Cadillac's success also is its problem. The luxury division's top-selling vehicle, the DeVille, is its biggest car — and that's not a good marketing position to be in, especially as it tries to regain the attention of baby boomers who have long since shunned the automaker's offerings for sleeker, more performance-oriented imports.

But General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac division is so confident its new and more modestly sized 2000 DeVille will be able to conquest sales from foreign luxury makes that it is going to take on its primary competitors on their home turf — Europe.

“Within a model year we could be ready to go in Europe,” says Cadillac General Manager John F. Smith.

To better appeal to BMW, Mercedes and Lexus audiences, Cadillac has made the new DeVille smaller and smarter. Its width and length have been reduced by 2 ins. (5 cm) — a noticeable but safe change designed to keep DeVille's loyal buyers coming (about 100,000 annually in the U.S.) and still attract baby boomers. However, DeVille remains a leviathan compared to its competitors.

Cadillac has revised its tried-and-true Northstar DOHC V-8 for the new DeVille. It still cranks out at least 275 hp, and yet it now does so on regular, not premium, gasoline. Its fuel economy also has been improved, and the engine also meets California's low emissions vehicle standards.

The DeVille also gets equipped with an upgraded version of Cadillac's StabiliTrak stability-control system. The system enjoys the addition of what Cadillac is calling active steering effort compensation, a feature that increases steering effort during sudden maneuvers. Side-slip-rate control responds to traction loss at all four wheels by utilizing both front brakes to help the driver regain control. Six air bags add to the safety features. Passengers in the back seat benefit from stadium seating and their own climate control. The upper trim level DeVille also will feature Cadillac's second generation continuously variable road sensing suspension.

Improvements made on the outgoing DeVille's stodgy appearance include more aggressive hood lines and large oversized headlights. But the long tail remains, ruining a serious effort to make the DeVille's exterior more dynamic.

While there likely will be divergent feelings about its styling, DeVille's interior is undeniably space-age. Night Vision features infrared technology that allows drivers to see beyond their headlamps when driving at night (see WEVTU — Sept. 1, '98, p.3). Cadillac should be applauded for being the first automaker to bring the military technology to an automotive application, but scolded, along with Night Vision maker Raytheon, for having only a limited supply (6,000 units) during its maiden year, when the buzz about the feature surely will be at its peak. The system will add between $1,000 and $1,500 to the sticker.

There is a monitor in the center console for viewing an optional CD-based navigation system. The optional Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist uses four sensors along the rear bumper to detect obstacles that may be hard to see when performing maneuvers in reverse.

DeVille Brand Manager Patrick Kemp expects the entry level DeVille to account for 70% of sales during the first year of production. The remaining sales mix for the DeVille High Luxury sedan (DHS) model and DeVille Touring Sedan will be 10% and 20%, respectively. (Earlier this year, Cadillac switched the name of DeVille's top trim level from the stuffy Concours d'Elegance to the contemporary DTS.)

The car will go on sale this fall. Cadillac won't reveal the sticker price yet. By November, the automaker hopes to have 10,000 DeVilles in the field.

Mr. Smith expects DeVille's current yearly sales pace to continue or get better. “We expect to do the same volume, if not more, in time with this vehicle. We have a broader audience. We think this car is going to appeal to those who shop in both the entry-level luxury and prestige luxury segment,” he explains.

2000 Cadillac DeVille DTS

Vehicle type: Front-engine, front-drive, 5- or 6-passenger, 4-door sedan
Engine: 4.6L (4,565 cc) DOHC V-8; aluminum block/aluminum heads
Power (SAE net): 300 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 295 lb.-ft. (400 Nm) @ 4,400 rpm
Compression ratio: 10:1
Bore × Stroke (mm): 93 × 84
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 115.3 ins. (293 cm)
Overall length: 207 ins. (526 cm)
Overall width: 74.4 ins. (189 cm)
Overall height: 56.7 ins. (144 cm)
Curb weight: 4,000 lbs. (1,815 kg)
Market competition: Lincoln Continental