(first posted 11/30/2015) In Part II of the Cadillac edition of this series, let’s take a look at 5 more Cadillacs: 2 luxury editions and 3 sporty editions. This quintet shows that while the basic ingredients of a sporty Cadillac didn’t change much over the years, the execution of an ultra-luxury model changed dramatically.
Cadillac DeVille Touring
Years produced: 1986-88; 1991-93
Total production: ?
The first downsizing in 1977 had brought more manageable dimensions to the Cadillac DeVille. Although the ’77 B and C-Bodies were dynamically superior to their predecessors, Cadillac must not have believed a “touring” edition could be made out of its new DeVille. It didn’t help that by 1982, the DeVille was saddled with the weak HT-4100 V8. With its second downsizing in 1985 and switch to front-wheel-drive, the DeVille lost 600 pounds and 26 inches in length. The HT-4100 that had been employed to poor effect in the RWD DeVille now had only 3,400 pounds to haul around. The stage was set for a firmer, more poised and more European edition of the new DeVille and for its sophomore season, the Touring Sedan and Touring Coupe were launched.
The Touring editions were a curious interpretation of a German luxury sedan, available for an extra $2,880 atop the DeVille’s MSRP. Unlike the Germans, the Touring retained a six-passenger set-up with a column-shifter and digital gauges. This was despite other “touring” GMs like the Ninety-Eight Touring Sedan featuring a buckets-and-console set-up. However, like the Olds, the DeVille’s interior was trimmed in gray leather. Exterior colors were limited to white, black, silver or gray, a very sparse color palette intended to mimic that of the Germans.
Mechanically, numerous changes were made. There were firmer front and rear springs, revalved front struts and rear shock absorbers, a solid front stabilizer bar and a thicker rear stabilizer bar, firmer front and rear strut bushings, a 3.33:1 final drive ratio and a quicker power steering ratio.
There was even PEP, Caddy’s cutesy acronym for the “Performance Enhancement Package”. This was simply a larger exhaust that extracted an extra 5 horses from the HT-4100, bringing the total up to 135 hp and 205 ft-lbs.
To visually separate these from the regular DeVilles, there were 15’’ alloy wheels in Goodyear Eagle GT tires, front fog lights and air dam, rear spoiler, rear quarter window louvers on the coupe and Academy Gray lower body mouldings for a subtle two-tone effect. Visual changes were also made in 1987 to all DeVilles, with revised front and rear fasciae – including a bolder grille and wraparound taillights – intended to make the Caddy look larger and more prestigious.
For 1988, all DeVilles received an improved V8, now displacing 4.5 liters with 155 hp and 240 lb-ft, that returned the same fuel economy as the HT-4100.
When the DeVille was heavily revised visually for 1989, it gained 5-6 inches in (mostly overhang) length. However, it lost the Touring models. The Touring Coupe never reappeared, but the Touring Sedan was resurrected in 1991. Still following the same six-passenger format and receiving similar modifications to past Touring Sedans, the new sport model had a grille-mounted Cadillac crest and standard 16’’ forged aluminum wheels similar to those of the 1988-91 Seville STS.
Most importantly, the DeVille had seen a hefty jump in power since the last Touring editions. Cadillac’s V8 had been bored and stroked and was now much more reliable and powerful, with 200 hp and 275 ft-lbs of torque. Offering the Touring Sedan was a curious move, as Cadillac was heavily touting their Seville STS. The DeVille also appealed to an older and more conservative buyer, far less inclined to trade in an imported sport sedan.
Still, the revived Touring must have been at least somewhat successful, as the redesigned 1994 and 2000 generations of DeVille, as well as the 2006-11 DTS all had full-time ‘sport’ models: DeVille Concours, DeVille DTS, DTS Performance and DTS Platinum. There remains a sporty, full-size Caddy in the XTS VSport, with its twin-turbocharged 3.6 V6. And this tradition all started with the boxy, little ’86 DeVille.
Cadillac STS Platinum
Years produced: 2007-11
Total production: ?
The Platinum series of Cadillacs were a step further upmarket for GM’s luxury brand, offering higher-quality interiors and unique trim. The first Caddy to receive the treatment was the 2004 Escalade ESV, and for 2007 it became available on the XLR, DTS and the featured STS.
Available with either the 3.6 V6 or 4.6 V8 and rear- or all-wheel-drive, the 2007 STS Platinum received a unique grille with a fine grid pattern, differing from the regular car’s grille with its thicker horizontal bars. There were also unique 18-inch chrome finish wheels and chrome-accented door handles.
In photos, the STS Platinum interior looks scarcely different from the regular STS. However, there was leather-wrapping almost everywhere. Seats were swathed in sumptuous Tuscany leather trim and the regular Eucalyptus wood was replaced with Olive Ash Burl wood trim. Other touches included unique sill plates, premium floor mats and a wood-accented, heated steering wheel. The interior could be selected in either beige or black.
With the 2008 facelift, the STS Platinum also received some tweaks. The interior received an Alcantara headliner, but the wheels and grille were now just regular STS items with a different finish.
Although the Platinum interior and the exterior revisions and more powerful V6 of 2008 were meaningful and timely improvements for the STS, they weren’t enough. The sexier, cheaper 2008 CTS had a cut-and-sew dash, with real wood trim, all-wheel-drive and ventilated seats as well as the STS’ new V6 as options. All the STS could boast was an optional V8, but the Northstar’s 320 hp and 315 ft-lbs was no longer impressive. Also unimpressive was the STS’ rear cabin space, scarcely more accommodating than the CTS.
The mid-size luxury segment has been dominated by the Germans for years now, and Cadillac needed a car that could really stand out. For all its basic goodness, like a great ride/handling balance and plenty of available features, the STS just didn’t have strong enough appeal or marketing to lure buyers over from German brands. A planned RWD replacement for the STS and front-wheel-drive DTS was axed during GM’s bankruptcy crisis, and so the STS/DTS were discontinued after 2011. Their FWD/AWD successor, the XTS, didn’t arrive until 2013. Carrying on the new tradition, the range was topped with a Platinum edition.
Cadillac Eldorado Custom Biarritz Classic
Years produced: 1978
Total production: 2000
Lincoln first introduced designer edition Givenchy, Gucci, Bill Blass and Cartier Continental Mark IVs in 1976, and in tandem Cadillac introduced an ultra-luxury version of its elephantine Eldorado. The Custom Biarritz debuted for 1976, featuring a brushed stainless steel and padded Elk Grain cabriolet vinyl roof with French seams and opera lights. Inside, there were Sierra Grain pillow-style leather seats. The Custom Biarritz returned for 1977, retailing for $1760 or a whopping $2777 when equipped with an Astroroof. The Custom Biarritz was the pinnacle of excess… That is, until the 1978 Eldorado Custom Biarritz Classic arrived.
Photos courtesy of eBay seller “autotown99” who currently has this Eldo listed here
The big Eldorado was going out with a bang. Next year’s model would shed a staggering 1,114 pounds as well as 12.3 inches in wheelbase. The big Eldorado needed a brash farewell, and no Eldorado was as brash as the Custom Biarritz Classic. Each of the 2,000 units produced were painted in two-tone Arizona beige and Demitasse brown with matching wheels. The two-tone treatment continued in the interior with light beige and dark saddle pillow-style seating, along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel. American Sunroof Corporation were contracted with applying the padded half-vinyl roof, sunroof/astroroof, and the brown paint. Total price for the option package? $2,466, or $3547 with the Astroroof.
While the numbers of this limited edition model were perhaps intentionally kept small, GM must have been disappointed to find the razor-edged Mark V outsell the Eldorado range by an impressive 25,000 units. With all those designer editions, plus the pricey Diamond Jubilee Mark V, perhaps Lincoln knew better than Cadillac how to make a personal luxury coupe buyer feel truly special.
Cadillac Catera Sport
Years produced: 1999-2001
Total production: ?
It was the right idea at the right time but with the wrong execution. The Catera was a rebadged German Opel Omega that was introduced to rival compact sport sedans from the German brands and bring in new, younger, import-driving buyers to the Cadillac brand. While the Catera did pave the way for the vastly more successful CTS, a car that sold twice as well as the erstwhile Caddy that zigged, it failed on two fundamental fronts. Firstly, performance was nothing to write home about. Secondly, it suffered from the then patchy reliability of German Opels.
With rear-wheel-drive and an independent rear suspension as well as a double overhead cam V6, the Catera was a vastly more convincing sport sedan than the Cimarron. Alas, that 3.0 V6 mustered only 200 hp and 192 ft-lbs of torque and had to haul around a hefty 3,900 lbs. There was no stickshift available either, the only transmission being a four-speed automatic.
A Catera Sport arrived in 1999, offering a firmer ZJ1 suspension tune with stiffer springs, struts and shocks. Exterior colors were limited to Ebony, Ivory and Platinum, with an interior only available in Ebony with gunmetal trim; heated seats and side airbags also featured. Exterior changes included seven-spoke machined aluminum 16-inch wheels, rear spoiler and a matte grille. Alas, there was still no stickshift and no more power.
A facelift for 2000 more closely aligned Catera and Omega styling, with the Caddy losing its unique full-width taillight panel. The Sport received new five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, aluminum interior trim and HID headlights.
Catera sales were in terminal decline and the facelift did nothing to stop the bleeding. For 2002, the CTS arrived. It featured a more powerful engine, an available stickshift and vastly more distinctive styling. The Catera was quickly forgotten.
A better idea for an entry-level Caddy would have been this: the Holden VT/VX Calais. Based on a heavily re-engineered version of the Catera’s V-Car platform, the Calais was the most prestigious of the regular-length Commodore range. Engines included the venerable 3800 V6 and its supercharged variant, as well as (from 1999) a 5.7 LS1 V8. The Calais would not have matched German standards of build quality or refinement, but it would have far surpassed the Catera in reliability and offered an interior that was both plusher and more ergonomic. It could have held the fort more convincingly than the Catera until the edgy CTS arrived but instead, Cadillac sold an Opel Omega that burned buyers they could scarcely afford to lose.
Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe
Years produced: 1990-91
Total production: 3756
Cadillac had touted the improved handling ability of its downsized 1986 Eldorado from Day 1 and even offered a special Touring Suspension option. For 1988, the related Seville received a sporty, monochromatic STS which offered both visual and mechanical upgrades. In 1990, Cadillac extended this treatment to the Eldorado.
Arriving in mid-1990, the Touring Coupe was an option package with the code YP5 and a price tag of $2,050. Unlike the $155 Touring Suspension option that remained available, the Touring Coupe received a raft of aesthetic changes as well as performance tweaks.
Although it shared the 4.5 V8 with other Eldorados, boasting 180 hp and 240 lb-ft, there were various other performance modifications. A higher-performance rear axle ratio and 3.31:1 gearing improved the Eldo’s 0-60 time to 9 seconds flat, making it and the Seville STS the fastest Caddys in a long time. The suspension was retuned for a firmer, more controlled ride and more responsive handling, gaining a thicker rear stabilizer bar. There was also a quicker steering ratio, dual exhaust, and standard Teves anti-lock brakes.
Visually, the Touring Coupe was differentiated by its 16×7-inch forged aluminum wheels with Goodyear Eagle GT tires. Taillights received amber turn signals, the Cadillac emblem was moved to the grille and front and rear fasciae and rocker moldings were painted body color. Exterior colors were, like the DeVille Touring, limited in number: two blacks, a gray, a white but, unlike the DeVille, there was also an eye-catching, bright crimson red. For 1991, gorgeous Polo Green paint was also made available.
Interior photos courtesy of Dave S
The cabin was only available in birchwood leather with bird’s eye maple trim, with special front seats that had six-way power adjustability and more prominent side bolstering. Unfortunately, only digital gauges were available.
The big news for 1991 was the bigger and more powerful 4.9 V8 that was made available across the Cadillac range. This 200 hp, 275 lb-ft engine brought the Touring Coupe’s 0-60 down to just 8.2 seconds and even obtained better highway gas mileage. The Teves ABS was replaced by a Bosch II unit, and there was a new four-speed automatic and adjustable damping.
Despite the low production numbers of the Touring Coupe, Cadillac saw fit to make the option package a fully-fledged trim level for the longer, sleeker next-generation Eldorado. The Eldorado ETC was offered right up until the discontinuation of the Eldorado line in 2002.
Once upon a time, Cadillac’s performance models were no more powerful than regular Cadillacs and their luxury models had loose-pillow seating. Now, the 2016 CTS-V has a 6.2 supercharged V8 with 640 horsepower while Talisman, d’Elegance and Biarritz are all long-defunct nameplates. After years of awkwardly juggling Euro-fighting sport sedans and plush Broughams, Cadillac now has its most cohesive brand identity in decades. The cars featured were, for the most part, important stepping stones in getting there.
Top 10 Obscure Special Editions and Forgotten Limited-Run Models: Cadillac Edition, Part I
Curbside Classic: 1986-91 Cadillac Seville
Curbside Classic: 1978 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz
Future Curbside Classic: Cadillac XTS
Catera had a straight six Opel DOHC engine not a V6, The same engine offered in the Singapore Commodores and Vauxhall Senators.
That’s what I thought too. But after some searching it turned out there is a V6 Opel/Vauxhall engine, the Ellesmere V6 from the UK.
All recent big Opels (Omega and Senator) I ever saw with a 6-cylinder engine had a straight-6 though. Either an Opel gasoline engine or a BMW diesel engine.
Here’s the V6: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_54%C2%B0_V6_engine#2.5
It was a strange 54 degree 3.0 V6 that gave a lot of problems to buyers and dealers. Some around here think that high end Opels were the answer to Cadillacs problems. I don’t see how those arguments make it past the Catera.
My neighbor had one like this, an Opel Omega B wagon. His was dark blue metallic, it had the smooth 2.5 liter BMW inline-6 turbodiesel under its hood.
The KAD-Opels and the later Senator A and B were the real high-end Opels. The Senator was cancelled in 1993, it never had the V6. Only inline-6 gasoline engines.
Our versions of the Vectra, the Saab 900 and the Saturn LS also had versions of this terrible engine. I assume the V6 was added to Opel’s line for front drive applications. Was the inline 6 still the cam in head engine during this period. If so, it was getting dated, so that may explain why the V6 was sent to the USA. It would have come to a few of us that an LT1 or a RWD version of the Northstar V8 might not be impossible to really make the Catera zing.
Now I remember this “high-end” Opel with a V6 engine, the 2003-2009 Opel Signum. A commercial failure, it was based on the (much cheaper) Opel Vectra wagon. Roomy though ! Opel’s Renault Vel Satis, sort of.
Chevrolet’s mid sized sedan, the Malibu, got a model very similar to the Signum called the Malibu Maxx. I thought it was a pretty good idea, though being single I wouldn’t have bought one, and so the model was reasonably popular….at first. But apparently all the GM models that used a similar platform were plagued with problems (usually in the “new” electric steering system) and customers learned to avoid them.
Cadillac’s trip off the rails probably began with the Seville, which was an incredibly cynical triumph of marketing over substance. The senior Opel of the day was the Diplomat B, which was about as old as the Nova while being a considerably higher concept vehicle. It had a de Dion rear suspension, while the Nova still had a live axle. It was built to be a premium sedan and compete with the Mercedes-Benz 450SE, while the Nova was built to compete with the Falcon.
In 1978 the Diplomat was superseded by the Opel Senator. The Senator featured an overhead cam inline 6 that was developed over its lifetime to compete with similar engines from Mercedes and BMW. The Senator had fully independent suspension comparable to that of BMW at the time. It had a clean and crisp style lost with the introduction of the Omega. Had the 2nd generation Seville been based on the Senator instead of a neo classic with ever-worse engines, I dare say Cadillac would have had a better chance remaining relevant. As things happened, energy costs in Europe killed off big cars from mass market brands, and the Senator wasn’t replaced in 1993. Instead, GM just offered some well equipped versions of the smaller Omega, which also lost the desirable inline-6 engine. The Catera was a miserable failure, but it wasn’t because the Grosse Pointe Myopians started taking advice from outside their bubble. They ignored the advice when it made sense, and only brought over an Opel after Opels had been stripped of any semblance of ambition.
I am not saying that the KAD Opels were bad cars. What they were is German cars whose design priorities represented German market conditions. I would have, had I been old enough, welcomed them to the USA as part of a more comprehensive Buick/Opel line. What they were not were Cadillac smooth or quiet or styled in the Cadillac tradition. American luxury cars have as distinct a feel as German luxury cars or British luxury. These differences are to be celebrated not sneered away.
When the GM cars shrunk in 85-86, perhaps too much, there was a reaction to it despite a valiant attempt to retain the room and smoothness. This combined with the noticeable import bias among baby boomers, which I contend is more politics than the cars themselves, Cadilac panicked. Out with unique platforms and in with a 92 Seville that was crapily aping German luxury. Soon the Deville joined this standard GM platform and was all to soon a DTS, what an identity crisis. Well hey the problem must be FWD so bring over that Opel. Now there are no traditional Cadillacs at all. The is a defeat for everyone.
Yeah my sisters Vauxhall built Holden Vectra had that engine it was only used in FWD cars.
No, it was also used in the export version of the RWD Holden Commodore as well as in European versions of the RWD Opel Omega, from 1995 to 2000.
And Bryce, this IS an Opel engine.
We have those Commodores in NZ and they have a straight six, I looked at buying one until I found out there were no spares available here.
There was a run of VS Commodore Royales with the V6 that were sold through Ebbetts after exports to Singapore were cancelled in 1997
Kiwibryce: do you ever consider spending 20 seconds to hop to Wikipedia or some other source before you shoot from the hip with such certitude?
The Catera had GM’s 54 degree V6, which was specifically designed to replace the aged Opel straight six. This V6 was used on many Opel and Vauxhall models, and even on an export version of the Holden Commodore VX.
And unfortunately the first gen CTS got it for the first year or two.
That’s a fact. But where the straight six was known for it’s durability and simplicity, this V6 was a disaster i comparison.
Back when my 94 Seville was still under warranty I was given a Catera as a loaner. I was interested in this model and crawled all over it when I got it home. Definitely a V6. Not a bad car but the styling and appointments were nowhere close to the STS.
Obscure…..thankfully! The ’78 has some period charm but as for the rest – horribly ugly all of them, especially the versions with the hideous upright rear window (I never understood that look). Hopefully few will survive……
Not only are these obscure, they are practically indistinguishable from “run-of-the-mill” Cadillacs….that kind of defeats the idea of a special edition.
Interesting that Cadillac was able to offer a sport/performance model with only 135 horsepower from a V8, and do it with a straight face. Then, a little more than 10-15 years later, a Cadillac with a V6 engine developing 200 horsepower is considered to be underpowered.
Even with their dismal performance “credentials” the biggest turnoff with most of these models is the digital dash.
The Touring Sedans with their” International” caliber, while self loathingly pathetic, were differentiated from their base models. What made them so pathetic wasn’t 135hp,the Audi 5000 and BMW 528 had less. It was in submitting to the idea that the only valid standard of a car was a foreign one. This Deville and Eldo were the last generation that didn’t blatantly and badly chase the German. Coming out with these trim models showed they regreted that, and had given up.
That 78 Eldo did not give a damn what import buyers, thought of it. It gave it’s customers what they wanted, only more so, and charged out the wazzu for it. The way a special edition should be done.
It wasn’t so much that they were allowing themselves to be influenced by the Germans – it was obvious that they offered what the up-and-coming high end buyers wanted, it would’ve been stupid for Cadillac to ignore that. It’s that what they changed from a “base” DeVille was so obviously what was cheapest to change. Limited (non-)color selection (even though you could get a coral metallic Mercedes with maroon velour in Germany) We can do that. Dial gauges, bucket seats and a console? Not so fast.
The Catera had many flaws, but being a young child when these came out, the Catera was a game changer in my young eyes. Up until then, any association with “Cadillac” I had was big, square land yachts with slim vertical taillights, lots of chrome, and driven exclusively by elderly people. The Catera completely shook up my own definition of Cadillac, and it was the first Cadillac that ever appealed to me. Flaws aside, it definitely paved the way for modern, decidedly more German-influenced Cadillacs. The facelifted Catera Sport doesn’t look so bad either.
2 of these I recall seeing but unfortunately didn’t get pictures:
There was a time several years ago when I used to see a 1991 Eldorado Touring
Coupe at the place I was going for physical therapy for my broken ankle. Polo green with that same cognac-colored interior in the pictures above. It was always parked in a handicap space up front with everyone in the waiting room being able to see and I never had the courage to take any pictures.
Two summers ago I remember the excitement of having an Eldorado Custom Biarritz Classic pull up next to me at a light. Then I remember the disappointment when the light changed and it took a right turn before I could get my phone out to get any good pictures.
I thought the Catera was a failure because it looked too much like a Chevy Lumina. The look was not distinctive enough to be a Cadillac. Then my uncle bought one so I got to hear a firsthand owner account. The engine “crashed” the day before it was due to go to the dealer for the recall to prevent that. He says that, if they had installed a crate engine he would’ve kept the car, but the dealer repaired the damage instead so he promptly traded it. I think all his recent purchases have been Japanese brands.
I believe every thing you say about your uncle’s Catera. They were not reliable by most accounts. They also were based on a design that had been out for several years already in Europe, and their interiors were hardly spectacular.
That said though, as a kid, reliability and quality barely crosses the mind. Strictly from an image standpoint, this was the first Cadillac I didn’t see as an “old people’s car” and the fact that it was round, modern, and sleek looking made a very significant positive impression with me.
To me, “round” and “sleek” are part of the problem here. I disliked jellybean-styled cars from the onset. The Tempo and Taurus ushered in a wave of bland sameness, which Cadillac got caught up in with the Catera. I get that Cadillac needed a different tactic to attract a younger audience, but Cadillac intenders are not fixated on aerodynamics and fuel economy, but a vehicle with presence!
People buy luxury cars partly because they are stylish and distinctive. In order to be successful, Cadillac needs to be a style leader, which they seemed to have forgotten for awhile. The “Caddy that Zigs” looked too much like the plebeian Lumina or Malibu at the other end of the showroom, thanks at least partly to its modest Opel roots. The full-width taillight bar was a nice touch, but not enough, and even that was eliminated later.
Perhaps the Catera would’ve made a better Oldsmobile or Pontiac, near-luxury with European road manners, but inoffensively styled.
The Cadillac Catera was a failure because it looks similar even in size to the otherwise completely different and cheaper Chevrolet Malibu. Both even came at the same time in 1997-98.
I recall an early comment from a dealer that they did not sit the Cattera And
Lumina together in the lot as customers could not tell them apart.!.
Friend had a Omega Elite wagon , the Uk version, kept it until the timing chain started rattling, the only real failing in these cars. Now the Lotus Carlton Turbo with the straight 6 ……..Wow!.
I was 8 when the Catera came out, and I was left with the opposite impression. I didn’t care who was driving this or that, I grew up loving the diversity the various automakers provided brand to brand and the Catera to me was an utter blanding into the jellybean mold already used by much less prestigious brands at the time, and wasn’t even the best at it, as the “standard of the world” should. The fact that it was(which every media source at the time openly confirmed when reviewing it) literally a rebadged OPEL – not a prestige brand in Europe and perceived even less so North America – it just reeked of half assedness.
I didn’t care for Cadillac at the time either mind you, but the Cadillacs I first loved were the 50s/60s models I’d see in movies, the last thing I thought Cadillac should be was one that “zigs”. I’m a firm believer that some cars should do “this” and others should to “that” the best they can. I don’t care for average well rounders, which Cadillac with the Catera shot for, and largely is now. Pretty much reflects my distaste for a great many products(and people) today come to think of it.
I agree. I was even younger, but also saw the Catera as “lame”. A Cadillac should look like a Cadillac, not a Chevy, Pontiac, or Nissan! The 1992-1997 Seville, 2000+ Deville, and CTS may have looked different than prior Cadillacs, but they were instantly recognizable as Cadillacs. They could not be confused with anything else.
And, for the record, I never had trouble accepting the Escalade as a Cadillac, even if its origin was obvious. Big, comfy, and ostentatious are very much Cadillac qualities!
This seems like the best place to ask: What was the last Cadillac with a cloth option?
Good question. Did some quick research and it looks like the 2001 DeVille. Cloth was still standard on the base model for 2000 and 2001, with leather optional and standard on the DHS and DTS models. Beginning in 2002, leather was made standard across the board.
I believe it was available on the 2012 CTS, but only for the coupe.
The first generation CTS sold in the Middle East had full cloth seats standard. I suppose that went through 2007. I’d have bought one if they’d offered them here in the US. As it was, I bought a used Deville with cooled leather seats.
Most if not all of the V cars have ultraseude inserts but no cooling.
The guy in the first picture, standing next to the 78 Eldorado, is wearing a tie that actually matches the car. People don’t know how to dress anymore.
If people tried to match their cars now, their ties would all be 50 shades of grey.
I know, those bell bottoms were so classy 🙂
If it wasn’t for the fact that the ’78 Eldorado special edition was only available in that nasty beige colour, I’d deem it the best of this bunch. The ’91 Eldo Touring Coupe looks decent, with REAL colours available for both exterior and interior, and a V8 that is not the HT4100 (even if it may be a descendant of it).
These special editions epitomize the worst of Cadillac to me. All are embarrassments in one way or another. I did laugh out loud, however, at PEP. It is like something on offer from Viagra–a performance enhancement package indeed. Could there be a worse acronym? Oh yeah, maybe the Eldorado etcetera…
The DeVille Touring sedans were just awful, truly lame attempts to be something they weren’t. I can’t imagine any Import shopper even remotely considering one, while most Caddy customers would have been happier with a regular DeVille. I sometimes think these were created to appease buff books, who had been calling out for more European attributes. GM obviously didn’t understand what they were looking for, answering with grey colors and spoilers and ground effects. Pathetic.
The wood trim in the STS Platinum looks unbelievably fake. The whole car just seems clunky and downmarket, like some cheap Chinese knock-off for the value bin of luxury cars.
The less said about the Catera the better. While I am in the camp who wishes that GM had done more stateside with the Opel platforms, this car is definitely not it. Perhaps if they had given it a comprehensive restyle so that it looked like a Cadillac inside and out, rather than an Opel or a Chevy, it might have had a better chance.
The ’78 Eldo represents the brand at its most tasteless. Even back in the day, that car would have been too much.
It was cars like these, for so many, many years, that absolutely ruined Cadillac’s credibility. It’s also why the brand lacks cache no matter how competent the current products are. Extreme brand damage is mighty hard to repair, especially for luxury goods.
I really liked my 86 Buick Electra T-type, which came with bucket seats, but otherwise was much like the Cadillac Turing Sedan, but with the 3.8 V6.
GN: thanks for saving me the time to write the same thing. Truly pathetic, all and every one. And yes, the PEP takes the cake; unbelievable.
I can see someone who’d order something like that very easily. My late father.
I talked him into getting the uprated suspension packing on the 1970 Camaro RS he bought (350, automatic), and it was an absolute revelation for him. From that point on, anytime he ordered a car rather than buying one off the dealer’s lot, he ordered whatever the upgraded suspension package was available – as long as it didn’t change the look of the car into something too Euro. Dad, until his dying day, was firmly in the vinyl roof, fake wire wheel cover crowd, but he didn’t want his car to handle like it looked.
And his final car, one of the “whale” Caprices, had the F41 (or whatever it was called) option. A big burgundy whale, I named it Moby Grape as soon as I took ownership. And promptly sold it to be able to buy a new Dodge Daytona.
That deVille Touring Sedan would have been right up his alley.
The DeVille Touring likely didn’t cost Cadillac much to build, either, so why NOT offer it?
The press photo of the ’07 Platinum interior does make the wood look very fake, agreed.
The STS, though, deserves so little of the hate it gets. It managed to combine a smooth, traditionally Cadillac ride with handling that, if not class-leading, was class-competitive. Go and read reviews and comparison tests in the buff books: the STS was not a gold medallist, but it was no embarrassment. It’s main flaws were simply an interior that wasn’t visually upscale enough (from what I’ve heard, it was actually well-assembled from high quality materials). Cadillac really should have overhauled the interior entirely for ’08 and made it more like the CTS interior, or made the Platinum interior standard across the board.
The other major issue was the lack of rear cabin space. Cadillac could have actually solved both problems by just implementing the changes made to create the Chinese SLS, which had both a nicer interior and a stretched wheelbase. They didn’t, and the ’08 CTS was so impressive that the scarcely-larger and less distinctive STS just became irrelevant. And then the planned Zeta successor was axed to save money and we got the XTS instead, which was a car with different priorities.
The STS was flawed but it was competitive, especially with the amount of tech and luxury features it offered. And most importantly for people like John C, it didn’t look like a European car and it rode like a Caddy AND it came with a V8. And yet it gets either forgotten or blasted. I don’t get it.
I think that Lutz had some influence on the STS’s interior. I don’t know this, but I suspect that Cadillac may have planned for an interior similar to the CTS and SRX. The current CTS is a real successor to the STS.
I rented an STS a few years ago (V8, rwd). Very nice car, but not “special.” The interior was indeed high-quality, but completely uninspired design. It drove nicely, more like a Mercedes than a BMW.
No need to beat a dead horse, but the STS was a missed opportunity: it should’ve been stretched a few inches, and the interior needed more pizzaz. The DTS served the traditional Cadillac buyer, so the STS should have been a balls-out import fighter.
GM was such a mess, I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that it took a few generations to straighten things out. Very excited to see the CT6…
I think part of the problem with the STS also lies in a confusion of mission. The ’92-’97 Seville STS was a credible, if flawed, attempt at a sports sedan. The ’98-’04 generation carried this onward. However, when the CTS arrived on the scene in 2003, it took over the sports sedan mantle. So the STS lost some of that flavor. However, there was also traditonal luxury on offer in the DTS. Therefore the STS was a car without a clear set of marching orders, and everything about the car reflected it.
Cadillac intended the CTS to be a 3-series class sports sedan. The STS was intended to be a 5 series class. However, the CTS was a bit bigger than the 3-series class. Both cars are Cadillac’s first serious RWD sports sedan class cars. As such, both cars are a good try. The second generation CTS was much better, although the Sigma platform had limits. The 2008 CTS was also a bit larger, so it was more of a low end 5-series class. This made the STS less desirable unless you wanted the V8, which was fairly thirsty. By the time a second generation STS could have been done, the Sigma platform was really in need of total redesign, which brings us to the current CTS (CT4?).
Also the first generation CTS, STS and SRX were early versions of Cadillac’s Art and Science styling concept, which left something to be desired I think. While I understand that the current Cadillac style is not everyones idea of good, I think it has improved from the first generation CTS.
I read that Lutz axed a 2nd gen-Avalon-type roofline that would have improved rear seat roominess and felt airier, which is half the battle. Lutz said of the 1st gen Sigmas that they had expensive interior materials that didn’t look it, like the diamond-textured vinyl on the CTS dash. The upper curve in the STS center stack makes the real wood veneer look fake.
Cadillac dechromed their interiors at the same time the Germans began slathering it on theirs. My 04 Deville had chrome door handles and a thin, 1 inch strip on the air vent handles, and that was it.
2nd Gen CTS had the samewheelbase and interior size as the first. It had the wider STS suspension with heavily flared fenders and a tad more overhang.
Could there be a worse acronym? Most definitely. I submit the X-SP sport package available on Toyota trucks sometime in the 2000’s.
Think about it. X-SP. Excess. Pee.
I remember C&D tested a non-DTS Deville version in ’85 or ’86 and a front tire rolled off the rim on the skid pad.
and the interior sound meter barely registered. Different priorities.
yep. like anyone who bought one of those cars gave one rip about how it did on a skidpad.
this is why automotive journalists are for the most part worthless. They only speak to a small group of enthusiasts, while the average car buyer doesn’t care about ‘Ring times or lateral grip, nor could they tell a Zach Bowman from a Peter Egan.
though that doesn’t explain the out-sized ego of your typical automotive writer. “Nobody listens to me, but I’m totes real important!”
I test drove an 85 Park Avenue which had an ocean liner like ride and handling. I did not like it. In 1986 I was interested in getting a Riviera T-type, but apparently very few, if any, were in production. However, the dealer had an Electra T-type demo that I took for a test drive. It was like driving a sports car compared to the Park Avenue. I bought it.
Most car magazines love sports cars. So, it should be no surprise that they will want luxury cars to handle better than they do. I would not have liked the basic Deville.
I’d forgotten that Cadillac ever even offered the touring sedans, but I do recall the Electra model you’re referring to. My former father-in-law owned an ’89 Olds Touring Sedan based on the Ninety Eight. It was the same basic package as the Electra T Type of the same era, and was also powered by the 3800 V6. It was a fantastic car and a really great overall package. Buick and Olds did a much better job with this concept than Cadillac did at the time.
Then why have any form of instrumented testing at all? Like acceleration and quarter mile times, slaloms,braking ,MPG, & a host of other criteria, the skid pad is an objective test of where any given car stands in relation to others. Should testers say, “this is a Cadillac, so were going to exclude certain tests that we give other cars”? Why not say, “this is a Cadillac and we know that people who can afford these don’t worry about fuel costs, so we’re not going to test MPGs”? Also, most Cadillac buyers are middle aged or older, and don’t really care about speed, so that saved us the trouble of hooking up a 5th wheel and running it down the strip.
This may sound strange, but I’m of the belief that tires are supposed to stay on the rim no matter what. AFAIR, it hadn’t happened before this, or since, for that matter.
+1 (but how old is middle aged?)
There are often other priorities. A Jetta Diesel might not solely be judged on it’s interior sound level, which on eighties ones was terrible. Yet you are doing the same thing by judging a base Deville on it’s skidpad. Your real problem is that you just don’t like a big soft American car. That is fine. But if the touring sedan proved one thing, it was that you could improve skidpad all day long and import buyers won’t care, because you know, they are import buyers.
As the little Mexican girl says in the taco commercials, “Why not both?” Why can’t we have a luxury car that rides pleasantly but can take a corner? Believe it or not, it’s possible, especially with technology like Mercedes’ Magic Body Control and Cadillac’s own Magnetic Ride Control. My current car rides far too firmly for my liking, so I appreciate a smooth ride as much as anyone. But I don’t want some boat that squeals around corners. You can have it both ways, it’s just often the Americans AND the Germans didn’t bother trying.
William, the Jaguar XJ6, in my opinion, did the best job of combining a good ride with handling control in 1985. That doesn’t mean it could match an M5 on the skidpad or a Deville on filtering out road noise and impacts. It is a big market, with room and respect for all three models. With the 85 model the Deville was now the same exterior size as the XJ6 or M5, although far roomier than either, so people perhaps compared to them head to head too often, not understanding different priorities and price points. I would suspect that a 85 Deville was better on a skidpad than an 84 or 76, but really it is just not what a Deville is about. This has been a fun discussion thanks William for getting the ball rolling
This article simply made me nostalgic for an era when you knew that there were 8 cyl under the hood when you saw the wreath and crest of Cadillac.
Here is a 4-cylinder Cadillac for you.
Some here at Curbsideclassic are regarding the original Cadillac Seville as a GM deadly sin because it was based on the Chevy Nova. Some even claim that GM should have based the Seville on the Opel KAD (Kapitan, Admiral, Diplomat). Well, look at the Catera, there you’ve an Opelbased Cadillac. Look how well it went…
Some even claim that GM should have based the Seville on the Opel KAD (Kapitan, Admiral, Diplomat).
That was the 1965 Opel KAD, not a smaller Commodore from the 90s. My alter-reality Seville only would have used the 1965 Opel KAD as a starting point, but with American engines, transmissions, etc.. Maybe you need to re-read it: Some even claim that GM should have based the Seville on the Opel KAD (Kapitan, Admiral, Diplomat).
I know it was the 1965 KAD-cars you ment, but at american standards of the times these are way to noisy, uncomfortable and small. I’ve driven some of them, and to be sure, almost every american car at the time was a better car. Not to forget that Opels of the 60/70/80/90s rusted at an impressive pace.
The Catera was based on Opel Omega, the last Opel Commodore was produced in 1982 (Commodore C) and replaced by the Senator A1 (1977-87) and Monza A1. Senator B replaced Senator A in 1987 and lasted until 1994, then replaced by Omega B (Catera). Omega B replaced both Omega A and Senator B.
You actually drove a Diplomat V8??? Or even a comparable Kapitan or Admiral? Where? When? These were never sold in the US. And they were not “noisy, uncomfortable or small”. If you’re thinking of the little Opel Kadett, then we’re talking apples and oranges. The Diplomat was comparable to an S Class Mercedes back then.
I’ll live in Norway, and have never driven an V8 version, but with straight sixes. I know very well the difference between ther Kadett and Rekord and the KADS… Yes, Opel was nearly as an S-class back then, but even the S-class was an big European box in the 60s compared with a Lincoln or Cadillac. Some versions of the W108 was good, but they realy nailed it with the W116.
The reason for it is mainly the WW2, and Germany did not have many resources before the 60s so develop cars. They made som good one, but the only cars that could match the american cars back then was made in England. The high end english car had not the best quality and realiability, but in terms of ride, quietness, equipment, they where nearly as good as the americans. The Germans had better reliability and quality, but none of them could match even an ordinary Chevrolet back then in terms of reliability.
It would have been fun if they had thrown in a Chevy version of the Catera. Then for an engine they could have brought back the inline 6 Chevy 250 4.1. It was still being used in updated fuel injected form in the Brazilian version of the Omega.
They were going to do a Buick version of the equivalent Commodore at one point.
I found a 99 Catera sport a few years ago at a junkyard, I actually bought the front seats from it since they were black leather and in decent shape and had HUGE side and thy bolsters, as well as adjustable knee rests. I actually thought they were swapped in GTO seats when I pulled them and intended to use them for furniture, but I ended up selling them to a friend of mine for a pro-touring style project he’s putting together.
I did some additional research after I first bought them and these particular bolstered versions were 1999 specific(the one in the first picture with smaller wheels), whereas the subsequent Catera sports(the ones with the split taillights and bigger wheels) got regular Catera seats. So these were one bright spot to that car at least!
I remember a Road & Track article from the 1990s —
They predicted that within 10 years your wouldn’t even be able to get a Caddy with white-walls.
Looks like their prediction was correct, but Vogue can fix that. On that note, looks like the only car in this article with whitewall tires is actually sporting a set of Vogues.
I’ll never forget pulling up behind a brand new Catera at a red light with my father. His exact words were “That’s a Cadillac? You’ve gotta be sh!tting me!”
Wow, that Catera Sport looks like a slavish copy of an early 90s Nissan Maxima from the back. The Maxima was a fine car, but a CADILLAC…really?
Edit: The Catera more resembles a Maxima with a ’96-’05 Mercury Sable’s roofline Photoshopped on.
The 89-94 Maxima just so happened to look much better than the Catera although, especially the revised 92-94 GXE!
No mention of the Spring Edition Coupe deVille that was available in the late 80’s & early 90’s? The coupes had very low production numbers to begin with, so I wonder just how many Spring Editions were produced?
I am hoping William will have a part three with more of the packages from their glory years, before the self loathing and second guessing took over.
Just curious, why is there such dislike for digital gauges?
They are counter intuitive. Cars operate under constantly & rapidly changing parameters (speed, RPM etc) and the smooth sweep of an analog needle moving over the face of a numbered dial is much more natural. Now if yo want to use an electronic display to emulate a dial, fair enough. But flashing numbers? No thanks. I remember in the mid-70s, when the technology was in it’s gee-whiz stage, some company brought out a “digi-tach” . Just a display with rapidly changing flashing digits as RPM changed, less than useless.
Most of the time, you don’t really need to know the exact value of what a gauge is measuring. Your brain can quickly scan analog needle gauges, at least well-designed ones, and quickly determine that everything is okay. Automakers usually design the scales of their gauges so the needles are pointed roughly straight up when everything is in the normal range. Even your speedometer, when travelling at highway speed, is pointed somewhere close to the middle of its range.
On some cars with aftermarket gauges, especially race cars, you’ll notice that they’ve been installed on a funny angle. In that case, the needle pointing straight up has a certain meaning to the driver. This article talks about it a bit.
Studies have proven that it takes a lot longer to read digital gauges. With a digital number, you have to look long enough to see what the number is, think more to process the value and then determine that it is good.
Also, the gauge for which a digital readout might be most useful — the speedometer — is not necessarily any more accurate than the analog variety. There would be something to be said for knowing you’re going (say) exactly 58 mph rather than “something between 55 and 60,” but if “58” really means “55” or “61,” it’s not terribly helpful.
My CTS offers a reconfigurable gauge screen, which can be either one of two digital gauge screens, or, either one of two analog screens. I have a digital speedometer in the center of the analog speedometer.
The ’78 Eldo in the lead photo is so wrong on so many levels that it’s right.
One big, gaudy, impractical, dated, bloated design fit for pimps. Yet, I’m drawn to it.
A friend of mine owns this 1978 Custom Biarritz Classic. His dad bought it new for his mom from Shirey Cadillac in Oak Lawn, IL. It turned 33,000 miles last summer.
There was even PEP, Caddy’s cutesy acronym for the “Performance Enhancement Package”. This was simply a larger exhaust that extracted an extra 5 horses from the HT-4100, bringing the total up to 135 hp and 205 ft-lbs.
If you read the rest of the page you posted, it also includes the 3.33 final drive, different shift points, and delayed torque converter lockup for better 25-35 mph responsiveness, and it lowers the 0-50 time by a second to 8.9s. They at least tried to get more out of that tiny engine.
I wonder, in real life, how close the Arizona Beige on the Biarritz is to the skin of a Rubens nude. I was trying to figure out why they chose that color–perhaps it was subliminal.
That Biarritz is Bizarre. That male model standing next to it – I’m embarrassed for him.