2001 Cadillac DeVille Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
DeVille is in the details.
Now entering its second season with its all-new look, DeVille is still turning heads. Visually, it is a handsome combination of European and American, of contemporary and traditional.
That comfortable duality reaches clear to the core of the DeVille's concept. A normal driving pace, this is a big, comfortable, and very luxurious sedan. Push it hard, though, and it starts feeling like a big sports sedan, particularly the DTS model. Slam the throttle down and this car takes off like a rocket.
Cadillac has achieved this duality by engineering a solid platform that can be extensively tailored to the individual buyer's tastes. Simply choose the model and options that suit your lifestyle and driving requirements. The result is like no Cadillac you've seen, or driven, before.
The 2001 DeVille is offered in three distinct models: base DeVille retails for $40,495. DeVille High-Luxury Sedan, or DHS, and the DeVille Touring Sedan, or DTS, are each priced at $46,267. Each vehicle has its own character and features.
Of the three, the standard DeVille fells like the traditional Cadillac DeVille, balancing luxury and value.
DHS and DTS depart from Cadillac's old ways. They share many features, but as their names imply, one stresses luxury while the other highlights a sportier driving experience.
Both the base-level car and DHS come with a full bench front seat for six-passenger capacity, while the DTS has bucket front seats. The DeVille uses Cadillac's traditional digital instrumentation, while the DHS and DTS get the analog (dial) instruments that are sometimes preferred by enthusiast drivers.
Even the 'Nuance' leather on DHS and DTS models is designed differently to match the tastes of different buyers: Where the DHS has elegant gathered leather upholstery, the DTS has stretched perforated skins for a sporty look. Yet both offer a very supple fit and feel.
DeVille was redesigned completely for 2000. The styling distinguishes it from other cars, including other Cadillacs. People kept asking me, 'What kind of car is that?'
This is the first Cadillac to be solely designed using AutoStudio, a computer-aided design tool. Although it looks larger and richer than before, the current DeVille actually measures three inches shorter and two inches narrower than the '99 model. Large front lighting clusters giving all three models a bold appearance. A grinning eggcrate grille extends between the headlights, providing an appropriate field for the Cadillac wreath and crest on the DHS and DTS. The standard DeVille leaves the grille clean and retains the more traditional upright hood ornament.
In profile the DeVille still looks all Cadillac. Large doors, massive 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 rims 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 highlighted at night when the LED taillights create a thin vertical line. The fins of yesteryear may be gone, but those twin vertical slashes still shout 'Cadillac,' loud and clear. LED lights also serve a practical propose: They are easier to see and light up much faster than normal incandescent lighting, giving drivers of following cars an extra fraction of a second warning. Which is all it takes, in some cases, to prevent a collision. The rear turn signals look quite distinctive and stand out brightly when blinking.
From inside the DeVille, as from outside, it's hard to believe that this car is actually a little smaller than the familiar Cadillacs of 1994-99. Once behind the wheel the DeVille feels as roomy as ever, if not more so. Heated front seats are available on the base model, standard on DHS and DTS; so is four-way power lumbar support. DHS and DTS add power lumbar massage. Adaptive front seating, optional on DHS and DTS, uses sensors to detect pressure points and automatically adjusts ten individual air cells to conform to the occupant's body, changing the seat contours every ten seconds if necessary.
The rear seat is also 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 fit. Independent climate controls for rear passengers offer both fan and temperature adjustments.
The high-beam indicator is located next to the digital trip odometer and nearly the same blue color. This makes it difficult to see, so it's easy to leave the high beams on by mistake, blinding other drivers.
The optional ultrasonic rear parking assist system is really slick and very well executed. When backing up, it offers a chime as you approach a garage, a kid on a tricycle, or another parked car. A small yellow light above the rear windshield, visible in the rear view mirror or when looking over your shoulder, illuminates. A second yellow light illuminates as you get closer. A third red light illuminates when you're right on top of the object. Besides the safety benefits, it's very useful when parking the car or maneuvering in tight locations.
Cadillac has added important new technological features for 2001. OnStar, which is standard on all DeVilles, now includes Personal Calling, which allows drivers to initiate and receive hands-free, voice-activated phone calls without an additional cellular contract. Also standard for 2001 is OnStar's Personal Advisor, which delivers Internet-based news headlines, sports scores, stock quotes, and weather reports.
Another new Cadillac feature this year is an optional ($150) tire pressure monitor, which uses sensors in the wheels to read air pressure levels in the tires.
New for 2001, is the optional Infotainment system, which integrates CD-ROM, personal assistant, memo recorder, e-mail, cell phone, and satellite navigation functions into a Bose audio entertainment system.
I first drove the DeVille to an Al Gore press conference, appropriate because I was wearing a coat and tie and the DeVille's suspension superbly soaked up Washington's rough, potholed streets.
The DeVille DTS model's suspension filters out vibration and bumps, but it feels much firmer than Cadillacs of yore. That's good because the DeVille doesn't float around like those older machines, which could sometimes induce nausea in rear-seat passengers. Though not as firm as a BMW 5 Series, the DeVille's suspension settings provide a well-controlled ride. Bumps are felt, but muffled to comfortable levels. Go around a fast, sweeping turn and potholes and bumps won't upset the suspension, a benefit of the DeVille's highly rigid chassis. This makes the DeVille safer and more comfortable to drive in tight quarters, which is important in the big city where you're often surrounded by big trucks and aggressive cab drivers.
Aluminum suspension components reduce unsprung weight (the weight that moves with each wheel as it reacts to the road variations), so the springs don't have to be as stiff to keep the wheels in firm contact with the road. This translates into more comfort on the highway without having to sacrifice handling. 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 associated with big American cars. It's smooth and stable at high speeds. The steering is precise and direct, so the car always goes where intended without having to think about it.
I was thinking about all this while heading out onto a rural road. I accelerated out of a sweeping turn, noticing the well-controlled steering, thinking that the DeVille should be able to hang onto the rear bumper of a BMW 5 Series. All those thoughts evaporated when I noticed way up ahead a state trooper standing next to his car pointing a radar gun at me. I jammed on the brakes. The ABS kicked in, preventing wheel lockup, so all the trooper noticed was a little nose dive as the DeVille quickly moved into compliance of the law. Braking was sure, stable and effective, with nice firm pedal feel. Completely redesigned last year, the system combines large four-wheel disc brakes with a small, lightweight anti-lock system. An electronic brake distribution system helps reduce stopping distances by distributing the braking force front to rear for optimum performance. In normal, everyday, around-town applications, the brake pedal feels smooth and progressive, making it easy to slow the car down smoothly.
The DTS has lots of power and growls under hard acceleration. The DeVille comes with the superb Northstar V8 engine, which develops 275 horsepower in the standard DeVille and 300 horsepower for the DHS and DTS. The Northstar engine was significantly re-engineered for the 2000 model year; in fact, there are just a few parts on the 2001 version that would fit in a 1999 or earlier edition. These refinements make the DeVille more responsive, more fuel efficient and quieter, all without sacrificing performance.
What really impressed me was the calibration of the transmission and the way it communicates with the engine. Press the throttle to the floor and instead of accelerating in fourth gear, then violently downshifting to second the way many transmissions do, the DeVille shifts immediately but smoothly to third for smooth, quick acceleration that accomplishes your objective of gaining a position in traffic without upsetting your passengers, or piece of mind. Slam the throttle to the floor, however, and the DeVille smartly shifts to second, the Northstar engine growls to life and the car rockets ahead. In case you're wondering, the DeVille's electronically controlled 4T80-E four-speed automatic transmission uses a viscous converter clutch for maximum smoothness with fuel efficiency. It's a great drivetrain.
Electronics help the driver control the DeVille in emergency maneuvers. Cadillac's StabiliTrak 2.0 s.
Cadillac's new DeVille is a world-class sedan, big, comfortable, easy to drive, and fast. It represents yet another step toward the day when Cadillac might regain its traditional position as 'The Standard of the World.
DeVille ($40,495); DeVille DHS ($46,267); DeVille DTS ($46,267).
Detroit (Hamtramck), Michigan.
Options As Tested
Night Vision ($2,250); adaptive seating ($995); rear side air bags ($295); comfort/convenience package ($695) includes memory settings for seats and mirrors, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, trunk mat.
DeVille Touring Sedan ($46,267).
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