New Car/Review

CADILLAC DeVILLE d'ELEGANCE (1997)

by Matt/Bob Hagin

Cadillac

SEE ALSO: Cadillac Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 39,995
     Price As Tested                                    $ 41,332
     Engine Type                             4.6 Liter V8 w/TPFI*
     Engine Size                                 279 cid/4565 cc
     Horsepower                                   275 @ 5600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               300 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  113.8"/76.5"/209.7"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4027 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                    20 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/60R16
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Six-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                 96 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.33

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            17/26/21          
     0-60 MPH                                        8.1 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     15.9 seconds @ 91.5 mph
     Top speed                                           110 mph
     * Tuned port fuel injection

(Cadillac is thought of as a car for oldsters because they like big, fluffy boulevard cruisers. Bob Hagin bristles at the implication but son Matt says he appreciates the "trick" equipment in the Cad d'Elegance.)

BOB - As I've gotten older, Matt, I've come to resent the snide implications of younger auto writers who refer to cars like the Cadillac DeVille as a car for "old guys" who like lots of weight, a marshmallow ride and whose idea of speed is a brisk 50 MPH. Those of us in our '60s and '70s spent our younger days tooling around in European sports cars, California-style street rods and hot domestic sedans like the '55 Chevy V8 and the Chrysler 300. We're automotively "hip."

MATT - The word "old" has given way to "mature," Dad, and the new Cadillac reflects that change. The new DeVille d'Elegance is hardly a slug on the highway on-ramps and is capable of going from 0-to-60 MPH in just over eight seconds. And if some kid took Grandpa's new Cad to the local dragstrip for some bracket-racing, he'd crack off the quarter-mile in just under 16 seconds and be clocking 92 MPH when he hits the finish line. That's really good performance, despite the fact that our test Caddy seats six "mature" people in total comfort and luxury and weighs in at 4000 pounds.

BOB - In the old days, Cadillac depended on huge engines to propel its big sedans and coupes, but it's new all-aluminum twin-cam Northstar V8 got around that requirement by using high-technology in a relatively small package. It only displaces 279 cubic inches but puts out 275 horsepower. The d'Elegance is the super luxo model but even at that, the handling is relatively crisp due to the sophisticated ride control system that senses when the pavement gets rough or the body starts to yaw and pitch. When this happens, the suspension tightens up. The promotional package that came with our test car says that the d'Elegance version of the DeVille is aimed at the over-60 age group, but there's a hotter version for the kids, too. The Concours is a "sporty" version that ups the horsepower of the same engine to 300 for even quicker acceleration and top speed.

MATT - And unlike some of its competition, the DeVille is a luxury car that avoids the federal "gas-guzzler" tax by virtue of the fact that it gets 26 miles to the gallon on the highway. The styling updates on the new Cads have gotten rid of some of their geriatric trappings, too. The rear fender skirts are gone and the use of chrome trim has been reduced to a bit around the windows and a three-inch strip that runs down the side of the body. The headlights are pretty fancy now and almost look like cut glass. The company made one consolation to vintage tradition in that the 16-inch tires have a thin white strip on them, but it's so small that it hardly qualifies as a white-wall tire. It's got all the luxury car gadgets like wipers that are activated when water hits the windshield and an optional built-in satellite controlled electronic navigation system called OnStar.

BOB - Those navigation systems are great if you happen to be driving in a strange town but the OnStar system does a couple of other neat tricks, too. If the driver phones in a problem, the OnStar operator will dispatch a tow truck to pick it up or bring some fuel if it has run out of gas. Another good safety item programmed into it will automatically dispatch an emergency call if any of the air bags are deployed and gives the rescue team the location of where it happened.

MATT - And if I'd locked the keys in the car, I could have phoned the OnStar hotline and after giving the proper code responses, the OnStar operator could have the electronic door locks opened via the satellite. The same operator can cause the car's horn to beep and the lights to flash if I had lost it in a mammoth parking lot and can even track the car's location if some bad guy rips it off. With all that fancy stuff on the Cad DeVille, it would be hard for me to get lost.

BOB - Matt, I haven't worried about that since your mother stopped writing your name and our phone number on your arm when all nine of us would go shopping. I think your were about four years old at the time.

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