I like Cadillac. Theirs is the perfect American success story: a failing luxury car company saved by hard work, clever engineering and gang bangers. By now, the brothers' mainline manufacturer is safe and the word is out: Cadillac is back, and it's bling. Even old white men in shiny shoes know that the Escalade is all that, the XLR is dope, the CTS is fly, and the SRX is SWASS (Some Wild Ass Silly Shit). So why-oh-why did Caddy brew up this four-wheeled Forty Dog?
For some reason, they based the STS' design on the arrow-sharp CTS– minus the sharp. While the STS' front and back ends retain a welcome measure of the CTS' aggression, the overall result looks like a fat mobster in a Brioni suit. The STS' sloping swage lines and ever-so-slightly bulging wheel arches can't disguise the fact that it's a slab-sided luxobarge from the old school, with all the blingosity of a Lincoln Town Car. Granted, that may have been the point: to build a luxury car conservative enough for Cadillac's traditional clientele, yet– no wait, that's it; that's the whole story.
The STS' interior also reflects the company's sudden risk aversion. Props to Caddy for ditching the Deville's interior excess: velour couches, nasty switches, excessive wood. But the attempt to crib Audi/Mercedes/BMW's sumptuous minimalism has left the STS with a soul-ectomy. (It even smells like a doctor's waiting room.) You would have thought the brand's success amongst the spinners and dubs set would've inspired them to try something wild: two-tone leather, Playstation display, built-in lead crystal decanter, signature scent, something wikkid. But no, the STS' cabin feels like a pricey Pontiac.
Once underway, the STS offers the usual Detroit big car dynamics: float, bang, lean and scoot. Crest a large undulation and the STS' pillow talk DNA asserts itself. Drive over a poorly surfaced road and the suspension tells you someone decided to sacrifice ride for handling. Throw yourself into a corner and the chassis tells you someone decided to sacrifice handling for ride. If you've never driven a foreign luxury sedan, or any Honda, the STS' ride and handling is close enough for rock and roll. If you have, it ain't.
On the positive side, the STS sits on a rear or [optional] all-wheel-drive platform. Caddy's twenty year-plus digression into front drivers left the brand without a shred of credibility in an increasingly performance-oriented segment. While an STS helmsman would be ill-advised to attempt any tail-out action (think cabin cruiser in a big beam sea), the car is commendably responsive to driver input and command. By the same token, the steering and brakes are predictably numb, but perfectly effective for the job at hand (and foot).
The STS is also great on the open road, where the car's ride gains enough composure to allow the digital audio system and Bidness Class leg room to lull passengers into a suitable stupor. Anti-enthusiasts may wish to note that Caddy has finally pulled level with Lexus in the battle to eliminate any sonic indication of forward progress. Both brands now offer products with interiors that are as quiet as a tomb. Which reminds me: the STS' trunk continues the great Cadillac tradition of offering enough room for a couple of dead bodies (or several large suitcases).
The V8 version provides plenty of silky smooth shove. The STS' 4.6-liter 320hp Northstar powerplant can propel Detroit's latest luxury leviathan from zero to sixty miles-per-hour in a staggering six seconds. The V8 STS is also a determined passer, able to leap long trucks in a single bound. Unfortunately, the car's drive-by-wire throttle was programmed by a non-coffee drinker; the moment you even breathe on the gas pedal, the STS takes off like a scalded cat (threatening many a scalded lap). And the autobox shows a disturbing reluctance to kick down at cruising speed.
Ironically, the bangin' V8 actually makes the STS experience slightly worse. By eliminating the constant sense of wonder at the V6 engine's lack of grunt, you're free to contemplate the STS' full monotony. It's like taking a stone out of your shoe and finding yourself in a paper clip museum. Or, even worse, a very expensive rental car.
Cadillac considers the STS the best luxury sedan they've ever made– and they're not wrong. Traditional Caddy buyers will be pleased with their new whip. But any Cadillac exec that thinks the STS' has enough ride, handling or comfort to lure buyers out of their bombing Bimmers, massive Mercs and liquid Lexi did too many mind-altering substances in the 70's. More worryingly, the STS lacks sufficient sizzle to delight the Brothers. If Caddy wants to maintain its current momentum, they need to stop chasing Eurostyle and, like Chrysler did with their gangsta-rrific 300C, get down with their bad selves.