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The Cadillac STS is without its V-8 compadres for the 2011 model year--it's running out the clock until it's replaced by the coming Cadillac XTS sedan, sometime in 2012.
Until then, the STS returns with a V-6 engine as its only powertrain, and with the unchanged "Art & Science" theme etched into its sheetmetal. It's a less successful look here than on the smaller CTS--the STS looks plainer and more bulky, though it's still crisp and contemporary like the larger DTS sedan. Inside the STS works much better; Cadillac has paid attention to Germany, evidenced in the STS' sober, handsome cabin. Materials aren't always as good as those in Mercedes and BMW vehicles, but the STS still presents itself in a flattering overhead light.
The STS' sole surviving powertrain combines a 3.6-liter, 302-horsepower, direct-injection V-6 with a six-speed automatic. All-wheel drive remains an option, though. Cadillac offers a handling package that adds 18-inch chrome wheels, Michelin summer tires, and Brembo four-piston brakes. The loss of the V-8 option isn't a great tragedy: the V-6 is nearly as fast as the outgoing eight-cylinder, and its fuel economy of 17/26 mpg is a considerable improvement over the 13/19 mpg the V-8 STS racked up last year. The STS has swift pickup and clean handling, with good steering feel and feedback, and good ride quality thanks to Magnetic Ride Control, which uses electromagnetic controls to adjust shock firmness constantly to provide a comfortable, smooth ride.
While it's supposed to be a size class larger than the CTS, the STS doesn't offer much more interior room than the entry-level Cadillac. The front seats are amply large and and very supportive, with plenty of surrounding room. The back seat is the disappointment: it's barely roomy enough for average-sized adults. With a decently sized trunk, the STS can at least tote the normal amount of luggage.
The STS also has been a disappointing crash-safety performer. Standard safety gear includes dual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; and traction and stability control. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has given previous versions four stars in all but side protection for rear-seat passengers (five stars), while 2011 crash results aren't available. The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) is as mixed: it gives the STS "good" results in frontal-offset protection, "acceptable" results in side impact, and a "poor" grade for rear-impact tests. Safety options include a lane-departure warning system, adaptive cruise control, and a blind-spot warning system.
The latest STS still sports standard climate control; an AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system; a heated, wood-trimmed steering wheel; and metallic and wood trim on the dash. The optional technology makes it a bit more compelling--drivers can order remote start; a head-up display; and ventilated seats, as well as a navigation system.
For more information, see TheCarConnection's most recent full review of the Cadillac STS.