Used 2008 Cadillac STS
- Low price for a full-size luxury sport sedan, powerful new V6, nimble road feel for such a large car, sporty all-American looks, available all-wheel drive
- optional Bose stereo is one of the best in its class.
- Sporty front seats might be too firm for some posteriors, interior plastics not quite up to the standards set by the top-ranked competition.
Edmunds' Expert Review
Thanks to its edgier styling, more powerful V6 engine and high-tech safety options, the 2008 Cadillac STS is now an even stronger player in an arena filled with talent. The Caddy's competitive pricing makes the deal even sweeter: a must on any consumer's short list.
"Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!" is the familiar whining call of poor middle child Jan Brady, constantly overlooked in favor of her popular older sister Marcia and cute-as-a-button younger sister Cindy. Life just wasn't fair for Jan, and it hasn't been much rosier for Cadillac's middle-child sedan either. The 2008 Cadillac STS slots in between the inexplicably top-selling DTS land yacht sedan and the sporty midsize CTS that has received tons of attention since its debut. And with that car receiving a complete overhaul this year that will surely raise its popularity even more, you can almost hear the STS growl, "CTS, CTS, CTS!"
To keep pace with its more attention-grabbing sibling (as well as other larger luxury sport sedans), the 2008 Cadillac STS has been revised inside and out. It's sort of like Jan ditching her dorky glasses. The wide, two-level egg-crate grille is particularly striking, and the improved cabin trim is bound to get the attention of full-size luxury car shoppers. Most significant is a new base engine, a 3.6-liter V6 engine that increases power by 47 horses and 20 pound-feet of torque compared to last year's six-cylinder. This power plant, now featuring direct fuel injection, not only puts more guts to the pavement, it's also more fuel-efficient and has reduced emissions. It's hard to argue with that formula, and considering that the STS V6 is basically as quick as the unchanged STS V8, we'd have no problem recommending saving a few bucks by going with the base engine.
Technology is now the name of the game when competing against big guns like the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Infiniti M35/45 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and the 2008 STS adds several high-tech optional features to its repertoire to keep up with the Joneses. The Lane Departure Warning System works like other brands' similar technologies, utilizing cameras in the rearview mirrors to read road lines and then alert the driver if he starts to stray with visual and audible signals. A Side Blind Zone Alert System scans for vehicles in the driver's blind spot and flashes an amber light in the rearview mirrors. Some drivers may find these "nanny technologies" irritating, but with so many in-car driver distractions nowadays, it's hard to deny their usefulness.
We've always liked the current STS, and the revised 2008 edition makes it even more endearing. The powerful new V6 almost makes the V8 irrelevant and boasts more power than the engines in the BMW 528i and 535i, as well as the Benz E350. Meanwhile, the STS' ride and handling continues to impress with moves that almost make you forget you're driving a sedan that's 6 inches longer and 200 pounds heavier than an E350. Having a price that undercuts the competition by thousands doesn't hurt either, even if a side effect is a few low-grade interior plastics. The 2008 Cadillac STS may never meet the DTS' sales figures or the CTS' attention, but at least it's got more going for it than Jan Brady.
2008 Cadillac STS configurations
The 2008 Cadillac STS is a large luxury sport sedan available in V6 and V8 models. Both versions feature 17-inch wheels, leather seating, wood and alloy-look interior trim, eight-way power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote keyless entry and vehicle start, satellite radio, an eight-speaker Bose sound system and OnStar. The V8 version adds a CD changer, memory seating presets, heated seats (front and rear), a heated steering wheel and rain-sensing wipers. Many of the V8's features can be added to the V6 model via a series of packages.
Other features available on both models (in packages or as à la carte items) include a sunroof, xenon headlamps with washers, adaptive cruise control, a lane departure warning system, a blind spot warning system, a head-up display, and heated and ventilated front seats. The navigation system is bundled with a Bose surround-sound audio system. There is also the Performance Handling Package, which adds better wheels, tires and brakes. An adaptive suspension system (Magnetic Ride Control) is also available, as are larger 18-inch wheels.
Performance & mpg
The standard engine on the 2008 Cadillac STS is a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 302 horsepower and 272 lb-ft of torque. Despite a significant increase in horsepower for 2008, fuel efficiency has improved and tailpipe emissions have been reduced. The optional engine choice is a 4.6-liter V8 making 320 hp and 315 lb-ft of torque. Both engines come only with a six-speed automatic transmission, and both can be ordered in rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive guise. In performance testing, the STS V8 reached 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. Considering that the new V6 accelerates with similar gusto and turns in better fuel mileage, it's hard to justify the V8's added price and weight.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control and a full complement of airbags are standard on every Cadillac STS. The airbags include front-seat side and full-length side curtains. For 2008, there are a variety of advanced technologies designed to prevent accidents, including lane departure warning, a blind zone alert system and active steering. The latter is available only on all-wheel-drive V8 models, and is notable for turning the front wheels into a skid when rear wheels lose traction. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety frontal-offset crash testing, the STS scored a rating of "Good," the highest possible. It scored a second-best rating of "Acceptable" for side-impact protection.
Although large in size, the 2008 Cadillac STS sedan feels three-fourths its size when driven with enthusiasm, yet it rides like a supple luxury car when you're gobbling up the miles on the highway. Cadillac offers an optional Magnetic Ride suspension that includes Touring and Sport modes. In Touring mode the Cadillac STS provides a cushy ride and composed handling, although the car will still dive into the turns with unwavering composure and never feels as if it's sprung too softly. In the Performance setting, the handling is a little sharper and the ride a bit stiffer, but the STS handles so well in Touring that we question the necessity of the two settings. Braking is strong as well, with progressive pedal action and an impressively short 120-foot stopping distance from 60 mph. The torquey new V6 is much better than the engine it replaces. With its V8-matching acceleration and higher fuel economy, the base-model STS would now be our pick over the pricier V8 version.
Cadillac snazzed up the STS interior significantly for 2008 with higher-quality wood and the addition of tasteful alloy trim. A sporty new steering wheel looks and feels better, while more wheel-mounted controls have been added. The good fit and finish remains and luxury buyers should be pleased with this Cadillac's generally high-class ambience. There are some demerits, though, mostly having to do with some low-grade plastic trim pieces that put the STS at a disadvantage against the top European and Japanese luxury sedans. Controls are straightforward and easy to use, with the exception of the confounding memory-setting procedure for the driver seat, mirrors, radio and climate controls. Unlike traditional systems, which place buttons on the door or driver seat, you must dive deep into the navigation touchscreen to set memory functions. It's frustrating and unnecessarily complicated, but at least it's something done only occasionally.
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Features & Specs
More About This Model
You've got to give it to Cadillac. With the 2008 STS, the company has increased the power output of its V6 engine by 47 horsepower and also increased the car's overall shininess by 103 percent.
Since the introduction of the current-generation STS in 2005, this middle-of-the-road sedan has been the overlooked middle child of the Caddy lineup. It's never been the athlete that the smaller CTS has been. Nor has it been anywhere near as accommodating or successful as its big brother, the DTS.
So it is with just a smidge of guilt that we reveal here that our greatest interest in this reworked STS lies in its new 302-hp, direct-injection 3.6-liter V6 and six-speed automatic transmission. This combination will be the uplevel powertrain for the fully redesigned 2008 CTS sedan, a car that has the panache that even this revised 2008 Cadillac STS still lacks.
Sapele Pommele, Sapele Pommele, etc.
The interior's new Sapele Pommele wood trim not only looks like genuine wood fiber, but its name also rhymes with itself, so it's as enjoyable to pronounce as it is to see as you look around the new, less dour interior. Can't say that about walnut, can you?
We also like the handsome new three-spoke steering wheel with satin metal spokes and a rim inlaid with Sapele Pommele. We like the new satin metal trim that sets off the Sapele Pommele on the center stack. We like the new instrument panel gauges, and while they are not quite "chronograph-like" as Cadillac claims, they are cheery and considerably less cheap-looking than the dials they replace. Also they are mounted quite close to several more chunks of Sapele Pommele wood veneer. Why this kind of warm, luxurious detailing hasn't been a part of the current-generation STS since its introduction in 2005 is beyond us.
Likewise we generally like the changes that have been made to the exterior of the '08 STS. Particularly nice is the big grille, which has dark egg-crate grilles within each segment of the bright and shiny egg-crate grille. If you're having trouble visualizing this, go have a look at your nearest Escalade. It's much more handsome than it sounds and gives the STS nose some character in place of the insipid look of the previous front end.
We suspect Cadillac was reluctant to provide too much luxury adornment for the 2005 STS for fear it might be dismissed as something less than the serious German-style sedan it aspired to be. But we have no problem with chrome. It's shiny. And like the largemouth bass and fans of Las Vegas, we like shiny things. Every 2008 STS gets this king-of-trim material on each of its four door handles, the rocker panels and the dinky fender vents.
Go Direct to 302 Horsepower
The 302-hp, 3.6-liter direct-injection V6 makes more peak horsepower than BMW's new twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6. OK, the Cadillac V6 only makes two more horses than the premium Munich motor, but it also makes a whopping 72 hp more than the normally aspirated 3.0-liter inline-6 with which the base-model 5 Series is equipped. The Cadillac V6 also has the Mercedes-Benz E350's 3.5-liter V6 covered.
Cadillac reckons 302 hp and the new standard six-speed automatic transmission is enough to get the V6-powered STS to 60 mph from a standstill in 6.5 seconds, 0.6 second quicker than the former combination of 255-hp, 3.6-liter V6 and five-speed automatic. Shooting fuel directly into the combustion chamber provides a cooler intake charge, which permits an increase in compression ratio from 10.2:1 to 11.3:1. More compression ratio plus improved flow of intake air means more power.
Direct injection also provides better fuel economy than a conventional fuel-injection system. Cadillac estimates a 3 percent reduction in fuel consumption. There's also a 25 percent reduction in cold-start hydrocarbon emissions.
So let's review. Lower emissions. Higher fuel-efficiency. And much great power. Nothing wrong with that.
And, indeed, the engine is impressive. It doesn't feel quite as powerful in the STS as its numbers suggest, but perhaps this is due to the car's weight and the six-speed transmission's reluctance to downshift. And Caddy's V6 also transmits some vibration through the accelerator pedal and steering wheel and even sounds a bit strained at very high engine speeds.
Incidentally, the 320-hp Northstar V8 naturally is still available for the 2008 Cadillac STS.
Electrons Are Taking Over
Other changes to the 2008 STS reflect Cadillac's decision to use this car as a showcase of new technology. For this car, there are three such new technologies, all of which are related to safety.
Most significant is the integration of the variable-ratio steering arrangement with the stability control system. Much like BMW's active steering, the Cadillac system varies the steering effect according to speed, so the same amount of angle on the steering wheel delivers a steering ratio of 12:1 at low speeds and a 20:1 steering ratio at high speeds. The goal is to reduce the amount of steering wheel spinning required around town but without any sacrifice in the impression of high-speed stability.
Integrated as it is with the stability control system, the steering can also automatically provide a little countersteer should the rear of the car get loose for some reason. It sounds a little creepy in theory, as if the electrons were taking command of the car, but we found it pretty effective. The active steering system is available only for the V8-powered, all-wheel-drive STS.
The excellent Magnetic Ride Control dampers are available on V8 cars only. The new-for-2008 performance handling package — including 18-inch chrome-plated wheels, Brembo brakes with four-piston calipers and wider Michelin Pilot Sport summer tires — is offered on the V8-powered STS in either standard rear-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive. Meanwhile, the handling package is available for the rear-drive V6 STS but not on the all-wheel-drive V6 STS. Ordering an STS with the exact combination of attributes and technologies you'd prefer might be like playing bingo with the check-off boxes on the order sheet.
Blind Me With Science
Every 2008 STS can be had with Cadillac's new and annoying Lane Departure Warning system. Like similar systems already on the market, Cadillac's Lane Departure Warning system uses a camera housed in a conspicuously large black plastic box beside the rearview mirror to detect the lane markers on the road in front of the car.
Once you drift too close to a lane marker, the system beeps three times and flashes a yellow icon on the instrument panel. It would seem the only people to benefit from such a system are exactly those people who shouldn't be on the road in the first place, such as the sleepy, the drunk or the terminally uncoordinated.
Cadillac will also wire up your STS to detect vehicles in the blind spots around its rear flanks. A little icon flashes on the outside mirror if someone is hanging out in your no-vision zone.
The Bottom Line on the Middle Line
The 2008 Cadillac STS goes on sale in July of this year for what we estimate to be a modest increase in price over the '07 model. It is more handsome, more distinctive and certainly more powerful than the model it updates. All this makes the STS a better car.
Yet the brawny, substantially new CTS arrives only about a month or two later than the STS, and this will steal what little crackle of thunder the bigger car generates. So we anticipate that the DTS will remain the best-selling Cadillac sedan for at least a couple of years. This leaves the 2008 Cadillac STS in its familiar role as the overlooked middle child.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Used 2008 Cadillac STS Overview
The Used 2008 Cadillac STS is offered in the following submodels: STS Sedan. Available styles include 4dr Sedan (3.6L 6cyl 6A), and Luxury 4dr Sedan (4.6L 8cyl 6A).
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Should I lease or buy a 2008 Cadillac STS?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.