Vintage Owner Survey: ’93-’96 Cadillac Seville STS – A World Class Driver With Room For Improvement

The once a decade Cadillac ‘rebirth.’ By 1992, that was becoming a tradition of sorts. The Seville’s 4th generation made a bit of noise in automotive circles at launch, as there were high hopes the brand could turn the corner after the dismal 80’s. The Seville came in an attractive package, especially compared to the stale lineup Cadillac was saddled with by the early 90’s.

Indeed, the Seville was a step in the right direction. Eyebrows were raised; here was a sharply styled sedan with echoes of the ‘sheer look,’ providing a welcomed contrast in the lozenge-obsessed 90’s. Being in college at the time, I took notice; this was no ordinary Caddy. Would the brand keep the momentum going?

Well, that would take another decade or so of missteps; the rest of the lineup would remain stale, the Catera would be launched, and as the owner reviews show, GM’s quality was still subpar. And this with R & T’s commenting being charitable (gotta keep that advertising revenue). Owner sample wasn’t that large on the survey, and yet a bunch of nagging issues are apparent. This in an age where Lexus had redefined the market.

That said, without the Seville and Eldorado, Cadillac would have probably completely imploded.

As it’s rather known, GM styling vice president Chuck Jordan didn’t score many styling hits during his ’86-’92 tenure. I assume Chuck’s first few years were dedicated to fix with cladding, revised prows and extended tails the mess he inherited. The few sedans GM launched between ’90-’92 are probably a closer reflection of his original intentions, with the Park Avenue and Seville being his best efforts.

GM had a team of accomplished designers, engineers, et al; in spite of all evidence to the contrary. A lot of GM’s show cars had taut lines, drama, and dynamic shapes; taunting advanced engineering. Granted, most were teenage wet dreams, but not necessarily bad dreams. Chuck and team had teased a new direction for Cadillac since the mid 80’s with a series of show cars, and here it finally came to fruition. The Seville brought a sense of modernity that placed Cadillac back in the game, with a modern cabin and good looking lines, all with a very American style.

Now, those designer dreams had to deal with GM’s corporate culture, and here’s where dreams turned into nightmares. For all involved: designers, engineers, consumers.

Notice I said ‘good’ looking lines, not ‘great.’ As the K-Body platform had to be carried over, some structural hard points had to remain. That may explain the somewhat symmetric-in-profile greenhouse that keeps the vehicle’s shape from being truly dynamic; then, the decade old FWD platform creates some not well proportioned overhangs.

Now, to the gasket in the coal mine; engine issues didn’t appear on this survey, but we now know of the Northstar’s affinity for blown head gaskets (amid other issues). Once again, GM had promised a ‘stellar’ product to leapfrog the competition; a tour de force advanced 8 cyl. engine that performed impressively when new… and could fail catastrophically as the miles accrued. Worst, most were the result of the engine design itself, and would plague the power plant for years in spite of efforts to improve it.

That said, most of the complaints in R & T’s survey are of a minor variety. Minor being a relative term, with an owner expressing “A $50,000 car shouldn’t rattle like this one does.” Indeed, rattles that by the mid 90’s wouldn’t even exist in a Japanese car half the cost. Cadillac would remain for the faithful for the remaining of the decade, in wait for better days.