Two long running sagas stand out in the automotive world, perennials which still pop up year after year since goodness knows when.
One is that of Alfa Romeo’s struggle to get back on the form it showed in 1965. The other is that of Cadillac’s endless quest for credibility in Europe (and then latterly in the US).
The 2000 Cadillac Seville STS is one of the episodes in Cadillac’s incredibly drawn-out attempts to get away from the form it showed from the 1950s until the mid-1990s, purveyors of ludicrously oversprung land yachts. So, while Alfa Romeo would love some of its 1960s mojo back, Cadillac wants us to forget they did a rather good job of making supremely comfortable and utterly American saloons.
The 1992-1997 Cadillac Seville STS served as Cadillac’s first proper attempt to make a Euro-flavoured car, one with power but also handling capabilities. Motor Trend and Car and Driver approved and duly listed the car in their “ten best” lists.
In 1998 the car was heavily revised, being built on the G or K-platform (related) and gained European-type approval. It went down like a sick marmot. The principle criticisms involved the torque steer (for it was front drive) and the uncompetitive interior. Yes, it cost a lot less than nominally comparable vehicles from Audi, BMW and Mercedes but it was nowhere near as competent. It neither managed to woo with its American comfort nor convince with its inadequate handling. Both potential audiences were alienated.
For the 2000 version, quality and engineering were improved and for 2000 they were improved again. The 2000 car looked much the same as the 1992 car but all the edges were a little bit rounder. The dashboard is faintly reminiscent of the Volvo S80 of 1998 but that’s probably a coincidence.
What did Cadillac do for the 2000 model? They made modifications to the Northstar engine and to the suspension. Something like an active ride system allowed the car to adjust the dampers at each wheel and a yaw-sensor sent signals about the rate and amount of turning. The gearbox responded to mild or aggressive inputs too so steering feedback altered. Contemporary commentary noted the steering still felt remote.
So, while the car could hustle, it didn’t tell the driver that much about what was going on at the road surface. The idea behind the car was to allow the driver to push on without having to listen to every bit of feedback; the car got on with managing things by means of individual wheel braking or variations in side to side power delivery. You’d think this was a bad thing – but it was Cadillac presenting another way to conduct a large car at a brisk pace. “Not a driver’s car” they said. On the plus side, all this engineering and the Cadillac’s considerable bulk came in at about £10,0000 to £13,000 less than products from the usual suspects.
If you bought one, you bought into relaxed, speedy driving, 10-way adjustable seats, a Bose stereo system and a commitment to 19 mpg. And nought to sixty could be reached in under 7 seconds. Fifteen years later, Cadillac might just be getting within range of the German sport saloons but they are still confined to the US and people still seem to hanker after the land yachts rather than American interpretations of European performance.
£39,750 in 2000. 4565 cc quad cam 32-valve V8; 148 mph, 0-60 in 6.8 seconds, front wheel drive and 19.9 mpg if driven carefully.