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?
I still like the looks of these, both inside and out, one of the relatively few American cars that I can say that about and believe the styling has held up well, it was surprisingly clean and gingerbread-free for a Cadillac of the era. I look at them when I see them on the road and I always walk around them in the junkyard – there are always at least one and usually two or three in most yards around here, which is a decent result for a now 18-22yr old FWD car, although most were likely well maintained by at least the first owner and perhaps not driven as much as some other cars. What surprises me is how many of these must have sold for such a steady stream of them to still be recycled nowadays. Tellingly though, body damage is rarely the obvious cause and they are split roughly 50/50 between relative creampuff and ragged out multi-owner hooptie.
Your car didn’t stand a chance, entering your life the way many of them depart the world, with at least one space-saver mounted… 🙂
It has been suggested, 90s Cadillac styling was highly influenced by the 1980 Ferrari Pinin concept. One of my favourite early 80s designs.
As a kid, I remember the bland infomercial-style ads for these on Speedvision yapping about the “performance algorithm shifting” (I had completely forgotten about that). Probably no different than any other “adaptive” automatic.
These remind me of a 1989-1994 Maxima from some angles and a bloated Volvo 850 from others. They looked really outdated by the end of their run. It didn’t help that the Deville redesign just two years later looked 10 years newer.
I recall they had one of these parked in the check-in area at Frankfurt airport…went past it often while living in Europe at the time. I guess the idea was to get the attention of the boatloads of business people with e classes, 5 series or A6’s. It worked out as well as you might expect.
I agree that new car articles should be critical of the cars they review. Anyone can see the good, we want to know the bad to make an informed puechase decision. Removing justified criticism, as that copy editor directed doesn’t help anyone except for the advertisors, hence the inherent conflict of interest many automotive publications have.
Imho classic car articles are a bit different. For me it’s no fun to read someone needlessly slagging a 50 year old car.
As an owner of a 1997 Northstar V8 plus the competing Ford 32v DOHC v8, and many others, I disagree that it’s a “piece of crap”. The Northstar behaves like a high performance engine from an Italian manufacturer. Excessively complex, emphasis on performance and mechanical sophistication, sometimes for it’s own sake, and not quite enough durability testing . The result is an exquisite hot rod motor, beautiful to look at, delightfully raw, mechanical qualities, long-lived when cared for, and a bit quirky, with a couple of durability issues. Its a great engine, especially when all the bugs were resolved, but it belongs in a sporty car. Its not the right choice for a Cadillac, an appliance for old people where quiet reliability is key. GM made powerful pushrod motors at the time that were eventually adapted to FWD. They would have been better in a Cadillac from the start.
I should have put in a link to William Stopford’s excellent review of this generation, in which he mentions the early troubles with the Northstar but that it was a decently reliable engine near the end of its run. In typical GM fashion, of course.
Thanks for the shout-out.
Some RHD models have ended up here in Australia from Japan, where they were sold new. And I want one badly but I know that I’d need a model built after 2000 and even then there’s no guarantee it won’t be a flaky mess.
Test drove an ’03 STS once and it was a bloody good engine. Creamy smooth but with a nice sound, and surprisingly little torque steer. I should have bought it as I haven’t seen an ’03 since and these, already rare, are few and far between.
GM showing a spark of its old self with this car. Too bad it wasn’t introduced as the third gen Seville, instead of the actual 1986 car. Add to that a much needed reputation for unassailable quality and durability and The Standard of the World would have made a comeback.
The previous generation Seville was a true styling achievement. It was one of the best looking US cars since the introduction of government auto regulations. Unfortunately, it arrived with an obsolete engine and FWD at a time when Lexus was raising the luxury sedan bar out of sight. The following year it received an engine with Lexus-style performance at the expense of long-term dependability.
My buddy and I had a long-term loan of a then-new 1992 Seville STS when we were in college. It looked good inside and out, wearing pearl white paint over a tan leather interior. The remote trunk opener drew crowds at the bargain grocery store where I shopped. The rear seat cushions were comedically close to the floor. Everyone commented on it. I remember what the dashboard and steering wheel looked like as if it were yesterday, but I have no memory of how the car drove. I probably didn’t abuse it like one of my own cars, but I have a pretty good tactile memory of every good or bad car that I’ve driven.
The 1998 car’s design brief seems to have been to shorten the Seville to fit in a European parking space while not messing up a good design. The result was a car that didn’t look as striking and that was another generation out of date relative to the cars that had taken over people’s aspirations from Cadillac.
There has been one of these in a corner of a nearby used car lot for almost two years. It is cosmetically nice and I really like the looks of this and the prior generation Seville.
It is unknown what they might want to DO with it. I have been tempted to go in and offer them next to (or actually) nothing to take it off their hands but even at that, the Northstar phobia still stops me!
I had a “94 Seville STS that I drove for ten years. Overall reliability was very good up until the first 1000,000 miles. I had some problems with starter motors, which are located under the intake manifold. I had two replaced, even though this location was supposed to keep them protected and cooler. There are several modern V8s that have the same starter location. The thermostat went out which lead to overheating, this seemed hard for some mechanics to diagnose, possibly because coolant would leak out of the housing and many thought that the intake or head gasket had failed.I see many on CraigsList offered up with this problem. It is a very easy fix. The major problem: leaking main oil seals on the motor. This required pulling the entire subframe and engine assembly out to fix properly, thereby guaranteeing that it would never get done on an older car.
This was the first really fast Cadillac, and generally, luxury sedan in ages. It was quick and fast. I test drove the 4.9 and while it was okay, the NorthStar was ferocious! It sounded fantastic under throttle. The styling and interior were sleek and modern and the interior was spacious. There were a couple of flaws in the materials used but overall it felt very upscale. You knew that it FWD under heavy throttle at low speeds. but on country highways and freeways it was a great high speed cruiser.
It was probably the styling that turned me off to Cadillac after this. The STS became RWD which was great, but the styling became too generic, while the DeVille series became too bloated and dull looking. I haven’t seen a new Cadillac model that has caught my eye.
If you made it to a million miles in a N* you should be quite proud 😂
An alright attempt at a sporting luxury sedan completely tainted by my own associations with someone (a second cousin, really more like an uncle) who owned them. Gary was always good to me, but he was the classic flashy self-made businessman who loved to flaunt. His first was a 1993 or 1994, and was like two years old the first time I saw it. Gary had to show off the full width 3rd brake lamp. Several burnt out LED’s fail to illuminate. Strike one. Gary then driving like a maniac clearly getting a thrill from my discomfort of rapidly gaining speed. Strike two. He bought another one in 1998. Not long after, it gets totaled in a crash. That’s how his wife found out he had an exotic dancer for a mistress, as she was the one driving it. Strike three. As if there needs to be a fourth strike, during the divorce we found out Gary had been embezzling his disabled sister’s assets for years, and a major rift in our family formed overnight. Not the car’s fault, but after all that, not the type of image I’d like to associate with, lol…
As someone whose owned both (an ’03 STS and now an ’01 LS), I’d say they’re both fantastic engines, but each in its own way.
The Northstar wasn’t so much a piece of crap as it was an engine that deserved more than what GM gave it. The infamous head stud issues, main seal leaks and porous engine blocks all could have been solved from the get-go, but leave it to GM to implement half-measures over time (thus pissing off scores of owners and killing off goodwill) instead of nipping those problems in the bud entirely.
Aside from that, the Northstar was a mean little treat. Silky smooth, willing to rev to the moon and it sounds glorious while doing it. It’s got a power band that literally begs you to punch it hard and often, but also oodles of torque where it counts. It lets you drive like a maniac, but it’s also docile enough for the most saintly of drivers to get MPGs in the upper 20s or more. The only vice is that the vast majority of cars you find them in are FWD. I’d be thrilled if I could get some seat time in a Northstar-powered RWD STS.
The 3UZ-FE is a different beast, built by a company that strives to get their products right the first time. It’s built to be as smooth and precise as a swiss watch, but with quartz reliability baked in. It’s smooth, torquey yet willing to rev, but I always get the distinct feeling that it’s meant to be a more sedate experience. Or maybe that’s just the car it’s in. I think some seat time with a GS430 is in order.
My parents has a beautiful 99 Seville SLS thay kept it for 180k miles and sold it to my brother who neede a reliable car. Over 200k with hardly an issue.
Thay took many trips from Michigan to North Carolina with 30 mpg.