2000-2008 Cadillac

After a rough period, Cadillac introduced successful new models in the 2000s, like this 2003 Cadillac CTS.

So far at least, the 21st century has been a rough time for Detroit. Despite closing plants and cutting jobs since the 1980s, General Motors and other major carmakers lost their once-vaunted competitive edge, burdened by huge fixed costs and continuing losses in sales and market share to import-brand rivals. Add in unexpected jumps in materials costs, plus a market whipsawing from thirsty trucks to thriftier cars in the face of record gas prices, and the result is a "perfect storm" that threatened to send the Big Three crashing on the rocks of bankruptcy.

That simplified summary may sound overblown, but the situation could hardly be more critical in the new millennium. Though all three U.S. automakers still made money overseas, they suffered major losses at home. That forced some drastic "recovery" measures, encouraged by hoards of unhappy stockholders. General Motors was forced to sell assets, close plants, and lay off workers while hoping new models sold well enough to prevent the unthinkable.


Fortunately for this story, some of those products were succeeding, and many of them were Cadillacs. In fact, GM managers fittingly picked their flagship brand to begin what they hoped would be a 21st-century renaissance for the entire company.

A string of boldly styled circa-Y2K concepts suggested Cadillac would again reach for luxury-class leadership, but in new ways so as to stand apart from the European and Japanese brands that had stolen its thunder. If all went well, the resulting new showroom models would have people taking a fresh look at Cadillac, just as the surprise-hit Escalade SUV was doing.

This game plan began to jell shortly before the new millennium dawned. Despite enthusiastic management support, the first of the new fleet couldn't be ready before model-year 2003, but Cadillac made several sensible moves to prepare for its arrival.

Pictured here is the 2004 Cadillac XLR, another member of Cadillac's new fleet for the new millennium.


2000 Cadillac

The 2000 Cadillac DeVille was redesigned wth more interior space.

The first action Cadillac took to prepare for the new millennium involved a 2000-model redesign for the full-size DeVille. Shifting to the capable G-car platform should have perked up buyer interest in Cadillac's perennial top-seller, yet calendar-year orders dropped below 100,000 units, the line's worst showing in years. It was another reversal that was hard to understand.

For one thing, the new DeVille not only looked trimmer, it was, giving up two inches in width and length but adding 1.5 inches in wheelbase (to 115.3), which benefited interior room and comfort. Then too, prices were surprisingly little changed for the three models. D'Elegance was retitled DHS (for "DeVille High-luxury Sedan"), while Concours became the DTS ("DeVille Touring Sedan"). Each started at $44,700, the base DeVille at $39,500. All offered standard GM OnStar service and front side airbags, plus newly available rear torso side airbags. Also shared was the ever-impressive Northstar V-8, tuned for 300 horsepower in the DTS, 275 for other models. A minor innovation was LED taillamps that lit up faster than traditional incandescent bulbs, a fact Cadillac said might help avoid a rear-end crunch.


The DHS was a near limousine, a car for those who missed the old rear-drive Fleetwood. Rear passengers were coddled with heated seats, power lumbar adjustment, rear and side sunshades, and illuminated vanity mirrors. High-tech options abounded for DHS and DTS, including a touch-screen navigation system and an ultrasonic warning system to signal the presence of obstacles when backing up.

The two uplevel models also boasted an industry first called Night Vision. Employing infrared technology proven in the Persian Gulf War, Night Vision used a grille-mounted camera to detect the heat signatures of objects beyond headlight range, which were projected as "virtual" images onto the windshield near driver eye level. No other car offered anything like it, and though not popular at a hefty $2000, Night Vision was the type of technical advance that had served Cadillac so well in the '50s and '60s. Yet such gizmology tended to obscure the virtues of a mighty impressive big luxury sedan. Even the base DeVille offered adroitly balanced ride and handling, and Motor Trend termed the DTS "a technological tour de force, an efficient, elegant, and uniquely American approach to fine motoring and a true Cadillac."

Groundbreaking high-tech options like Night Vision were available for some DTS models. Shown here is the 2004 Cadillac DTS.

But the public either didn't get the message or didn't care, because DeVille lost favor as time passed, just like the sister Seville. A dearth of change didn't help. The line -- though not the basic design -- bowed out after 2005 and model-year production of 59,750 units, a huge letdown from late-'90s volume.

Cadillac would phase out other models over the next few years. Get the details next.


2001, 2002, and 2003 Cadillac

Cadillac discontinued the disappointing Catera after 2001. The 2001 Cadillac Catera Sport is pictured here.

From 2001 to 2003, Cadillac said goodbye to several models. Cadillac disposed of its rear-drive German-built Catera after 2001. Demand for midsize "near luxury" sedans was booming, but this one fizzled, likely because it was a Cadillac. "The Standard of the World" had been laid low indeed.

Eldorado then exited after 2002 and three years without significant change -- unless one counts renaming the base version ESC (Eldorado Sport Coupe) important. Sales that final year were only about a third of what they'd been a decade before -- fewer than 10,500 units. Among them were some 1600 Eldorado Collector Series (ECS) specials with the expected badges and specific trim, plus an exhaust system tuned to mimic the sound of the original 1953 Eldo. Yes, Caddy was still not above pushing "last" models, and you couldn't really blame them with the way things were going. With Eldorado's passing went another hallowed Cadillac name that's not likely to be revived, the division having decided that future models would have three-letter titles like ETC.


This 2002 Cadillac Eldorado was the last of a dying breed -- the hallowed model was retired after 2002.

The G-body Seville soldiered on through 2004. It remained a darn good car, just not as good as it needed to be for the super-competitive new-century market. Sales started sliding again after 1999, thudding to just over 28,000 units for '01 and ultimately crashing at just 6,514, this despite modest yearly price hikes and some interesting new features.

Notable among the latter was the 2003 debut of GM's Magnetic Ride Control shock absorbers for the sporty STS model's Road-Sensing Suspension. An innovation shared with that year's 50th Anniversary Chevrolet Corvette, these dampers were filled with a new "magnetorheological" fluid that could almost instantly change viscosity -- and thus ride firmness -- when acted on by an electric current. MRC was highly effective, but did nothing to change the less-than-electric image of the STS, let alone that of the less-sporting SLS model.

Seville sales dropped in the early 2000s. The 2002 Cadillac Seville is pictured here.

Next, learn how Cadillac's bona fide hit with the youth market, the Escalade, evolved through 2007.


The Cadillac Escalade

Interior shot of the 2000 Escalade
A success from the start, the Escalade revitalized Cadillac. This is an interior shot of the 2000 Escalade.

The Cadillac Escalade serendipitously began Cadillac's image rehabilitation. From the first, it sold quite well for a premium SUV, and kept on selling even after soaring gas prices scared off many prospects in the mainstream market. And why not? Anyone who could splurge on a $50,000-$70,000 rig wasn't likely to worry about pump prices -- or big-truck fuel thirst.

The Escalade bowed as a late addition to GM's "T800" full-size truck family, using the same "short" 116-inch wheelbase as the GMC Yukon/Denali and Chevrolet Tahoe wagons. Strong initial demand prompted new front-end sheet metal for 2001 that intentionally previewed the Art & Science look of upcoming Cadillac cars. The bolder face only stoked demand for a vehicle that was already generating big buzz in trendier circles.


Wasting no time capitalizing on its unexpected hit, Cadillac added the Escalade EXT for 2002, a full-bling take on Chevrolet's new Avalanche four-door SUV/pickup. Riding a 130-inch wheelbase, EXT combined a five-foot-long open cargo box with GM's novel "midgate," a panel that folded forward together with the rear seats for carrying items up to eight-feet long with the tailgate closed. The midgate also served as a housing for a standard power drop-down rear cab window. Following for 2003 was an ESV wagon, based on the 130-inch-wheelbase Chevy Suburban/GMC Yukon XL. Both Escalade wagons came with three-row seating for seven or eight status-seeking passengers. The EXT carried five.

An innovative midgate was introduced with the 2002 Escalade EXT.

Except for an early two-wheel-drive version with a 5.3-liter V-8, all Escalades through 2006 carried a 6.0-liter pushrod V-8 with 345 bhp, delivered through a four-speed automatic transmission to an all-wheel-drive system without low-range gearing. Also exclusive to Escalades among T800 trucks were Cadillac's automatic-adjusting Road Sensing Suspension and a specific dashboard.

As expected of GM's top-tier brand, Escalades were loaded to thrill: power everything, brake and accelerator pedals included; trailering package; antilock brakes; Stabilitrak antiskid/traction control; OnStar assistance; rear-obstacle detection; and more. Among the few options were power sunroof, navigation system, and rear-seat DVD entertainment. By 2006, Cadillac was offering 20-inch wheels, a nod to the many customized 'Slades cruising city streets on "dubs" purchased from non-GM sources.

With a 6.0-liter pushrod V-8 with 345 bhp, the 2002 Cadillac Escalade was built to thrill.

No one was more surprised by Escalade's strong youth appeal than Cadillac itself. But appeal it had: a shiny big bruiser with a street-tough attitude and interior glamour fit for a music video. By mid-decade, the Escalade line accounted for nearly 40 percent of total Cadillac sales. To division marketers and GM accountants, this was manna from heaven.

All three Escalades returned for 2007 with a full redesign on GM's much-improved T900 platform. Dimensions weren't greatly changed, but styling was, becoming "more Cadillac" to set these trucks more clearly apart from corporate siblings. The powertrain was also new and again exclusive, comprising an upsized 6.2-liter V-8 with a rumbling 403 bhp and a six-speed automatic transmission. AWD remained standard. So did most previous no-cost features, but Cadillac lengthened the list with standard curtain side airbags that covered all three seating rows and deployed by special sensors designed to detect an impending rollover. Power-adjust pedals were made standard too.

Wagons now came with heated first- and second-row seats, plus a power liftgate with a handy flip-open window. Unsurprisingly, the '07s also boasted several new options: front-seat cooling, power-retractable "runningboard" steps, a convenient one-latch "spring-up" feature for the second-row seats -- and to the delight of "hip-hoppers" everywhere, 22-inch wheels. Last but not least, the available navigation system added a rearview camera that used the dashboard screen to show what lay behind when backing up.

Cadillac's Art & Science design signature, previewed in the 2001 Escalade, took off with 2003 Cadillac CTS. Learn more about this daring style development -- and about the CTS -- next.


The Cadillac CTS

The angular styling of the 2003 Cadillac CTS showed off Cadillac's daring Art & Science design.

The first of Cadillac's new fleet of the decade had set sail, complete with a daring design signature called "Art & Science," in the 2003 model year. The term was shorthand for hard, angular, even disjointed lines that were meant to seem as though they originated not with a stylist's hand but with a computer -- as in fact, they did. Cadillac was after the sort of distinctiveness that made its tailfinned '50s and '60s cars so memorable. A & S was certainly different, and though not everyone liked the "stealth fighter" look, it did draw stares, which was the whole point.

Art & Science premiered with the 2003 CTS, a U.S.-built replacement for the Catera, but rather more ambitious. Significantly, this new entry-level sedan introduced the premium rear-drive Sigma platform that was also designed to accommodate all-wheel drive and would underpin other vital upcoming models.


The only engine at first was a 3.2-liter (181-cid) enlargement of Catera's V-6, rated at 200 bhp, but 2004 ushered in a brand-new twincam, 24-valve V-6, a 3.6 liter (217 cid) with 255 bhp. The 3.2 was dropped for '05, but Cadillac wooed value-seekers that year by adding a lower-priced CTS with a 210-bhp 2.8-liter derivative of the 3.6 engine.

Staking its claim as a true sports sedan, the CTS was the first Cadillac since the ill-advised Cimarron to offer manual transmission as well as automatic. Both were five-speed units, Cadillac's first. To the same end, engineers spent much time tuning the chassis on Germany's famous -- and famously demanding -- Nurburgring race track. As a result, most reviewers found little lacking in the handling department, especially when optioned with firm damping and 17-inch wheel/tire package.

Actually, even the base CTS suspension might have been a bit too Teutonic for some buyers, as the 2004 settings were softened a bit to enhance ride comfort. The sharp-edged styling was unlike anything else around, so it took a while to catch on with the public (and even some GM bigwigs).

Some evident interior cost-cutting also drew barbs. Yet overall, the first of Cadillac's new guard was a fine effort right out of the box. Consumer Guide immediately judged the CTS "an upper-echelon driving machine...a solid and sporty sedan [that] delivers good near-luxury value, listing for around $36,000 popularly equipped...There's more here than meets the eye."

Attractive pricing helped propel sales of the 2003 Cadillac CTS.

A good many buyers evidently agreed, as CTS sales got off to a strong start, helped by attractive base prices in the $30,000 range. Cadillac built nearly 75,700 for the extra-long debut model year. The tally dipped below 60,000 for '04, but recovered the next year to over 69,000. This was good going in light of the brash styling and an increasingly difficult market. At last, Cadillac seemed to be on the right track.

Cadillac would also be on the racetrack. Learn about Cadillac's hot-rod CTS-V next.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1990-1999 Cadillac: Import competition and a stale image rock once-proud Cadillac. Here's the low-down on Cadillac's come-down.


The Cadillac CTS-V

New dreams of the racetrack, following a short-lived late-'90s assault on the yearly LeMans 24-Hour grind, prompted Cadillac to work up a hot CTS-V as both road-burner and hoped-for competition star. An early 2004 arrival, it was the first in a planned series of high-performance V-models that would be to Cadillac what the M Division was to BMW and AMG to Mercedes.

Cadillacs had usually offered good speed, but only in a straight line. Not this time. To the already capable CTS chassis, engineers at GM's new Performance Division added heavier-gauge steel suspension cradles, thicker front and rear stabilizer bars, high-rate shocks, and a crossbrace atop the front-suspension towers to bolster rigidity.


Some steel suspension pieces were swapped for lighter aluminum components, but the basic geometry was unchanged. Other upgrades included a massive four-piston Brembo-brand disc brake at each corner and meaty 245/45ZR18 Goodyear run-flat tires on special seven-spoke alloy wheels spreading 8.5 inches wide.

But the most exciting upgrade was underhood, where Cadillac found room for the 5.7-liter (346-cid) LS6 V-8 from the contemporary C5-generation Corvette Z06. The transplant cost a little power, but not much, with rated outputs of 400 bhp at a zingy 6000 rpm and 395 beefy pound-feet of torque peaking at 4800.

The result was the most potent production Cadillac ever, proof that the division was dead serious about cracking the enthusiast market. More proof came with a mandatory six-speed manual transmission, the same Tremec T56 unit used in the 'Vette, but relocated from the rear to just behind the engine. Cadillac hardly missed a trick, specifying a heavier-than-stock driveshaft, a limited-slip rear differential with strong but light cast-aluminum housing, and fairly tight gearing (3.73:1).

For a factory hot rod, the CTS-V was visually restrained. Add-ons were limited to more-aggressive lower fascias front and rear, a distinctive wire-mesh grille insert, subtle "aero" rocker panel skirts, and telltale dual exhausts. Inside were satin-chrome-finish trim instead of the usual wood, plus bright-ringed gauges and, for exuberant cornering, grippy suede seat inserts. Even the central armrest was lowered some four inches to ease shifting.

Here it seemed was a Cadillac that really could go wheel-to-wheel with Europe's best sports sedans, and "car buff" magazines wasted no time arranging showdown tests. Car and Driver first pitted the CTS-V against a BMW M3 coupe and new M5 sedan, judging the Cadillac equal or better in most respects, especially for value.

The CTS-V wasn't cheap at an initial $49,300 base, but the M5 cost a whopping $23,000 more. Later, Car and Driver judged the CTS-V a close second to the Audi S4 quattro and ahead of Mercedes' C55 AMG in a three-way matchup. "[W]e emerged with a unanimous sense of the CTS-V as the road-course champ," said the editors. Yet they found straightline go no less impressive, clocking just 4.8 seconds 0-60 mph and a standing quarter-mile of 13.2 seconds at 109 mph.

Stats like that implied race-winning potential, and Cadillac wanted the positive press that goes with winning races.

Accordingly, the division backed a two-car CTS-V team for the 2004 season of the Sports Car Club of America's Speed World Challenge series for production-based cars. Against the formidable likes of modified Corvettes, Dodge Vipers, and Porsche 911s, the Cadillac tallied four pole starts and three wins -- not bad for a beginner.

Cadillac built 2401 CTS-Vs for 2004. Another 4194 issued forth for '05, when the only changes were monetary: a $190 bump in starting price (there were still no options) and a tacked-on $1300 Gas-Guzzler Tax. The '06 version nominally broke the $50,000 barrier, but some of the increase reflected swapping in the 6.0-liter LS2 V-8 from the year-old C6-generation Corvette. Interestingly, the bigger engine was claimed to have no more power or torque than the 5.7, though it most surely did.

For those who craved the V-Series' looks but didn't need its testosterone, a Wheel Sport Appearance package arrived during the '06 model year to dress up the mainstream 3.6 CTS, one of the few alterations that season.

A new high-performance two-seat Caddy convertible was also on tap for 2004.


The Cadillac XLR

The 2004 Cadillac XLR boasted a power-retracting solid roof that pirouetted into the trunk.

With the CTS a certified success, Cadillac unwrapped a new two-seat convertible for 2004 that made everyone forget the old Allante. Called XLR, in line with the brand's adopted three-letter name scheme, it was basically a C6 Corvette engineered to Cadillac standards of quality and refinement. In fact, Team Corvette developed the XLR before working in earnest on the C6, and that experience benefited the Corvette.

The XLR was easy to dismiss as just a Caddy in Corvette clothing, but there were many key differences. For starters, the XLR design was new-school Cadillac, though a bit old news, having been accurately previewed by the Evoq concept convertible back in 1999. Also, the XLR came only as a hardtop convertible, with a power-retracting solid roof that pirouetted into the trunk like that of main rivals Mercedes SL and Lexus SC 430 (and left as little luggage space).


Other distinctions included specific suspension tuning, slightly slower steering (by GM's Magnasteer system), and 18-inch tires of slightly slimmer section. The XLR also differed in dimensions, being a bit longer, taller, slightly narrower, and some 450 pounds heavier than a ragtop C6.

And then there was the all-Cadillac powertrain. What else for the division's latest image-leader? A heavily revised "Gen II" version of the respected 4.6 Northstar V-8 boasted new cylinder heads with freer-flow ports and higher compression (10.5:1), plus a stiffer block and crank, redesigned manifolds, and "by-wire" electronic throttle control. The result was 320 bhp at 6400 rpm and 310 pound-feet of torque maxing at 4400. The only transmission was a five-speed automatic with a separate manual shift gate vs. the C6's initial four-speed automatic or available six-speed manual.

2004 Cadillac XLR's revised 4.6 Northstar V-8
Shown here is the 2004 Cadillac XLR's revised 4.6 Northstar V-8.

Naturally, the XLR inherited the Corvette's much-lauded "uniframe" structure. Composite body panels draped around a steel skeleton with a stiff central "backbone" section, hydroformed side rails, aluminum windshield frame, a cross-cowl magnesium reinforcing bar, and aluminum "sandwich" floors with light balsa-wood cores. Even so, the XLR was clearly a luxury tourer, not an all-out sports car. And there was nothing wrong with that -- not with 0-60 mph available in less than 6.0 seconds and sticky 0.88g skidpad acceleration.

The price was right, too. Though the initial $76,000 tab was almost twice that of a base Corvette coupe, the XLR came with most every amenity known in the automotive world: power everything, heated/cooled seats, OnStar, a navigation system, "smart" cruise control that automatically maintained a safe following distance, and Cadillac's new Keyless Access system with engine-start button and no external keylocks. The only option was satellite radio, and that became standard for 2006, along with steering-linked xenon headlamps.

How did the XLR fare with critics and buyers?


Cadillac XLR Reviews

2004 Cadillac XLR
Cadillac's most exciting model in years, the XLR won rave reviews. Pictured here is the 2004 Cadillac XLR.

The XLR was arguably the most exciting Cadillac since the 1967 Eldorado. Car and Driver greeted it as "a strong entry in the prestigious roadster class," while Road & Track deemed it a sign that "Cadillac is heading in the right direction." And while the XLR wasn't intended to be an everyday sight, initial demand must have gratified division planners, with 4,387 built for '04 and 4190 for '05.

A V-Series XLR was a foregone conclusion, and it arrived for 2006 hewing to the CTS-V formula: understated exterior, "tech-look" interior, big power, even more-dynamic handling. This time, though, Cadillac looked to its own engine laurels with a new supercharged 4.4-liter Northstar that exceeded expectations by pumping out 443 bhp (at 6,400 rpm) and 414 lb-ft of torque, some 90 percent of it available from 2200 to 6000 rpm.


Again, engineers pulled out many stops, conjuring a new intake system, a unique and stronger block casting, oil-cooled pistons, even a redesigned accessory drive. The only transmission was a new six-speed automatic, also with manual shift gate. The regular XLR got it as a 2007 upgrade. Chassis tweaks involved wider 19-inch run-flat tires, a solid front stabilizer bar, the addition of a rear bar, revised tuning for the MRC shocks, and larger brakes borrowed from the Corvette Z51.

Car and Driver's test XLR-V did 0-60 in just 4.7 seconds and a standing quarter-mile of 13 seconds at 110 mph -- a noticeable improvement on the unblown version. Skidpad performance was curiously little changed at 0.87g, but handling, steering, and braking all drew wide praise.

Still, the V-Series treatment didn't change the XLR's comfortable touring-car persona; it only made for a faster, more agile tour. "As high-performance roadsters go," C/D concluded, "the XLR-V is quite well-suited to the quotidian requirements of your less-extreme motorist...[It] has all the creature comforts technology can provide, and its unique mesh grille, supercharged badge and four shiny tailpipes tell everyone this Cadillac is a cut above. For those who think 100 grand is a reasonable amount of money to spend on a car, this Cadillac is certainly worth a look."

Next, we'll take a look at Cadillac's "crossover" SUV, the Cadillac SRX.


The Cadillac SRX

Cadillac was a bit slow to answer the fast-growing new-century clamor for carlike "crossover" SUVs in the 2000s, but its first effort was one of the best. Arriving for 2004, the SRX was a clever variation of the Sigma car platform, offering the same V-6 and V-8 rear-drive and all-wheel-drive powertrains as the STS that followed it. The crisp Art & Science look was well-suited to this wagon, which maintained Cadillac tradition with a posh leather-lined interior and power everything; the '06s added a nifty power-operated liftgate.

V-8 SRXs were dressed with real-wood cabin accents, heated seats, and power-adjustable pedals, all available for V-6 models. A high level of safety was standard for every model: antilock brakes, traction control, front torso side airbags, and curtain side airbags. Buyers could choose five-passenger seating with a fore/aft sliding back bench or an available seven-passenger package with the convenience of a power-folding third-row seat.


Other options included Magnetic Ride Control, navigation system, rear-seat DVD entertainment, and a novel "UltraView" sunroof with multiple glass panels that slid back at the touch of a button to let in 5.6 square feet of the great outdoors. Interiors were spruced up for 2007 with a redesigned dashboard and higher-quality materials in response to press and consumer complaints.

Initially priced in the $40,000-$47,000 range, the SRX impressed road-testers with its sprightly performance, adroit handling, and luxury-level refinement. Consumer Guide bestowed a Recommended ribbon in the very first model year, then Best Buy medals for 2005-07. "Against similarly priced premium midsize SUVs, SRX is among the best in performance, features, and accommodations...Unless you go off-road or tow heavy loads, the SRX's road manners and efficient packaging make it preferable to most truck-type rivals. Add AWD security and it's a thoughtful alternative to a traditional luxury sedan."

That's just what Cadillac was aiming for, and sales in the first two calendar years were pretty much on target at just over 53,000 -- all welcome "plus" business. But that business turned down in 2005-06 when summertime gas prices spiked to record levels, prompting many buyers to downsize their vehicle choices. Sensibly, Cadillac reduced SRX prices for 2007, pegging the V-6 model at $37,000 base, the V-8 at $43,000.

Next, we'll cover Cadillac's replacement for the Seville -- the STS -- and the '06 Cadillac DTS.


The Cadillac STS and the 2006 Cadillac DTS

A replacement for Seville was on Cadillac's to-do list for 2005, and it emerged as the STS. As expected, it was basically a stretched CTS, though with slightly softer body lines. Though 4.7 inches shorter overall than the Seville, the STS stood an inch taller on a 4.2-inch-longer wheelbase, to the benefit of interior room. Engine choices comprised a base 255-bhp 3.6-liter V-6, borrowed from the CTS, or the new "Gen II" Northstar tuned for 320 bhp. Both engines teamed with a five-speed automatic transmission. But in a rather large surprise, all-wheel drive was a $1900 option for the V-8 model; the V-6 got it as a 2006 addition.

The rear-drive STS was initially priced from $40,300 with V-6, $46,800 with V-8. Each was a pleasant, capable road car, and arguably more rewarding than the front-drive compromised Seville. Sportier types could shell out a hefty $11,000-$13,000 for a Preferred Equipment Group comprising Z-rated performance tires on 18-inch wheels (replacing standard 17s), Magnetic Ride Control, and uprated brakes and steering.


Even with that, however, the STS lacked the outright dynamic ability of most import-brand rivals, finishing seventh in an eight-way Car and Driver test. "The STS is agonizingly close to meeting the challenge of the best [midsize sport sedans]," said the editors, "but we think the sensibilities of its makers could use a little fine-tuning." Consumer Guide, by contrast, thought roadability just fine, but chided "subpar rear-seat space and cargo room. Interior materials and assembly are not up to the best in class, either."

An expected STS-V muscled in for 2006 at a stiff $74,270, but was fully loaded (no options) -- and loaded for bear. Enhancements were much like those of the V-Series XLR, but here the supercharged Northstar made a thumping 469 bhp and 439 lb-ft of torque, delivered to the rear wheels only via a six-speed automatic.

A three-way Car and Driver test ranked the mightiest STS between the BMW M5 and Mercedes' CLS 55 AMG, reflecting the Caddy's somewhat "softer" responses and plusher, less driver-oriented character. But as the editors observed: "...the STS-V's price nets you a no-apologies supersedan with big money left over -- almost 16 large versus the CLS 55. That's a huge advantage -- especially since the STS-V has this group's most comprehensive allocation of features and amenities..."

As if to hedge its bets with the STS, Cadillac freshened the front-drive DeVille for 2006 and changed the name to DTS. Optional Night Vision was canned -- demand for it had never been strong -- but the Gen II Northstar was specified, the G-body structure strengthened, and the chassis revised to improve both handling and refinement. Appearance was modernized too, with an edgy Art & Science-style lower-body reskin and improved dashboard ergonomics.

Like other GM divisions, Cadillac now stressed dollar value. Luxury I, Luxury II, and Luxury III versions delivered 275 bhp in the $42,000-$48,000 range; a sportier $47,000 Performance model packed 291 horses and many DeVille DTS features. Consumer Guide put the new line in perspective by noting that "Cadillac leaves any sporting pretensions to its [STS models. DTS] aims for the traditional American luxury-car buyer and scores. It's powerful, roomy, and refined, and matches most rivals for standard safety features."

Wondering what's in store for the next generation of Cadillacs? Read on for the lowdown on 2008 and beyond.


2008 Cadillac

Signaling the start of Cadillac's next generation is the 2008 CTS, unveiled in January 2007 at Detroit's North American International Auto Show. Scheduled for sale in summer 2007, it's easily recognized by familiar but evolved styling that takes inspiration from Cadillac's recent award-winning Sixteen concept sedan.

Overall length is little changed, but wheelbase grows about an inch to 113.4. This combines with a two-inch gain in overall width for a more assertive "wide track" stance. Interior design is also cleaner and more coherent. Cadillac proudly notes that upper dashboard and door-panel surfaces are cut and assembled by hand, custom craftsmanship recalling the 1930s.

Like big-brother STS, the 2008 CTS offers all-wheel drive as an alternative to rear drive. Returning as base power is GM's 3.6-liter "high feature" twincam 24-valve V-6 with variable valve timing and now a few more horses: 255, up three. New for '08 is an up-power version with direct fuel injection, which squirts gas right into the combustion chambers rather than through the cylinder ports. Running an ultra-high 11.4:1 compression ratio, this optional 3.6 produces some 300 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque.

The 2.8 V-6 is now reserved for export models -- Cadillac still craves a global presence -- but is largely unchanged otherwise. A six-speed manual gearbox remains standard, but a new six-speed automatic replaces the previous five-speed option. Suspension, steering and brakes are unchanged in concept, but components have been redesigned and/or upgraded where needed.

Other new features of the '08 CTS include an optional "Easy Key" hands-free locking/engine-start system and a "Smart Remote Start" that not only fires the engine from a keyfob button but activates heating/air conditioning and front-seat heating/cooling according to exterior and interior temperatures. Steering-linked xenon headlamps are another first-time CTS option.

The available navigation system replaces a fixed dashboard screen with a larger, eight-inch-diagonal display that rises from the dash when needed. Like the SRX crossover, CTS buyers can specify an expansive "Ultraview" glass roof, in this case a two-piece affair with power-sliding front portion.

That's the Cadillac story so far, but it's far from over, notwithstanding all the dire news of recent years. A potent new CTS-V is due around 2009, and a CTS coupe is strongly rumored for the same timeframe. Other near-term prospects include a rear-drive replacement for the full-size DTS and an even grander Cadillac -- perhaps with V-12 power -- for the surprisingly robust $100,000-$150,000 ultraluxury market.

Meanwhile, Cadillac can take pride in its dramatic early-century comeback, confounding critics who had written its obituary so many times in the 1980s and '90s. Confirming the turnaround, calendar-year sales improved from 199,800 (including trucks) in 2002 to over 235,000 in '05.

But today's brutally competitive global auto market allows no manufacturer to sit still for long, and Cadillac knows this better than most. Though it may never be the luxury power it was in GM's glory days, Cadillac seems likely to keep moving forward with confidence and courage.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • 1990-1999 Cadillac: Import competition and a stale image rock once-proud Cadillac. Here's the low-down on Cadillac's come-down.