That comfortable duality reaches clear to the core of the DeVille's concept. A normal driving pace, this is a big, comfortable, and very luxurious sedan. Push it hard, though, and it starts feeling like a big sports sedan, particularly the DTS model. Slam the throttle down and this car takes off like a rocket.
Cadillac has achieved this duality by engineering a solid platform that can be extensively tailored to the individual buyer's tastes. Simply choose the model and options that suit your lifestyle and driving requirements. The result is like no Cadillac you've seen, or driven, before.
Of the three, the standard DeVille fells like the traditional Cadillac DeVille, balancing luxury and value.
DHS and DTS depart from Cadillac's old ways. They share many features, but as their names imply, one stresses luxury while the other highlights a sportier driving experience.
Both the base-level car and DHS come with a full bench front seat for six-passenger capacity, while the DTS has bucket front seats. The DeVille uses Cadillac's traditional digital instrumentation, while the DHS and DTS get the analog (dial) instruments that are sometimes preferred by enthusiast drivers.
Even the "Nuance" leather on DHS and DTS models is designed differently to match the tastes of different buyers: Where the DHS has elegant gathered leather upholstery, the DTS has stretched perforated skins for a sporty look. Yet both offer a very supple fit and feel.
This is the first Cadillac to be solely designed using AutoStudio, a computer-aided design tool. Although it looks larger and richer than before, the current DeVille actually measures three inches shorter and two inches narrower than the '99 model. Large front lighting clusters giving all three models a bold appearance. A grinning eggcrate grille extends between the headlights, providing an appropriate field for the Cadillac wreath and crest on the DHS and DTS. The standard DeVille leaves the grille clean and retains the more traditional upright hood ornament.
In profile the DeVille still looks all Cadillac. Large doors, massive body panels and expansive glass are broken only by a highlight trim piece along the lower section. Large, full-arch wheel wells are filled by 16-inch alloy rims and all-season tires on DeVille and DHS or 17-inch wheels and performance tires on DTS.
From the rear, the DeVille continues to carry the traditional Cadillac ambiance, but it looks much more contemporary. This look is highlighted at night when the LED taillights create a thin vertical line. The fins of yesteryear may be gone, but those twin vertical slashes still shout "Cadillac," loud and clear. LED lights also serve a practical propose: They are easier to see and light up much faster than normal incandescent lighting, giving drivers of following cars an extra fraction of a second warning. Which is all it takes, in some cases, to prevent a collision. The rear turn signals look quite distinctive and stand out brightly when blinking.
The rear seat is also inviting and comfortable. There is plenty of room available as you open the rear doors and climb in. Legroom seems endless; even with the front seat at its rearmost position, the tallest of our testers could easily fit. Independent climate controls for rear passengers offer both fan and temperature adjustments.
The high-beam indicator is located next to the digital trip odometer and nearly the same blue color. This makes it difficult to see, so it's easy to leave the high beams on by mistake, blinding other drivers.
The optional ultrasonic rear parking assist system is really slick and very well executed. When backing up, it offers a chime as you approach a garage, a kid on a tricycle, or another parked car. A small yellow light above the rear windshield, visible in the rear view mirror or when looking over your shoulder, illuminates. A second yellow light illuminates as you get closer. A third red light illuminates when you're right on top of the object. Besides the safety benefits, it's very useful when parking the car or maneuvering in tight locations.
Cadillac has added important new technological features for 2001. OnStar, which is standard on all DeVilles, now includes Personal Calling, which allows drivers to initiate and receive hands-free, voice-activated phone calls without an additional cellular contract. Also standard for 2001 is OnStar's Personal Advisor, which delivers Internet-based news headlines, sports scores, stock quotes, and weather reports.
Another new Cadillac feature this year is an optional ($150) tire pressure monitor, which uses sensors in the wheels to read air pressure levels in the tires.
New for 2001, is the optional Infotainment system, which integrates CD-ROM, personal assistant, memo recorder, e-mail, cell phone, and satellite navigation functions into a Bose audio entertainment system.
The DeVille DTS model's suspension filters out vibration and bumps, but it feels much firmer than Cadillacs of yore. That's good because the DeVille doesn't float around like those older machines, which could sometimes induce nausea in rear-seat passengers. Though not as firm as a BMW 5 Series, the DeVille's suspension settings provide a well-controlled ride. Bumps are felt, but muffled to comfortable levels. Go around a fast, sweeping turn and potholes and bumps won't upset the suspension, a benefit of the DeVille's highly rigid chassis. This makes the DeVille safer and more comfortable to drive in tight quarters, which is important in the big city where you're often surrounded by big trucks and aggressive cab drivers.
Aluminum suspension components reduce unsprung weight (the weight that moves with each wheel as it reacts to the road variations), so the springs don't have to be as stiff to keep the wheels in firm contact with the road. This translates into more comfort on the highway without having to sacrifice handling. The highway ride is as supple as you would expect of a Cadillac. Yet, the new DeVille does not feel like the proverbial boat once associated with big American cars. It's smooth and stable at high speeds. The steering is precise and direct, so the car always goes where intended without having to think about it.
I was thinking about all this while heading out onto a rural road. I accelerated out of a sweeping turn, noticing the well-controlled steering, thinking that the DeVille should be able to hang onto the rear bumper of a BMW 5 Series. All those thoughts evaporated when I noticed way up ahead a state trooper standing next to his car pointing a radar gun at me. I jammed on the brakes. The ABS kicked in, preventing wheel lockup, so all the trooper noticed was a little nose dive as the DeVille quickly moved into compliance of the law. Braking was sure, stable and effective, with nice firm pedal feel. Completely redesigned last year, the system combines large four-wheel disc brakes with a small, lightweight anti-lock system. An electronic brake distribution system helps reduce stopping distances by distributing the braking force front to rear for optimum performance. In normal, everyday, around-town applications, the brake pedal feels smooth and progressive, making it easy to slow the car down smoothly.
The DTS has lots of power and growls under hard acceleration. The DeVille comes with the superb Northstar V8 engine, which develops 275 horsepower in the standard DeVille and 300 horsepower for the DHS and DTS. The Northstar engine was significantly re-engineered for the 2000 model year; in fact, there are just a few parts on the 2001 version that would fit in a 1999 or earlier edition. These refinements make the DeVille more responsive, more fuel efficient and quieter, all without sacrificing performance.
What really impressed me was the calibration of the transmission and the way it communicates with the engine. Press the throttle to the floor and instead of accelerating in fourth gear, then violently downshifting to second the way many transmissions do, the DeVille shifts immediately but smoothly to third for smooth, quick acceleration that accomplishes your objective of gaining a position in traffic without upsetting your passengers, or piece of mind. Slam the throttle to the floor, however, and the DeVille smartly shifts to second, the Northstar engine growls to life and the car rockets ahead. In case you're wondering, the DeVille's electronically controlled 4T80-E four-speed automatic transmission uses a viscous converter clutch for maximum smoothness with fuel efficiency. It's a great drivetrain.
Electronics help the driver control the DeVille in emergency maneuvers. Cadillac's StabiliTrak 2.0 skid-control system makes it virtually impossible to get the DeVille to go out of control. We say virtually because nothing can save you if you break the laws of physics. However, we reached some very high thresholds in the DeVille without breaking nature's law. On a closed circuit, we were able to steer into a turn very abruptly, trying to spin the car out. In situations that would have caused most vehicles to pirouette into the weeds, the StabiliTrak-equipped DeVille stayed the course. StabiliTrak's computer lightly applies the brakes to individual wheels to keep the DeVille in control. This type of system can be a godsend when surprised on strange roads or caught out in emergency traffic situations.
The DTS adds the Continuously Variable Road-Sensing Suspension (CVRSS 2.0), with transient roll control, lateral support and enhanced stability, which adjusts shock-absorber damping every few milliseconds, providing optimum ride and handling. This enhances comfort by soaking up road irregularities and isolates passengers from the outside elements.
Also available is Cadillac's Night Vision infrared system ($2250). Based on military systems used during the Vietnam and Pursian Gulf conflicts, Night Vision makes it easy to see wild animals, pedestrians, and objects at night. The system allows the drive to see critters way down the road, far past the reach of the headlights. In theory, Night Vision can greatly enhance safety. Here's how Night Vision works: An infrared camera mounted in the center of the grille transmits an image about the size of a rear-view mirror onto the lower portion of the windshield. (It's sort of like the heads-up display used in fighter aircraft.) The image position is adjustable; it can be raised or lowered and the intensity can be changed.
It takes a little adjustment to get used to seeing the Night Vision image projected in the lower area of the windshield. It can be glanced at, sort of like the way you glance at a rear view mirror, glancing at it often to see whether the path was clear. It can add a bit of security by being able to see perpetrators lurking in the bushes, thinking they're out of your vision. But the system can also be a bit distracting. You don't want to try to drive by strictly watching the night vision screen, which is sort of like driving through a television monitor. This is a promising technology, but you should take a good look at it to determine whether it's worth the extra bucks.
Model as tested
DeVille Touring Sedan ($46,267)
4 years/50,000 miles
Detroit (Hamtramck), Michigan
Gas guzzler tax:
Price as tested
Options as tested
Night Vision ($2,250); adaptive seating ($995); rear side air bags ($295); comfort/convenience package ($695) includes memory settings for seats and mirrors, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, trunk mat
Model Line Overview
DeVille ($40,495); DeVille DHS ($46,267); DeVille DTS ($46,267)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual front airbags, dual front-seat side airbags, dual front seatbelt pretensioners; rear-seat side air bags optional
Safety equipment (optional)
4.6-liter dohc 32-valve V8
Specifications as Tested
(DTS) AM/FM/cassette/CD; cruise control; OnStar; StabiliTrak; CVRSS 2.0 variable suspension damping; tachometer; power door locks, windows and mirrors; 8-way power, 4-way lumbar front seats; heated seats front and rear; tri-zone climate control; remote keyless entry, trunk and fuel door release; fog lamps; floor shifter w/console; Rainsense wipers; Zebrano wood trim
Engine & Transmission
4.6-liter dohc 32-valve V8
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
300 @ 6000
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear