- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 13, 2005

Cadillac’s newest luxury sedan, the 2005 STS, looks a lot like another Cadillac — the angular and edgy CTS entry-luxury sedan.

But the STS is more expensive, larger, has more features and technology, and offers something no Cadillac has had before — all-wheel drive.

With a starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $40,995 for a V-6 model, the rear-drive STS is a midsize four-door meant to compete against the most prominent luxury sedans.

Consumers may remember that STS was a performance version of the old Seville sedan. Today, though, STS is the full name of the new Cadillac sedan. The company is moving away from word names and wants to use combinations of letters.

Personally, I don’t find the names CTS, SRX, XLR and STS all that easy to differentiate and remember, but Cadillac officials say it’s the wave of the future.

With the debut of the STS, there’s only one Cadillac car left with a name, and that’s the DeVille, which probably will get a name change, too, down the road.

At least the distinctive styling of the STS that first debuted on the CTS production car drives home the point that STS is a contemporary Cadillac.

People seem to love or hate the look, but it’s worth noting that on the STS, the edginess is restrained a bit, especially at the front of the car.

The STS interior also comes across as more luxurious than what’s in the CTS, with materials that look softer and have a nicer feel to them.

Performance-oriented drivers and techies will find plenty to like in the STS.

While the base engine is a commendable, 255-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 that powers the car well, the uplevel Northstar V-8 is the one that really shines.

This 4.6-liter, double-overhead-cam V-8 generates 320 horsepower and 315 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm.

It meant I didn’t dawdle when passing other drivers on the freeway and zipping around double-parked cars in the city. The V-8 seemed to hold more power than I could possibly use.

And the engine sound during acceleration was perfectly tuned to convey confidence and power.

Too bad fuel economy isn’t better. The STS with V-8 is rated at 17 miles per gallon in city driving, which is on par with some sport utility vehicles. On the highway, the STS rating is 26 mpg.

No matter which engine you get in the STS, the transmission is a five-speed automatic with a shift-it-yourself mechanism that adds to the sporty flavor of the car.

I scarcely heard the STS engine during regular driving. Indeed, I didn’t notice wind noise, either, in this sleek car.

About the only thing I noticed was road noise from the 17-inch, Michelin V-rated tires.

Cadillac worked to isolate the interior from outside noises, using a special windshield glass, for example, and noise-deadening padding here and there.

It seems to have worked, because my passengers and I talked in normal voices — even listening to the people in the back seat from my spot behind the steering wheel.

The STS can hold three adults in the back, but because this is a rear-drive car, the center person has to contend with a large hump in the floor. And three people sit a bit closely.

Seats are comfortable, though. I sank into them a bit but also had enough support that a nonstop, three-hour drive at night didn’t fatigue me.

I enjoyed the uplevel, high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps that spread a bright and broad light beam across the road in front of the STS.

But it took most of a trip to get accustomed to the Intellibeam system that automatically turns the high beams on and off when the system sees fit.

Intellibeam isn’t like the old General Motors Corp. on/off high beams.

This new system uses a metal-oxide semiconductor light sensor that’s on the back of the rearview mirror. It worked effectively during my test, but was a distraction at first as I tried to figure out if it would turn off the beams before I got too close to a car down the road.

It wasn’t the only thing working automatically in the STS.

Rain-sensing wipers, which have been on other cars for years, took care of raindrops without my doing a thing.

And the suspension with optional Magnetic Ride Control worked to ensure the tires had maximum road contact, no matter what the surface or how sloped the road.

The system uses magnetized particles to change the viscosity of a fluid inside dampers to make constant changes in the ride quality.

The result was a feeling of being in control at all times, even on washboard road surfaces where a lesser vehicle might “hop” or jitter.

In addition, a lot of aluminum parts went into the front and rear suspensions to help reduce weight at the car’s corners and alleviate stresses on the wheels and suspension management.

Purists praise rear-wheel drive as the authentic configuration for best performance driving, and certainly the STS handled itself on twisting, narrow roads with accuracy and confidence.

Stability control and traction control are among the safety features, but I still could get a quick chirp from the tires at startup. All-wheel drive also is available.The power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering on the STS, however, had a bit of loose feeling on center, however.

Last but certainly not least is the keyless entry and push-button ignition system in the STS.

No key is used. A driver only needs to carry a proximity-measuring fob with him. The fob, which uses antennas, can be in a pocket or a purse. Walk up to the STS, pull the handle and the door unlocks. Once inside, with the fob inside the car, too, a driver presses the brake pedal while pushing a rocker switch on the dashboard to start the engine.

But with no key for me to retrieve and pull out of the dashboard, I found myself starting to leave the STS after shifting into park and with the engine still running.

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