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New Car/Review

1998 Cadillac Seville SLS

by Carey Russ


SEE ALSO: Cadillac Buyer's Guide

The 1998 Seville is one of the most important automobiles in Cadillac's long history. The Seville brand has been Cadillac's import- fighter since its debut in 1976, but the newest version takes that philosophy a giant step further. It is the first Cadillac designed and built to compete with German and Japanese luxury cars on their home ground. It will be sold in more than 40 countries around the world, and, for the first time since the 1930s right-hand drive versions will be built. As before, performance-oriented STS ( Seville Touring Sedan ) and luxury-oriented SLS (Seville Luxury Sedan) models are offered.

The 1992 to 1997 Seville was a boldly-styled, very recognizable automobile. The styling of the 1998 Seville is an evolution of that of its eminently successful predecessor, but the underpinnings are all new. The previous Seville was built on its own platform; the '98 uses an evolution of the General Motors "G" architecture, a more modern and rigid platform. This means even better suspension control and ride quality, lower noise levels, and better fit and finish to body and interior panels. The 4.6-liter Northstar V8 continues, but it has been refined for smoother and quieter operation. Cadillac's use of sophisticated electronics continues with the Northstar System, which electronically controls and integrates the powertrain and chassis subsystems.

A recent week in a 1998 SLS, and time in both SLS and STS models at the press introduction left me impressed with Cadillac's efforts to place the Seville against serious foreign competition. A chance for direct comparison between 1997 and 1998 models was most telling. The new Seville has lost none of its All-American muscle- with-sophistication character, and is improved in every way.

APPEARANCE: At a glance, the new Seville looks no different than its immediate predecessor. Look more closely. While still chiseled and angular, the 1998 Seville is just a touch softer in contour, leaner and more athletic overall. The distinctive character line on the side panels is more pronounced, and blends neatly into the sculpted tail. At the rear, the Cadillac wreath emblem is integrated into the full-width stop light, above new, larger taillights. At the front, the trademark egg-crate grille is lower, and flanked by new, slightly rounded headlight clusters. The SLS grille is finished in silver paint, with chrome trim. That and discreet trim around the windows and badging are the total of brightwork, giving the SLS a European-style understated elegance.

COMFORT: As outside, the interior of the new Seville is similar to its predecessor only at first glance. It is more spacious and convenient. As before, a contemporary dark-over-light design and large window areas mean good visibility and an airy feeling. Wood trim is tastefully used on the doors, the instrument panel, and the console. But the details have improved. The 1998 Seville interior is truly world-class in design. Everything necessary for driving and convenience -- instruments, controls, and storage spaces -- is placed intuitively and well-marked for easy use. A new multi-mode instrument cluster uses a bright backlit fluorescent analog display, or a digital speed display, or a combination. The 8-way power-adjustable front seats are very comfortable on long trips or around town, and feature 3-point harnesses that anchor to the seat for automatic adjustment. The rear seat is spacious and has plenty of climate control vents. All expected power accessories are standard. Programmable remote keyless entry security options and a useful trip computer are also standard; optional memory for the front seats and a power tilt and telescope steering wheel add convenience.

SAFETY: All 1998 Sevilles have the Stabilitrak stability control system, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, and all-speed traction control for accident avoidance. In the event of a crash, safety-cage construction, front-seat frontal and side "next-generation" airbags, and energy- absorbing interior surfaces protect occupants.

ROADABILITY: The SLS is the Seville tuned for classic American luxury driving tastes. It is a car for relaxed touring, and a 300-mile day with the car, on freeways and secondary roads, was a very pleasant drive instead of a chore. Softer than the more European-oriented STS, the SLS's fully-independent suspension is well-controlled but does have more body motion and lower cornering limits than the STS. Ride comfort is its primary specification, and the SLS is quiet and composed on the highway. When the road is tighter and more curving, the continuously variable road-sensing suspension firms up for good handling. Stabilitrak helps maintain control in emergency situations.

PERFORMANCE: The third-generation Northstar V8 is a smooth, quiet luxury powerplant. Only under full-throttle acceleration does it make its presence known by a muted rumble. The SLS version of the aluminum alloy dual overhead cam engine is tuned for everyday driving, with 275 horsepower and 300 lb.-ft. of torque. The 4-speed, electronically-controlled automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly for seamless power. Helping the SLS's long-legged touring ability is excellent fuel economy. I averaged over 22 mpg, with nearly 25 on a 300-mile mixed highway and secondary road trip. You'll want to stop before the car needs to.

CONCLUSIONS: The 1998 Cadillac Seville SLS is a world-class luxury sedan for American tastes.


Base Price              $ 42,495
Price As Tested         $ 46,478
Engine Type             dual overhead cam 32 valve aluminum alloy V8
Engine Size             4.6 liters / 279 cu. in.
Horsepower              275 @ 5600 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)          300 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission            4-speed electronically-controlled automatic
Wheelbase / Length      112 in. / 201.0 in.
Curb Weight             3970 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower   14.4
Fuel Capacity           18.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement        unleaded premium
Tires                   P235/60 SR16 Goodyear Integrity
Brakes, front/rear      vented disc / solid disc, antilock and
                        StabiliTrak stability control system
Suspension, front/rear  independent MacPherson strut /
                        independent multilink, electronic
                        CVRSS shock absorber control
Drivetrain              front engine, front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed      17 / 26 / 22
0 to 60 mph                    7.7 sec
1/4 mile (E.T.)               15.96 sec
Coefficient of Drag (cd)       0.31

Personalization Package - includes:
  power lumbar support, memory package,
  Rainsense wiper system, electronic compass mirror,
  heated front and rear  seats, power tilt & telescope
  steering column, garage door opener        $ 1,698
Bose 4.0 sound system: 425 watts, 8 speakers, 
  AM/FM/cassette/CD/weather band, RDS        $   950
White Diamond exterior color                 $   500
CA/NY/MA/CT emissions                        $   170
Destination charge                           $   665