2009 Cadillac DTS Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
February 21, 2009

The 2009 Cadillac DTS is in need of a better, more modern transmission, but the full-size sedan remains a luxurious front-runner in its market.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the 2009 Cadillac DTS in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com's car enthusiasts researched available road tests on the new Cadillac DTS to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other car reviews might differ.

The 2009 Cadillac DTS is Cadillac's most traditional model serving a variety of purposes from common civilian transportation to bulletproof versions shuttling personalities such as the President of the United Sates.

Depending on the seating configuration, the front-wheel-drive Cadillac DTS can seat five or six full-size adults comfortably, with plenty of head- and legroom to spare. The DTS offers buyers a choice of either a 275-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 or a 300-horsepower version of the same engine. Both come mated to a four-speed automatic gearbox, which doesn't help the DTS get more than 23 mpg on the highway.

The 2009 Cadillac DTS, in keeping with its rather conservative look and feel inside and out, appeals to buyers who want a large and powerful (yet cushy) sedan. The exterior shape of the DTS is creased and angular like the current generation of Cadillacs, and in darker colors, it's reasonably handsome. The interior is well executed, though the large seats in leather are slippery and unsupportive. Large gauges and a tall center stack on the dashboard with a touch-screen video display are the hallmarks of the dash, along with lots of wood veneer.

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Six airbags and a long list of amenities are standard, but the Cadillac DTS gets only four-star crash ratings in its standard form for front and side impacts and for rollover. Stability control with brake assist helps keep handling safe even when weather threatens, and Magnetic Ride Control help refine the car's ride and handling characteristics, providing reasonably good handling despite a very smooth, soft ride. With either engine, the DTS has good throttle response and straight-line acceleration, though the transmission has lumpy shift quality, can hesitant to downshift, and has two fewer gears than most of its rivals.

For 2009 the DTS remains largely unchanged except for a host of luxury and technical upgrades, including a new nine-spoke wheel design with Cadillac’s wreath and crest logo displayed in the center, “Razor” turn signal LEDs, and clearer Side Blind Zone Alert icons in the rearview mirrors. Popular options on the DTS are grouped into large packages and include heated and cooled front seats, XM NavTraffic, a Bose Centerpoint sound system, a sunroof, and rear sunshades. A Platinum Edition gets a "handcrafted" interior and special badging.

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2009 Cadillac DTS

Styling

With conservative styling, the 2009 DTS remains Cadillac's traditional luxury car.

The 2009 Cadillac DTS is the most traditional model in the Cadillac lineup, and you're as likely to see the big-and-boxy, front-wheel drive sedan as (sometimes bulletproof) transportation for VIPs as you are for ‘real’ households.

According to Edmunds the 2009 Cadillac DTS is “a traditional large America luxury sedan.” Car and Driver says the DTS “wears a subdued version of Cadillac's edgy new styling,” and Motor Trend agrees the DTS wears “a light dose of new-wave Caddy styling,” while Cars.com thinks “the new model's styling evokes Cadillac's STS sedan.” Kelley Blue Book says its styling "ties it to the DeVilles of the past." Automedia reports “vertical headlights and taillamps, accompanied by an egg-crate-pattern grille” are part of the heritage cues, while the “more architectural, linear” appearance also sees improvements, such as LED taillamps. Buyers can opt for a tradition, stand-up wreath-and-crest hood ornament, they add.

Motor Trend observes the DTS “benefits from the use of more premium materials.” Edmunds praises its "more-refined exterior styling" and a "greatly improved interior design and quality" that has "more curves in the right places." Large gauges and a tall center stack on the dashboard with a touch-screen video display are the hallmarks of the dash, along with lots of wood veneer. Edmunds concludes, “Overall, the cabin is handsome and most controls are simple to use—no small feat given the large number of high-tech features.”

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2009 Cadillac DTS

Performance

V-8 power remains one of the Cadillac DTS's most commendable traits, but its boat-like handling won’t find fans.  

The V-8 engine powering the 2009 Cadillac DTS easily transports its occupants to their destination in comfort.

The base and luxury Cadillac DTS models are powered by a 275-horsepower engine that Kelley Blue Book describes as having an "utterly smooth response." The Performance model engine produces a whopping 292 horsepower. Many reviewers, including those at MyRide.com, note that given the "identical displacement" of the 2009 Cadillac, they find "negligible differences in [real world] power ratings." Car and Driver calls the power “adequate.” Edmunds reports, “Either way, the lone transmission is a four-speed automatic, which is calibrated for quicker response in the Performance model.” With the latter, “we've timed a DTS Performance to 60 mph in 7 seconds flat.” Motor Trend calls the transmission “effective, but somewhat old news in this world of five, six, and even seven-speeders.”

The EPA rates the 2009 Cadillac DTS at 15 mpg city, 23 highway for the standard version, with 15/22 ratings for the Performance model.

Most reviewers are not so pleased with the way the Cadillac DTS handles. Consumer Guide details all 2009 Cadillac DTS trims as handling "competently," though noting that the luxury sedan "is compromised by its size and heft." They add it "comfortably smothers most bumps," though it "allows some float and wander over large pavement humps." Car and Driver is also less than impressed with the handling. They chide the Cadillac DTS for a "vague steering feel."

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2009 Cadillac DTS

Comfort & Quality

Although cabin materials are lacking and the seats are unsupportive, a spacious ride and plenty of space all around redeem the 2009 Cadillac DTS.

The vast room available in the 2009 Cadillac DTS is unparalleled in American-made automobiles. According to Car and Driver, the DTS is “big and roomy.” Edmunds says, “the sheer volume of room in the cabin makes the DTS a fantastic long-distance highway cruiser.” One of the few cars left that offers six-passenger seating. The seats have “as much legroom in back as they do in front.” Consumer Guide proclaims the car’s "standard bucket seats are all-day comfortable." Automedia observes, “Tons of front-seat space lets occupants stretch out. Comfortable seats are well cushioned with modest side bolstering. Support is pretty good, for both the back and thigh.” In the rear, Automedia adds, “backseat space is no less bountiful, but a hard seatback is less inviting for the center occupant.” Car and Driver dislikes the “unsupportive, couch-like bucket seats,” though.

Trunk space is virtually limitless. “The wide, easy-loading trunk holds plenty of luggage,” Automedia writes. “At nearly 19 cubic feet, the trunk has no problem accepting large suitcases or a foursome's golf bags,” Edmunds says.

“Although generally good, the interior materials are not up to the high standards set by European or Japanese luxury marques,” says Edmunds. Though the DTS is “designed for a comfort-oriented driver,” as Car and Driver observes, the quality of materials isn’t quite top-drawer. Noise and vibrations are damped well, though. Kelley Blue Book says "except for a tiny vibration at idle, the DTS is ultra-quiet." Car and Driver also compliments the 2009 Cadillac DTS for its "ample interior volume" and a particularly "quiet cabin."

Smooth riding is a hallmark of any Cadillac. The DTS does not satisfy everyone here, though. Reviewers at MyRide.com describe the 2009 Cadillac DTS as having a "cushiony ride without much wallow." Kelley Blue Book notices that with an "indisputably soft suspension, the DTS is far less floaty than might be expected."

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2009 Cadillac DTS

Safety

The 2009 Cadillac DTS might not provide segment-leading protection, but it doesn’t skimp on high-tech safety features.

In front impact crash tests the 2009 Cadillac DTS scores well, but didn't fare as well in side impact tests.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the DTS a “good” rating for its more stringent front-impact test, but only an “acceptable” rating for side impacts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the DTS five stars for driver-side front impact protection; all other front and side impact tests, as well as rollover tests, are rated at four stars.

The 2009 Cadillac DTS features plenty of standard safety equipment as outlined by Cars.com. Anti-lock brakes and "StabiliTrak electronic stability system with brake assist" are among them, as are six airbags (side impact, curtain, and front passenger unit). This includes the "new dual-depth" front airbags that deploy "either shallow or deep depending on crash severity, seat belt usage and occupant position," according to Cadillac.

Edmunds is impressed by the 2009 Cadillac rear bumper sonar system that uses radio waves to detect objects while in reverse. There are also Lane Departure Warning and Side Blind Zone Alert systems. These options are designed to alert Cadillac 2009 DTS drivers to the state of traffic around them with a series of alarms.

The Cadillac DTS may be equipped with a night-vision option installed to project "onto the lower section of the windshield using a 'heads-up' display"; Motor Trend considers it especially useful "in inclement weather, when visibility is sharply reduced." This option costs an extra $2,000.

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2009 Cadillac DTS

Features

There are plenty of luxury features on the 2009 Cadillac DTS.

Cadillac graced 2009 DTS sedans with a long list of standard features and an even longer list of electronic and trim options. All 2009 Cadillac DTS sedans are equipped with “dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating, OnStar, bi-xenon headlamps, power front bucket seats, remote vehicle start, a CD/MP3 player and satellite radio,” Edmunds reports. Car and Driver reports that the DTS has “loads of features,” but some are “pricey options.”

The Performance edition picks up 18-inch wheels, Magnetic Ride Control, and the blind-spot alert system. Options include a split heated and cooled front seat; a heated steering wheel; bucket seats; three-zone climate control; a six-CD changer; a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel; and memory driver seat, Edmunds adds.

The 6.5-inch navigation screen may also function as an MP3 control or with expanded OnStar package options. A navigation system, remote start, and a sunroof are options, Cars.com reports, as is burl walnut trim.

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Styling 7
Performance 6
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