2006 Cadillac DTS Reviews and Ratings

Sedan 4D Performance

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2006 Cadillac DTS
Marc Stengel

Introduction
This might not be the Cadillac for rockers who load up their iPods with Led Zeppelin, but neither is the new DTS meant for the folks who spend Sunday evenings watching Lawrence Welk reruns.

Its restrained styling, front-drive platform and mild-mannered V8s suggest the DTS is the most traditional of today's Cadillac, but it's also full of modern technology and electronic goodies. Unlike many high-end luxury cars these days, there's no need to study an encyclopedic owner's manual to make the DTS do its job, which is to provide faultless motoring. This is a rational luxury car, aimed at buyers who place affordable and user-friendly alongside large and luxurious on their automotive wish lists.

Formerly wearing the DeVille nameplate, Cadillac's full-size luxury sedan sports a new badge, fresh body lines, a redesigned interior, upgraded running gear and suspension refinements. It is offered in a single model, with a single interior, but with a number of option packages (including a front bench seat), and two levels of Northstar V8 power for a wide range of personalization.

However outfitted, the DTS continues the Cadillac legacy of impeccable road manners and a warm, spacious interior. Yet with its improved chassis, suspension and larger running gear, the new Cadillac DTS also offers crisp handling and improved grip for another layer of driving enjoyment that we welcome. Model Lineup
The 2006 Cadillac DTS ($41,990) is offered with two versions of the Northstar 4.6-liter V8, both sending power to the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. It comes standard with a 275-horsepower V8 engine, tuned for quicker acceleration and greater peak torque than last year's version. An optional 291-horsepower V8 sports higher revs and more peak horsepower.

DTS equipment lists begin with the Luxury I package, which includes six air bags, including an industry-first dual depth front passenger air bag, front bucket seats (with the standard five-passenger seating), eight-way power-adjustable front seats with lumbar support, three-zone automatic climate control, OnStar with one-year Directions & Connections Service, adaptive remote start, Magnasteer (a magnetic variable assist rack-and-pinion steering system), 17-inch wheels and tires, xenon HID headlamps, and laminated side glass. Audio is supplied by an in-dash CD changer and MP3-capable stereo. The windshield wiper fluid is heated.

Equipped with the Luxury II package, the DTS ($44,490) adds XM Satellite Radio, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, StabiliTrak with Brake Assist, heated steering wheel, heated windshield washer fluid system, and ultrasonic front and rear Park Assist.

The Luxury III package ($48,490) adds burled walnut wood interior trim, power lumbar control and massaging seats for front passengers, IntelliBeam headlamps, Bose premium audio system with Centerpoint signaling, six-disc in-dash CD/MP3 player, rain-sensing windshield wipers and 17-inch chrome wheels.

The Performance package ($50,490) includes the Northstar 4.6-liter V8 L37 engine with 291 horsepower, Magnetic Ride Control, 18-inch wheels and tires and performance algorithm shifting.

Options include adaptive cruise control, a DVD-based navigation system, a front bench seat, DTS-exclusive Tehama leather upholstery, a power rear sunshade, a body color grille, and a power tilt/slide sunroof. Walkaround
With its new vertical headlamps and taillamps and redesigned egg-crate grille, the DTS acquires the design language of the Cadillac family and a freshened, modern appearance. The nose is particularly expressive, with jewel-like xenon headlamps framing an expansive chrome grille adorned with a center-mounted wreath and crest badge.

The Cadillac DTS is a big car. With an overall length of more than 207 inches, it's a foot longer and 2 inches wider than the nearest-sized Cadillac. The DTS is 9 inches longer than a BMW 7 Series and almost 4 inches longer than a Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan.

Despite its size, the clean forms of the DTS give it a European look, though in a distinctively American idiom. New 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 length of the decklid's crisply edged rear contour. Restyled fenders provide a more purposeful stance, which when viewed in profile is slightly wedge-shaped. Larger 17-inch wheels come standard (with optional 18s). The overall look is brought together by Cadillac's 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's cars has been improving and Cadillac tied with Mercedes for fifth in the 2005 Initial Quality Survey conducted by the J.D. Power and Associates research firm.

The DTS is not just a surface treatment of the old DeVille. Numerous refinements to the body structure were utilized to stiffen the structure, increase safety and dampen noise. Typical of the depth of engineering to achieve the archetypal Cadillac ride, but just one of many techniques throughout the body-frame-integral structure, is a laminated steel dash panel to significantly reduce noise from the engine compartment. Interior
Cadillac means it when it boasts the DTS has an all-new interior. Leather and wood abound along with a dusting of chrome accents, creating a handsome, upmarket environment.

Low-gloss surfaces, with a three-dimensional "animal" grain, were chosen for the upper instrument panel and upper door surfaces 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 base Nuance interior also 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 "wood" trim used on Luxury I and II models is a good-looking but faux burl material, while Luxury III and Performance versions get a darker, genuine burled walnut. Found on the shifter head, center console and upper and lower sections of the instrument panel and around the center stack, the wood trim creates a flowing theme throughout the entire interior.

Chrome elements include the door handles, select knobs and switches, shifter column surround, and in rings that wrap the four analog gauges in the instrument panel: white-on-black LEDs readouts for speedometer, tachometer, fuel and temp gauges.

The entire console itself was pushed down and forward to give the forward cabin a more spacious feel as well as enhanced sightlines. 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 III and Performance models, the wheel has a power tilt/telescoping function with memory. On Luxury II, III and Performance models, the wheel is heated.

On five-passenger models, the center console flows between the front seats and contains the shift selector and storage bins. On six-passenger models, the shifter moves to the steering column, and the front bench seat has an integrated center armrest, which transforms from an integrated back cushion into an armrest with two levels of storage.

The new center stack design is attractive, and easy to see and use. A low-gloss ebony mica finish nicely sets off the radio and HVAC control heads, the controls 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 optional heated rear seats.

Comfort is, of course, a primary component of luxury, and we drove both Luxury III and Performance editions of the DTS to get the full dose. We especially like the tri-zone climate control, and the optional 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.

Frigid days and scorchers are handled well by the DTS. We like the cooled front seats and Adaptive Remote Start, a new 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 most 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, but we couldn't find traffic conditions that would allow its use. 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.

We did find good use, however, for the high-intensity discharge projector headlamps, augmented by IntelliBeam, which automatically switches from high to low beam and back again depending on oncoming traffic. Good nighttime vision is as vital to safety as good brakes.

Our ears were assaulted (but only in the nicest way) by the optional Bose audio system, with something called Centerpoint signal processing for multi-channel surround sound. Eight speakers do the surrounding.

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. Driving Impressions
We found the new Cadillac DTS to be smooth and powerful. It handles surprisingly well for such a big car and it gobbles up miles and miles of open road in supreme comfort.

Refinements to the smooth-running Northstar V8, both internally and in the way it is cradled within the car's structure, and to the robust Hydra-Matic four-speed transmission, give the DTS a powertrain worthy of the luxury side of the Cadillac character. In terms of driving excitement, this model's reason for being isn't high performance, and unless you are after quickest elapsed time at the dragstrip, there seems little to differentiate between the two engines. Only 16 horsepower and 6 pound-feet of torque separate the 4.6s, and though there are more revs in the 291-horsepower Performance engine, the 292 pound-feet of torque in the 275-horsepower Luxury engine gives it better off-the-line acceleration. Under a full throttle, the 4.6 emits a mellow bellow that says V8, but not in a flashy way. That's not what the DTS is all about. The throttle is responsive, improved this year by the addition of electronic control, but it attacks traffic by delivering a smooth, measured rise of power rather than a soul-stirring burst.

Among the many upgrades to the chassis are hollow stabilizer bars and retuned spring rates for more control over body roll; an auto-leveling element to the rear suspension that adjusts for larger loads; monotube rear shocks for more wheel control and comfort, electronic stability control (Stabilitrak) that controls understeer and oversteer by automatic application of selective brakes; larger disc brakes; Magnetic Ride Control, a continuously variable real-time damping system; a new rear suspension crossmember for greater stiffness and reduced noise transfer; Magnasteer, a magnetic variable assist rack and pinion steering system that reduces noise and column shake; and larger wheel and tires.

These features make the DTS a very able handler as well as a suave open-road cruiser. 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. 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, on smooth pavement, at speed, only a bit of wind noise around the A-pillar and occasional tire thunk suggests the car is covering a lot of ground quickly. Summary
The combination of front-wheel drive, V8 power, spacious interior and luxurious trappings in a four-door sedan is hard to find, 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.

New Car Test Drive correspondent Greg Brown filed this report from Southern California.

Model as tested
Cadillac DTS ($41,990)
Basic Warranty
4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in
Detroit, Michigan
Destination charge
795
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
41990
Price as tested
51285
Options as tested
Performance Package includes XM Satellite Radio, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, Stabilitrak with Brake Assist, heated steering wheel, heated windshield washer system, ultrasonic front and rear park assist, burl walnut wood interior trim, power lumbar control and massaging seats for front passengers, IntelliBeam headlamps, Bose premium audio system, six-disc in-dash CD changer/MP3 player, rain-sensing windshield wipers, Magnetic Ride Control, 18-inch wheels and tires

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Cadillac DTS ($41,990)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual-stage front driver's airbag, dual-depth front passenger's airbag, driver's and front passenger's seat-mounted side airbags, roof rail side curtain airbags, ABS, traction control, tire-pressure monitoring system (reads actual tire pressures)
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
4.6-liter dohc V8
Transmissions
4-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
front bucket seats, eight-way power adjustable front seats with lumbar support, three-zone automatic climate control, OnStar, one-year Directions & Connections Service, adaptive remote start, Magnasteer, magnetic variable assist rack and pinion steering, 17-inch wheels and tires, xenon HID headlamps, and laminated side glass, an in-dash CD changer and MP3-capable stereo, cruise control, central locking, power windows

Engine & Transmission
Engine
4.6-liter dohc V8
Drivetrain type
front-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
291 @ 5000 rpm
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
18/27
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc with ABS, Brake Assist
Suspension, front
independent
Tires
245/50R18
Suspension, rear
independent

Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
38.3/56.9/42.5
Head/hip/leg room, rear
38.6/56.7/41.6

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
18.8
Wheelbase
115.0
Length/width/height
207.6/74.8/57.6
Turning circle
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
1000
Track, front/rear
62.5/61.7
Ground clearance
N/A
Curb weight
4009


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