Motoring: Caddy lacks charisma

The Cadillac STS is big and bold, but may be a bit too bouncy.

A TYPICAL British early summer's day. Spots of rain spatter the windscreen, so I set the wipers to give an intermittent sweep. A dot-matrix strip, a miniature version of the overhead warning signs on our more recently refurbished motorways, lights up beneath my car's instruments. "Headlights suggested," it says.

Now the rain has stopped, the sun is out, but I'm driving into the shade of a wood. "Headlights suggested". Polite, but insistent, it's for my own good and I ignore it at my peril. But at least the maker of this automobile won't need to worry about being sued for not having suggested I put the headlights on. Welcome to the Cadillac Seville STS, the all-American luxury sedan.

An American car. In Britain. Why? Well, if you visit any forward-looking US city you'll see that the average car is more European-flavoured than ever before, looks-wise, size-wise, design-wise. So General Motors figured that its most prestigious US brand, Cadillac, could maybe do a reverse translation and catch on over here.

The Cadillac Seville STS (Seville Touring Sedan) has a 4.0-litre, 305bhp V8 engine, is the biggest and most powerful front-wheel drive car you can buy, and is the first transverse-engined V8 saloon available here since the Ferrari-engined Lancia Thema 8.32 of a decade ago. It looks big and bold, but not especially American apart from its chip-cutter front grille.

The proportions are those of a smaller car, but Xeroxed up to roughly Jaguar size. And at just under pounds 40,000, it's being pushed as a bargain- priced, gadget-heavy alternative to a Jaguar, a Lexus LS400 or a big German car. The ad campaign appears to have been translated from American to English via German.

The warning messages I've hinted at, although there are many more in the repertoire. The Seville has, optionally, "adaptive" front seats that use eight pressure sensors and l0 inflatable air cushions to mould the seat to the occupant's shape. It's then rechecked every four minutes. The front seat belts are built into the seats, with an inertia reel at each end of the belt), all adjustments are electric (obviously), and there's an ear-splitting Bose stereo system with a CD player stashed under the centre arm rest. Leather and wood abound; they look synthetic, but they are real.

However, plush and weighty as the Seville seems, it's a little short on substance. Some of the plastic mouldings are sharp-edged, and the centre arm rest wobbles. The grandeur is applied rather than innate. The Cadillac does, however, move with some urgency.

This is a big, powerful, eager engine, surprisingly vocal when worked hard but with thrust to spare. It's matched to a smooth and co-operative automatic transmission, and together they squirt you efficiently through traffic and whisk you effortlessly on to the freeway. A traction-control system helps the front wheels to cope with all this energy; you can switch it off, but then that infernal message display keeps reminding you of your fecklessness. If you then turn the wipers on, but not the headlights, it gets very disapproving indeed. Soon, you'll reinstate the traction control; "Traction ready," it will announce, and you can relax.

So far, then, a credible effort at taking on European and Japanese rivals. But there's one trait that ruins the Seville for me. You're edging forward in stop-start traffic, and each time you stop the Cadillac rocks back and forth on the springy rubber suspension mountings that help isolate you from the road. Wriggle your body, and it does it again. It's like driving a jelly. So it's no surprise that spirited driving on the open road has a nautical quality to it, which even the Continuously Variable Road Sensing Suspension can't quell. But it's comforting to know that StabiliTrak will keep you on course on a slippery road, by braking each front wheel individually.

Why would anyone buy a Seville? Some Americana comes across as cool here; the Neon, Voyager and Jeep Cherokee from Chrysler are popular, the Ford Explorer less so. But the Seville is the first attempt to sell an archetypal big saloon, and it can't quite compete with the opposition's sophistication. It does, however, make a refreshing change from the established elite.

Incidentally, you can get rid of the headlight suggestion. Switch the lights to automatic, and they'll come on as soon as the world goes dark or grey. All you need to do then is ignore fellow road-users' quizzical looks.

Cadillac Seville: pounds 39,750

Engine: 4,565cc V8, 32 valves, 305bhp at 6,000rpm. Transmission: four- speed automatic gearbox, front-wheel drive. Performance: 150mph, 0-60 in 6.8sec, 15-20mpg.

Rivals:

Audi A8 3.7 V8: pounds 43,965. The only other front-wheel drive car with a V8 engine. Lightweight aluminium body and chassis help pace and agility, but ride is firm. Technically intriguing, handsome, an all-round fine thing.

BMW 740i: pounds 50,570. At pounds 10,000 more than the Cadillac, and with a less powerful engine, the BMW looks even worse value than the Audi. But, as with the A8, road manners and detail finish are way ahead. That's where the money goes.

Jaguar XJ8 4.0: pounds 40,975. Like the German cars, the Jaguar can't compete with the Cadillac's gadgets, but it's smoother, more solid, better made and on the pace for pace. Looks a little dated, but feels ultra-modern to drive.

Lexus LS400: pounds 49,975. This is the car that stole Cadillac's market in the US, and is the Seville's closest conceptual rival. But the STS can't match the LS's quietness and exquisite build quality. Nor would you expect it to, at the price.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own