Classic CARmentary: 1998 Cadillac Seville STS

Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.

The missing line after I describe the engine in the STS is “It’s not as smooth as the Lexus V8, and the throaty exhaust note seems out of place in the Seville.”  I received an e-mail from the copy editor, not the managing editor, noting that the Northstar engine has received a lot of praise in automotive circles and I shouldn’t be saying such things.  It wasn’t worth fighting over, but I remember thinking, “Have you ever driven a Lexus and Cadillac with these engines?  I have.”  Now with almost 30 years of hindsight, it’s pretty much agreed that the original Lexus V8 was an engineering masterpiece that ran with swiss-watch-like precision, and the Northstar was a piece of crap.  Please feel free to disagree.

In addition, the Seville was handed off to me riding on a doughnut spare tire because the original low-profile tire was eaten by one of D.C.’s notorious potholes.  This is one of the reasons I dislike low-profile tires.  It received a new tire and wheel about a day later, but the car still paled in comparison overall with the GS400, not that you’d really notice in my enthusiastic review.

Believe it or not, this is an all-new car. General Motors has “redesigned” the Seville in the same manner that Toyota “redesigned” the 1995 Lexus LS400. Although very little has been carried over, Cadillac did not want to gamble with a look that is popular with consumers, so you would be hard pressed to note the differences from last year’s model unless both cars were parked side-by-side.

The new Seville sits on a different platform with a longer wheelbase and shorter overall length than its predecessor. The engine is still the same 300-horsepower, 32-valve 4.6-liter “Northstar” V8 (275 horsepower in luxury-oriented SLS trim) that powered last year’s model. Accompanying the engine is an electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmission with Performance Algorithm Shifting (PAS), Cadillac’s answer to the trend towards “manumatic” transmissions. PAS senses when the car is being driven aggressively and programs the gearbox to perform like a manual transmission. Also included is stability control, traction control, road-texture detection to improve braking, and variable-assist power steering. All of these features work together to make the Seville one the best handling and riding cars to ever come out of the General.

Inside the Seville is an entirely new interior featuring heated leather seats in the front and rear, genuine wood trim and electro-luminescent gauges with driver information center. Other highlights include rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatically adjusting day/night rearview and driver’s side mirrors among the nearly one hundred features packed into this car. You are not overwhelmed with buttons and it’s easy to get in, get comfortable, and start driving the Seville. Its long 112-inch wheelbase and tall roof allow rear passengers plenty of room, and Cadillac provides a pass-through to the 15.7 cubic-foot trunk.

Although this appears to be the highest quality Seville to date, I was surprised that after only 13,000 miles (albeit hard ones) some trim pieces were looking worn or coming off.

The Seville is a genuine high-performance, hi-tech sports sedan that can more than hold its own against the German and Japanese competition.

For more information contact 1-800-333-4CAD


Type: 4-Door Sedan
Engine: 300-horsepower, 4.6 liter V8
Transmission: 4-speed Automatic
EPA Mileage: 17 city/26 highway
Tested Price: $51,682

Has anyone ever owned one of these Sevilles?  Obviously, I couldn’t really test PAS in my urban environment.  Did it really work at all?