1999 Cadillac Seville

By November 10, 1999
1999 Cadillac Seville

When you bill yourself “the standard of the world,” you have a lot to live up to. And during the dark days of the 1980s and early 1990s, that claim certainly stretched thin for General Motors Corp.’s Cadillac division. The now-departed Cimarron did not come close to meeting the challenge of import competitors such as BMW or Lexus, something that became sadly obvious in the steady decline of Cadillac’s sales and market share.

Now Cadillac is striking back. At the 1999 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Cadillac pulled the wraps off a new concept car, appropriately named Evoq-as in evoke-designed to suggest the direction the division will take in the future. This radical product revolution will start rolling into Cadillac showrooms around 2002. But if you’re not inclined to wait, there’s still good reason to stop by your Cadillac dealer today, especially if you’re looking for a premium, high-performance sedan.

The Seville is not only attractive, and muscular, with one of the best powertrains on the market, it’s also a technical tour de force. Some of this technology might fall into the gizmos and gadgets category, like Seville’s computer-controlled adaptive seating system. But other high-tech features qualify as hands-down winners. The Stabili-Trak system is smart enough to respond to a skid before you’re even aware there’s a problem.

While Seville’s distinctly domestic styling may not win over the truly hardcore import buyer, we found this sedan clearly deserving the term “luxury.”


Call this “a muscle car in an Armani suit,” suggests Chief Designer Dennis Little. For those familiar with the past-generation Seville, the latest iteration is evolutionary, not revolutionary. Nothing unusual about that in the luxury segment. Upscale European automakers have carried over the same styling themes year-after-year.

With the latest Seville, designers have tapped into the themes and cues that helped define some of the best Cadillacs of the past, starting with the bold, egg-crate grille and strong, vertically oriented taillights. Refinement is the critical element with the ’99 Seville. Edges are soft and sculpted. The wrap-around projector headlights have a jewel-like quality that only enhances their improved functionality.

While exterior changes are subtle when comparing the current Seville with the last-generation model, there are far more significant changes under the skin. And wisely, Cadillac engineers used Mercedes and BMW as their ride and handling role models.

Though the Seville’s look is unabashedly American, there were clear concessions made to the international market when Seville was redesigned in 1998. The car is three inches shorter than the old model, moving it closer in size to some of its import competitors. But while it may be shorter, bumper-to-bumper, there’s significantly more useable space, and the 2-inch wider stance enhances ride and handling, especially when coupled to the Seville’s world-class suspension.

Interior Features

The Seville’s interior looks great and is highly functional. The center console, sweeping up into the instrument panel, houses a handsome radio and climate-control center. The look is elegant and expensive. The instrument panel illustrates how Cadillac engineers have been influenced by Lexus. The gauges use a three-dimensional Vacuum Fluorescent, or VF, display that is as easy to read as it is sophisticated.

Cadillac deserves special kudos for the tasteful use of richly grained zebrano wood in the Seville. The front bucket seats are among the most comfortable we’ve found on an American luxury car. They are plush, but not overstuffed, with enough lateral support to keep you firmly planted as you maneuver the Seville through tight curves, yet the bolsters are low enough to make getting in and out easy. The front seatbelts are anchored to the seat so they fit more precisely and feel much more comfortable to wear.

There’s an extra 1.7 inches of headroom in the new model, and slightly more shoulder room, though there is a slight loss of rear leg room due to the shorter body length.

Seville offers an optional adaptive seating system that many potential buyers may dismiss out of hand as just another costly gadget. For short commutes and around-town driving, they’d probably be right, but on long drives, the system is comfortable and noticeably less fatiguing. Hidden under the plush leather upholstery are special sensors designed to measure a body’s pressure points and then automatically adjust 10 strategically placed air cells in the seat cushion.

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 nearly 425 watts of music power through its eight speakers, which include a 12-inch subwoofer. The Bose system is smart enough to automatically adjust volume and tone levels to compensate for changing cabin sound conditions.

An option well worth consideration is GM’s excellent OnStar system. OnStar starts with a basic cellular phone, then adds a Global Positioning Satellite, or GPS, 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 directions. Advisors at the OnStar center can call for a tow truck if you break down, or send out a signal to unlock the car’s doors if you inadvertently leave the key in the ignition. They can provide valet services, such as making airline reservations or sending flowers for a special occasion. Most important, they will check in on you immediately after an airbag deploys and will summon help to your location if you don’t respond.

The Seville offers both dual front and side-impact airbags. There’s also an emphasis on active safety, as noted below.

Driving Impressions

Driving is where the Seville really shines.

The Northstar powertrain stands among the world’s best. This 4.5-liter V8 has plenty of torque for off-the-line acceleration, and enough horsepower to maintain pace on Germany’s Autobahn. Powerful, front-wheel-drive cars often exhibit torque steer, a tendency to pull to one side or the other during hard acceleration from a standstill, but the Seville’s engineering team has done a credible job of minimizing to only the slightest hint.

Cadillac 4-speed automatic transmission features a Performance Shift Algorithm that analyzes your driving and adjusts shifting appropriately. Hammer the throttle and it mimics the crisp shifts of a manual transmission. Accelerate gradually and the transmission shifts smoothly. Go through a corner under hard acceleration and the system is smart enough to delay shifting until you’re through the turn, which improves handling balance.

You’ll really come to appreciate the Seville’s most sophisticated feature, the StabiliTrak system. It uses a special accelerometer to sense even a minor skid. Then, by deftly controlling brakes and throttle, it brings the car back under the control-often before you noticed anything was wrong. Seville’s steering system is linked to the system’s sensors. As a result, steering effort is altered according to how aggressively a driver takes a corner.

Now add in the Continuously Variable Road Sensing Suspension, a standard feature on all Seville models. The system responds to changing road conditions to optimize ride and handling; it alters shock damping rates to find an optimal balance between comfort and handling.


For those who are seeking an American luxury sedan that delivers the refinement, performance and handling you’d expect from an import, the Seville is a credible contender. It may not be the standard of the world, but it is a no-excuses car you will feel good being seen in. Seville is a sedan that truly loves to be driven, whether you’re maneuvering challenging back roads or using the Bose 4.0 sound system to hold down your stress levels during the morning commute.

Some domest-o-phobes may immediately dismiss Cadillac’s flagship sedan. But there are plenty of features that play in the Seville’s favor, improving the odds this car will win over jaded, import-oriented Baby Boomers.

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