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It took courage to abandon the 57-year-old DeVille nameplate, but that's exactly what Cadillac did last year while overhauling its biggest and most conservative sedan for 21st Century duty. The DTS designation used to indicate the DeVille Touring Sedan, a sporty version of the old model. DTS now stands for the whole revised and revamped model line. It's fitting, given today's DTS is sportier than yesterday's DeVille. The DTS takes turns with poise and dignity, making it an enjoyable steed when the road goes curvy.
Sporting fresh body lines, a redesigned interior, upgraded running gear, and suspension refinements, the current version was launched as a 2006 model. For 2007, it's offered as a single model, with a single interior, but with a number of packages and two levels of engine power for a wide range of personalization.
The DTS is a full-size luxury car and it is, indeed, a big car, riding on a 115.6-inch wheelbase that would have qualified it as full-size car even in the mid-1950s. Its styling is restrained, but it's stuffed with modern technology and electronic goodies. And unlike many luxury cars these days, there's no need to study the owner's manual to make the DTS do its job. This is a rational luxury car, easy to operate in addition to being large and luxurious.
The DTS offers impeccable road manners and a warm, spacious interior. Yet the DTS also offers crisp handling and good grip for improved composure and driving enjoyment on winding roads.
The 2007 Cadillac DTS is a full-size luxury sedan, powered through its front wheels by Cadillac's 4.6-liter Northstar V8. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard. The engine develops 275 horsepower, but a higher-revving, 292-hp version is also available.
The 2007 Cadillac DTS comes in one trim level with the option of two luxury packages and one performance package.
Safety features that come standard on all models include six air bags, including a dual-depth front-passenger air bag.
DTS ($41,170) comes with eight-way power front bucket seats with adjustable lumbar support; OnStar with one-year Directions & Connections Service; Adaptive Remote Starting; Magnasteer magnetic variable-assist rack-and-pinion steering; 17-inch chromed wheels, xenon HID headlamps; laminated side glass; and an MP3-capable stereo. XM Satellite Radio is also standard, including three months free service.
DTS with the Luxury I package ($44,170) adds StabilTrak; Brake Assist; memory for seats and outside mirrors; ultrasonic parking assist; heated outboard seats front and rear; seat cooling for driver and front-seat passenger; heated leather-wrapped steering wheel; heated windshield washer fluid; heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators; and a universal home remote.
The Luxury II package ($46,490) includes Luxury I plus a six-disc in-dash CD changer; eight-speaker Bose audio system; tri-zone climate control; four-way adjustable lumbar with massage for the front bucket seats; power tilt and telescoping steering column; wood accents on steering wheel; adjustable rear-seat headrests; rear-seat sun visors with vanity mirrors; power folding outside mirrors; IntelliBeam automatic headlamps; Rainsense wipers; and a cargo net for the trunk. Road wheels are still 17-inch chrome but feature a design unique to this package, and real dark burl walnut replaces the standard interior woodgrain trim.
The Performance package ($48,540) includes all but a few of the Luxury items plus the higher-tuned (L37) Northstar 4.6-liter V8 with 292 horsepower, performance algorithm shifting, Magnetic Ride Control, 18-inch wheels and H-rated tires.
Options include adaptive cruise control ($1695), a DVD-based navigation system ($1945), a front bench seat (no charge), DTS-exclusive Tehama leather upholstery ($1995), body color grille ($100), and a power tilt/slide sunroof ($1200).
The Cadillac DTS is not just a new skin on the old DeVille. Numerous refinements have stiffened the body structure, increasing safety and dampening noise. A laminated steel dash panel significantly reduces noise from the engine compartment. That kind of detail engineering is evident throughout, demonstrating the effort expended to achieve the archetypal Cadillac ride.
The DTS is a big car. Its overall length of 207.6 inches makes it 5 inches longer than the Escalade full-size SUV, and nearly a foot longer than the STS. It's 9 inches longer than a BMW 7 Series and 2.6 inches longer than the latest long-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan. It's also wide, more than 2 inches wider than an STS.
Despite its size, however, the clean forms of the DTS give it a European look, though in a distinctively American idiom. With its vertical headlamps and tail lamps, and its grinning egg-crate grille, the DTS has acquired the design heritage of the Cadillac family and adapted it to 21st Century reality. It acknowledges tradition, yet remains fresh and modern. The nose is particularly expressive, with jewel-like xenon headlamps framing an expansive chrome grille adorned with a center-mounted wreath-and-crest badge.
Other interesting styling elements include body-side chrome trim accenting body-color door moldings, and a narrow LED high-mounted stop light that runs nearly the entire width of the decklid's crisply edged rear contour. The fenders provide a purposeful stance, and the profile is slightly wedge-shaped. Chromed 17-inch wheels come standard (with optional 18s). The overall look is brought together by Cadillac's characteristic spline line, which rises from the top of the front fender, runs along with lower edge of the side windows and then flows over the rear fender.
Cadillac boasts that the DTS has some of the tightest production tolerances in the world, and it certainly looks the part of a well-honed luxury machine. The panels fit well, the paint is glossy and blemish free, and overall the DTS wears its bulk well, like a fine-tailored suit. The quality of GM cars has been improving, and Cadillac scores well in quality surveys.
The DTS cabin is roomy and luxurious. The interior was completely revised for 2006 and some color and detail changes have been made for the 2007 model.
Leather and wood abound, along with a dusting of chrome accents, creating a handsome, upmarket environment. Low-gloss surfaces, with a three-dimensional grain, were chosen for the upper instrument panel and upper doors in order to reduce glare and absorb sunlight. Three leather upholstery offerings include a base leather called Nuance; a more supple, semi-aniline Tuscany hide; and a specially tanned leather called Tehama, found only in the DTS. The Nuance interior benefits from fitment of a material crafted from a vinyl/silk blend for seatbacks and armrests. Claimed to be as durable as vinyl, it has the look and feel of leather.
The trim used on base and Luxury I models is a good-looking faux burl wood material, while Luxury II and Performance versions get a darker, genuine burled walnut. Found on the shifter head, center console, around the center stack and on the upper and lower sections of the instrument panel, the wood trim creates a flowing theme throughout the entire interior.
Chrome door handles, select knobs and switches, shifter column surround, and in rings that wrap the four analog gauges in the instrument panel work with the wood to create an upscale feel. Instruments use white-on-black LED readouts for speedometer, tachometer, fuel and temp gauges.
On five-passenger models, the center console between the bucket seats houses the shifter and storage bins. On six-passenger models, the shifter is mounted on the steering column to accommodate the front bench seat; it has an integrated center armrest that transforms from an integrated back cushion into a console with two levels of storage.
The cabin has a spacious feel and good sightlines for driver visibility. Facing the driver is an attractive four-spoke wood-and-leather steering wheel with a finely etched wreath-and-crest center badge. Tilt function is standard; on Luxury II and Performance models, the wheel has a power tilt/telescoping function with memory. On Luxury I, II, and Performance models, the wheel is heated.
The center stack design is attractive and the controls are easy to see and use. 2007 models have a Dark Argent finish surrounding the radio and HVAC control heads, which are set flush into the console for a well-integrated look. Nestled between air outlets, high up in the center stack, is a sharp analog clock, in keeping with other high-end automobiles whose clocks also measure out time in the old, traditional way. It's a good way.
The rear seat is large enough for a couple of six-foot-plus males with a few extra pounds of girth, and fitting a smaller fifth passenger in between is no problem. The seatbacks are nicely raked for long-range comfort, and even kids will appreciate the heating elements in the outboard positions (Luxury I, II, and Performance).
Comfort is, of course, a primary component of luxury, and we drove both Luxury II and Performance editions of the DTS to get the full dose. We especially liked the tri-zone climate control, and the cooling for the front seats. However, the heat and cooling controls are set high up and forward in the door panels, making it hard to see if they've been turned on. It's one of the few ergonomic miscues in the DTS; otherwise, there are no difficult or hidden controls or complicated electronic interfaces to mar the luxury experience. Worthy of praise is the ease of using the complex audio system.
Our ears were treated by the Bose audio system, which features eight speakers and centerpoint signal processing for multi-channel surround sound.
A DVD navigation system with voice recognition and a 6.5-inch color screen is also available; you can even watch movies on it when the car is in Park. For 2007, its maps include Korea and Taiwan, two of Cadillac's overseas markets for the DTS. Language choices offered by the dri
Smooth and powerful the Cadillac DTS glides over miles and miles of open road in supreme comfort. Maybe that's expected, but the DTS also handles surprisingly well for such a big car, making it a satisfying drive when it's time to turn the steering wheel.
The DTS has a worthy powertrain in the form of its smooth-running Northstar V8 and robust Hydra-Matic four-speed transmission. Under full throttle, both versions of the 4.6-liter engine emit a mellow bellow that says V8 but not in a flashy way. The throttle is responsive, improved by electronic throttle control, yet it delivers a smooth, measured rise of power rather than a soul-stirring burst.
Two states of tune are available, Luxury and Performance, though we don't see dramatic differences between them. The 275-hp base/Luxury edition boasts 295 pound-feet of torque, while the 292-hp Performance-tuned mill offers 288 pound-feet of torque. So the Performance-tuned engine gives up some torque for increased horsepower and the Luxury engine actually supplies better off-the-line acceleration. Likewise, the Performance chassis comes with bigger wheels and tires and Magnetic Ride Control, a continuously variable real-time damping system, but spring and stabilizer rates are identical to those on the base/Luxury. In short, the Luxury and Performance versions are both good. Performance is slightly sportier.
All DTS models come with StabiliTrak electronic stability control, which limits understeer and oversteer by automatic and selective application of individual wheel brakes. All come with Magnasteer, a magnetic variable assist rack and pinion steering gear that reduces noise and column shake.
These features along with its rigid chassis give the DTS able handling and a smooth ride. The variable-rate steering helps the big car turn into the corners with little understeer, and carving a line through the apex is accomplished with little body roll. The steering feels a little light while cruising down a straight road, but it stiffens up nicely when feedback is needed during a turn. A bit of chassis hop over freeway expansion joints is virtually unavoidable, but the Magnetic Ride Control does a good job of muting the effect. Otherwise, at speed on smooth pavement, only a bit of wind noise around the A-pillar and occasional tire thunk suggests the car is covering a lot of ground quickly.
Frigid days and scorchers are handled well by the DTS. We like the Adaptive Remote Start, a factory-installed convenience for cold, wintry mornings, when the ability to get the engine and interior defrosted and heated (including the front seats) before starting out is appreciated. Residents of Phoenix and other boiling points will find the system useful to crank up the A/C before climbing in on those 115-degree afternoons. Owners in the frigid north will also appreciate the heated windshield wiper fluid: Throw that ice scraper away.
Another new feature is radar-based adaptive cruise control. This system automatically slows the car down when catching up to a slower moving car in your lane, then speeds up again when the offending vehicle moves over or speeds up.
The high-intensity discharge (HID) projector-beam headlamps are augmented by IntelliBeam, which automatically switches from high to low beam and back again depending on oncoming traffic. In the past, it hasn't always been easy for Cadillac drivers to discern when the high beams are on, so this is a welcome features. Good nighttime vision is as vital to safety as are good brakes.
The combination of front-wheel drive, V8 power, spacious interior and luxurious trappings is hard to find in a four-door sedan, but easy to appreciate. As full-size luxury cars from foreign manufacturers have gotten more expensive, the new Cadillac DTS, in full performance mode, soldiers on by delivering a lot of car for just over 50 grand.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Greg Brown filed this report from Southern California.