SEE ALSO: Cadillac Buyer's Guide
Road Atlanta is a rolling, twisting ribbon of asphalt nestled into the hills north of its namesake city. It is one of the more challenging road racing courses in the country, and is a perfect location to test drive a high-performance sports car. Cadillac used it to introduce its largest luxury-performance sedan, the 1998 DeVille Concours. A large Cadillac on a road racing course? What's wrong with this picture?
Less than you may think. Nearly fifty years ago, Briggs Cunningham ran a near-standard Sedan DeVille as well as a specially- bodied Cadillac-based beast nicknamed "Le Monstre" at Le Mans, and Cadillac sedans were entered in the fabled Mexican road race, La Carrera Panamerica. Those cars aside, though, performance hasn't been a word associated with Cadillacs until very recently. Cadillac made its reputation as a maker of quintessential American-style luxury cars, with soft, opulent comfort and plenty of room. Speed and sports- performance handling were not in the design spec.
Some of the current Cadillacs are different. The premium 300- horsepower Northstar system cars, the Seville Touring Sedan (STS), Eldorado Touring Coupe (ETC), and DeVille Concours, are all designed and built for balanced performance and handling as well as luxury-class comfort. With the demise of the rear-drive Fleetwood a few years ago, the DeVille is now the traditionalist's Cadillac. The more softly-tuned DeVille and De Ville D'Elegance should suffice for the traditional traditionalists. The Concours is for traditionalists with an attitude.
With plenty of seat time at the introduction, and a week at home, I was able to test the Concours under a wide range of conditions. From full speed ahead on the track to full-stop city traffic, the Concours was comfortable, quiet, and composed. Although it emphasizes luxury more than performance, it has very good acceleration and surprisingly nimble handling considering its mass. And it also has more interior space than its competition. It is an unabashedly American luxury car that is an enjoyable driver's car.
APPEARANCE: The Concours is unchanged externally for 1998, following a freshening for the 1997 model year. Those subtle changes worked wonders for the largest Cadillac's looks. It is still a large, boxy car, with slab sides and a formal roofline, but 1997's cutout rear wheel wells appear to remove considerable mass. The rounder egg-crate grille, peaked hood, and "jewel" multireflector headlamps are also part of the restyle. The Cadillac trademark vertical taillights remain. Restrained use of chrome trim gives international luxury flair. The Concours has different alloy wheels than other DeVille models, but otherwise looks the same.
COMFORT: The interior of the Concours is modern and international in style, but All-American in accommodation. It is spacious, and appears even more so due to the two-tone color design with Zebrano wood trim on the doors and instrument panel. The leather seating surfaces are perforated for warm weather comfort. Heated front seats are 8-way power-adjustable, and the rear seat holds three real people comfortably. All of the expected power amenities are standard equipment, and "Rainsense" automatic wipers and a passenger-side rearview mirror that tilts down automatically when backing to prevent unfortunate wheel scars on curbs add convenience and safety. A very large trunk holds plenty of luggage for extended trips.
SAFETY: All Cadillac DeVille models have safety-cage construction with dual next-generation front and front seat side airbags, and antilock brakes as standard equipment. The Concours also has the Stabilitrak electronic stability enhancement system. The OnStar information and emergency services system is available.
ROADABILITY: Road Atlanta is remarkably similar to the roads outside of the track entrance, in the rolling hills of Northern Georgia, and provides a safe environment in which to test a car near its handling limits. The Concours was remarkably composed at speed on the track, with good handling and cornering abilities for its size. Credit Stabilitrak, Cadillac's high-tech computer-assisted chassis control system. Make no mistake, the Concours is not a hardcore sports sedan, nor is it meant to be. It can, however, perform evasive maneuvers very well, a very important ability for real world safety. And, back in the real world of city and highway traffic, the Concours is every bit the modern, world-class luxury car in ride, comfort, and quiet.
PERFORMANCE: The 300-horsepower Cadillac Northstar V8 is a world-class engine, and propels the Concours down the road quickly and efficiently. The 4.6-liter twincam 32-valve aluminum alloy engine is smooth and quiet, with only a discreet V8 rumble under hard acceleration. The front wheels are driven through a smooth-shifting 4- speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission, and equal- length axles help keep torque steer to a minimum. With a maximum of 295 lb. ft. of torque, the Northstar Cadillacs are among the most powerful front-wheel drive cars made today.
CONCLUSIONS: The Cadillac DeVille Concours is successful blend of American-style luxury and European-style performance.
SPECIFICATIONS Base Price $ 42,295 Price As Tested $ 45,122 Engine Type dual overhead cam, 32 valve V8 Engine Size 4.6 liters / 279 cu. in. Horsepower 300 @ 6000 Torque (lb-ft) 295 @ 4400 Transmission 4-speed electronically- controlled automatic Wheelbase / Length 113.8 in. / 209.8 in. Curb Weight 4063 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 13.5 Fuel Capacity 20.0 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded premium Tires P225/60 HR16 Goodyear Eagle RS-A Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear independent Mac Pherson strut / independent short/long arm with coil springs, Integrated Chassis Control System with Stabilitrak Drivetrain front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 17 / 26 / 20 0 to 60 mph 7.5 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 15.3 sec Coefficient of Drag (cd) 0.35 OPTIONS AND CHARGES Safety / Security Package includes: electronic compass mirror, theft deterrent system, garage door opener $ 502 Chromed wheels $ 795 Trunk-mounted 12-disc CD changer $ 595 CA / NY / MA emissions $ 170 AM/FM/cassette/ single CD active audio 11-speaker sound system with digital signal processing $ 100 Destination Charge $ 665