2008 Cadillac DTS Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Improved safety for big luxury sedan.
Cadillac DTS is a thoroughly modern interpretation of the big, luxurious, powerful, stylish machines that once made Cadillac America's most-desired automobile.
The DTS is a full-size luxury car with full-size American power and a warm, spacious interior. Its 115.6-inch wheelbase would have qualified it as full-size car even in the mid-1950s.
Its V8 engine develops 275 horsepower, and a higher-output version is available that delivers 292 horsepower. Though its styling is restrained, the DTS is loaded with the latest technology. Yet, unlike many luxury cars these days, there's no need to study the owner's manual to make the DTS do its job. This is a rational luxury car, easy to operate in addition to being large and luxurious. We like that.
The DTS offers impeccable road manners, with crisp handling and good grip that inspires composure and driving enjoyment on winding roads. It handles surprisingly well given its size. It takes turns with poise and dignity, making it an enjoyable steed when the road goes curvy. The DTS is front-wheel drive.
For 2008, two new options harness the latest technology to enhance safety. The Lane Departure Warning system is designed to help drivers avoid a collision caused by an inadvertent lane change, for example if the driver drifts off to sleep. Side Blind Zone Alert enhances awareness of objects that might otherwise escape the driver's vision, for example a car the driver simply did not know was there.
A new Platinum Edition is available for 2008 that comes with all the performance goodies, plus a bright and cheery handcrafted interior and special exterior trim.
The current DTS was launched as a 2006 model, sporting fresh body lines, a redesigned interior, upgraded running gear, and suspension refinements,. At the same time, Cadillac abandoned the 57-year-old DeVille nameplate. Up through 2005, a DTS badge had indicated a DeVille Touring Sedan, a sporty version of the old DeVille. DTS now stands for the whole revised and revamped model line. It's fitting, given that today's DTS is sportier than yesterday's DeVille.
The 2008 Cadillac DTS ($41,770) comes in one trim level, with three available Luxury packages, one Performance package, plus the new Platinum Edition package and a moderate list of stand-alone options. All versions are powered by Cadillac's 4.6-liter Northstar V8, which produces 275 horsepower in standard tune, and 292 horsepower with certain option packages. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard.
Standard equipment includes leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front bucket seats with four-way adjustable power lumbar support, eight-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with RDS and integrated antenna, XM Satellite Radio with three-month trial, Magnasteer power steering, cruise control, power windows, power programmable door locks with Pass-Key III Plus security, illuminated visor mirrors, remote starter, driver information center, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, rear seat pass-through, OnStar with one-year Directions & Connections service, automatic headlamps with wiper activation, fog lights, solar-control glass, self-leveling suspension, and P235/55R17 all-season tires on machined aluminum wheels.
The Luxury I package ($3,050) adds park assist, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear outboard seats, rear seat adjustable headrests, four-way power rear lumbar support, heated windshield washer fluid, Rainsense Generation II intermittent wipers with structureless wiper blades, heated power-adjustable mirrors with turn-signal indicators and driver's side auto-dimming, leather wrapped and heated steering wheel, and tilt steering column.
Luxury II ($2,340) includes all the content of Luxury I, plus tri-zone automatic climate control and a universal remote transmitter.
Luxury III ($5,075) includes Luxury I and II, plus an upgraded stereo with a six-disc in-dash CD changer and eight Bose speakers, cargo net, IntelliBeam headlights, front four-way massaging power lumbar, power tilt/telescoping steering column with memory settings, trunk mat, rear illuminated vanity mirrors, genuine Dark Burled Walnut wood trim and 17-inch chromed aluminum wheels
The Performance package ($7,560) includes all but a few of the Luxury I, II, and III items, plus the higher-tuned 292-hp V8, performance algorithm shifting, Magnetic Ride Control, and P245/50 H-rated tires on 18-inch chromed aluminum wheels.
The new Platinum Edition package ($6,490) combines the 292-hp V8, Performance Algorithm shifting, Magnetic Ride Control and 18-inch chromed wheels with special materials on the inside and an extra dash of flash on the outside; a power sunroof, DVD navigation, and other conveniences are included as well.
Options include adaptive cruise control ($1,695), DVD-based navigation ($2,145), a front bench seat ($295), Tehama leather ($1,995), body-color grille ($250), universal home remote ($110), automatic climate control ($195), a power tilt/slide sunroof ($1,200), and 17-inch chromed wheels ($825).
Safety features that come standard on all models include six air bags, including a dual-depth front-passenger air bag. Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist, StabiliTrak electronic stability control with all-speed traction control, child-safe rear door locks, and a tire pressure monitor come standard. Lane Departure Warning and Side Blind Zone Alert are available on select models.
The 2008 Cadillac DTS is a big car. Its overall length of 207.6 inches makes it five inches longer than the Escalade full-size SUV, and nearly a foot longer than the STS, Cadillac's next-largest sedan. DTS is almost four inches longer than a BMW 7 Series and 2.6 inches longer than the latest long-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan. It's also wide, more than two inches wider than an STS.
Despite its size, however, the clean forms of the DTS give it a European look, though in a distinctively American idiom. With its vertical headlights and tail lights, and its grinning egg-crate grille, the DTS has acquired the design heritage of the Cadillac family and adapted it to 21st century reality. It acknowledges tradition, yet remains fresh and modern. The nose is particularly expressive, with jewel-like xenon headlights framing an expansive chrome grille adorned with a center-mounted wreath-and-crest badge.
Interesting styling elements include body-side chrome trim accenting body-color door moldings, and a narrow LED high-mounted stop light that runs nearly the entire width of the deck lid's crisply edged rear contour. The fenders provide a purposeful stance, and the profile is slightly wedge-shaped. Seventeen-inch machined aluminum wheels come standard; 18-inch wheels are available; and those wheels can be ordered chromed. The overall look is brought together by Cadillac's characteristic spline line, which rises from the top of the front fender, runs along with lower edge of the side windows and then flows over the rear fender.
The Platinum Edition is distinguished visually by 18-inch chrome wheels, chrome grille, chrome inserts on the exterior door handles, and a Platinum badge.
Cadillac boasts that the DTS has some of the tightest production tolerances in the world, and it certainly looks the part of a well-honed luxury machine. The panels fit well, the paint is glossy and blemish free, and overall the DTS wears its bulk well, like a fine-tailored suit. The quality of GM cars has been improving, and Cadillac scores well in quality surveys.
The DTS cabin is roomy and luxurious. The interior was completely revised for 2006, and only detail changes have been made since then.
Leather and wood abound, along with a dusting of chrome accents, creating a handsome, upmarket environment. Low-gloss surfaces, with a three-dimensional grain, were chosen for the upper instrument panel and upper doors in order to reduce glare and absorb sunlight.
Three different leathers are used, depending on options and packages. The base leather is called Nuance; a specially tanned leather called Tehama, claimed to be exclusive to the DTS, is optional. A more supple, semi-aniline Tuscany hide is included in the Platinum Edition. The Nuance interior benefits from fitment of a material crafted from a vinyl/silk blend for seatbacks and armrests. Claimed to be as durable as vinyl, it has the look and feel of leather.
The trim used on base, Luxury I and Luxury II models is a good-looking faux burl wood material, while Luxury III and Performance versions get a darker, genuine burled walnut. Found on the shifter head, center console, around the center stack and across the upper section of the instrument panel, the wood trim creates a flowing theme throughout the entire interior.
Door handles, selected knobs and switches, shifter column surround, and rings that wrap the four analog gauges are chrome, which works with the wood to create an upscale feel. Instruments use white-on-black LED readouts for speedometer, tachometer, fuel and temperature gauges.
On five-passenger models, the center console between the bucket seats houses the shifter and storage bins. On six-passenger models, the shifter is mounted on the steering column to accommodate the front bench seat, which has an integrated center armrest that transforms from a back cushion into a console with two levels of storage.
The cabin has a spacious feel and good sightlines for driver visibility. Facing the driver is an attractive four-spoke wood-and-leather steering wheel with a finely etched wreath-and-crest center badge. The Luxury I and II packages include a heated steering wheel on a tilting column; Luxury III and Performance add a telescoping function.
The center stack design is attractive and the controls are easy to see and use. A Dark Argent finish surrounds the radio and HVAC control heads, which are set flush into the console for a well-integrated look. Nestled between air outlets, high up in the center stack, is an analog clock, in keeping with other high-end automobiles whose clocks measure time in the traditional way. It's a good way.
The rear seat is large enough for a couple of six-foot-plus males with a few extra pounds of girth; and fitting a smaller fifth passenger in between them is no problem. The seatbacks are nicely raked for long-range comfort. Seat heaters are available for the outboard positions.
Comfort is, of course, a primary component of luxury, and we drove both Luxury III and Performance editions of the DTS to get the full dose. We especially liked the tri-zone climate control, and the cooling for the front seats. However, the heat and cooling controls are set high up and forward in the door panels, making it hard to see if they've been turned on. It's one of the few ergonomic miscues in the DTS; otherwise, there are no difficult or hidden controls or complicated electronic interfaces to mar the luxury experience. Worthy of praise is the ease of using the sophisticated audio system. Our ears were treated by the Bose audio system, which features eight speakers and centerpoint signal processing for multi-channel surround sound.
The new Platinum Edition offers a choice of two interior color schemes: Light Linen over Cocoa, or all-Ebony. Both feature full Tuscany leather upholstery, including hand-cut-and-sewn leather on the instrument panel top pad, console and door trim. French seams highlight the door panel inserts. Wood trim is light ash burl with a decorative inlay, whic.
Smooth and powerful, the Cadillac DTS glides over miles and miles of open road in supreme comfort. Maybe that's expected, but the DTS also handles surprisingly well for such a big car, making it a satisfying drive when it's time to turn the steering wheel.
The DTS has a worthy powertrain in the form of its smooth-running Northstar V8 and robust Hydra-Matic four-speed automatic transmission. Under full throttle, both versions of the 4.6-liter engine emit a mellow bellow that says V8 but not in a flashy way. The throttle is responsive, improved by electronic throttle control, yet it delivers a smooth, measured rise of power rather than a soul-stirring burst.
Two states of tune are available, though we don't see dramatic differences between them. The 275-hp base/Luxury edition boasts 295 pound-feet of torque, while the 292-hp Performance/Platinum-tuned mill offers 288 pound-feet of torque. So the Performance-tuned engine gives up some torque for increased horsepower and the Luxury engine actually supplies better off-the-line acceleration. Likewise, the Performance chassis comes with bigger wheels and tires and Magnetic Ride Control, a continuously variable real-time damping system; but spring and stabilizer rates are identical to those on the base/Luxury edition. In short, the Luxury and Performance versions are both good. Performance is slightly sportier.
All DTS models come with GM's superb StabiliTrak electronic stability control, which limits understeer and oversteer by automatically applying the brakes to individual wheels. All models come with Magnasteer, a magnetic variable-assist rack and pinion steering gear that reduces noise and column shake.
These features, along with its rigid chassis, give the DTS able handling and a smooth ride. The variable-rate steering helps the big car turn into the corners with little understeer, and carving a line through the apex is accomplished with little body roll. The steering feels a little light while cruising down a straight road, but it stiffens up nicely when feedback is needed during a turn. A bit of chassis hop over freeway expansion joints is virtually unavoidable, but the Magnetic Ride Control does a good job of muting the effect. Otherwise, at speed on smooth pavement, only a bit of wind noise around the A-pillar and occasional tire thunk suggests the car is covering a lot of ground quickly.
Frigid days and scorchers are handled well by the DTS. We like the standard Adaptive Remote Start, a factory-installed convenience for cold, wintry mornings, when the ability to get the engine and interior defrosted and heated (including the front seats) before starting out is appreciated. Residents of Phoenix and other boiling points will find the system useful to crank up the A/C before climbing in on those 115-degree afternoons. Owners in the frigid north will also appreciate the heated windshield wiper fluid.
The Lane Departure Warning (LDW) system engages above 35 mph. A green light indicates that the system is turned on and working. Should the driver cross a detected lane marking without signaling, the light flashes amber while an alarm beeps three times. The system is designed to alert drivers so they can take appropriate action to move the vehicle back into their own lane. To avoid nuisance alerts, the system is designed to not provide an alert if the turn signal is on or if the driver makes a sharp maneuver. Thankfully, the driver can also switch it off, in which case the light goes out entirely. The system uses a camera located between the inside rearview mirror and the windshield to detect lane markings on the road and alert drivers when they inadvertently stray from the lane.
The Side Blind Zone Alert system uses radar to sweep an 11-foot zone on either side of the vehicle, in other words, about one lane over. The zone starts at each side mirror and reaches back about 16 feet. With the system engaged, an amber symbol lights up in the outside.
The Cadillac DTS offers luxury and comfort in a full-size package. It comes loaded with safety features with the option of the latest safety technology to warn the driver of hidden hazards. The DTS delivers strong acceleration performance and handles quite well for a car of its size. It's a lot of car for 50 grand.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Greg Brown filed this report from Southern California.
Cadillac DTS ($41,770).
Options As Tested
adaptive cruise control ($1,695); Performance Package ($7,560) adds 292-hp engine; performance algorithm shifting; Magnetic Ride Control; 18-inch wheels and H-rated tires; memory for seats and outside mirrors; ultrasonic parking assist; heated outboard seats front and rear, with cooling for driver and front-seat passenger; heated leather-wrapped steering wheel; heated windshield washer fluid; heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators; universal home remote; six-disc in-dash CD changer; eight-speaker Bose audio system; tri-zone climate control; four-way adjustable lumbar with massage for the front bucket seats; power tilt and telescoping steering column; wood accents on steering wheel; adjustable rear-seat headrests; power folding outside mirrors; IntelliBeam automatic headlamps; Rainsense wipers; cargo net; dark burl walnut interior trim.
Cadillac DTS ($41,770).
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