The full-size Cadillac DTS is back for the 2011 model year, though it could be the vehicle's last hurrah as GM plans a new XTS sedan with all-wheel drive as its replacement.
While it awaits retirement, the DTS still brings with it a heavy dose of luxury equipment--along with stretched versions still in use as limousines, airport shuttles and even hearses.
With its immense interior space, the large and cushy DTS is almost alone in its class, save for the similar Buick Lucerne and Ford's fleet-only Lincoln Town Car. But while the Lincoln looks dated, the Cadillac's styling has held up considerably better. The enormous egg-crate grille notwithstanding, the DTS is pleasantly handsome and very appealing inside, where details like a wood-trimmed dash, a touch-screen LCD for its navigation system, and plush leather seating give it a distinctly tasteful appearance.
The front-drive DTS weighs in at more than 4000 pounds, and since it's often pressed into black-car service, it's only sold with a durable, somewhat archaic drivetrain. The 4.6-liter V-8 spins out at least 275 horsepower--292 hp in some versions--but a four-speed automatic transmission is the only shifter found. Fuel economy drags behind at 15/23 mpg, predictably, but the DTS accelerates strongly enough for its sedate missions. Handling is about what you'd expect--it strikes a comfort-biased balance between the needs of the front passengers and the rear passengers, whether they're sitting vertically or, er, horizontally. Base versions have a well-cushioned, emotionless ride quality, while the more plush versions with Magnetic Ride Control have measurably better steering and ride response.
In either standard or long-wheelbase form, the DTS has enormous interior space. The DTS-L ups the ante with eight inches more wheelbase, which comes in handy when transporting party officials. The stock DTS has two "bucket" seats in front, but a six-seat version with a column-mounted shifter can be ordered. Flat, slippery seats at least are surrounded by lots of space--but the trunk is smaller than some less luxurious cars, like the current Ford Taurus with its massive 20-cubic-foot trunk.
Six airbags and a long list of safety systems are standard, including anti-lock brakes, as well as traction and stability control. The DTS's first cousin, the Buick Lucerne, rates poorly in the NHTSA's (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) side impact tests, which results in an overall crash-test rating of just three stars--but the DTS itself has not been tested. Like the Lucerne, the DTS offers a lane-departure warning system and a blind-spot alert system as options, along with front and rear parking sensors and adaptive cruise control.
Cadillac stuffs the DTS with standard features such as remote start; an AM/FM/CD/XM audio system; dual-zone automatic climate control; OnStar; and five-passenger seating with a floor-mounted shifter. Options such as ventilated seats and XM NavTraffic are bundled together in packages, pushing the DTS' base price of about $47,000 up the ladder rapidly.
This year's changes are limited to an upgraded OnStar system that recognizes real speech better than in the past. Cadillac promises you'll be able to say sentences like "I would like to make a phone call," while the system recognizes and prepares to dial. OnStar's software is also smarter when it comes to dialects now, too, recognizing more than 30 different speech patterns from the major languages in which it's offered (English, Spanish, Mandarin and French).
For an in-depth look at this luxury sedan, see TheCarConnection's full review of the Cadillac DTS.