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Cadillac would have you think of the new 1998 Seville as a "muscle car in an Armani suit." Muscle this latest GM flagship certainly has, with 300 horsepower on hand from its 4.6-liter V8; as for the Armani reference, you be the judge.
Cadillac claims the car is at last ready to compete face-to-face with the likes of Jaguar, Mercedes and BMW.
In its design, the '98 Seville looks like a slimmer, trimmer version of the outgoing model, although at first glance it's hard to tell the two apart. The new car is identified by its lack of chrome at the rear and its larger taillights. Up front, the overhang is shorter, the awkward bumper overriders are gone and new, projector beam headlights lend a fresh air of sophistication. In short, the Seville moves from being a somewhat garish American cousin to a car with a degree of international design flair. You might choose this Cadillac not just because it is different but because it makes a legitimate, elegant design statement of its own.
One area in which the Seville continues to stand apart from the luxury pack is its front-wheel-drive layout. In a class that favors rear-wheel drive overwhelmingly, the Seville is clearly the odd man out. But Cadillac claims its customer research shows that buyers are "indifferent" to the drivetrain configuration. Cadillac admits that five years from now, its next-generation Seville (and all other models in the division's range) will be switching to rear-wheel drive. The new Seville's mechanical makeup also has another weakness compared to its rivals: a four-speed automatic, when most in the class boast five-speed transmissions.
These factors apart, the Seville compares very well on paper. When pitched against the competitors Cadillac is aiming at in the U.S. market — BMW 540i, Mercedes-Benz E420, Jaguar XJ6 and Lexus LS400 — the Seville STS offers standout performance, innovative high-technology features and top-drawer equipment at a competitive price. The power of the so-called Northstar DOHC 32-valve V8 is sufficient to set a claimed 0-60 mph time of 6.8 seconds, quicker than all rivals except the BMW 540i. And equipped with Z-rated tires, the Seville will power on to a 150 mph top speed.