Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
The latest technology with contemporary styling.
When you first spot Cadillac's all-new DeVille you may mistake it for a Mercedes. But this will only last a moment. Quickly you will realize it is indeed a Cadillac. Yet it's like no Cadillac you've seen before. You may be slightly embarrassed that you made the mistake. You may even be embarrassed when you admit to yourself that you like the looks of this car.
But there's no need for red faces here, for the new DeVille is worthy of your admiration. The DeVille has been totally redesigned and re-engineered for model year 2000. Cadillac says it has melded art and science into an automobile that is reduced in exterior dimensions yet offers an expansive, comfortable interior.
The 2000 DeVille is offered in three distinct models. The lineup begins with the DeVille ($39,500). It moves up through the DeVille High-Luxury Sedan or DHS ($44,700) and the DeVille Touring Sedan or DTS ($44,700). Each vehicle has its own character and features.
The standard DeVille has attributes aimed toward the traditional DeVille owner who wants to balance luxury and value.
Both DeVille and DHS come with a full bench front seat for six-passenger capacity, while the DTS has dual bucket front seats. Traditional Cadillac buyers prefer digital instrumentation over analog, so the DeVille receives digital while the DHS and DTS get analog (dial) instruments that are sometimes preferred by enthusiast drivers.
The 'Nuance' leather on each model is designed differently to match the tastes of different buyers, yet all of them offers a very supple fit and feel. Where the DHS has elegant gathered leather upholstery, the DTS has stretched perforated skins for a sporty look. The DHS and DTS share many features including their retail prices. As the names of these two upper scale DeVilles imply, one stresses luxury while the other highlights a sportier driving experience.
The 2000 DeVille is the first Cadillac to be solely designed using AutoStudio, a computer-aided design tool. Immediately apparent with the new DeVille is the front-end design with large front lighting clusters giving all three models a bold appearance. A large grille extends between the headlights, providing an appropriate field for the traditional Cadillac wreath and crest on the DHS and DHS. The standard DeVille retains the more traditional upright hood ornament.
From the profile the DeVille still looks all Cadillac. Large doors, body panels and expansive glass are broken only by a highlight trim piece along the lower section. Large, full-arch wheel wells are filled by 16-inch alloy wheels and all-season tires on DeVille and DHS or 17-inch wheels and performance tires on DTS.
From the rear, the DeVille continues to carry the traditional Cadillac ambiance, but it looks much more contemporary. This look is more powerfully sent home at night when the LED taillights create a thin vertical line that even though the fins of yesteryear are gone, suggest they are still in Cadillac designers' hearts. LED lights also serve a practical propose: They are easier to see and light up much faster than normal incandescent lighting, which can help reduce the chance of a rear-end collision when used as brake lights.
Once behind the wheel you forget that Cadillac has told you this is a smaller car. It is 3 inches shorter and 2 inches narrower, but from the driver's seat the DeVille feels as roomy as ever, if not more so. Heated front seats are available, as is a four-way power lumbar on the standard DeVille with a massaging lumbar on DHS or DTS. Adaptive front seating uses 10 individual air cells that conform to the occupant's body, changing the seat contours every 10 seconds if necessary.
The DeVille is so roomy that Cadillac plans to market it as a limousine. Indeed, the rear seat is inviting and comfortable. There is plenty of room available as you open the rear doors and climb in. Legroom seems endless, even with the front seat at its rearmost position, the tallest of our testers could easily sit here. Independent climate controls for rear passengers are provided that offer both fan and temperature adjustments.
There are not just one or two areas that excel while driving the new DeVille, there are many.
One new technology that has us completely enthralled is Cadillac's Night Vision Infrared system, which could revolutionize nighttime driving. Based on military systems used during the Vietnam and Pursian Gulf conflicts, infrared technology makes seeing wild animals, abandoned vehicles or pedestrians at night a snap. Reaching into the darkness far past what present headlight systems illuminate, Night Vision can greatly enhance safety. Here's how Night Vision works: An infrared camera mounted in the center of the grille transmits an image about the size of a rear-view mirror onto the lower portion of the windshield. (It's sort of like the head-up display used in fighter aircraft.) The image position is adjustable; it can be raised or lowered and the intensity can be changed.
During our drive we found it easy to get used to having the Night Vision image projected in the lower area of the windshield. We began to use it just like a rear view mirror, glancing at it often to see if the path was clear. This technology will even add a bit of security in other ways. We were able to easily detect one of our journalistic cohorts hiding in the bushes near our hotel.
Driving has become much more adventurous in the newest DeVille, especially the DTS, which, of course, we found much more to our liking. Advanced designs in the suspension combined with a more rigid body structure and electronic stabilization have made the DeVille a better handling and better riding vehicle.
Utilizing aluminum suspension components has lowered unsprung weight (the weight that moves with each wheel as it reacts to the road variations). This allows the suspension to supply a more comfortable ride while continuing to create a better handling vehicle. This obviously translates to more comfort on the highway and a lot more fun on country roads.
Electronics takes a lot of credit in making the DeVille a better handling automobile. The adjustable shock absorbers and Cadillac's StabliTrak make it virtually impossible to get the DeVille to go out of control. We say virtually because nothing can save you if you break the laws of physics. However, the DeVille was able to reach high thresholds without breaking nature's law.
During our testing on a closed circuit, we were able to steer into a turn very abruptly trying to make the vehicle spin out of control. In situations that would have caused most vehicles to spin off into the weeds, the StabiliTrak-equipped DeVille stayed a true course. StabiliTrak's computer control lightly applied the brakes to individual wheels to keep our DeVille in control. This type of system can be a godsend on strange roads or in emergency situations.
The highway ride is as supple as you would expect of a Cadillac. Yet, the new DeVille does not feel like the proverbial boat once attributed to big American cars. The sophisticated continuously variable road-sensing suspension system (CVRSS 2.0) with transient roll control, lateral support and enhanced stability is able to adjust itself every few milliseconds, providing optimum ride and control. This adds comfort by soaking up road irregularities and isolates the passengers from the outside elements.
The braking system has also seen huge improvements. Combined with the large four-wheel disc brakes is a smaller, lighter anti-lock system that includes an electronic brake distribution system. This system allows the driver to maintain steering control in an emergency braking situation.
The DeVille comes with the superb Northstar V8 engine. This engine develops 275 horsepower in the standard DeVille and 300 horsepower for the DHS and DTS. The Northstar engine has gone through numerous changes; in fact, there are just a few parts on the newest version that would fit in the previous engine. These refinements make the DeVille more responsive, more fuel efficient and quieter, all without sac.
It has been a long while since we could, in good conscience, recommend a Cadillac. Now the wait is finally over and we can recommend any Cadillac. We knew it was getting closer each year, as Cadillac improved model by model.
DeVille ($39,500); DeVille High-Luxury Sedan ($44,700); DeVille Touring Sedan ($44,700).
Options As Tested
Night Vision ($1,995); adaptive seats ($995); rear side air bags ($295); comfort/convenience package ($1095) includes memory settings power tilt/telescoping steering wheel trunk mat.
DeVille Touring Sedan ($44,700).
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