PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY — Outside the temperature is in the 90s, while inside my cockpit’s climate control keeps me cool. Air bladders in the seat subtly adjust for my contours as I power into Turn One. A large pool of soapy, sudsy water greets my tires, and I prepare for a spin as I enter it and turn hard to the left.
Instead, I steer straight into the banking of Turn Two. An easily maneuvered cone course is next, and then comes a stretch of deep sand. Surely this will upset the balance and control of the DeVille, but it doesn't.
A Cadillac at a racetrack, you might question? Throwing the largest model in the GM stable around in conditions that would unsettle most performance cars? That’s certainly not the image of the DeVille that most consumers would consider. And that’s exactly why General Motors brought a group of auto writers to the PIR to evaluate the enhanced and upgraded Cadillac DeVille for 2000.
A loyal following
For the past 14 years, Cadillac’s DeVille has been the best-selling luxury car in the world. And, for decades, it’s boasted the leading brand loyalty in the entire industry: Of the 2 million current DeVille owners, more than half will lease or buy another, while 69 percent will stay with Cadillac models.
But GM’s luxury division can't rest on its laurels. After all, Cadillac’s traditional well of buyers — pre-boomers — is running dry. By 2005, nearly 40 percent of potential customers will be baby boomers, many of whom are just as likely (or more) to buy an import. This group of buyers has come to expect high performance, leading technology, and contemporary styling.
That’s why, for the 2000 model-year, the DeVille has been thoroughly reworked.
It incorporates more athletic manners and some innovative technology while clinging to Cadillac’s traditional luxury values.
2000 Cadillac DeVille
Accomplishing the refinement, handling, and quality goals set forth for the newest version was not possible with the former DeVille's structure, so the General’s "G-body" architecture was chosen instead. The G platform is 21 percent stiffer and yields noticeable improvements in ride, handling, and harshness. Overall length is down 2 inches from last year, while the wheelbase has grown 1.5 inches, to 115.0 inches.
Combined with sleeker, more aerodynamic styling, the car appears far better proportioned than the "land yacht" it replaces. Traditional Cadillac styling cues — the shield-shaped grille, sweeping hoodline, full-length body spline, and, of course, the wreath and crest insignia — affirm, nonetheless, that this vehicle is the flagship of General Motors.
Night Vision and Northstars
With its numerous electronic innovations, the new Caddy is a technological flagship as well. It offers the first automotive application of Night Vision, a thermal-imaging device which can "see" into the darkness three to five times beyond the range of conventional headlamps. When in use, the optional system projects a virtual image above the hood of the car (in the driver’s peripheral vision) and shows ghostlike images of heat-emitting objects such as deer, stranded motorists, and moving vehicles well before they would otherwise be visible. Since night driving represents only 28 percent of miles driven, yet accounts for 55 percent of all traffic fatalities, this is a good idea indeed. Because Night Vision works on the infrared spectrum, it is unaffected by oncoming headlights and produces no glare to other drivers.
Additional "see and be seen" technology on the new DeVille are the industry-first LED taillamps. In addition to the fact that they never burn out, the instant response (versus the 200 milliseconds required to get a conventional bulb glowing) translates into an extra 18 feet of response time for the driver behind when traveling at 60 mph. To protect the new Seville-like tail (and tricycle-riding children), an ultrasonic parking assistance system guards against collisions while reversing.
2000 Cadillac DeVille
A Class II multiplexing electrical system links sophisticated chassis controls. Anti-lock brakes are standard and they now incorporate electronic brake distribution for better stopping power under all conditions. Improvements to the continuously variable road-sensing suspension include individual wheel control and better roll restraint, especially during evasive or accident-avoidance maneuvers. The response time of the system has been notably quickened. For slippery surfaces, StabiliTrak combines traditional traction control with a new sideslip prevention feature. In an effort to inspire driver confidence, an electromagnetic steering gear temporarily raises steering effort during low-traction or emergency maneuvers, a step that, perhaps, crosses the fine line between driver control and Big Brother watchfulness.
A navigation system is offered as an option. It uses a set of nine CDs (stored in the trunk) and a satellite receiver to pinpoint the vehicle’s exact location anywhere in the 48 states. It offers turn-by-turn guiding and map assistance with audio cues. (For those rare instances when GPS coverage is unavailable, the system calculates an approximate location based on the vehicle speed sensor and on-board gyroscope.) A 5-inch color screen in the center of the instrument panel provides a visual readout.
Perky and perkier
The power to move quickly across the map comes from an improved Northstar V-8. While retaining its 4.6-liter 32-valve aluminum architecture, it now runs on regular unleaded (premium was previously required) and can be sold in California and the Northeast as a low-emissions vehicle (LEV). The standard version produces 275 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 300 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. Fitted to the top-spec DTS model is a slightly perkier version, which makes 300 hp. All DeVilles use GM’s venerable Hydramatic 4T80-E electronically controlled transaxle to deliver power to the front wheels.
Inside, a full complement of luxury, convenience, and safety features abound. Even though the 2000 DeVille is 2 inches shorter than the outgoing model, the wheelbase has been stretched to give more legroom. Since the car has lost its slab-sided body, there’s technically less interior room, but we found as much, if not more, usable space in the new car. There are, for example, 21 distinct storage areas inside the vehicle, versus the previous 16. The DeVille remains one of the few luxury offerings with room for six, thanks to the standard 40/20/40 split bench in front.
2000 Cadillac DeVille
Three trim levels — the base DeVille, the more luxurious DeVille High Luxury Sedan (DHS), and sportier DeVille Touring Sedan (DTS) are to be sold. Leather seats (heated in front) are standard on the DHS and DTS, while all models get the 10-way power adjustment controls. Power lumbar support and massaging are available, but for the ultimate in comfort, the adaptive seating system — it uses 10 sensors and air bladders to monitor and adjust the seat to eliminate pressure points — is the way to go. For the benefit of back-seat drivers, the rear bench sits about an inch higher than the front seats for a better view of the road. Automatic three-zone climate control with air filtration is standard on all models, and both it and the audio system can be controlled by steering wheel buttons. The base DeVille is fitted with a standard AM/FM/cassette, but the DHS and DTS ship with a premium Bose system with the option of an in-dash six-disc CD changer.
Complementing the standard front and side airbags for the front passengers (rear-seat side airbags are optional) is the optional OnStar system, which automatically calls for help if airbags deploy. It also tracks the vehicle if it is stolen and can be used for routine assistance as well.
Although pricing has not been set, expect the base DeVille to remain a tremendous value in the segment and the choice of pre-boomers from Palm Beach to Palm Springs. Only time will tell if the uplevel DHS and DTS will lure baby boomers away from imports, but from what we've driven, we think it's a reasonable quest.
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