Cadillac continues makeover with new STS

September 17, 2004|by MALCOLM GUNN/Wheelbase Communications

Cadillac's image makeover takes another giant step forward this fall with the arrival of the new STS sedan.

This full-size luxury car will join a host of fresh-faced three-letter Caddy models that include the entry-luxury CTS four-door and its high-output CTS-V offshoot, the XLR sports car and the SRX sport-utility wagon.

The STS is part of a major renewal process over at General Motors' high-end division, a philosophy that's intended to rejuvenate what had become a moribund brand. Facing considerable competition from upscale German, British and Japanese mounts, Cadillac's engineering and product teams have been busily getting their century-old brand back on the right track and back in the good graces of their customers. In relatively short order, well-tailored cars (and even a truck) featuring tasteful lines and even tastier handling and performance abilities have become the order of the day. Suddenly it's cool to drive a Cadillac again.

The STS replaces the Seville in the lineup and actually gleans its initials from the sports-oriented Seville STS. But any similarities end right there. The STS begins with GM's Sigma platform, the same one used for the CTS and SRX. The result is a car that's a few inches shorter and narrower than the Seville, but about two inches taller. In appearance, you could say the STS resembles a stretched version of the CTS, with both sharing similar grilles and sharply creased body panels.


One look inside the STS's cabin will tell you the taste monitors have been working overtime. The leather and eucalyptus wood trim is elegant without being ostentatious while the gauges and control panel are well organized and uncluttered. To these congenial surroundings, STS buyers can add a unique 15-speaker (fifteen!) Bose surround-sound setup that also includes an eight-inch touch screen, navigation system and a six-disc CD/DVDchanger that can play a variety of audio/visual media.

Under the hood, the previous-model Seville offered a choice of two Northstar V-8 engines with front-wheel drive. This time around the STS begins with a 255-horsepower 3.6-liter double-overhead-cam V-6 that's also available in the CTS and SRX. Optional is a 4.6-liter Northstar V-8 that puts out 320 horsepower, 20 more than last year's Seville STS. Although both motors are used to turn the rear wheels, the V-8 can be ordered with all-wheel drive, the first time such a system has been offered in a Cadillac sedan.

Both available powerplants are connected to five-speed automatic transmissions with a manual-shift mode.

As with most Cadillacs, the STS is loaded with high-tech features. Keyless Access allows the doors to be unlocked and the car started with the key fob in close proximity to the vehicle. The STS can also be fired up from (up to) 200 feet away. If need be, the climate-control system engages as do the front and rear window defrosters.

Other available STS gee-wizardry includes a radar-based adaptive cruise control, which automatically adjusts the car's velocity, according to the speed of vehicles directly ahead. Then there's the four-color head-up display that can be configured to project as little or as much information onto the windshield as the driver prefers. Choices include radio station, gear-shift and turn-signal indication, fuel level and compass direction, to name just a few.

As with the departing Seville, the STS is destined to become Cadillac's "world car," cracking such markets as Europe, Russia, Asia and the Middle East.

In North America, the competition in the premium category will be equally ferocious, but it's a challenge that Cadillac appears ready to accept.

© 2004, Wheelbase Communications

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