This car belongs to my grandfather, a man who does not know or care about cars in the slightest. The question is, does that mean he's no good at choosing them?
(Full Disclosure: Cadillac wanted me to drive this DTS so badly that they timed the termination of production almost exactly with the accident that totaled my grandpa's 2004 Park Avenue Ultra, then called up their corporate cousins at Buick and asked them to make all of their cars as ugly as possible to ensure my grandpa would have to choose a Cadillac. Also, the plates were blocked out at his request. This is a man to whom I spent over half an hour trying to explain the idea of downloading music. I wasn't going to try to argue why this wasn't necessary.)
Cadillacs are supposed to ooze style. This one doesn't. It's not ugly, not even close, and the upgrade pearlescent white paint, which Cadillac calls "White Diamond Tricoat" is definitely a great color when clean. Still, there are some angles from which this car looks good, some from which it's awkward, and some from which it's boring. It's too low and wide to be an upright, dignified limo, but too chrome-y and square to be sleek or sporty. The quad exhausts, vertical LED taillights, and brash chrome wheels earn it back some points.
On a good day, I might be able to call it nice looking, but that's the best I can go.
The interior is much better than the exterior. There's wood, leather, a full alcantara headliner, and the whole shebang is meant to make you feel relaxed and comfortable as you drive along. It looks good, too. The color contrast is excellent, with the pale tan interior accented by real ash veneer, as well as a brown steering wheel and dash top. And unlike many GM products immediately preceding the DTS, it doesn't feel cheap. The buttons, dials, vents, doors, panels, almost everything you touch feels like thought was put into it. It feels like maybe, just maybe, a couple people checked to make sure the door was satisfying to close, and the sun visor didn't flex. It's no Mercedes, though. One of the few remaining cheap-feeling bits is the steering wheel airbag cover, which still feels a little plastic and which has a nasty ridge of a panel gap along the back. The same goes for the gear shifter. The lever itself feels fine in your hand, but moving the shifter about is as loose and floppy as stirring a pot of water with a dead herring. Also, while the colors and materials are good, the actual styling of the interior doesn't show anywhere near the attention to detail you get on a similarly priced German or British sedan. It looks nice, but once again, not beautiful.
The DTS is powered by a version of Cadillac's venerable 4.6 Northstar V8, which for the top-trim Platinum Collection DTS puts out 292 horsepower and 288 lbs/ft of torque. For the record, my 4.2 V8, which is ten years older, pumps out 18 more horsepower and 12 more pound feet of torque, not that this is a fair comparison. Still, the DTS manages to hustle to sixty in somewhere between 6.6 and 7 seconds, depending on who you ask. Not bad for a car whose youngest buyer demographic is the president, and whose oldest is whoever is riding in the back of the S&S version. The rest of the power train is not nearly as sporty. I can't think of too many other $60,000 luxury sedans from 2011 which rock a four speed automatic, nor can I think of many other vehicles this powerful which send the power to the front wheels. Still, the transmission is smooth, and if you're driving this car in a way that would cause you to care which wheels are begin driven, you're driving it wrong. As a result of all this power, turning the traction control off will cause immense tire squealing at every launch, which will annoy the drive if his or her hearing aid is turned up loud enough to hear it.
The brakes stop the car, and do so in a controlled fashion within a reasonable distance. However, the pedal is terrible. The first tap does jack diddly squat, then you press further and suddenly the nose dips and you're coming to a stop. At no point does the pedal provide any feel or feedback whatsoever.
This is the DTS's forte. Put the cruise control on, activate the air conditioned massaging seats, and set the Satellite radio to Tchaikovsky. The DTS will waft you to your destination in absolute comfort and relaxation. The driving position and setup, while not ideal for spirited driving, is wonderful for relaxed cruising. And should you get altogether too relaxed and comfortable, the blind spot monitor and lane departure warning should wake you up before you have a get-together with another motorist.
The best thing I can say for the DTS is that it has a good on-center weight. It always wants to return to pointing straight. Apart from that, it turns fine at normal speeds. If I need to tell you that a 4000lb, front-wheel drive, front engined barge is more than reluctant to change direction with anything resembling urgency, you ought to have your head examined.
The gearbox does fine, shifting smoothly and not exploding every forty miles. However, it can't score any higher than this because if you own one, you will have to tell people that you just paid the price of a BMW 535i for a car with a four speed automatic. And then they will laugh at you.
All four seats are heated. The front ones also cool and massage you. The car has front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, lane departure waring, GPS, Satellite radio, remote start, power folding mirrors, a power tilt/telescope wheel, a remote-opening trunk, a heated steering wheel, remote start, lots of airbags, speed sensitive audio (which is cool but annoying), OnStar, cornering lights (it's a GM/BMW thing that everyone should do), Magnetic Ride Control, automatic lights, a digital speedometer, and illuminated door sills. I think you'll find quite a bit of this equipment isn't on a similarly priced E-Class.
The sound insulation is good, the 8-speaker sound system is crisp and clear, and the other sound track is on the quieter side, but roars and even pops when you need it too. A 4000 rpm neutral rev limiter means no redline revs. It has satellite radio, Bluetooth, and MP3 capability.
It really isn't fair to compare this car to a similarly priced German. The Cadillac offers more features, more basic comfort, and undoubtedly greater long-term reliability than any Audi, BMW, or Mercedes, although a Lexus may have it beaten. However, someone like me would never choose this behemoth over a sixty grand Audi, BMW or Mercedes. I simply couldn't do it. This car is infinitely better than its also-dead competitor, the Town Car, but there are countless areas where it can't compete with other sedans at the price point. Nor does it. Nobody is going to cross shop a DTS with an A6. That would be like cross-shopping a city condo with a lake cabin. It would be completely pointless to decide which is best, because they appeal to very different buyers. The question is, does the DTS justify its price tag? I think it does, rather well, and there is a substantial demographic out there who agrees with me. The fact that this demographic is so old that Cadillac is trying to chase them away is beside the point.
Engine: 4.6 V8 Northstar L37
Power: 292 horsepower, 288 lbs/ft of torque
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
0-60 time: 6.8 seconds
Top Speed: 153 mph
Drivetrain: Front-wheel Drive
Curb Weight: 4,000 lbs.
MPG: 15 city/23 highway
Price as tested: $61,795