Despite the occasional styling breakthrough, like the sleek front-end on the Mercedes E-Class, this is a rarefied niche of cars where buyers overwhelmingly prefer evolution in styling, not revolution. The Seville is no exception.
Though barely a body panel is held over from the last-generation Seville, the new one bears an unmistakable family resemblance to the previous model. A close inspection reveals the differences. The nose is more refined, with jewel-like, wrap-around projector headlamps and a slightly less audacious egg-crate grille. Bumpers are more subtly integrated into the overall body. Many of the old car's hard edges have been softened, yielding a much more slippery drag coefficient.
The new styling speaks of performance, from its aggressive stance to its wide-mouthed dual exhausts.
Though the Seville's look is unabashedly American, there are clear concessions to the international market. The car is three inches shorter than last year's model in U.S. trim, eight inches shorter in the version earmarked for Europe and Japan. That should enhance its appeal in overseas markets, where crowded city streets and costly fuel mean bigger is not necessarily better.
Though a bit shorter overall, the 1998 Seville has a one-inch longer wheelbase. It also has a 2-inch wider track. The longer wheelbase and broader stance, along with a more sopisticated suspension, help improve ride and handling.
Under Seville's skin is a platform where much attention has been paid to torsional rigidity, which is up an amazing 53 percent. This translates into a whole lot less shaking and hopping on rough roads. It also allowed Seville's engineers to design a suspension that more precisely controls the movement of the wheels, which results in much better handling. The new structure also means the Seville handily meets all present and planned crash standards anywhere in the world.
The new interior, wrapped in leather and wood, is warm and inviting. Tasteful use of richly-grained zebrano wood is very attractive. Designers like to use the term "organic" to describe the way one design element flows into another.
The center console, sweeping up into the instrument panel, houses a handsome radio and climate control center. The look is elegant and expensive-Lexus-like, if you will. The instrument panel also illustrates how Cadillac engineers have been influenced by their Asian competitors. The gauges use a three-dimensional vacuum fluorescent, or VF, display that is as easy-to-read as it is sophisticated.
The Bose 4.0 sound system is an example of how Seville makes extensive use of computer technology to enhance both driving attributes and creature comforts. It's something audiophiles would be wise to consider. It punches out up to 425 watts of music power through its eight speakers, including a 12-inch subwoofer. Bose 4.0 is smart enough to automatically adjust volume and tone levels to compensate for changing cabin sound conditions.
Optional on the SLS and standard on the top-of-the-line STS is Cadillac's RainSense windshield wipers that automatically adjust themselves depending on driving conditions.
The front buckets are among the most comfortable we've found on an American luxury car, plush but not overstuffed, with enough lateral support to keep you firmly planted as you maneuver the Seville through tight curves. Front seatbelts are anchored to the seat so they fit more precisely and feel much more comfortable to wear.
An optional adaptive seating system is designed to measure a body's pressure points and then automatically adjust 10 strategically-placed air cells in the seat cushion. It's both comfortable and less fatiguing on long drives.
There's an extra 1.7 inches of headroom in the new model, and slightly more shoulder room. But the shorter body means a slight loss of rear leg room.
GM's optional OnStar system includes a cellular telephone and a Global Positioning Satellite receiver that constantly tracks the vehicle's position. Lost in unfamiliar territory? Press a button and you're connected to a special service center that will provide precise directions. Mechanical problems? The center's advisors can call for a tow truck. Lock the keys in the car? They can transmit a signal to unlock the doors. Need to make airline reservations or send flowers? They can help with that, too.
Seville now offers dual front and side-impact airbags.