Thanks to a new chassis, the 2000 Cadillac DeVille – big, traditional and comfortable as the Queen Mary – became a pretty good luxury sedan.
By Jeremy Cato
A pleasant land yacht. Yes, yes, 2000-2003 DeVilles aren’t perfect. Especially in styling. The most recent DeVille is a design even a Swiss banker might describe as low-key.
But honest-to-goodness, these most recent DeVilles are a pleasure to drive and they handle much, much better than you might think, given how big a DeVille truly is.
Quality has proven to be good, also. And prices on the used market are affordable. So if you’re looking for a slightly used full-size luxury sedan, here you go. Let me say this, too: this DeVille may not be terribly fuel efficient, but if you spend any time at all in tiny cars seemingly designed for sardines and supermodels, piloting a roomy American sedan like the DeVille will come as a pleasant shock.
So to the details. When I said this version of the DeVille is big, I wasn’t kidding. This car is 5,258 mm long (that’s more than 17 feet) and genuinely has room inside for five grown-ups – six if you find one with a standard front bench seat. Rear leg room is massive and the trunk is vast.
Luxury features? All you’d expect in a luxury car, from rain-sensing wipers to ultrasonic rear parking assist to a somewhat gimmicky Night Vision system for seeing objects in the dark.
Let me also note that for 2000 Cadillac cleaned up what had been a busy dashboard in the previous generation model (1994-1999). The white-on-black electroluminescent gauges are excellent – clean, stylish and no-nonsense. Chrome interior door pulls look slick, though as I recall from a 2001 road test, a female passenger said they were hard to grab without risking her fingernails. And the seats? Comfortable, if you excuse the fact the cushions could use more lateral support and sturdier padding.
Now for some details about the chassis switch. The much-stouter Seville chassis turned the previous generation DeVille into a vastly better car. Cadillac engineers added better suspension tuning for 2000, as well. The end result has been a sedan with a pampering ride, yet surprisingly lithe steering and road feel.
If you’re looking at the higher-performance DeVille DTS, it has come with Cadillac’s continuously variable road sensing suspension (or CVRSS). This so-called active suspension has sensors to measure the road surface and the handling forces affecting the car and adjust the shock damping for the best ride and handling. What’s all that mean? This Cadillac can quickly firm up the front left shock during a hard right turn, while allowing more rebound for the right rear shock, enhancing tire grip and keeping body roll to a minimum.
Pretty nifty, although for the used car buyer take note that these high end do-dads will eventually wear out and will need to be replaced. The DeVille has also been sold with the StabiliTrak stability control system and the previous note holds true for this sophisticated device as well.
Which brings us to power. A 4.6-litre, 32-valve Northstar V8 powerplant is the engine. Loads of grunt here, which means the front-drive DeVille will exhibit a bit of torque steer – the tendency of the front wheels to pull to one side during acceleration – if pushed hard. It’s well-managed by various electronic systems and the suspension geometry, but it can still pop up at times, detracting from what should be a seamless luxury feel.
So to sum up: generally speaking a nearly new Deville offers pretty good value in a big, big luxury sedan.
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.
Jeremy Cato is an award-winning print and broadcast journalist. He is a columnist and feature writer for the Globe & Mail newspaper and his articles are syndicated to a variety of other publications.