What's New for 1998
StabiliTrak, an integrated chassis control system that can prevent four-wheel lateral skids, is available on base and d'Elegance. New radio systems debut, and door lock programmability is enhanced. An idiot light is added to warn about loose fuel caps, and new colors are available inside and out. Heated seats are added to the d'Elegance and Concours while the Concours also gets a much needed alloy wheel redesign. Second-generation airbags debut as standard equipment.
DeVille took over Big Kahuna duties for Cadillac last year, after the rear-wheel drive Fleetwood was dropped from the lineup. With its eggcrate grille, slab-sided flanks and long, thin, horizontal taillamps, the DeVille certainly looks the part.
For 1997, Cadillac spruced up this traditional sedan, revising the front styling forward of the windshield and dumping the half-moon rear wheel wells. Also new, and designed to fill the gap left by the departure of the Fleetwood, was the d'Elegance model, which added gold trim, chrome wheels, a Rainsense wiper system (it turns on automatically when it begins to rain) and leather seats to the basic DeVille. Fortunately, a vinyl or fake convertible roof is nowhere to be found on the d'Elegance option list, though we're sure some enterprising aftermarket outfitter will be more than happy to install one if this is your preference.
Concours got some much needed interior attention for 1997. Gone were the dopey Rubik's cube climate controls and trip computer from the old car, and the digital display gauges vanished. Replacing them were a tasteful analog setup, with a new center console that contained audio and climate controls, driver information center, and dual cupholders. The fresh audio and climate controls boasted Lexus-like appearance and operation. Also gone was the chromed-plastic switch convention that formerly resided on the driver's armrest. The power window and mirror switchgear was simplified and dipped in a tasteful matte black, while the seat controls moved to the door panel and used a single metaphoric seat-shaped control for all adjustments.
Base models were also upgraded with the addition of dual-zone climate controls and MagnaSteer variable-effort steering gear. All DeVilles received structural enhancements, brake system revisions, additional programmable features, and side-impact airbags.
Accordingly, revisions for 1998 are comparatively few. New radios are available, programmed features are enhanced, heated seats are standard on the d'Elegance and Concours and Concours models get new alloy wheels. The biggest news, however, is the addition of StabiliTrak to the optional equipment rosters of the base and d'Elegance models. StabiliTrak, the integrated chassis control system found only on the Concours in 1997, is an advanced handling system that includes stability enhancement and road texture detection features. Stability enhancement helps the driver control the DeVille in all driving conditions and on all road surfaces by detecting when the DeVille is not responding appropriately to driver input and applying the brakes selectively to bring the car back under control. Road texture detection reads the road surface and helps the antilock braking system work more effectively on rough roads.
Major techo-wizards, these Cadillacs. We did not particularly enjoy our week with a 1996 Concours, but for 1997 many of our gripes were addressed, and further improvements this year look promising. Now that the hideous new Lincoln Town Car is the only other American ultra-luxury model on the market, the traditionally styled DeVille is looking good, indeed.