2002 Cadillac Seville STS
2002 Cadillac Seville STS. Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase

Way back in the day, Cadillac called their products “The Standard of the World.” They were big words that were quite apt for a time when a Cadillac was a car that many aspired to, but few could afford.

So what happened to this great marque? Somewhere along the way, Cadillacs became a car for geriatrics, but to most, a Cadillac was just another dull, upscale General Motors product. Thanks to an interesting crop of cars in recent years, Cadillac’s been winning back some of the people who left the brand, but this week, we’ll take a look at one of the last examples of what Cadillac was up to in early 1990s.

The 1992 Seville was Cadillac’s answer to the German luxo-sedans that were siphoning off the domestic brand’s market share. It certainly looked the part, with clean, simple lines that masked the car’s substantial size.

Maybe it worked to some extent, but even if it did, the arrival of Lexus and Infiniti a year before with their LS400 and Q45 didn’t help. Oh well. Cadillac must have thought the front-wheel-drive Seville was good enough: from its introduction for 1992 to its demise in 2004, Cadillac barely touched the Seville’s looks. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it was a handsome car from the start, but it’s not a good way to keep an aging car fresh.

2002 Cadillac Seville STS

2002 Cadillac Seville STS
2002 Cadillac Seville STS. Click image to enlarge

As mentioned, the 1992 Seville arrived with all-new clothes around an all-new car. Unfortunately, that first year also brought with it an outdated 200-horsepower, 4.9-litre V8 from the previous generation Seville. In 1993, the power situation got better when Cadillac made the smart move of dropping its high-tech Northstar V8 into the Seville. Even with a smaller displacement (4.6 litres), it outpowered the old 4.9 handily with 275 or 300 horsepower depending on trim level. That extra power didn’t translate into outrageous fuel consumption, though: a 1992 Seville is rated at 14.6 L/100 km in the city and 8.7 L/100 on the highway, while a later Northstar-equipped car will use between 13.3 and 14.3 L/100 km in the city and between 7.9 and 8.7 L/100 km on the highway.

The Seville came in two forms. The SLS used a 275-horsepower version of the Northstar, while the STS was the sportier of the two and got 300 horsepower and a firmer ride.

Big size translates into good safety, at least for the model years that were tested for crashworthiness. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tested the 1992 model and was apparently thought the car’s four star rating for driver and front passenger front impact protection was good enough to not bother testing the car for side impact safety. They also left the Seville alone for the rest of its model run and let the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) take over. The gave the 1993-1997 Seville a poor rating in their frontal offset crash test, but 2000-2004 models were named a best pick thanks to a far better result. Again, though, no side impact testing was done.

Of course, you only need to worry about crash safety as long as the car stays running, which the Seville didn’t like to do. Consumer Reports gives the Seville a deplorable reliability score, saddling it with its “Not Recommended” rating. Notable trouble spots include the complicated Northstar engine, electrical and power equipment, suspension and brakes. (At that point, what’s left?) And check out the long list of recalls: make sure all those that apply have been addressed before buying. Don’t buy one of these cars expecting parts to be low-priced like those for any other GM product as the Seville shares few of its bits with other GM products.

1998 Cadillac Seville
1998 Cadillac Seville. Click image to enlarge

So why even consider one of these cars used? Well, low prices are one reason. A 2001 STS that sold for $60,880 new is now worth $20,025. Even a 2004 is worth a little less than $47,000, compared to an M.S.R.P. of $70,625.

The price may be tempting, but weigh your options carefully: you may end up with a great-looking car that you got for a terrific price, but you may not want to brag to your friends too loudly lest something expensive break while you’re showing it off.

So if you’re not dead set on Cadillac luxury, consider something from Buick (GM’s 3.8-litre V6 is a very reliable motor, and very strong in supercharged form) or a Lincoln (Town Cars and Continentals are kind of old-fashioned but are nice and plush). Either of those will provide similar luxury with fewer complicated, expensive-to-fix gadgets.

Or, if you’re willing to wait a couple of years, pick up one of Cadillac’s current crop of cars on resale. While it’s hard to say yet whether the CTS and all-new STS will be more reliable than past Caddies, they are far better drivers’ cars than anything the division has produced in years and will be well worth a look on the used market.


Online resources

www.cadillacforums.com: The Seville and Eldorado get their own section at CadillacForums.com, where they’re pretty popular: this is the site’s busiest section. Check out the downloadable owner’s manuals at the top of the section � useful stuff. This is a busy site: there are more than 32,000 members here. Registration is free.


Transport Canada Recall Number: 1996141; Units affected: 13,310

1991-1995: Note – vehicles equipped with 4.9 litre engines. An incorrect enrichment calibration to the fuelling strategy of these vehicles when the air conditioner is being used may result in non compliance with C.M.V.S.S. 1103 – Exhaust Emissions. Correction: a new service prom will be installed which will result in the reduction of air pollutants without reducing driveability.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1991132; Units affected: 128

1992: The intermediate shaft to steering rack lower coupling pinch bolt may be missing. This could result in shaft disengagement and loss of steering control. Correction: vehicles will be inspected and, if necessary, a pinch bolt will be installed.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1994140; Units affected: 4,908

1993-1994: If the a/c compressor clutch assembly contacts the auxiliary engine oil cooler outlet hose, the hose may wear through, allowing engine oil to leak into the engine compartment. In the presence of an ignition source, an engine compartment fire could result. Correction: a tie strap will be installed to retain the outlet hose to the inlet hose and assure adequate clearance from the a/c compressor clutch assembly.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1993082; Units affected: 496

1993: On vehicles with the 4.6 litre gas engine, the fuel feed and return lines to the engine fuel injection system may not be fully assembled and locked. The lines may work loose with time and mileage causing a fuel leak in the engine compartment. If an ignition source is present, an engine compartment fire may occur. Correction: dealers will inspect and, if necessary, adjust or replace the fuel feed and return lines to the engine fuel injection system.�

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1993138; Units affected: 3

1994: The throttle control cable can become disengaged from the retaining bracket allowing the cable to interfere with the throttle cam mechanism. This could result in the throttle sticking. If the throttle sticks in an open position, unexpected vehicle movement and a vehicle crash could occur. Correction: a throttle control cable tie strap will be installed on affected vehicles.�

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1998137; Units affected: 2,424

1995: These vehicles may experience inadvertent deployment of one or both front air bags if the vehicle interior has been exposed to enough water to soak the carpet and enter the sdm (which is located under the driver’s seat). Correction: dealers will apply a sealer to the sdm to prevent water intrusion.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1995230; Units affected: 53

1996: These vehicles do not comply with C.M.V.S.S. 101 -“Control Location and Identification”, 108 – “Lighting Equipment” and 208 – “Seat Belt Installation”. The analog instrument panel cluster on some of these vehicles may experience an internal short circuit. If the short circuit occurs while driving, the instrument cluster will go blank, causing loss of gauge function and tell-tale indicators for seat belts, turn signals, high beam, hazard, oil pressure, coolant temperature and others. Correction: dealers will inspect and, if necessary, replace the instrument panel cluster.�

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1998129; Units affected: 124

1998: These vehicles do not comply with C.M.V.S.S. 104 – Windshield Wiping and Washing System. The windshield wiper motor low speed function may become inoperative when the motor is switched from high speed to low speed. If this were to occur while the vehicle is in motion, the driver’s visibility could be affected. Correction: dealers will replace the windshield wiper motor cover which contains the microprocessor on all affected vehicles.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1999058; Units affected: 1,371

1998-1999: On certain vehicles, a rectifier bridge short may develop in the generator even when the engine is off. The electrical short could cause an engine compartment fire that could spread to the rest of the vehicle. Correction: Dealers will replace the generator on affected vehicles.�

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1999235; Units affected: 152

2000: On certain vehicles, the crankshaft position sensors may fail and cause an intermittent engine chuggle, stall or possible long starting crank time and/or a no-start condition, as well as illumination of the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL). Correction: Dealers will replace both crankshaft position sensors.�

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2000104; Units affected: 588

2000: Certain vehicles may have internal fluid leaks in the brake hydraulic control unit. When the rear brake proportioning, antilock brake, traction control, or stability control feature is activated in some driving situations, the feature may not perform as designed and the driver could lose vehicle control. Correction: ABS hydraulic modulator unit will be inspected and replaced if necessary. �

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003165; Units affected: 3,184

2002-2003: On certain vehicles, the fuel tank pressure sensor is unusually susceptible to malfunctions causing excessive vacuum to be applied during self-diagnostic testing. Fuel system components can be damaged and fuel can leak from the vehicle when it is refuelled. Possible symptoms of this condition are illumination of the Service Engine Soon light, poor driveability, increase noise from the fuel tank area, and inaccurate fuel gauge readings. If there is an ignition source present, a fire could result. Correction: Dealer will replace the fuel tank pressure sensor.�

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2002042; Units affected: 5

2002: Certain passenger vehicles were built with missing or under-torqued steering gear attachment bolts. If a bolt is missing, the driver may notice uneven steering response or unusual noises during turns. If the left bolt is missing and the right mounting strap fails, steering control is lost and a vehicle crash could result. Correction: Dealers will inspect the vehicles for presence and proper torque of both steering gear bolts�

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1997091; Units affected: 7,303

1997: These vehicles may exhibit a condition in which the electronic brake control module or the electronic brake and traction control module may cause the antilock brake system (ABS) to cycle during a non-abs application. This may result in an increase in stopping distance and a possible vehicle crash. Correction: dealers will replace the electronic brake control module.�

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 recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

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.

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