With the passing this year of the Cadillac Fleetwood, the car that
typified the classic American large sedan, few will notice that its
popularity is being replaced by Cadillac vehicles of almost equal
proportions, the DeVille, and its upscale sibling the DeVille Concours.
The old recipe for the traditional "land yacht" required acres of
interior room, soft road manners and plush comfort amenities. But to
achieve this goal, performance was compromised and road handling wasn't
even considered. Concours adds nimble handling to the overall picture,
thanks to lots of high-tech gadgetry, along with nearly every creature
comfort imaginable, as our test vehicle of the week demonstrates.
OUTSIDE - At nearly two tons of mass, the car is easily recognizable
as coming from General Motors' upscale vehicle division, even though
it's been sculpted in the Euro-sense. Its corners are rounded, the hood
sloped and the cabin glass is wrapped by thin strips of brightwork. The
stand-up crested wreath hood ornament is conspicuously missing and
reserved for the lesser DeVille. All DeVille models wear alloy wheels
and large 16-inch tires, with chrome wheels an option.
INSIDE - The Concours is a true six-passenger vehicle, and nobody
riding inside will suffer a compromised seating position. Its front
bench seat contains a retractable armrest that can hold cassettes and
CDs, as well as providing coin slots and dual cup holders. Soft leather,
standard on Concours, is very comfortable, while its wide dashboard is
carefully designed in the vintage Cadillac tradition, with styling cues
borrowed from its more modern cousin, the Seville. Its interior controls
are all either powered or work automatically, and are now larger and
easier to operate. One of those auto features is its Rainsense Wiper
System, which automatically activates the windshield wipers when it
starts to rain. Another is its climate control, which keeps the cabin at
a constant temperature, and features ventilation ports to the rear
seats. A powerful 11-speaker AM/FM cassette stereo system is standard.
ON THE ROAD - All front-drive Cadillac models are powered by the
revolutionary Northstar System, and most assume that Northstar refers
only to its all-aluminum, 32-valve V8 engine, but it's much more than
that. True, it gives 300 horsepower, (up this year from 275) and will
rocket the large vehicle astoundingly fast to freeway speeds. Its 295
lb-ft of torque gives plenty of low-end power for quick acceleration as
well. But the total Northstar System combines engine, transmission,
suspension, braking and steering inputs into one package. It's easier to
say, though, that the engine is powerful, the four-speed automatic
transmission shifts smoothly, the brakes stop quickly and there aren't
many vehicles on the road that can outrun Concours. Torque steer, where
engine power affects steering motions, is almost undetectable, while its
traction control, which reduces wheelspin on slippery surfaces, now
features an override button to deactivate the system.
BEHIND THE WHEEL - True to Cadillac tradition, the Concours ride is
soft and plush. Cadillac calls its underpinnings the Continuously
Variable Road Sensing Suspension, which uses a central computer to
monitor wheel motions caused by bumps in the road, along with steering
angle to stiffen or relax the suspension according to pre-programmed
instructions. Its goal is to improve ride quality, without sacrificing
handling. For such a large car, it handles well enough to give complete
confidence to its driver under most everyday conditions. The interior is
incredibly quiet, and its four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock control
work well to slow the huge car, although they suffered some fade after
repeated high-speed stops. New this year is the Magnasteer variable
effort steering, a combination of hydraulic, (the traditional power
steering type) electronic and magnetic assist mechanisms which adapt to
varying road surfaces quicker than previous Cadillac systems.
SAFETY - Dual airbags, anti-lock brakes, daytime running headlights
and side-impact protection round out the Concours safety features.
OPTIONS - Uplevel stereo with 12-disc CD changer: $790; theft
deterrent system: $295; electronic compass: $100; chrome wheels: $1,195.