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by Fred Staab
I learned to drive behind the wheel of a 1973 Cadillac Sedan DeVille, a six thousand-pound behemoth that belted out around 150 horsepower from its 472-cubic-engine. It had the handling and ride characteristics of an overstuffed couch floating down the highway. Steering feedback could accurately be described as uncomfortably numb.
How times have changed.
The sable-black DeVille I drove recently, a DTS model, couldn’t have been more different from my 1973 luxocruiser. Most of the chrome and flash of the past have been replaced with a monochromatic paint scheme, almost completely devoid of chrome except for its $795 optional chrome wheels shod with Goodyear P235/55HR low-profile performance radials. Sorry, whitewalls are not an option here, but a tire-pressure monitoring is available for the first time.
At first glance the DTS looks somewhat diminutive. Riding on a 115.3-inch wheelbase, its bodywork is made up of sharply creased sheetmetal that no longer ends in tail fins, but does feature LED taillights that supposedly offer an extra 17.6 feet of warning distance at 60 mph. That’s if you’re driving aware, a big assumption out there on today’s interstates. Up front, large composite headlights give the DeVille an awkward bug-eyed appearance when viewed from certain angles, but throw out enough light to play a major-league baseball game.
The DeVille DTS is the hot rod of the Cadillac fleet, a point that is emphasized by the inclusion of the Northstar system, which teams a 300-horsepower 4.6-liter V-8 engine and a smooth-shifting four-speed automatic that drives the front wheels of this full-size cruiser.
On the road this Cad straddles the line between performance and luxury with road manners that don't completely alienate either camp. Suspension duties are handled by struts with coil springs in the front and an independent multi-link system with electronic level control in the rear. The Continuously Variable Road-Sensing Suspension is tuned for performance and utilizes wheel-position sensors to read and continuously adjust for road conditions. Steering feel is augmented by the Magnasteer system, which noticeably increases steering effort when taking turns at speed.