine ride.

While this Cadillac doesn't quite measure up to its dictionary definition, it's mighty close.