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.

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
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
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
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: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

    £16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

    £9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

    Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

    £15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn