2005 Cadillac DeVille

Years if not decades, behind its import competitors. Absolutely waste of money!

This full-size luxury sedan was acquired as a rental vehicle with ~9,500 miles on the odometer at the time of pick up. It stayed with us for 24 hours. We drove approximately ~500 miles. We traveled from the Bay Area to Fresno via the dull I-5 and US-99. We took the scenic and enjoyable stretch of US-152 back from the flat hot San JoaquinValley to the outskirt of Silicon Valley. The entire trip in the DeVille was with 3 average size adults. The averaged fuel consumption was 21.8 mpg.

This 2005 DeVille received its redesign since 2000. There were various packaging and option equipment changes like the Cadillac’s Night Vision system, introduced with the 2000 redesign, has been removed from its lineup, but the fundamental of car remained the same. The DeVille model line up consists of the base (DeVille), DHS, and top of the line DTS. DHS equips more electronic gadgets for comfort and convenience. The top of the line DTS, in addition to options in DHS, it equips with an older version of the Northstar engine (L37) that pumps out 290hp. The DTS also comes with bigger tires, and Cadillac’s Continuously Variable Road-Sensing Suspension for better performance. Beneath the hood of our base model tester, veiled the second version of GM’s 4.6L Northstar V8 (LD8) with 275hp@5,600rpm, and 300Ib-ft of torque @ 4,000rpm. The Livonia, Michigan built Northstar V8 has chain driven DOHC, driving the 32 valves via the direct-acting hydraulic lash adjusters, with coil-on-plug design. Engine is transversely mounted, driving the front wheels via 4 speed automatic transaxle with overdrive (GM’s Hydra-Matic 4T80-E transaxle (MH1)). The transaxle is built in Ypsilanti Michigan. The chassis is based on the GM’s G platform that can be found under Cadillac’s own SeVille and larger GM sedans like Buick LeSabre and Park Avenue models. The chassis is supported by independent MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar in all four corners with semi-trailing arm in the rear. Traction is provided by a set of P225/60R16 tires. The tester came with Michelin Symmetry. Stopping power is generated by vented front and solid rear disc brakes, with ABS and traction control.

Our first impressions are the spacious interior, separation of the outside world and “This car is enormous”. The driving sensation of the DeVille is similar to driving the 1st generation Ford Expedition. Our initial concern is that the DeVille is by far the worst car that we have ever driven – basically everything from driving dynamics to the entire DeVille in general. There aren’t any noticeable characteristic on the DeVille that worth cheer for. Majority of the features and the car setup felt dated.
The chassis and suspension setup demonstrates the worst of DeVille. The setup totally exposed the DeVille as a “Big Boat”. The suspension setup is ultra soft, it filters out road imperfection perfectly yet it leaves no feed back to the driver and offers lots of residual body vertical movements after a bump on freeway speed. The car feels like a 30′ boat gliding on water with occasional 6′ waves hitting it. The ride is generally floaty but all of a sudden the ride can completely loses its supposedly luxurious composure, when that happens the DeVille acts like it is riding on a set of 30 year old worn out struts. Keep in mind that, during our test, there were only 3 average size adults in the car, and the car has less than 10,000 miles on the suspension. What if the car is fully loaded with 6 people and with slightly more digits on the odometer? With the disappointing suspension and chassis setup, one can easily predict the outcome of the handling of this 4000Ibs beast. 4000Ibs on paper, in reality it handles resembling a 5000Ibs full size SUV.

A compact size SUV can undeniably out handle the DeVille at corners or freeway on and off ramps. The chassis exhibits excessive body roll, and severe understeering even when minimally pushed at corners. Steering is also felt like the 1st generation video game steering wheel – completely lack of feedback and road feel, if anything happen can be transmitted back to the steer wheel it can be vague and distracting. Traction control seems to kick in a lot to keep the car on track especially with the equipped tires have very low limit on grip, and tends to squeal easily when cornering. Front end of the car seems to be carrying a lot of weigh – the short coming of a front wheel drive V8 is extremely transparent. At the 25mph freeway ramps, the rear inside tires start to squeal as the vehicle weigh start to shift to the front outside tire if we corner at 30mph with partial throttle, at 35mph front tires squeal simultaneously but the squealing on the front outside tire becomes horrendous that caused us to release the throttle to reduce this severe understeering. With any speed beyond that the traction control’s involvement can obvious noticeable to save this now still controllable understeer.
The entire time with the DeVille, we weren’t dared enough to deactivate the conveniently located traction control on/off button at the column shifter where the overdrive button used to be. Maneuverability consistently reminds every one on broad that this is a big car, and we wish you luck on trying to parallel park this 207 inches long mammoth.Another barbaric element happens to be the equipped transmission. The transmission doesn’t feature the now commonly offered electronic gear range selector where the drive has more control on gear selection – Drive Shift Control (DSC) in Cadillac’s term. One can argue that those electronic gear selectors is to provide a sportier feel to the driver, and the DeVille isn’t meant to be even close to sporty so it shouldn’t need one. But the reason, behind our recommendation of needing one is that the transmission on the DeVille is extremely sluggish on downshifting on its own. “Pedal-to-Metal” is often needed for the tranny to kickdown, resulting with a violent jerk and surge especially at 3rd gear shift into top gear, and frequently confer more than desired speed. The column shifter is rough to operate. It feels even phonier when slide the shifter from “3” to “Drive” as we seem to be able to drive the car more smoothly by lifting the shifter upward, but the shifter action often caused us to unintentionally shift to Neutral. At one particular situation, we even accidentally shifted into Reverse even when operating the shifter in care; after passing a slower vehicle at an incline when attempted to shift from 3rd to D. Since then we never attempted to touch the shifter again while the car is in motion.


The Northstar engine sounds throaty and more refine that the rest of the DeVille. The engine generates sufficient power at it is low to mid rev range. Although the throttle response isn’t as quick as the imports of the same class, but a slap on the drive-by-wire throttle produces a satisfying off the line acceleration – front tires can scream for grip with the traction control off. The barbaric 4 speed transaxle seems to dissipate some of the engine power, and we were expecting a more aggressive passing and acceleration power from this torquey 300Ib-footer. The engine is relatively silk smooth throughout its rev range. We would expect more power from a 4.6L DOHC V8.
The 4 wheel disc brakes on the DeVille offered average braking power and brake feel. There are heavy nose dive accompanied by heavy braking. ABS involvement is seamless. Although we noticed no fading during our test drive but we weren’t driving the car hard either. We don’t expect the 11.9″ front rotors to withstand the duty of spirit driving without fading, based on how the rest of the car is setup.

The DeVille provided basic amenities for its occupants, but leaving us desire for more electronic gadgets for a $42,000 car. One feature come into mind is the lack of telescoping adjustment on the steering wheel. The split front bench seats are soft and flat. My hip would sink into the vinyl like leather, and my backside can only endure about 30 minutes on sitting time on the seat then it becomes uncomfortable and sore. The seats are also lack of lateral support. The stock 8 speakers sound system has lower sound quality than the cars in its price range. Noise isolation is very good – wind and road noise is muted. Engine noise is noticeable but proper in sound. Driving position is not ideal, the pedals are too far away, and the steering wheel tends to be too close. The ventilation display on the center console is challenging to read.

The CD/radio buttons and display are placed too low, and the unit appears to be taken straight out from a GMC truck. The readings on the digital gauge cluster are displayed in green color and easy to read even in a sunny day. The driver information center display is located beneath the speedometer with the tachometer mode in the gauge cluster. The digital tachometer displays engine rev in 25 rpm interval. The switchgears are crowding on the center console, and they look identical. The ventilation temperature adjustment knob looks and feels identical to the volume control knob, which is only about 2 inches away from each other. Often times, we mistaken the temperature as the volume control. When the column shifter is placed in Drive, it tends to block the driver’s view to the ventilation controls. The rear visibility is poor, and average around the car. The interior is spacious, and the trunk is roomy – at 19.1 cubic feet, but so deep that it posted difficulty in reaching to the cargo placed near the back of the backseat.

The workmanship is poor, and this type of quality doesn’t belong and exist at this price range. It is a disappointment to see those flaws. The most obvious imperfections are the interior panels, and plastic trims around the center console. Some of that exhibit over 5mm gaps between two trims, or it has been installed crooked. If the interior workmanship is so poor already, how should one expect what type of workmanship can be found at the placed where it is not so obviously seen. Peek at the exhaust system on a $42,000 car; reveal one of the worst setup on the car. The twin tips at each of the muffler are basically weld on a single muffler outlet for appearance only. The muffler and welding quality is equivalent to Midas $19.99 special. Makes me speculate on how much engineering has been involved in designing and building this car. The more time we spent on the DeVille, the more impracticalities and lack of proper engineering judgments we found; if any were involved at all.

Maybe the DeVille is just not our cup of tea, but after the test drive we answered some of our questions on this rarely seen on the road luxury sedan. We now fully understood why people drive Deville so slowly on the road, especially for older folks who favor in a full size premium sedan, because everything is soft and disconnected. The car has very soft setup to be suitable for older people. You are lack of feedback from what the car is doing. It is perfectly smooth at flat straight and marginal on turns at post speed limit. Thoroughly misbehaves if you go over posted speed limit. What I don’t understand is that why the traction control on/off button is so conveniently positioned. It is not like this is a car that can benefit from the traction control being off. If the car’s market is mainly for old folks and for the people who don’t care about driving dynamics, then why the button is even there? Well, I guess it is because the GM engineer cheap out on adding another button on the center console that already has 100s of buttons, and since the overdrive command is now incorporated into the column shifter range itself, the void spot on the shifter came in handy for it – but it just doesn’t make any sense. A over $42k car equips with a set for old school obsolete tires. The whole car feels even bigger than it is. Compare to the imported full size luxury cars of the same price range, Cadillac feels 10 to 15 years behind in design.

Overall Impression
Scoring System:

Performance & Acceleration: 6.5
Comment: Average off the line acceleration, and passing power. Not as zippy as its competitors.

Drivetrain: 6.5
Comment: Smooth engine, with proper engine note. Not in the same par as current import V8s. Sluggish transaxle.

Handling & Cornering: 4
Comment: Suspension and chassis felt dated. Overly soft suspension setup. Steering lack of any feel or feedback. Handles like the car is bigger than what it is.

Brake Feel; Cornering: 6.5
Comment: No compliant, gets the job done, no surprises either. A little weak compare to its competitors.

Ride Characteristic: 6.5
Comment: Floaty, woozy. Like riding on a set of worn out shocks.

Ride Characteristic: 6
Comment: Spacious interior but impractical. Seats are too soft, lack on lateral support. Sore backside might occur in a long trip.

Workmanship: 2
Comment: One of the worst we have seen. Very disappointing.

Functionality: 4
Comment: Impractically huge.

Technology: 4.5
Comment: Obsolete!

Everything on the car is outdated regardless visually or the drive dynamic of the vehicle. The interior dash design looks to be traveled back to a decade ago. How the steering column shifter works and feels, how the so called digital gauge cluster is presented, how the car rides, and steers, are all felt like how a 20 years old European or Japanese car feel like. There are plenty of cars to choose from at the DeVille’s price tag – from European, to Japanese. Considering the depreciation rate on a Cadillac, I bet a Hyundai XG350 will be far superior in workmanship and practicality to the Deville with much cash left in your pocket. We wouldn’t understand why a car consumer will even consider the DeVille at the first place, not to mention taking it home. Hopefully, the redesigned DeVille for 2006 will be more competitive but it will require tremendous amount of improvements. “Suggestion for survival: Immediately, if no sooner, scrape all the ancient ’50s-vintage pushrod V-6s and V-8s, and stage a ruthless coup d’etat in the design, engineering, and styling departments,” quoted from Car and Driver magazine editor Brock Yates (06/2005 P.31) on the dramatic dropping of sales for GM. I found this particularly true and applies directly to the DeVille very well. END