Pros: Extremely pleasant driving experience. Solid build and abundant features.
Cons: Stupid donut tire. Some ergonomic errors.
I had the privilege of driving the new 2003 Cadillac Deville as a loaner vehicle while my 1999 Cadillac Seville STS was being serviced. I took the vehicle on a pleasant excursion from Philadelphia to State College to see the Nittany Lions play Virginia. Both my passengers and I enjoyed the trip in the new DeVille and made me seriously consider one when I someday trade-in my Seville.
This Deville was a silver metallic base model. It was powered by the legendary Northstar engine - a dual overhead cam, sequential fuel injection, 4.6 liter, 32 valve V-8 delivering 275 hp in the base Deville. It was mated to a Hydra-Matic electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transaxle with overdrive. The base Deville's drivetrain provides smooth, quiet, responsive power. The car featured four-wheel disk brakes with ABS for stopping power and was shod with Michelin Synergy P225/60R-16 blackwall tires mounted on attractive 7 spoke 16-inch cast aluminum wheels. All speed traction control provided sure-footedness.
The warm and inviting interior of the car was medium gray leather with attractive imitation wood trim. Genuine wood trim is available. The driver faces an digital instrument panel. The digital speedometer is flanked by arching graphics displaying engine temperature on the left and fuel level on the right as well as an array of "idiot lights." The Information Center below displays useful data such as fuel economy, fluid life, and even tire pressure for each wheel. Buttons flanking the instrument cluster allow the driver to set the controls for English/Metric display and trip odometer.
The steering wheel features redundant controls for the stereo and HVAC system as well as cruise control. It may be manually tilted via a small lever on the left side of the column. I tried the horn expecting the melodious Cadillac four-note trumpet horn but got a rather harsh note more appropriate for a Chevrolet. The transmission selector is an unusually shaped column-mounted lever with a manual traction control button mounted in its handle. I noticed a significant ergonomic boo-boo. The shift lever partially obscures the stereo when the car is shifted into Drive.
The HVAC controls display interior temperature, outside temperature, fan speed, and mode. Climate control is via a knob that allows one degree increments between 60F and 90F.
A similar console is in the back for the comfort and convenience of passengers in the rear compartment. The efficient, effective HVAC system rapidly heats, cools, and defogs/deices the car. The base stereo is an AM/FM cassette/CD unit that delivers crisp clear sound with easy to understand controls. A 275 watt Bose premium system is available for audiophiles. The deep glovebox is bisected by a handy shelf as well as small cubby holes in the door. Deep map pockets are in each door.
One thing did feel odd. The HVAC controls' placement above the stereo was confusing at first. I often mistook the climate control knob for the stereo volume control knob.
The sun visors feature illuminated vanity mirrors. Unfortunately there are no dimmer controls. The inside rearview mirror is auto-dimming and has a small digital compass as well as buttons to access OnStar. The most novel feature were red LED turn indicators.built into the outside rearview mirrors.
The buttery soft leather seats were extremely comfortable. At no time did I feel fatigued, even during the extended trip from Philadelphia to State College. All seats are heated with low, medium, and high settings. Heat may be directed either to the backrests, seats, or both. Both driver and passenger had six position power seats with lumber control. There is also power recline and headrest height is adjustable. The driver's seat featured dual position memory.
There was a dual level armrest between the front seats. The top level opened to reveal a shallow storage area and a coin holder. The lower level revealed a deep storage area and forward flipping dual cup holders. The rear compartment had a similar armrest. A handy pass-through is behind it for access to the trunk. Three anchoring points for child seats are located on the lower edge of the rear package shelf.
The Deville's safety features include driver's, passenger's and side airbags as well as childproof locks in the rear. I also noticed that the front side windows feature both express up and down. Unfortunately, the rear side windows only have express down.
The trunk is positively cavernous. There is a handy cargo net as well as a cove located on the right for small loose cargo. Unfortunately, the spare tire compartment revealed the hated "donut tire" - that awful relic of the days of disco, the Pet Rock, and powder blue leisure suits. Get with it GM! The donut tire should be banished to the land of wind and ghosts! Also absent is the novel automatic trunk pull-down that has distinguished Cadillacs since the 1950s.
The rear of the Deville features the innovative LED taillamps as well as a stop light integrated into the trunk. These led taillamps shine brighter than those that employ bulbs but are very expensive to replace if damaged.
Driving the Deville is an extremely enjoyable experience as one looks over that sloping expanse of the hood using that prominent wreath & crest hood ornament to aim the car while peering through the panoramic windshield. Despite its length and bulk, the Deville feels very athletic whether on die-straight Interstates or twisting rural backroads. The car hugs curves with nary a squeal from the tires or any sensation of torque-steer despite the car's FWD configuration. The car brakes very gracefully, even in panic stops. The ABS prevents any embarrassing nosedive in emergency situations. The Northstar confidently responds when the accelerator is depressed while emitting a pleasant, muted exhaust note. Even cratered urban streets are no match for the DeVille's taut suspension which swallows the bumps and potholes without protest. The body integrity is second to none. I heard absolutely no squeaks or rattles nor felt any body flex. The car feels as if it's hewn from a solid billet of steel.
Unfortunately, Monday came and I had to turn in the Deville. My experience with the Deville confirms my determination to purchase one in the future. I urge any prospective luxury car buyers to consider a visit to their local Cadillac dealer for a command performance of the new Deville.