2005 Cadillac STS - Review / Road Test

Test car Cadillac STS next to the Korean Friendship Bell, in San Pedro

Over half of  all the goods America imports pass through Los Angeles Harbor, and a week's road test around the greater port area  in a Cadillac STS revealed a  domestic carmaker with the  super-sedans of Europe firmly in its sights.

I got a taste of just how far Cadillac has come, or indeed caught up, with Euro engineers in terms of  road-holding ability on the weaving single-lane roads of Rancho Palos Verdes, overlooking the harbor.

The STS performed admirably on twisting roads with surface water, gripping courtesy of the  all-wheel-drive option on its rear-wheel-drive platform,  the most significant improvements from the previous front-wheel-drive STS.

With  a revamped chassis and sleeker body-styling that looks good from any viewpoint - though perhaps best beside the Korean Bell of Friendship also overlooking the port - this car is very different from its illustrious predecessors,  but unmistakably a Cadillac.

The STS looks good from any angle

These improvements -  heavily influenced by   European carmakers BMW, Audi and Mercedes  - also give Cadillac parent company GM  a genuine contender in the luxury-car sector. A $40,020 price tag positions the STS  favorably with the BMW 545i at $55,695, and the Mercedes E320 CDI at $51,825.

Perhaps more importantly, the STS and its sister model the CTS show that  upscale domestic carmakers, long spearheaded by  prestigious marques such as Cadillac, can finally match, and in many respects beat, the precision of  German engineers.

Not least in terms of the STS's ride, which flattened both the outrageous cambers of the Rolling Hills estates, and the sharper bumps and dips at higher speeds on  LA's 110 freeway.

Comparisons with BMW's road-holding come as quickly as the test-model's 17-inch aluminum rims raced over potholes and broken asphalt alike, thanks to the STS's control-arm front suspension and aluminum-infused multi-link system behind, with further damping provided by magnetic -  or indeed magnetorheological - shock absorbers.  You can also jiggle between touring or performance mode.

Pleasingly, every road vibration not squished by the car's superior suspension can be felt through the steering column, alongside every precision-crafted clack as the five-speed automatic transmission efficiently climbed through the gears on acceleration and overtaking.

The STS's 255-horse 3.6-liter V-6 Northstar engine provided ample grunt for a car of  these dimensions, and though it sounded slightly higher-pitched than BMW's Valvetronic engines, was equally as throaty. While on the subject, the indicators gave a reassuringly chunky sound  similar to those on the old 5-Series circa 1998 (to my cloth ears, anyway).
Outside, the dramatic headlight sculpting would do justice to any Mercedes make-over; the new-look STS also boasts a centered front-fender "fold" which apes that of the similarly futuristic-looking Mercedes R-Class. The STS also closely resembles its sister-model CTS - you may even have confused them when eyeing their fine lines on the road.  The STS is six inches longer, and shares the same rigid Sigma chassis.

Cadillac's radical yet refined new styling

The STS is six inches longer than its sister model CTS

The all-leather inside is, obviously, roomy and luxurious and of course smells wonderful when you step into the cabin, as my wife often remarked.  Heated, power-operated seats ensure that even the longest drive will be contemplated, and undertaken, with pleasure.

The half-leather, half-eucalyptus wood steering wheel brought back fond memories of  British-made Jaguars, while the spacious trunk - or boot, as the Brits would have it -   holds four sets of golf clubs (which the old XJ6's trunk never allowed).

The sat-nav console will prove equally useful on long or short drives, and guided me flawlessly to three destinations in the warren of streets around the harbor. These systems are always worth the ten minutes or so they usually take to master, and this one was easier than most. A fantastic sound experience was provided by the $3,300 optional Bose six-disc DVD stereo, delivered through 15 - yes, 15 - speakers; an eight-speaker Bose system comes standard.

Further luxuries include keyless entry and push-button start, steering-wheel-mounted audio and climate control,  radar-controlled cruise control, and Blue Tooth cell technology, which basically turns the car into a giant  hands-free phone.

Luxury lies in the details

All important safety features include dual-stage airbags in the front, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for both  rows, and front to rear side head curtains.  And remember, this is a very solid, well put-together car with a curbweight of just under 4,000lbs. Gas consumption is 18m.p.g in the city, and 27 on the highway.

A respectable 0-60m.p.h. time of seven seconds will keep the heavy-footed crowd happy, but lovers of uber-performance sedans should perhaps keep an eye out for the supercharged STS-V, which boasts an outrageous 469 horses under the hood,  a 0-60 time of under five seconds, and Brembo brakes embraced by Ferrari among others, set for a 2006 release.
Test car came with $8,885 of extras for an on-the-road price of  $50,625.

To read or make comments at the STS Blog Click Here

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