• May 29th 2013 at 3:30PM
  • 50
The new car and I (David Kiley, AOL Autos).
As I drove east toward Detroit on I-96, I saw a car that looked very much like mine passing me on the left. It was a white creamy colored Cadillac Deville with a faux convertible top. I got out in the left lane to catch up, pull alongside and maybe gesture to the driver with a thumb's up. After all, I had long heard that this is what Toyota Prius, Chevy Volt and MINI owners do.

As I pressed the accelerator up to 75 and then close to 80, tempting the fates and the state police, I finally caught up, imagining that I would find someone similar to me driving -- a prosperous-feeling 50-year-old man with Springsteen playing on the stereo. As I sidled up and looked over to get the driver's attention, the tinted window rolled down, and I found myself flashing my thumb up to an 80ish woman hunched over the wheel like it might fall off the car if she let go of it. She looked puzzled, like she thought I was giving her the finger.

No, it's not easy defending my recent used-car purchase to my peers, co-workers and friends. I am a man who gets to drive every new vehicle that comes to market. And some of my favorites of recent years include the Audi S7, Cadillac CTS-V wagon, Mercedes SL 65 AMG Black and BMW M5. So, why then did I just treat myself to a 2003 Cadillac Seville SLS with a faux convertible top -- a car so dowdy by appearance that my friends are asking if I am marking my fiftieth year by auditioning for a revival of the Golden Girls.

A great deal

Let me explain. The first reason is that I love a good deal. This car has had one owner, my older bother and his wife, and they have kept it immaculate. My brother was shedding the car from his fleet and didn't want the hassle of selling it privately, so he offered it to me for the dealer trade-in price of $3,700. Low miles for a ten-year-old car -- 84,000. A V8 Northstar engine. This, despite the slightly geriatric image, is a great machine.

I often extoll the virtues of extended-range electric cars and clean diesels for their high fuel economy. This car, which I am calling "Babs," gets 16 mpg city/25 mpg highway and a combined fuel economy of 19 mpg. So, my friends at the Sierra Club aren't going to be impressed. My friends at Sierra Vista Assisted Living, on the other hand, are a different matter.
TOP 5Most Popular Sedans On AOL Autos
In case you haven't been paying attention, Congress has been dragging their feet appropriating funds to improve the country's roads, and driving in Michigan these days can be akin to driving in rural India. So, the floaty couch-like ride of the SLS on its fat 17-inch wheels and tires is a blessing, compared with the low-profile keester-busting tires that so many new cars come with, including my family's VW Jetta.

And then there is the interior. Beige leather interior. Well done, but -- Gah! -- beige. A nice CD player and speakers. A simple well-laid out console of radio and climate controls. No real guess-work needed here to figure out how to regulate the AC.

And then there is the whole "Caddy" thing. I like saying, "I'm taking the Caddy."

Finding the route

I have observed Cadillac's trials and tribulations over the last 25 years as it has struggled to distance itself from the very old-man image that this 2003 SLS embodies and delivers to its owners. Caddy doesn't want to be known any more for the big, floaty comfortable ride. It began with a half-baked idea to sell a European small car as a Cadillac Catera in the 90s. Then, the beginning of the Art and Science period, ushered in by the CTS with its origami inspired body work. There was an ad campaign featuring Led Zeppelin music. Then a series of campaigns and products like the current XTS sedan and now the ATS to appeal to normal younger, hipper buyers who might otherwise buy a BMW or Audi. There was the one-generation-and-out run of the XLR sports car.

I'm younger than Caddy's previous demographic, but let's be clear--I'm not normal. My friends will back me up on this. I will go to a Springsteen concert one week, and the opera the next. I drink Campari in summer, and single-malt scotch in Fall and Winter. My iTunes shuffle can take me from Van Morrison to Mozart to South Pacific and Eminem during a run to the store. I have sometimes worn an ascot when I'm in the mood. And I recently played Captain Hook in a production of Peter Pan. This is not a normal person. But then again, what's really normal?

I work in a business -- reviewing and writing about cars -- in which my peers often make a statement through the personal car they buy for themselves. One Facebook friend and journalist has offered to set me up with a vintage British Sunbeam. Another has a one-of-a-kind Audi. Others have purchased MINI Coopers. One has restored a 1960s Chevy Corvair, and another an early 1970s Camaro. I'm now the guy with the boaty Caddy with the faux convertible top.

What does this car really have? The Cadillac's Northstar V8 engine produces 275 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 300 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. It's worth noting that the SLS is the "less cool" version of this car. The STS was preferred by my journalist brethren. To quote from AOL Autos: "... the STS is the better choice for drivers who want a high-performance sports sedan, and the SLS better for drivers who prefer quietly cruising in luxury." The verbiage gets better, though, and it is this that I refer my critics to: "Cadillac's four-speed automatic transmission features a Performance Shift Algorithm that analyzes your driving style and adjusts shifting appropriately. Hammer the throttle and it mimics the crisp shifts of a manual transmission. Accelerate gradually and the transmission shifts smoothly. Go through a corner under hard acceleration and the system is smart enough to delay shifting until you are through the turn for improved handling balance."

Awesome.

Ricky or Fred?

See, that sounds a little more Ricky Ricardo and a little less Fred Mertz, don't you think? Baba-Lu, I say. And this is my favorite from the AOL Autos listing: "... the Cadillac Seville delivers the refinement, performance and handling expected from a BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus or Infiniti. The Seville is a sedan that truly loves to be driven."

I'm not sure what I am saying about myself with the purchase of a car that Fred Mertz and my late Aunt Lettie would have loved. I know I love driving it, though.

Cadillac discontinued the Seville after 2003. This car along with the Cadillac DTS have been replaced by the new XTS, a car that rides nice and looks modern, but which has, for me, a dashboard and instrument cluster that is kind of busy and over-done. I like knobs. And the new Caddies don't have them.

What is a Cadillac?

The advertising account for Cadillac is now under review. A new ad agency is going to try and figure out how to pitch the new Cadillacs. It is always tempting to try and mine what was good about the older ones, and re-interpret it for the new ones. But there is a conflict between looking backward and looking forward. Its a tough assignment to get it right.

In a previous job I worked briefly on Cadillac advertising. I was surrounded by kids in their 20s, people who owned Porsches and BMWs and an Australian guy who thoroughly confused me whenever he presented any idea.

Cadillac for me is about a proposition about America that I am admittedly sentimental about, especially as I cross over the age of 50, the same age my dad was when I was born. I feel like a lot of our country's virtues are being run under the wheels of greed and self-centeredness. One day on the Cadillac job I wrote an essay about what I think the essence of the Cadillac brand was. I thought it might help the team figure out hat to say about Cadillac, the brand. Here is what I wrote, as it pretty much sums up why I have a soft spot for this car.

Cadillac is a brand that America and the new General Motors needs to get off the bench, come into the game and lift the spirits of the fans, the public who is weary of watching American business and the American economy falter and trip.

Cadillac can be the brand that poetically and inspirationally reminds people of what America was built on, and what makes us go as a country, and as a people. It's about earning your way to the top.

Responsible Capitalism is a good thing. But it has to be responsible to work, and to be fair. Cadillac should always represent fairness and accountability.

Motor cars can be beautiful, fast, innovative and comfortable. Great motor cars make sense. And Cadillac knows how to make ones that make us proud of what we drive.

Cadillac is Roy Hobbs in The Natural. Cadillac is the balls it took for the head coach of the New Orleans Saints to order an on-side kick to start the second half of the game; something no coach had ever done in anyone's memory. Cadillac is Kirk Gibson coming off the bench in 1988 with crippled knees to hit a game winning home run.

Who is Cadillac for? Cadillac is for the guy who quits his job at the big company and starts his own, and doesn't want to blow his capital on a pricey European car he doesn't need. He needs a car he can trust. Cadillac is for the woman who gets downsized out of a job, pulls herself up, starts her own business and never looks back. Cadillac is the car for the former NFL player with money in the bank who now coaches high school football.

Cadillac is for people who do for themselves, and do for one another.

It's for people who don't wait for the other people to show up to get it done, or solve the problem, or make a decision. Cadillac is for those who get it done before the other people finish the meeting where they plan when they are going to show up.

Cadillac is old school, the way a 25-year old can appreciate and the way a 30-year old knows now that his Dad was probably more right than he was wrong.

It's for smart people who clip coupons because they don't want to spend more than they have to, not because they have to. It's for people who don't run up their credit cards because they know paying interest to the banks on a Whopper is for chumps.

Cadillac is for the independent thinker who roots for the best ideas, not a political party.
Cadillac is what drives the American Spirit.

Cadillac is at the heart of what will remind America that its the best place on earth when it wants to be.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 50 Comments
      Murad
      • 2 Years Ago
      I enjoyed the article but your chronology is off. The CTS introduced Art & Science. The XLR came after the CTS. The XTS did not replace the Seville SLS / STS and DTS; it replaced the STS and the DTS. The STS replaced the Seville in the lineup but it was a completely different car and not a Seville; it was rear-drive on a stretched platform shared with the CTS.
        gjterranov
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Murad
        I find Cadillac's alphabet soup of car names - XLR, CTS, SLR and so on VERY confusing! And they also lack the "romance" of names like Seville, Escalade and de Ville!
        hgeorgech
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Murad
        Wonder if Dave's many other articles are similarly inaccurate! Give ole Dave a C+
      cars
      • 2 Years Ago
      I bought a Nissan because Obama gave the UNIONS 49% of GM.
        Bob
        • 2 Years Ago
        @cars
        Yeah and can you believe the Unions have been quiet on the $1.3 billion plant GM is building in China. I wonder if they will Unionize that plant or get labor as cheap as possible now that they are in the owners position.
          gjterranov
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Bob
          Thought of Buying a GM Car Lately ……. It's no longer GM, it's CHINA MOTORS! Why haven't we heard this on the nightly news ???? http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=Lvl5Gan69Wo
      nkowalak
      • 2 Years Ago
      I purchased my Caddy in 1992, new and drove it for 20 or more years. On the highway the average mpg was 26, in town 22. Always garaged, never missed an oil change, and had all the special 30, 60, 90,000 miles tune-ups. My son asked if he could have the car when I decided to let go! It was white, leather, and just a beautiful car. I have looked at all kinds of cars recently and even the new caddies look like any other car on the show room floor. There isn't any style and most cars have the Prius look, whether they are good on gas or guzzlers. I have wondered many times why the design engineers are not coming out with good looking autos, is it just to get better mileage or every one is tired of the luxury look. I purchased a GMC Yukon in 2003, it has 60,000 miles now and has never missed an appointment. I have wanted a new auto, but haven't seen anything out there I'm crazy about, even the SUV's are all ugly! I don't think its the auto employees hurrying to put more cars on the road, maybe the big guys aren't listening any more. I have a 2008 Pontiac Solstice with 22,000 miles on it, love the look and since they are no long in production, it will be another classic, grandson has put his dibs on that someday. I like cars, I like nice design cars, hard to find a favorite now.
      sepan96
      • 2 Years Ago
      my eldorado was a disapointment. nothin but a money pit.
      barryaclarke
      • 2 Years Ago
      Back in 1996, I bought my wife a 96 Seville SLS, black cherry with a tan interior, with the upgraded caddy chrome wheels that had a MSRP of $48,000. It just turned 67,000 miles and still is a real head turner as it’s always waxed, garage kept, and still looks like new. What I am most surprised about is we’re approached several times a year asking if it’s for sale. Now that I want 2014 Corvette, I guess the answer to this question will be “soon”…………..
      PSU1976
      • 2 Years Ago
      I am "mature" enough to remember when the Caddy "wannabes" bought a Buick or an Olds. Back then, only the true acheivers could and would buy a Caddy. However, even with that bit of nostalgia, those days of floaty, non-responsive (i.e. poor handling) cars are and should be gone. The modern Caddy should be what it is slowly evolving into, a world-class style and handling machine which is efficient and reliable! A car that you want to OWN, not lease, because you know that it has proven technology, style, and reliability. Take a look at the reliability of the German marques and compare that to Cadillac. I think you will find some surprising information in those statistics.
      adika3z
      • 2 Years Ago
      NO NO thank Cadillacs, i dont like any Cadillacs, all Cadillacs cars are = too weak bodys, 2 weak bumpers, too much plastic covers up on motors, no have 2 amber yellow lights on the taillights, some yes and some no, some problems with recalls,
      • 2 Years Ago
      I have 1998 Eldorado ETC Touring Coup I bought in early 2000 the car has been garage kept since new never driven in the snow oil changed every 3000 miles It had 13k when I bought it Now just turned 75k It's still looks new It gets 450 miles to a tank of gas about 28 on the highway It's always had Top grade fuel Northstar V8 Great Car Great Ride I would not sell it for less then 10k
        John Switzer
        • 2 Years Ago
        A very handsome car. Treat it well and it'll last as long as you need it to.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I-96 in Michigan goes North/South, not East/West.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I am a 51 year-young guy that comes from a Cadillac family. My father always kept my mother in a Cadillac. I learned to drive in a 1965 Fleetwood. I myself have owned close to twenty Cadillacs, my favorite was the 1970 DeVille convertible with a 472 cubic inch engine. That baby would pass everything but a gas station! The most awesome looking newer Cadillacs that I have owned were a 2002 Navy blue DeVille that I had problems with- like coming out of a department store at Christmas and finding the trunk filled with packages wide open! This happened more than twice. The driver's seat would decide to pin me against the steering wheel for no unknown reason at 70 mph, all on its own. Then it decided to just shut down one day in the middle of rush hour traffic, that left me with no power steering and brakes. I did manage to fight the wheel and get it into a parking lot before I killed somebody. That was the LAST STRAW for myself and that beauty. Then I couldn't help to try one more time with this great body style. I purchased a 2000 DeVille, again it was Navy blue with what the dealership called the Biarritz Package. A quarter vinyl top, chrome down the top that ran from the back to the front of the hood, gold trim. It had the mesh custom grille-in gold. Custom Cadillac rims and Vogue tires. Many people mistook it for a Bentley. I was in love with that car! UNTIL!!! One day pulling out of a parking lot I had to accelerate quickly to get out into traffic. That's when my beloved Northstar starved itself of oil and ALL 32 LIFTERS WENT OUT AT ONCE!!!!!!!! Tickety, tickety, tickety, as it went down the road! Needless to say, I immediately pulled it to a stop and called for a wrecker. The service mechanic at the dealership explained that the Northstar engine has a two-stage oil pump. A low rev and a high rev. And apparently the high rev failed to provide adequate oil pressure when I needed it most. Now it would only cost me $3000.00 ++++ to repair it and replace ALL 32 lifters. This was after I spent over $2000.00 fixing the A/C doors that made the passenger side and rear A/C work. No wonder they were serving free café espresso and homemade brownies in the service waiting area!! Now get this part- after ALL 32 lifters were replaced I picked it up and drove it about three miles and tickety, tickety, tickety it went!! Back onto a wrecker it went again, my lovely pride and joy! POPCORN ANYONE???!!! So, after the second try I picked it up again and sure enough it STILL ticked!!!! I was told to just drive it and see if the tick would go away?? So, I did and sure enough about two weeks later it stopped making popcorn. I IMMEDIATELY listed her and GLADLY but SADLY sold her. I love that particular body-style. I asked if I could do an engine transplant and put a good old reliable 472 under the hood, and I was not kidding! No way I was told. So, now I drive a 1990 Cadillac hearse, Superior conversion. NOW I REALLY GET LOOKS- but NO TICK!
      mifatm
      • 2 Years Ago
      My honey says my choice of Cadillac is much too old for me. I had a 2001 STS, a 2003 STS and now a 2011 DTS. In 2001 I was 43. A young 43 I might add. That's ok. My 2001 was rear ended b a cement mixer truck with a full load of cement. I was stopped, the 1st of 5 cars to be hit. My car had $29,000.00 worth of damage. I was the other 4 cars cushion. The people I hit had a Honda Accord which was also totaled. The paramedics told them that if I had not been in between them and the truck they would be dead. I might be too young for the car,actually I have a car seat in the DTS as I have custody of my 4 yr, old granddaughter but that car took that hit like a champ and saved my life. I almost took the Porsche that day. I would have been history. I'm just sorry they're not making that body style anymore.
      limeycarnut
      • 2 Years Ago
      when my wife retired in 2001 at 53 she did the retiree thing bought a new catera still has 200k going strong and still a blast 2 drive for both of us opel did a nice job creating it too bad there is nothing like it for her to replace it at the caddy store too pricy and the cts doesnt have the oomph this does of cousre the ctsv does but toon many dineros
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