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Review and photos by Haney Louka
As my week with the V-6 version of Cadillac’s new-for-’05 STS came to an end, it was time to give it a bath, snap some shots, and hand it over to the next lucky bugger.
It was a dry evening in the spring, a predictably busy night at the coin-op car wash near my home. I lucked out, though, and only had to wait a couple of minutes before my turn came up. The car wasn’t terribly dirty, so I went with the intention of spending about 10 minutes to hose the car down and give it a quick interior vacuum.
All went well in the wash bay until I got back in the car and hit the start button – part of the Caddy’s Smart Access system which allows the driver to fire up the engine without physically inserting a key in the ignition. But this time, there was no fire. Instead, a warning message on the dash read “key fob not detected.”
No problem I thought, and I tried it again. And again. I even got out of the car, locked it, unlocked it, got back in and hit the button again. No dice.
My first thought was that the remote entry fob, which must be in close proximity to the Caddy’s driver’s seat when the start button is depressed, needed a new battery (I found out later that wasn’t the case).
After a brief search in the owner’s manual, I contacted OnStar to find out what my options were. They informed me that the car had to be towed to the nearest dealership who would have a look at it the next day. I’m sure STS owners – you know, the ones who just dished out $60,000 – will be very understanding when faced with this situation.
After about half an hour of waiting for a tow and attempting to start the Caddy, the STS fired up, I went on my way, and the system operated normally for at least the next several days. No tow required after all. And no dead battery in the key fob.
I contacted GM and asked if there are any known issues related to high humidity affecting the operation of the Smart Access system, to which they replied ‘no’. They did inform me that the system is very sensitive to interference and noted that a cell phone in close proximity to the fob or having it in the pocket of a leather jacket could have prevented its detection. Considering the likelihood of those situations occurring in daily use, that little tidbit of information didn’t make me feel any better.
I also learned this: the car went into a security mode after the fist few failed attempts to get it going and the delay in finally getting it started was the time it took to reset itself.
Despite my contacting OnStar and subsequently a GM representative who also told me there was really nothing I could have done, further investigation revealed that the STS does have a slot in the centre console bin in which to insert the fob should it not be detected by the car. It’s also described in the manual, not in the section that deals with starting the car; rather, it’s noted with the instructions for changing the battery in the fob.
It’s too bad this experience had to happen, because this space would otherwise be filled with praise for how well the big Cadillac goes about its business.
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Buyers of the rear-drive V6-equipped STS need not feel like second-class citizens. They can’t brag about having the 320 hp Northstar V8 under the hood, but the 255 ponies galloping from the 3.6-litre six-pot carry the car quite well, and with a nice growl to boot. Credit the commendable thrust to 252 lb-ft of torque (90 per cent of which is available from 1,600 to 5,800 rpm) propelling a svelte but roomy 1,750 kg of car. Credit also goes to the standard-issue five-speed automatic transmission with ratios that have been carefully selected to maximize the power characteristics of the engine.
The tranny went about its business in automatic mode mostly without drama, but I did find that it got confused about which gear to be in some of the time. When the going gets frisky, the intuitive manual mode is the best way to make the most of the V6.
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But while the V6 can run on a steady diet of regular unleaded fuel, owners won’t be able to claim they get better mileage than the premium-only Northstar versions: the V8 STS actually consumes less fuel on the highway.
As a whole, the STS is very American in character. It’s both large and spacious: at 4,985 mm in length and with 973 mm of rear legroom, it’s a truly commodious people mover.
It was a tad floatier than I expected, particularly for a vehicle designed to compete with the likes of the Lexus GS, BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, and Infiniti M cars. Combined with the car’s spacious feel, the steering wheel is big and effort is light, all of which makes for a big, domestic-car feel.
Those initial impressions, however, are somewhat misleading. Guide the STS into a bend or down a pockmarked road and it becomes very clear that this big car is also a handler.
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Body motions are well controlled and steering, though still light, is quick and responsive.
So it’s a very decent balance that Cadillac’s designers have achieved, providing luxurious ride quality with handling prowess on tap when required. It also shows that while Cadillac is going after the imports in the sport-luxury segment, they’re still catering to those folks who like their ride creamy and drama-free.
And importantly for a luxury marque, Cadillac is achieving a line-up of models that provides prospective buyers with an array of vehicles of different sizes, rather than different levels of quality. Many of the favourable aspects of the CTS’s character have translated well in this growth to the STS.
I think the edgy styling theme employed by all new Cadillacs is best suited to the STS, which pulls off a sleek appearance, rather than CTS-chunky.
Inside, the STS looks and feels like a high-quality piece and there are very few things I would change, save for that oversized steering wheel. Colour coordination is tasteful with just the right glint of chrome class. Dark, tasteful eucalyptus wood is used sparingly on the centre console and dash.
The centre stack houses the climate and audio controls trimmed in matte black, imparting a slightly Teutonic feel to the cabin. As in the CTS, there are four soft keys flanking the main display that can be defined by the driver to operate as he or she sees fit. That’s the best way to achieve true intuitive operation of a system that can be used by multiple people. It also allows the maximum number of functions to be available without overcomplicating matters with a central control knob, such as with BMW’s iDrive. For all its capability, the centre stack design is clean and uncluttered.
The standard-issue dual-zone climate control worked in a most unobtrusive manner by getting the cabin quickly up to the desired temperature and then backing off in short order.
Base MSRP for the V-6 Cadillac STS is $55,995. Add my tester’s $2,755 Luxury Package (heated front seats with memory, CD changer, rain sensing wipers, and more), the sunroof, polished aluminum wheels, and wood accents, and the as-tested price comes in at $61,785.
Technical Data: 2005 Cadillac STS V6
|Options||$4,590 (Luxury package of rain-sensing wipers, garage door opener, cargo net, vent system with micro filter, heated seats, memory including mirror and wheel and six-CD system $2,755; eucalyptus trim $545; sunroof; polished aluminum wheels)|
|Price as tested||$61,785|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger full size sedan|
|Layout||Longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel-drive|
|Engine||3.6-litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves|
|Horsepower||255 @ 6500 rpm|
|Torque||252 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm|
|Transmission||5-speed automatic with manual shift mode|
|Curb weight||1750 kg (3857 lbs.)|
|Wheelbase||2956 mm (116.4 in.)|
|Length||4986 mm (196.3 in.)|
|Width||1844 mm (72.6 in.)|
|Height||1463 mm (57.6 in.)|
|Cargo capacity||391 litres (13.8 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 14.2 L/100 km (20 mpg Imperial)|
|Hwy: 8.8 L/100 km (32 mpg Imperial)|
|Warranty||4 yrs/80,000 km|
|Powertrain warranty||4 yrs/80,000 km|