- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2005

Since 1949, the Cadillac DeVille has epitomized American luxury. But after 56 years tastes change and so do names. For 2006, Cadillac has dropped the DeVille name and now offers the DTS as the brand’s American luxury flagship.

Al Gagne, DTS product manager, says DTS’ new design and performance are capable of retaining its core customer base, while creating conquest sales for Cadillac.

The DTS is specifically built to be an American luxury car and consequently only a few will be exported. Like the DeVille, it is Cadillac’s longest car at 207 inches. It makes no pretensions of being a global vehicle and is not cast in the same mold as the STS, a model that competes with European imports.

Drivers that love big, quiet and powerful cars, ideally suited for American freeways, will enjoy the DTS. It offers a quiet, but hardly a sedate driving experience. The DTS has a less edgy shape than the STS.

The 2006 DTS has a big-car presence that is not grossly massive. DTS is also engineered for U.S. driving conditions. But make no mistake about the performance of the DTS. Mr. Gagne says the DTS is superior to its main competitor, the Lincoln Town Car. In addition, the DTS was benchmarked against the Mercedes-Benz S-Class for technology features, seats and high-intensity discharge lighting, as well as overall packaging.

Cadillac also benchmarked the Lexus LS 430 for quality and execution. Just for good measure Cadillac benchmarked Chrysler’s flagship 300C because it is doing well in the marketplace, even though it is lower priced than the DTS.

“I’ll leave it up to you to judge how well the DTS turned out compared to the benchmarked vehicles,” Mr. Gagne says. “We think we’ve put together a competitive package.” Mr. Gagne strongly maintains that the new DTS is world class in all respects, even though it is not designed for European roads or autobahn speeds.

On a recent drive along country roads and highways north of New York City, the new DTS provided a smooth, quiet, steady ride. There was no excessive leaning around curves. In fact, the DTS’ handling performance is surprisingly nimble for a vehicle of such size and weight. The car does not produce a sense of floating through corners; steering is precise.

The most pleasing aspect of driving the DTS is its quiet ride. Cadillac engineers achieve this without making you feel like you’re in a cocoon. The engineers have also done a good job of insulating DTS against wind and other outside noise.

Extra insulation in the doors, new carpeting and nylon baffles in the pillars and other structural members result in a 40-decibel noise reduction, Cadillac claims. An acoustic laminate side glass that is about a millimeter thicker than in the 2005 DeVille helps reduce noise by two decibels. Cadillac also uses structureless windshield wipers.

Safety, as you would expect, is a major feature of the DTS. Its six air bags include a front passenger air bag that is the industry’s first dual-depth type. It deploys either a small or large air bag that is determined by crash severity, seatbelt usage and occupant seat position.

Though it still is only one bag, its size is adjusted to create the dual-depth deployment.

With the redesign and many new features, Cadillac has lowered the price of the DTS by $5,000. The base model, which is hardly a stripped-down car, is $41,990. This well-equipped model has eight-way power seats; Magnasteer, a magnetic variable assist rack-and-pinion steering system; xenon high-intensity display headlights; remote start; and six air bags.

Customers who desire even more features can select from three upscale trim packages. The manufacturer’s recommended price for the Luxury II trim level is $44,490 and the Luxury III package starts at $48,490. The performance model, with a base price of $50,490, includes the 4.6-liter V-8 L37 engine that generates 291 horsepower. Lower-priced models have the 4.6-liter LD8 V-8 rated at 275 horsepower.

“The highest base equipment group will bring you to $50,000,” Mr. Gagne says. “You can even go beyond that to $55,000 with options such as navigation,” he says. Cadillac believes it has established prices that are close to what the actual transaction prices will be in order to reduce reliance on incentives. It will be interesting to see if the DTS is a model that can wean customers from incentives.

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