After stalking joggers in its Night Vision window and nearly leaving the pavement while doing so, I’m convinced that some technology is better left to the military. And I’m convinced that Cadillac’s DeVille doesn’t need the gimcrackery to woo the ever-elusive yuppie wallet.
At just 30 years old, though, I’m a little concerned that I’m attracted to the DeVille DTS. It’s strangely appealing, once you un-tick the Night Vision system from the options list. It’s gifted in ways that some people believe aren’t relevant anymore, attractive in a steamer-ship sort of way, and while it’s expensive – how does $53,285 sound? – it’s a well-executed version of the kind of car our parents aspired to before they retired and took up rock climbing.
The yuppie exodus from sedans into sport-utility vehicles has left roomy, lopey, immensely powerful sedans like the DeVille for dust. And yet, the shrinking market hasn’t really hurt the DeVille, which is still the best-selling luxury car, by their own reckoning. It’s Cadillac’s grandest barge, based on the same platform as the smaller Seville and Buick Park Avenue. (You might wonder how much difference exists between the DeVille and the look-alike Seville: while the DeVille is shorter and narrower than it was in the 1999 model year, its wheelbase is three inches longer than the Seville, and it offers about ten cubic feet more of space inside than its sibling.)
Available in standard, Deville High Luxury Sedan (DHS) and DeVille Touring Sedan (DTS) trim, the DeVille isn’t inexpensive by any means. The DTS bases at $44,700: with optional packages including a garage door opener, a CD changer, Night Vision, a sunroof, and chrome wheels, our sterling-silver DeVille tipped the scales at $53,285. Cadillac would have you think S-Class interior volumes at E-Class prices – no longer an impossible mental connection, we think.
2000 Cadillac DeVille DTS
The DeVille shares its Northstar V-8 with the Seville, too. The DTS gets the hotter 300- hp version, while the base and DHS models get by with a mere 275 hp. Cadillac’s four-speed automatic doesn’t have the extra gear common to Japanese luxosedans, but it’s among the best transmissions available, with seamless shifts and ideally staged gears. Fuel economy rates 17 city, 28 highway, and we measured about 22 mpg by the car’s own gauge for mostly highway driving at 80 mph.
We were pleasantly surprised by the fuel economy, especially when paying $1.50 a gallon in the Northeast. But we were more impressed by the DeVille’s composure. There’s no listing involved in big corners as you might expect, the steering is responsive, and the body movements are well controlled, thanks to a stiff structure that only wiggles over the most lurid bumps.
The electronics hard-wired to the DeVille’s independent suspension and steering have matured greatly since GM first introduced them on various Allantes and Sevilles. The Stabilitrak system (branded version 2.0 here -- to appeal to hip Garbage fans?) is standard on the DTS: it’s a yaw-control system that makes sure the wheels aren’t spinning faster around a curve than you are. Along with electronic shock control, the DeVille has a buttoned-down quality that makes it feel more nimble than its linebacker proportions. Better yet, all the sound dampening only allows a faint patter of road thump and noise to disturb the cabin. The steering is pretty delightful for a car so large, with minimal inputs needed on the highway to steer straight, and accurate response when the road winds up.
Wide open spaces
The interior space seems tremendous. Six-footers can cross their legs in the back seat. There’s a little bit of a tunnel effect, with the smallish windows and windshield, but outward visibility is fine. The trunk is a two-Hoffa affair, with plenty of room but a slightly shallow load floor.
2000 Cadillac DeVille DTS
2000 cadillac DeVille DTS interior
The DeVille seems to hang together well, style-wise. The side view is probably the best, where the minimal detailing plays well against its edgy form. The huge headlamps and a full-width center high-mounted stop lamp are purposeful and not very pretty -- they just don’t fair into the DeVille’s shape as well as the fender creases, for example. The headlamps in particular make the front end look more truckish than it wants to be.
Safety is all around, from the dual front and side airbags, to the available rear side airbags. Front seatbelts are mounted into the seats, which makes them marvelously accessible and comfortable for even small passengers. Rain-sensing wipers and daytime running lights are of less distinct value, especially to drivers who remain awake and aware. On the rear, a series of sucker marks makes the ultrasonic rear parking assist feature obvious. Back too close to a pole, and it subtly beeps you to knock it off.
There are many more small victories in the DeVille’s interior, from the soft-touch buttons on the radio faceplate that mimic those in the Lexus LS 400, to the woodgrain portions of the steering wheel. It’s nearly a revolution for GM: the wheel’s got power tilt and telescoping functions, the window switches are on the armrests where they belong, there’s a single CD player and a CD changer to satisfy both audiophile camps, and the steering wheel has more useful buttons for A/C and radio controls. The tune/seek button is indicative of the progress. Push it gently, and it clicks ahead one bandwidth at a time. Press it fully and it seeks the next station, up or down. Brilliant. Why doesn’t everyone have this?
2000 Cadillac DeVille DTS
And then there’s Night Vision, an "innovation" that seems to be far ahead of its time. Night Vision uses an infrared camera -- mounted where the Caddy wreath and crest logo would otherwise be -- to sense heat-emitting objects (dogs, bikers, Cheech and Chong) and inform the driver through a green head-up display. The problem is, the Night Vision screen is out of the normal field of vision, and it’s more of a distraction than a safety device. One day, when the entire windshield becomes the display, and individual hazards pop up on the glass where they’re approaching, Night Vision will truly be useful.
The DeVille isn’t a mixed bag – it’s an unapologetic homage to the way cars used to be made – and a terrific big car at that. It may not be the cachet of the day, but if an SUV just doesn’t fit your temperament and size still matters, the DeVille is worth looking into, sitting in, and loping along in.
|2000 Cadillac DeVille DTS
Base Price: $ $44,700|
Engine: 4.6-liter V-8, 300 hp
Transmission: four-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 115.4 in
Length: 207.2 in
Width: 74.5 in
Height: 56.7 in
Weight: 4047 lb
Fuel economy: 17 city/ 28 hwy
Major standard equipment:
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