2010 Cadillac STS Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
November 8, 2009

The 2010 Cadillac STS drives well-the STS-V is a trailblazer-but the cramped backseat and well-worn styling haven't kept pace in the luxury class.

TheCarConnection.com drove the Cadillac STS and STS-V to bring you this hands-on road test. Editors compared the STS and STS-V with other full-size luxury sedans to help you narrow your shopping list. High Gear Media researchers have also compiled a companion review of opinions from other respected auto Web sites, to give you the best information possible.

The 2010 Cadillac STS and its performance sibling, the STS-V, are the GM brand's full-size sports sedan-not to be confused with the large, front-drive DTS luxury sedan that's underpinned many a presidential limousine. The STS and STS-V compete against the likes of the BMW 5-Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and like them, it comes as a rear-driver with an option for all-wheel drive and a massively powerful V-8 engine. Unchanged in 2010 save for new paint colors, the STS returns with a base price just under $47,000 and a choice of V-6 or V-8 power, while the STS-V carries over its $75,00 sticker and everything else intact.

In 2008, Cadillac gave the STS and STS-V a mild restyling with a new nose and a wider grille. It's still clearly related to the original Seville STS that ushered in Cadillac's latest design themes, dubbed Art & Science at one time and ensconced at the crisp, folded end of the luxury spectrum. The unique blend of angular panels and smooth, continuous sheetmetal is teamed with elegantly minimal chrome details, which is why the STS sedans continue to look contemporary, even if they're no longer cutting-edge. The interiors are much softer and more luxurious-Cadillac's been paying attention to the lessons of German sedans with this soberly styled cabin. The layout, with some screen-driven controls and quite a few small buttons, can be confusing, and the materials haven't been upgraded to the extent seen in the latest edition of the smaller Cadillac CTS, though.

As it did last year, the 2010 Cadillac STS is offered in three distinct versions. The base STS is propelled by a 3.6-liter, 302-horsepower, direct-injection V-6 mated with a six-speed automatic. The next step up in performance brings a 4.6-liter, 320-hp V-8 teamed to a six-speed automatic transmission. The very rare STS-V rules the roost with its hand-built 469-hp, supercharged V-8. Both base V-6 and the lower-output V-8 STS sedans can be fitted with rear- or all-wheel drive; the STS-V is rear-drive only, and Cadillac claims it can vault to 60 mph in less than 5.0 seconds. On all but the base STS with all-wheel drive, Cadillac offers a handling package that adds 18-inch chrome wheels, Michelin summer tires, and Brembo four-piston brakes. The STS-V also gets bigger wheel-and-tire combinations, stiffer suspension settings, faster-feeling steering, and Brembo brakes. Of all the combinations, the STS-V is clearly the most exciting to drive, with tenacious grip and playful rear-drive handling to complement its powerful V-8. Of the other versions, TheCarConnection.com's editors prefer the V-6; it's almost as fast as the mid-line V-8, and turns in much better fuel economy of 17/26 mpg, versus 13/19 mpg for the V-8. In either the base or mid-line V-8 versions, the STS accelerates briskly enough and handles cleanly, with good steering feel and feedback. Magnetic Ride Control, standard on each, adjusts shock firmness constantly to provide a comfortable, smooth ride.

Review continues below

The 2010 Cadillac STS sedans may sit in a larger size class than the smaller CTS sedan, but their interiors don't offer that much more space. The cabin's softer and more luxurious, for sure, and in front the seats themselves rival those offered in the German competition-especially in the STS-V. They're amply proportioned and very supportive, with plenty of space in front. It's the backseat that disappoints-it's barely roomy enough for average adults. The trunk's more usable, and a decently sized console and glove box offer small-item storage and hidden cubbies for iPods and portable music players.

The 2010 Cadillac STS lags in safety, as does the similarly sized BMW 5-Series sedan. Its standard safety equipment includes dual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; and traction and stability control, while all-wheel drive is an option. However, the crash-test results are off the pace set by the more recent GM sedans, not to mention the Mercedes fleet. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) awards the STS four stars in all but side protection for rear-seat passengers (five stars). The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) gives the STS "good" results in frontal-offset protection, "acceptable" results in side impact, and a "poor" grade for rear-impact tests. Intellibeam headlamps are also on the options list for the 2010 STS; they sense approaching taillights or headlights and dim themselves accordingly. Other technological upgrades include revised stability control, a lane-departure warning system, adaptive cruise control, and a blind-spot warning system.

The 2010 Cadillac STS/STS-V doesn't want for the latest features. All versions have standard climate control; AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio systems; a heated, wood-trimmed steering wheel; and metallic and wood trim on the dash. Technology is one of the STS's best selling points. Available features include an Easy Key keyless entry system; Adaptive Remote Start system; a four-color head-up display (HUD); and heated and ventilated seats. OnStar turn-by-turn navigation is offered, as is the eNav system.

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2010 Cadillac STS

Styling

Groundbreaking days are behind it, but the 2010 Cadillac STS and STS-V still seem fit and trim, inside and out.

The Cadillac STS and STS-V are aging gracefully, but no longer have the cutting-edge appeal they once did.

In 2008, Cadillac gave the STS a mild restyling with a new nose and a wider grille. It's still clearly related to the original Seville STS that ushered in Cadillac's latest design themes, dubbed Art & Science at one time and ensconced at the crisp, folded end of the luxury spectrum. The unique blend of angular panels and smooth, continuous sheetmetal is teamed with elegantly minimal chrome details, which is why the STS still looks contemporary. Kelley Blue Book thinks if you like the "edgy styling of the CTS and XLR cars...you'll like the 2010 Cadillac STS," while admitting most shoppers in this class will want "a more distinctive vehicle." Cars.com finds the STS's styling "elements are in proportion" but critiques its now cliché side vents. Edmunds sees the grille as "particularly striking," but Automobile corroborates TheCarConnection.com's take, calling the STS "anodyne...a car whose exterior and interior both leave us cold." In contrast, reviewers gloss over the similarities to fawn over the STS-V: "In a luxury sport sedan market that's traditionally dominated by German carmakers, the Cadillac STS-V makes a tremendous impression," says Edmunds, while CNNMoney pegs the shape as "bright and angular, with a mouthy stainless-steel grille, vertical headlights, vertiginous flanks, and an engorged hood." Cars.com has a poignant thought to add to the debate, pointing out "few carmakers have managed to craft an entire lineup as cohesive as Cadillac has."

The 2010 Cadillac STS's interior is much softer and more luxurious than the exterior, and it's clear the brand's been paying attention to the lessons of German sedans with its soberly styled cabin. The layout, with some screen-driven controls and quite a few small buttons, can be confusing, and the materials haven't been upgraded to the extent seen in the latest edition of the smaller Cadillac CTS. "Cadillac snazzed up the STS's interior significantly for 2009 with higher-quality wood and the addition of tasteful aluminum trim," Edmunds reminds shoppers, and Car and Driver notes the "more sophisticated instrument cluster looks much richer than those in past cars." The streamlined dash style sports a wide center stack of controls and a nice balance of leather, plastic, and wood-Kelley Blue Book details the materials that give the dash and door panels "a rich look mimicking real leather," but worries "how well this material will hold up over time." It doesn't faze Edmunds, which thinks "luxury buyers should be pleased with this Cadillac's generally high-class ambience."

8

2010 Cadillac STS

Performance

The 2010 Cadillac STS spans the performance spectrum; the best versions are the lighter-handling STS V-6 and the ultra-powerful STS-V.

The Cadillac STS and STS-V are able and quick enough to please many buyers, but they fall a bit short of the high marks set by the German sedans in their class.

As it did in 2009, the 2010 Cadillac STS is offered in three distinct performance versions. The base STS churns away with a 3.6-liter, 302-horsepower, direct-injection V-6 mated with a six-speed automatic. From there, Cadillac offers a 4.6-liter, 320-hp V-8 teamed to a six-speed automatic transmission. Both can be fitted with rear- or all-wheel drive. TheCarConnection.com's editors prefer the V-6; with it, the STS is nearly as fast as the V-8 version, and turns in much better fuel economy of 17/26 mpg, versus 13/19 mpg for the V-8. Car and Driver points out that the available 4.6-liter V-8 offers only 18 hp more, costs an extra $9,000, and gets much lower fuel economy-"it's hardly worth it," they conclude. Edmunds confirms "the STS V-6 is basically as quick" as the STS V-8. Kelley Blue Book agrees, finding that, in real-world driving, the V-6 STS's "fuel economy proved surprisingly good, especially on long highway trips." Both this V-6 and V-8 shift gears through a six-speed automatic transmission that Edmunds observes is "slow to downshift." Cars.com notes that the transmission of the 2010 Cadillac STS offers a "manual-shift mode, but like most it takes a moment or two to induce a shift," and if "the computer thinks the car needs a downshift, it's quick to override any actions to the contrary."

In either the base or mid-line V-8 versions, the STS handles cleanly, with good steering feel and feedback. Both models have a rather firm ride, but thanks to the standard Magnetic Ride Control, which can make almost instantaneous adjustments to damper firmness, ride comfort is quite smooth. The now-defunct Forbes Autos reports of the carryover STS, "all versions deliver a fairly smooth ride with reasonably sporty handling." Kelley Blue Book says that the "STS tracked brilliantly in tight turns, though the steering response was somewhat soft and slow to react." With MRC, the "Touring" mode provides a "cushy ride and composed handling," while "Sports" mode is "a little sharper and a bit stiffer," contends Edmunds, which reports that the car handles just fine in Touring mode. On all but the base STS with all-wheel drive, Cadillac offers a handling package that adds 18-inch chrome wheels, Michelin summer tires, and Brembo four-piston brakes. ConsumerGuide finds that "reassuring brakes provide short, straight simulated panic stops."

At the far end of the performance spectrum sits the very rare STS-V and its hand-built 469-hp, supercharged V-8. It is rear-drive only, and Cadillac claims it can vault to 60 mph in less than 5.0 seconds. With the STS-V, there's overwhelming power on demand. As Edmunds reports, "Just dip the throttle and go. Mash the pedal and the STS-V jets forward on a huge wave of supercharged torque." Cars.com appreciates the way the "supercharged Northstar engine teams with a six-speed automatic transmission," calling this Caddy "an excellent example of a high-performance car that is more than livable in day-to-day driving." Automobile has qualms with the STS-V's six-speed automatic, noting it "doesn't always transfer the engine's goods to the rear axle as smoothly as you would expect, whether it's in fully automatic mode, on the sport setting, or in manual-shift mode, when it has an especially difficult time with the two-three upshift." Edmunds also observes the gearbox "has a tendency to move slowly through gearchanges."

The STS-V gets bigger wheel-and-tire combinations, stiffer suspension settings, faster-feeling steering, and Brembo brakes, and with them, the STS-V is clearly the most exciting big Caddy to drive, with tenacious grip and playful rear-drive handling to complement its powerful V-8. Edmunds feels the weight puts the STS-V at a disadvantage compared to the best BMWs and Benzes; its "rather large size ultimately limits its ability to hustle through corners, but it generally handles like a much smaller car," they insist. "Compared to the M5, the STS-V is softly sprung for American tastes, but body roll is well controlled, and the big Caddy never feels floppy or sloppy." Automobile wishes for something a little more Germanic, as it says the STS-V is "missing the fluidity that eludes so many GM products but which is usually present in the best performance cars from, you guessed it, Europe." As for fuel economy, the EPA estimates the STS-V at 13/19 mpg, while ConsumerGuide observes 13.7 mpg in mixed driving. Premium gasoline is required.

7

2010 Cadillac STS

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Cadillac STS has plenty of room to improve; it doesn't have much backseat room, nor does it show great fit and finish.

The 2010 Cadillac STS may sit in a larger size class than the smaller CTS sedan, but its interior doesn't offer that much more space. Reviewers at TheCarConnection.com and around the Web put the STS's comfort, utility, and quality in the low-to-middle end of the luxosedan pack: it's softer and more luxurious, but with average fit and finish and lacking the room its rivals have in ample measure.

The STS's front seats rival those offered in the German competition. They're amply proportioned and very supportive, with plenty of space in front.
There's "good headroom and legroom," ConsumerGuide says, but "some testers feel hemmed-in by the wide center console and high windowsills." However, "the standard power tilt and telescopic steering wheel helps dial in a comfortable driving stance." Cars.com agrees: "the leather upholstery is both supportive and well-cushioned," with "plenty of range for different-sized drivers." The only exception comes from a Car and Driver reviewer, disappointed with the hard plastic at the edge of the STS's center console, which "still bruised our knees after just a few hours of driving."

It's the backseat that disappoints: it's barely roomy enough for average adults. ConsumerGuide calls it "disappointing for a car this large," and TheCarConnection.com's editors note that legroom is surprisingly tight for a car so generously proportioned otherwise. Don't plan to carry full-frame adults back there on a regular basis.

The trunk's only slightly more usable, and a decently sized console and glove box offer some small-item storage and hidden cubbies for iPods and portable music players. "Trunk space is unexceptional for STS's exterior size," ConsumerGuide says, and "a small opening limits the size of items that can be loaded." Inside, they add "small-item storage is limited to a smallish center console and less-than-generous glove box." Edmunds chimes in, reporting "the trunk is also smaller than what one might expect for this class of car."

Build quality in the 2010 Cadillac STS isn't particularly grand. ConsumerGuide says the STS's "interior materials quality is good when compared to domestic-branded premium sedans but falls just shy of the standards set by German and Japanese rivals." Cars.com finds the Cadillac STS interior "comfortable and lined with respectable materials," but notes "execution leaves a lot to be desired," adding that "most of the flaws could have been fixed with a modest freshening, something on par with what the outside received."

7

2010 Cadillac STS

Safety

The 2010 Cadillac STS has the safety goods, but its crash-test results come up short.

The 2010 Cadillac STS lags in safety crash-test scores, though not in its ample safety features and options. The low safety score indicates TheCarConnection.com's philosophy that expensive luxury cars should offer world-class safety, regardless of their origin or mission.

It comes down to the stars. The STS's crash-test results are off the pace set by newer GM sedans, not to mention the Mercedes fleet. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) gives the STS four stars in all but side protection for rear-seat passengers (five stars). The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) gives the STS "good" results in frontal-offset protection, "acceptable" results in side impact, and a "poor" grade for rear-impact tests.

The STS is fitted with standard safety gear like dual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; and traction and stability control. All-wheel drive is an option.

Intellibeam headlamps are also on the options list for the 2010 STS; they sense approaching taillights or headlights and dim themselves accordingly. On the Cadillac STS V-8 with all-wheel drive, adaptive cruise control and "enhanced StabiliTrak with active steering" are available as options, Cars.com adds.

Other technological upgrades include revised stability control, a lane-departure warning system, adaptive cruise control, and a blind-spot warning system. Car and Driver finds some of these annoying, as they bleep too many alerts in the cabin (though the lane-departure feature doesn't sound off until the car is "almost on the lane lines"). The blind-spot system proved nearly useless to their editors: "We had to look at the mirror so intently to see if the icon were illuminated, we might as well have just turned our heads a little farther and manually checked the blind spots."

As for the STS-V, "a limited-slip differential, antilock brakes, stability control and traction control are all standard on the STS-V," Edmunds reports, along with Cadillac's "rear parking assist, a lane departure warning system and blind spot warning system." Cars.com likes the STS-V's Intellibeam headlights, "which adjust their intensity based on the oncoming or leading vehicles."

9

2010 Cadillac STS

Features

The 2010 Cadillac STS offers outstanding audio and other high-tech features-those with complex controls that may take some time to learn.

The 2010 Cadillac STS doesn't want for the latest features. All versions have standard climate control; AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio systems; a heated, wood-trimmed steering wheel; and metallic and wood trim on the dash. Cars.com reports that power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a keyless access system, an eight-speaker CD stereo, a power-adjustable steering wheel, and sonar rear parking sensors are all standard on the base STS Cadillac.

Available features include an Easy Key keyless entry system; Adaptive Remote Start system; a four-color head-up display (HUD); and heated and ventilated seats. OnStar turn-by-turn navigation is also an option, along with a moonroof and a heated steering wheel.

Most reviewers, including Kelley Blue Book, rave over the optional 15-speaker Bose 5.1 Surround Sound audio system, which "delivers great sound." But the STS's navigation system takes some heat. ConsumerGuide finds that "relatively few buttons" on the dash almost buries the functions on the radio and GPS, which can "complicate their use." Edmunds doesn't agree; they consider the "controls are straightforward and easy to use," though the memory setting procedure for many of the cabin controls are "confounding...frustrating and unnecessarily complicated."

On the well-equipped STS-V, the standard features list expands greatly. ForbesAutos lists "stiffer stabilizer bars and suspension springs, a quicker steering ratio, high-performance brakes, and a performance-tuned chassis," as distinct features, while Cars.com notes that the V's "10-spoke, painted aluminum-alloy wheels are exclusive." Edmunds tallies more standard features, such as "leather/suede upholstery," "heated leather-wrapped steering wheel," "power sunroof," and "navigation system w/voice recognition," while one of its very few options is a choice to delete the sunroof.

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