Cadillac STS Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
cadillac sts review

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.

Join the conversation
2 of 3 comments
  • I totally agree. and what hurts this car more is that Cadillac didn't update its design along with the 2008 CTS because the STS was in mid-cycle. the STS is a hard sell because it is so much more expensive than the CTS and not as attractive as a new Mercedes or BMW around the same price.

  • Bronek Bronek on Feb 17, 2019

    Cadillacs are synonymous with reliability issues. It's nice to own while under warranty and buyer beware afterwards. Another american car that get their act together and build quality.

  • Fahrvergnugen NA Miata goes topless as long as roads are dry and heater is running, windscreen in place.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic As a side note, have you looked at a Consumers Report lately? In the past, they would compare 3 or 4 station wagons, or compact SUVs, or sedans per edition. Now, auto reporting is reduced to a report on one single vehicle in the entire edition. I guess CR realized that cars are not as important as they once were.
  • Fred Private equity is only concerned with making money. Not in content. The only way to deal with it, is to choose your sites wisely. Even that doesn't work out. Just look at AM/FM radio for a failing business model that is dominated by a few large corporations.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Lots of dynamics here:[list][*]people are creatures of habit, they will stick with one or two web sites, one or two magazines, etc; and will only look at something different if recommended by others[/*][*]Generation Y & Z is not "car crazy" like Baby Boomers. We saw a car as freedom and still do. Today, most youth text or face call, and are focused on their cell phone. Some don't even leave the house with virtual learning[/*][*]New car/truck introductions are passé; COVID knocked a hole in car shows; spectacular vehicle introductions are history.[/*][*]I was in the market for a replacement vehicle, but got scared off by the current used and new prices. I'll wait another 12 to 18 months. By that time, the car I was interested in will be obsolete or no longer available. Therefore, no reason to research till the market calms down. [/*][*]the number of auto related web sites has ballooned in the last 10 to 15 years. However, there are a diminishing number of taps on their servers as the Baby Boomers and Gen X fall off the radar scope. [/*][/list]Based on the above, the whole auto publishing industry (magazine, web sites, catalogs, brochures, etc) is taking a hit. The loss of editors and writers is apparent in all of publishing. This is structural, no way around it.
  • Dukeisduke I still think the name Bzzzzzzzzzzt! would have been better.