Sly Stallone, Larry Hagman, Burt Reynolds and other star types may drive Allantes around Beverly Hills, but it's Cadillac's 1991 Seville STS that's the real Stoplight Sleeper.
It may look like a sedate four-door sedan, but it now has 200 horsepower, enough to get from 0 to 60 in eight seconds. There's also 275 ft/lbs of torque, so the STS has the muscle to go with its fleet feet.The STS (Seville Touring Sedan) is the limited-edition performance version of Cadillac's sedan entry in the international market sweepstakes. It's the one designed to compete directly with the Jaguar, Acura, Baby Benz, BMW, Infiniti, Lexus - you get the idea.
It ought to win its share of buyers - if Cadillac marketers can get would-be buyers into the car to drive it.
The speed and power come from a stroked version of the V-8 stroker engine that drives the front wheels. Giving the pistons a longer ride up and down increases the displacement to 4.9 liters (from 4.5, or from 273 cubic inches to 300), increasing the horsepower from last year's 180. It doesn't increase the fuel type requirement, because that was as high as it could go last year.
Nor does it appear to have had a disastrous effect on fuel mileage. This is a 3,564-pound (curb) big car with a four-speed lockup automatic transmission that's able to get low- to mid-20s mileage on the freeways. Can't complain about that, though an 18-gallon fuel tank isn't as large as I'd like. Seems to me like a slice in the 14.1 cubic feet of the trunk could be made to add five or ten gallons' capacity without seriously hurting cargo space.
The engine also has larger injectors, which should make them less susceptible to clogging and fouling (the peril of the early fuel-injected VWs and Audis of 15 or more years ago) and a torque-limiter (a reduction in spark advance and, if necessary, a fuel shutoff) during what Cadillac calls "abusive" maneuvers.
In other words, if you're standing on it trying to leave a four-foot patch or get out of a snowdrift, the torque-limiter will do its thing to prevent you from hurting the new Hydra-matic (which, interestingly, has a higher-torque capacity than its predecessor). New engine mounts and other soundproofing improvements for '91 have made the STS really quiet.
On the road, there's not just the power to match the pull of the big European cats. There's also a stiffer suspension, including thicker front and rear anti-sway bars and larger, 16-inch rims (aluminum) mated to wide and low (60-series) Goodyear Eagle GT+4s.Those alone give the car cornering power that would leave traditional Cadillacs in the dust, but the ride is further controlled by Cadillac's Computer Command Ride (CCR), which adjusts to one of three modes of ride firmness, depending on speed and road conditions (the slower the speed, the softer the setting).
Stopping is by four big (10.25 inches front, 10 inches rear) discs, backed up by the Bosch Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS). It's nearly impossible to get into trouble with this kind of equipment: The ABS monitors the rotational speed of the wheels and modulates brake hydraulic pressure to prevent wheel lockup under panic braking or on slippery surfaces, allowing you to keep control of your ship.
If you try a dealer's demo or rent an STS and the light bulb goes off over your head as the flash appears inside your head: "Hey! This thing goes and handles like a really neat European car. It doesn't feel like a Cadillac," then you had the same reaction as I did.
The inside, though, retains its Cadillac genes, with Ultrasoft Beechwood (a brand name, not my term) leather, cushy (though not race-car supportive) 10-way power front buckets with power recliners and lumbar adjustments and real wood trim - elm burl high-gloss in the door panels, instrument panel and floor console.
It's also one of the few General Motors cars that comes standard with a rear defroster. Most time, you gotta pay up to $150 extra for what's basically a $1.50 switch and a printed circuit. There's also a burglar alarm and an air bag, for those with the two, unrelated worries.
Considering its competition, the STS sounds like good value at $37,135 - as long as it is, as its makers trumpet, better built for the long haul and buyers believe that.