Metro Weekly

Hard Charging

2005 Cadillac STS

Cadillac is living proof that an automotive brand can come back from the dead (a feat that parent company General Motors certainly hopes to repeat, and soon). The one-time prototypical big American luxury sedan brand had fallen onto the hard times of shaky quality and questionable design choices.

Really, did anyone ever truly believe the Cimarron or Catera carried the Cadillac torch?

But then new design philosophies took over and suddenly the Cadillac found itself hip again with the ubiquitous Escalade and the razor-sharp CTS. The Cadillac was no longer just a ’70s-era land yacht or an ’80s-era economy car with a luxury badge slapped on its butt. Once again, it was the real thing.

That new design attitude has woven its way through the Cadillac line-up — including the convertible XLR and the crossover SRX — where it’s now laid its distinctive touch on the STS.

Where the CTS is a mid-sized sports sedan, the STS is a full-sized luxury automobile of the kind that takes a considerable chunk out of your driveway or parking space. As someone who once owned one of those big GM land barges (a baby-blue 1978 Oldsmobile 88 Luxury Sedan, thank you very much), I approach the handling of any large GM car with some trepidation.

Which was completed misplaced with the STS. The car handles superbly, agile with turns, responsive to the road, and a joy to drive. This STS is not a car for those who desire a cushy ride where the road beneath is an invisible, unfelt presence. It’s not rough, but it’s firm — you feel the road beneath the STS and have an active driving experience.Providing the power is a big V8 Northstar and a sharp 5-speed automatic transmission. Quick tip: Try flooring the accelerator. It’s fun. Just don’t hold it down for too long or you might attract some unwanted attention.

It’s one thing to hear that an American luxury car company is targeting European models such as BMW; it’s another thing to realize that they’re succeeding. And unlike BMW, the STS manages to look distinctive but not polarizing. The exterior lines mute the sharpness of the CTS, but still maintain the new Cadillac edge.

The interior shows that a less-is-more approach is the smartest tack to take for a luxury car, when current economy cars are packed to the gills with glowing gizmos and spinning thingamajigs (hello, Scion!). The STS interior is smooth and clean, with the optional eucalyptus wood trim adding a surprisingly classy touch, much better than the fake wood trim currently infesting some other GM models.

Dominating the center control stack is the DVD-based navigation and control center, which provided easy access to both satellite-aided directions and the oversized stereo. I didn’t have enough time to fully test the voice-activated controls, but I was able to tell the car to eject a CD. Feeling adventurous as a result, I cavalierly switched the system to German input. My poor pronunciation proved problematic, and repeated declarations of Ich liebe dich got me nowhere. But in English, it was a nifty luxury touch.

2005 Cadillac STS
MSRP: $47,025 (as tested: $58,785)
EPA est. MPG: 17 city/26 highway
Highlights: Stellar handling and performance worthy of the German sports sedans that Cadillac aims to compete with.
Lowlights: Don’t let the base price fool you on this luxury sedan — expect to end up paying the extra cost for the options.

Which brings me to that big discrepancy between the base price of $47,025 and the as-tested price of $58,785. That’s $11,065 in options (plus a $695 destination charge) — not chump change by any means. Yet those options are in many cases the very ones that provide the luxury you’re likely pursuing if you’re looking at an STS. And believe me, once you’ve sat yourself down in a fan-ventilated seat on a hot summer day, your behind will never want to go back. Remember how quickly heated seats went from luxury option to standard equipment — here’s hoping the same happens to the cooling equivalent.

Bottom line, the STS is a solid combination of strong design and excellent craft that continues the growth of Cadillac’s refurbished reputation. If only all of GM’s other American brands could focus their efforts so precisely they wouldn’t find themselves in such turmoil.

To read more of Sean Bugg’s car reviews, visit

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.