Every race must have a winner—even if it’s a Seniors Olympics, where competitors battle with oxygen tanks in tow. In this case, it’s Yank tanks: our American large luxury car shootout. Those of you with a knack for the process of elimination will already know that the Cadillac DTS is our winner. On the face of it, the Caddy doesn’t have the power or charisma of the Chrysler 300C, nor the traditional rear wheel-drive layout of Lincoln’s boxframed Town Car. But the DTS brings a much-needed karmic balance to our comparo. It’s the only car that approaches luxury. In other words, it offers at least a week’s worth of livability for an actual owner.
The DTS’s exterior is an automotive every-car from the side. From all other points of view, the Caddy’s angular creases, gaping grill and vestigial fins proudly proclaim “standard of the tasseled loafer wearing set.” I can respect that. The flagship’s styling might not be to everyone’s tastes, but at least it’s identifiable. There’s a lot of carbon dated dissonance here, thanks to combination of 1970s proportions and all-LED tail lamps, bi-xenon headlamps and shiny 18″ alloys.
This two-ton beast’s interior is this troika’s best. I realize that isn’t saying much. But it is saying something. The DTS’ leather is supple. The overall design is semi-modern and reasonably tasteful. The plastics are far behind Euro luxury standards, but they’re so far ahead of the 300C’s interior they’ve already crossed the international dateline. Yes, the cabin is a midwestern prairie of blandness. And the steering wheel is swizzle-stick thin (pulled from a 1990s Buick), but at least it’s heated.
In the back, passengers are suitably coddled on their way to Sunday lunch. The DTS’ rear seats are by far the best in this group. They offer bun warmers, cheek-friendly leather and what 300C and Town Car passengers won’t recognize (but will enjoy): padding. The Cadillac DTS’ rear A/C controls are basic, but they’re bound to make occupants feel a bit more special. At speed, the DTS is also the better place to sit. The 300C is just a bit too harsh and noisy for executive transport duty, and the Town Car manages to be a bit more penitential than presidential.
Aside from offering more occupant friendly proportions, the aging Northstar V8’s transverse placement precludes the sort of hoonery that’s easy to accomplish in the Chrysler 300 (donuts are possible, but only in reverse). With 295hp and 288 lb·ft going to the front wheels only, you’d be right to be concerned about torque steer. Fortunately, somehow, the usual front wheel-drive demons have been all but banished, leaving you only to fret about the lack of power compared to the 300C and fume over the dimwitted four-speed slushbox.
Even the five-seat version of the DTS (with the centre console) doesn’t include a manumatic function. Never mind . . . all four gear options are about as thrilling as a Kate Hudson chick flick. Put another, more positive way, the DTS seems to perform just about equally regardless of what gear it’s in. This brings us to the six-seater DTS, which anyone with memories of the 70s should avoid. Seriously, column shifters are like so last century, dude.
It may come as a surprise to readers (as it was to me) that the DTS actually ties with the 300C in the gadget shoot-out. The DTS doesn’t bring satellite TV to the party, but it does have some nice touches that a Euro shopper might expect: magnetic ride control, blind zone alerts, lane departure warning, and voice recognition.
Did I mention driving? Does it matter? If it does, when piloting the DTS, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. First, the Lusitania had a similar turning ratio. U-turns should be avoided like U-boats. In fact, plan any changes in direction miles ahead of time. Despite the bad road manners, it just about ties the Town Car in actual driving prowess. The zero to sixty sprint happens uneventfully, and corners are taken with relative ease. The best thing that can be said about the DTS’s performance—the only thing that needs saying– is that it’s composed and sedate.
The fact that the DTS is less common as a limo or airport shuttle is a huge benefit. We are talking about a car that costs approximately $50 to $60K—providing you can stop the Cadillac salesman from thanking God long enough to book the sale. Even so, the Cadillac is the winner of this shootout because its what an American luxury car is all about: size, presence, comfort and a V8. Sure Audi, BMW and Mercedes have nothing to worry about. I’d rather have a base LS460 than a loaded DTS. But if American luxury is what you want, the DTS is the way to go. While supplies last.