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2006 Cadillac DTS Luxury II Review

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2006 Cadillac DTS Luxury II

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Cadillac

The DTS, Cadillac's newest sedan, replaces the DeVille in the company's lineup this year. As with the STS last year, the DTS name is familiar, from the old top-end model, meaning ``DeVille Touring Sedan.'' Unlike the STS, which migrated to an all-new rear-wheel drive chassis, the DTS is built on the DeVille's front-wheel drive chassis. Cadillac's largest and most American-traditional car is evolutionary, not revolutionary.

But more was involved in the transformation of DeVille to DTS than merely new exterior and interior styling. A new front cradle further isolates engine noise and vibration. The wheels, tires, and brakes are all larger, and the suspension has been re-tuned for improved control, with no loss of comfort.

Officially, there is only one DTS model, but there are four different major option packages. These are more than cosmetic trim levels, and can almost be considered different models. As the largest Cadillac sedan, and the one most oriented toward American-style luxury car buyers, the DTS is in a challenging position. It needs to appeal to Cadillac's traditional buyers, who tend to be older and relatively conservative in their tastes, but it also must be interesting to younger, more European-oriented customers. So there are three ``Luxury'' option packages for the traditionalists, and one Performance version. Luxury models get the 275-horsepower version of the 4.6-liter Northstar V8, while the Performance model gets a 291-hp version and a firmer suspension tuning.

I first sampled both Luxury II and Performance versions of the DTS a couple of months ago when GM hosted journalists for a driving event in the Southern California desert. On the road, the Performance model felt very much like a contemporary European luxury sedan, with a soft but well-damped suspension that encouraged spirited driving. The Luxury version was only a little more sedate, and its torquier engine worked better than the more horsepower-oriented Performance powerplant at the low and medium speeds that are life in American driving.

The Luxury II version appeared in my driveway a week ago. It was a near-perfect car for a week that involved a large amount of highway driving. With its quiet comfort, composed handling, and excellent response, it was in its element. While not overly large outside, it had noticeably more interior space than comparably-priced imports. And with an all-around average of 22 mpg and up to 24 on one stretch of highway at 65 to 70 mph, it was remarkably economical for a large luxury sedan.

APPEARANCE: Except for the doors and roof, every body panel on the DTS has changed from the DeVille. It wears the angular new Cadillac look very well, and although the DTS is not any smaller than the DeVille, its crisper lines make it look more compact. Vertically-stacked xenon headlights and the signature egg-crate grille in front, sharply-delineated fenders, and vertical LED taillights give the new DTS the unmistakable look of a Cadillac.

COMFORT: As outside, the DTS's interior has been brought into line with current Cadillac design. It's spacious and comfortable, and there is an extra inch of front seat adjustment to please very tall drivers. At Luxury II level, front passengers are treated to heated and cooled seats, with varying levels of heat or cooling on either the backs or backs and cushions. Rear passengers get first-class amounts of space and comfort in all DTSes, and there is a huge trunk. Back up front, the steering wheel is manually tilt-adjustable. The backlit instruments are easily visible in all lighting, with a lower-center display of useful information from the Driver Information Center, which is controlled by well-marked buttons to the left of the instruments. Seating surfaces are leather, and dual-firmness padding makes them pleasant places in which to spend time. My test car did not have the optional touch-screen navigation system, so the interface for the AM/FM/XM satellite radio audio system was relatively simple. An in-dash 6-CD changer is part of the ``Sun & Sound'' option package; it can play MP3 CDs as well as regular CDs. And because it seems that everybody has an MP3 player these days, all DTS varieties come with a mini-jack on the dash as standard equipment. Tri-zone climate control allows each front and all rear passengers to set their temperature preference independently.

SAFETY: A strong and rigid unibody chassis structure with front and rear crumple zones protects DTS passengers. There are six standard airbags, dual front, front side, and full-length side curtain. Brake assist helps the four-wheel antilock disc brakes work better in emergencies, and the StabiliTrak stability enhancement system improves driver control. Ultrasonic parking assistance alerts the driver to possibly-unseen obstructions by both auditory and visual means. Adaptive Remote Starting allows the car to be started from outside. If the heater or air conditioner are on when the car starts, the interior can be at an appropriate temperature when the driver enters.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Cadillacs have always been American cars for American roads, and the DTS fits that description well. But even in the Luxury models, its suspension is tuned in a more European manner than some of its forebears. It's compliant and comfortable without being too soft, and careful attention was paid to matching spring and shock rates. Bumps and potholes are dealt with and forgotten, and the big Caddy even takes fairly well to a spirited drive on a twisty road, although not at speeds that would embarrass any sports sedans. The Performance version is a touch firmer, and is very much like the latest German luxury sedans in its ride quality. All models feature Cadillac's variable-ratio Magnasteer magnetically-assisted steering, which is not overly light and helps control. As a highway cruiser, the DTS is in its element, with plenty of interior and suspension comfort, but it can be equally happy on the scenic route.

PERFORMANCE: As was the case with the DeVille, the 4.6-liter twincam alloy Northstar engine is available in two states of tune. Luxury models get a nod toward torque, particularly at lower speeds, with 275 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 295 lb-ft at 4400 rpm. The Performance version gets 295 horses at 6300 and 288 lb-ft at 4500, with more power at higher rpms. In the everyday world, the greater low-end torque of the 275-hp engine makes it work very well. The transmission is only a four-speed, but given the engine's good torque, that is not a problem at all, and it shifts very smoothly. Torque steer and torque reactions can be problems in high-powered front-wheel drive cars, but not the DTS. Fuel economy, at just over 22 mpg for a week with more than the usual amount of highway driving, was very good for a large luxury sedan.

CONCLUSIONS: Cadillac brings the large American luxury sedan into the 21st Century with the DTS.

2006 Cadillac DTS Luxury II

Base Price			$ 43,695
Price As Tested			$ 47,080
Engine Type			dual overhead cam 32-valve V8
Engine Size			4.6 liters / x cu. in.
Horsepower			275 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 			295 @ 4400 rpm
Transmission			4-speed electronically-controlled 
Wheelbase / Length		115.6 in. / 207.6 in.
Curb Weight			4,009 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		14.6
Fuel Capacity			18 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane regular unleaded gasoline
Tires				P235/55 SR17 Continental
				 Conti Touring Contact AS
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				 antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multi-link
Drivetrain			front engine, front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy  - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		17 / 25 / 22
0 to 60 mph				7.2  sec (estimated)

Sun & Sound package - includes:
  express-open sunroof, in-dash 6-disc CD changer	$ 1,795
17-inch chrome wheels					$   795
Destination charge					$   795