Note: This originally ran on a site run by some dude who bought a Scion xB and painted the wheels red. I drove the car in late autumn 2013, when these were still fairly common as late-model used cars at Caddy dealerships. I’d just bought my 2000 Cartier (which is now living happily in Syracuse, NY with its new enthusiast owner). It was also the first car I drove with a heated steering wheel. 🙂 -TK
Once upon a time, Cadillac sold sedans and coupes, with French names and chrome and bench seats and stand-up hood ornaments. Today, they primarily sell glitzed up combovers and the Escalade-though they do still sell two sedan models. But you’d have been hard pressed to find them on Cadillac dealer lots even before the Chicom Chip Chaos Conundrum-but never mind that.
I like Cadillacs. I like Lincolns too, as well as Chrysler New Yorkers, Electras, Ninety-Eight Regencys and other big, plush, silent cruisers. Always have, always will. My purchase of a 2000 Town Car Cartier in October 2013 was the fulfillment of a long-term desire to have an American luxury car. Back in the late ’90s, I test drove quite a few Caddys and Lincolns, thinking about getting one. I was particularly enamored of the 1989-93 Sedan de Ville. The neighbors had a new one when I was 11 or so–a ’91 SDV in Academy Gray with silver lower section and dove gray leather.
True, they were front-wheel drive and not traditional Cadillac Nimitz-class size, but they still were clearly Cadillacs. From the chrome eggcrate grille, to the vertical taillights and finlets, hood ornament and whitewalls. The 1985-88 de Villes looked quite a bit like Broughamed-out Volvo 740s, but the ’89 stretch and facelift drastically improved the proportions.
Especially inside-especially with yellow interior! The seating was excellent in your author’s opinion (I probably test drove 8-10 of these Sedan de Villes circa 1999), especially in the leather-bound edition. Much ’70s style detailing was evident, from the seat sew style, to the plush carpet, digital dash and power assists–even the chrome window and door lock buttons were well done.
I drove at least two Academy Gray ’93 SDVs, one of which had dark red leather. The gray over red one I drove at Bob Eriksen Chevrolet was the best! I also drove a light beige ’93 SDV with a dark brown fake convertible top that croaked two blocks from the dealership. I locked it, walked back to the showroom, gave the embarrassed salesman the key, told him where it was, and left. Yep!
But I still liked these cars, they were nice cruisers. I also drove a Garnet Red ’89 Eldo and Polo Green ’91 Seville that were also nice–if lacking in the presence the Coupe and Sedan de Villes had. They still drove nice-especially the ’91s with the new 4.9L V8.
Just a few years back an extremely nice ’92 Sedan de Ville appeared at Dahl Ford, which K V let me borrow for a while to test out. It only reaffirmed how much I enjoy these early ’90s FWD Caddys. The glass area was especially impressive, compared to most 2021-22 new cars.
In 1994 the Coupe de Ville was gone, and the Sedan de Ville simply became the Deville. The 1994-96 model looked a bit zaftig with its enclosed rear wheels, but I liked them–they reminded me of the 1993-96 Fleetwoods, which were right up there with a 1995-97 Town Car Cartier in my dream garage. In 1997 the rear wheels were opened up and a nose job was done, improving the looks.
And then, after a long line of chrome-bedecked, true blue (albeit FWD) Caddys, in the fall of 1999 traditional Cadillac buyers were greeted with this. Like the 1994-99 Deville, it was essentially a Seville with more traditionally Cadillac sheetmetal and interior. When they first came out I wasn’t especially impressed-same as when the rounded Town Cars replaced the straight-edged 1995-97 models in 1998. But as time passed (and many cars got uglier!) they looked better and better to me. And today, look pretty nice.
The first one I saw ‘way back when’ was a black DTS with black leather, Zebrano wood and those chrome bladed alloy wheels, and I was greeted with this nose upon pulling my 1991 Volvo 940SE into the dealer lot. Well, it certainly looked like a Cadillac from the front! DTSs (replacing the Deville Concours) and DHSs (replacing the 1997-99 Deville D’Elegance) got a grille-mounted wreath and crest, but standard Devilles got the good old stand-up version. It was the last Cadillac to come with a factory stand-up hood ornament.
Those slick, oh-so-slim taillights of the 1989-99 models were replaced with more amorphous units, reminding me more of the ’98-up Town Cars. The CHMSL built into the trunk lid looked pretty cool, however.
Up until this point the Deville had been the sole holdout for traditional Cadillac looks, with the beautiful Seville “greyhound” model of 1992 being much more international in flavor–but still every inch a Cadillac. The 1992-and-up Eldorado was also quite fresh and modern, though perhaps more formal than the Seville and sportier STS. Catera? Never mind! But the 2000 Deville finally came into the modern era, quite appropriate for the new decade. They still look contemporary today, 22 years after they first appeared in Cadillac showrooms.
I test drove this 2005 Deville with 74K for my sister’s then in-laws. My sister’s husband’s mom saw my Town Car on Thanksgiving Day 2013 and went nuts: “Oh wow what a beautiful car! It’s so nice! If you ever find something this nice in a Cadillac, let me know!” Apparently their bright red 1992-97 vintage Seville was getting on in years, and she was looking to perhaps surprise her husband with a nicer, more recent model.
So I went down to McLaughlin to look at this promising 2005 model, in Cashmere with Neutral Shale leather. And let’s face it, I love test driving cars. It was in great shape, with only a door ding by the driver’s door handle and a couple of chips on the passenger-side rear quarter panel marring its finish. Now keep in mind I had been driving this car’s main competitor, a Town Car, for a month and a half at that time. And I hadn’t driven a Cadillac newer than a 1993, with the exception of a 2003 CTS, which was about as far from a Deville as a Town Car was from a Lincoln LS.
Driving impressions? Well, it was nice. It was comfortable, and I kind of liked the digital dash, though it’s not to everyone’s taste. I REALLY liked that hood ornament out in front. It felt much narrower than the Lincoln (the TC is 78.2″, the Deville 74.5″ but for some reason it felt much more pronounced to me), but at the same time more European in handling and acceleration–almost as if you’d combined my then-Volvo V50 and my Town Car into one vehicle. Of course it is FWD with a unit body and the Lincoln is RWD body-on-frame, which probably accounts for the different feel. The Deville and DHS version of the Northstar had 275 hp, with the DTS getting 300. Even with 74K, this car was no slouch.
My reaction to the interior was mixed. The window controls and many of the dash controls looked like they came off an Impala, but the wood was really pretty, and I loved the chrome door handles; their shape looked kind of like an abstract sculpture or paperweight you’d get out of a Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. And this car had heated and cooled seats, and a heated steering wheel as well. I did not try out the cooled seats (it was 30 degrees out the day of my test drive), but the heated steering wheel was very nice.
So, the car looked good, drove nice, and the price was very reasonable. A shoe-in, right? But I couldn’t recommend it to Amanda’s idiot husband’s parents, as the original owner was a smoker, and despite the car being fully detailed and vacuumed, it still smelled like an ashtray inside. It wasn’t that bad, but was impossible to ignore, and a deal breaker. Too bad.
The Deville lasted in this form through 2005, at which point it was given new front and rear styling and renamed the DTS. Also, the hood ornament disappeared, though of course many had dealer-installed ones tacked on-along with the expected fake convertible tops, fake Rolls Royce grilles, and questionable aftermarket wheel choices. The DTS disappeared in 2011, and while the XTS that appeared in 2013 more or less took its place, it was much more mainstream modern stylewise-though attractive, especially the final facelifted 2018-19 models.
Today only the small CT4 and smallish CT5 represent Cadillac sedans, and while I like them, they just don’t look too compelling to me. But combovers sell, despite my disdain for the rolling bar stools. But I’m only one man! Can’t fault Cadillac for going where the market is, but it doesn’t make me near as excited checking out new cars these days as even five or ten years ago.