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If you've been shopping exclusively for a luxury import, thinking you already know all about Cadillacs, you might want to think again. If you want a big sedan that offers athletic handling and performance, a car that feels solid, a car with a luxurious interior, a car with the latest technology, then take a look at the Cadillac DeVille. At a normal driving pace, the DeVille is a big, comfortable, luxurious sedan. Push it hard, and it feels like a big sports sedan.
Cadillac designed the DeVille to please a variety of drivers by offering three distinctive models. The DTS, or DeVille Touring Sedan, is an agile sports sedan. The DHS delivers high luxury with a more traditional Cadillac ride, while the standard DeVille offers a lower price.
For 2003, the DeVille gets minor styling refinements, and new standard and optional equipment. (The current-generation DeVille dates from model-year 2000, when it was completely redesigned.) XM Satellite Radio is now available, offering 100 coast-to-coast digital channels, including music, sports, talk, 24-hour news, and children's entertainment. A tire-pressure monitor is now standard, and Advanced Vehicle Navigation is available for all models.
The DeVille rides as supple as you would expect of a Cadillac. The suspension filters unwanted vibration and bumps, but doesn't let the car float around like a boat. Though not as firm as a BMW, the DeVille provides a well-controlled ride. Bumps are felt, but suppressed to comfortable levels. Go around a fast, sweeping turn and potholes won't upset the car's balance, a benefit of the DeVille's highly rigid chassis. We feel this makes the DeVille safer and more comfortable to drive in tight quarters, important in big cities when surrounded by big trucks and aggressive cab drivers.
The DeVille is smooth and stable at high speeds. The steering is precise and direct, so the car always goes where the driver intends.
Cadillac has achieved its luxury/sports duality by engineering a solid platform that can be extensively tailored to the individual buyer's tastes. The DeVille benefits from technology and higher-quality manufacturing. Aluminum suspension components reduce unsprung weight (the weight that moves with each wheel as it reacts to irregularities in the road), so the springs don't have to be as stiff to keep the wheels in firm contact with the pavement. This translates into more comfort on the highway without having to sacrifice handling.
The DTS model is particularly agile and feels rock solid on the open road. The DTS gets the latest version of Cadillac's Continuously Variable Road-Sensing Suspension (CVRSS 2.0), which features transient roll control, lateral support and enhanced stability. This electronically controlled suspension adjusts shock-absorber damping every few milliseconds, adapting to the road surface and the driver's demands. Variable shock damping allows the DTS suspension to soak up road irregularities and isolate passengers from the outside elements, while still providing the tight control needed for precise handling.
Braking is sure, stable and effective, with nice firm pedal feel. DeVille's braking system combines large four-wheel-discs with a small, lightweight anti-lock system. ABS works very well on this car: Jam on the brakes and you still have control of the steering. (Just remember to steer.) Electronic brake distribution (EBD) helps reduce stopping distances by re-proportioning the braking force from rear to front as the vehicle stops and its weight shifts forward. In everyday, around-town applications, the brake pedal feels smooth and progressive, making it easy to slow the car down smoothly.
All DeVilles come with the superb Northstar V8 engine. This engine is tuned to produce 300 horsepower in the DTS, 275 horsepower in the DHS and DeVille. Thanks to this highly refined power plant, the 2003 DeVille is responsive, quiet, and fuel efficient. The DTS has lots of power and growls aggressively under hard acceleration.
The DeVille has a great drivetrain. The automatic transmission is GM's electronically controlled 4T80-E four-speed and it uses a viscous converter clutch for maximum smoothness with fuel efficiency. We were particularly impressed with the calibration of the transmission, and with the way it communicates with the engine. Squeeze the throttle to the floor in many new overdrive-automatic cars, and they surge briefly in fourth, then slam violently into second. But not the DeVille: It shifts immediately but smoothly down to third, snatching that strategic position in traffic without upsetting your passengers or your piece of mind. Slam down the gas pedal and it downshifts smartly to second, the Northstar engine growls to life and the car rockets ahead. It all works wonderfully.
Electronics help the driver control the DeVille in emergency maneuvers. Cadillac's StabiliTrak 2.0 skid-control system (standard on DTS, optional on DeVille and DHS) makes it nearly impossible to lose control of the DeVille. We say "nearly," because nothing can save you if you break the laws of physics. However, we reached some very high thresholds in the DeVille without breaking any of nature'
Cadillac's 2003 DeVille is a world-class sedan. It's big, comfortable, easy to drive, and fast. It comes in three distinct models to suit driver preferences. Things are happening at GM's Cadillac division.
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