Cadillac STS – where the V-6 strikes the right note

By Jim Meachen

Like most automotive journalists, we’re power junkies. The more power the more fun. That’s usually the bottom line.

But there are other things power brings to the table. For instance, the more power the better to extricate one-self from those occasional troubling encounters on crowded highways. Power is confidence inspiring.

So when there’s a choice of engines, we usually desire to drive the biggest and most powerful in the lineup.

But as much as we love horsepower, we find torque and flex speed just as alluring so sometimes we recommend a smaller engine if it’s up to the task of moving the sheetmetal in an expeditious manner, because it’s usually more fuel efficient and comes at a smaller price.

This is the case with the 2008 Cadillac STS sedan. We recommend Cadillac’s new V-6 engine over the carryover V-8. In fact, we think the new 302-horsepower direct-injection V-6 is a better choice not only in regards to price and gas mileage, but from the performance aspect as well. It’s a superb engine.

We hope Cadillac dealers who have scads of 4.6-liter 320-horsepower Northstar V-8 models on their lots don’t get too upset. But dear reader, forget eight cylinders if purchasing a new STS. This is a rare situation where 302 is better than 320.

The standard 2008 STS comes with the new direct injection V-6 with variable valve timing, a real honey of an engine that we discovered was dynamite in the smaller 2008 CTS. It’s just as good in the larger STS.

With direct injection technology, fuel is sprayed directly into the engine cylinder where it’s mixed with air. As the fuel vaporizes in the cylinder, the air and fuel mixture is cooled. This enables a higher compression ratio, which improves engine performance and efficiency.

Both engines, mated to six-speed automatics, will propel the STS from 0 to 60 in about 6.3 seconds. So there’s really no performance advantage with eight cylinders. But the V-8 edition starts at $52,555, nearly 10 grand more than the V-6, which begins at $43,035 including destination charge. Both versions can be purchased with all-wheel drive at extra cost.

One advantage with the V-8 trim level — it can be outfitted with General Motors’ very good Magnetic Ride Control. It’s not offered on the V-6. But that’s not a good enough reason to fork over the extra $10,000. The standard suspension setup is fine.
Another reason to buy the V-6, outside of the price differential, is its 17/26 EPA fuel rating compared to 15/24 for the V-8. And you can burn regular gas in the V-6. Cadillac officials say they recommend premium, but the engine will accept regular without a hiccup. Engine management systems are sooooo much better today.

Both V-6 and V-8 versions can be purchased with a performance handling package that includes 18-inch chrome-platted wheels, Brembo brakes with four piston calipers and wider Michelin Pilot Sport summer tires.

The current STS, in its fourth model year and has been generally overlooked by the luxury-sedan buying public. Only 21,000 STS units were sold in 2007 compared to about 26,000 in 2006. That’s a big slide from 2005 when more than 33,000 left showrooms.

We can’t understand the lack of STS appeal, but perhaps the new engine, some new gee-whiz technology and several exterior and interior upgrades will give the full-sized Cadillac a well-deserved boost in 2008.

A wider, more pronounced Cadillac-style grille together with a more in-your-face lower fascia now grace the front, and small chrome vents reside on the fenders near the A-pillar. Chromed door handles and a body-colored rear fascia highlighted by polished exhaust tips give the rear an enhanced look.

The interior gets some enjoyable upgrades as well. Sapele wood trim on the center stack together with satin metal finishes give the cabin an upscale luxury look. The center console, steering wheel, shift knob and door trim also get the wood treatment. Well done, indeed. Newly styled chrome-ringed gauges also hit just the right note of luxury.

A growing number of luxury vehicles are getting new technology designed to make the driving experience safer. And the new STS is on the cutting edge.

Here’s our take on a couple of innovations, which came in a $4,250 options package on our test car: We could do without General Motors' version of a lane departure warning system. We’ve encountered it on two or three other cars, and we aren’t sold on it. It’s more of an annoyance that we would keep in the off position. The system is controlled by a camera located in the rearview mirror that reads the lines in the road. It alerts drivers when they have strayed into another lane with both an audible and visual alert cue, in this case three chimes.

We do like the “Side Blind Zone Alert System,” which warns the driver that a vehicle is in his “blind zone” by illuminating an amber symbol on the outside rearview mirror. It works through the use of alternating radar beams, which sweep adjacent lanes of traffic.
Anything that helps eliminate the blind spot is OK by us.

Other innovations, some becoming common place, are plentiful including keyless push button ignition, remote start, adaptive cruise control and heated and ventilated seats.
An available up-level infotainment system includes one of the industry’s first OEM-installed surround-sound audio setups. The cabin is immersed with 15 Bose speakers. The 5.1 Bose audio system also has an integrated six-disc CD/DVD changer and plays formats including DVD-A, CD, and MP3. In addition, the system has Bluetooth phone capability.

While most of the controls are straight forward and intuitive, Cadillac has decided to bury memory-setting controls for the driver’s seat, radio pre-sets and climate controls in the navigation touch screen.

Our test car, with a base price of $43,035, came with a myriad of options taking the bottom line to $56,530. Most people could probably live quite nicely without some of the extras and keep the price of their STS below 50 grand.

While the completely redone CTS is grabbing all the headlines for the 2008 model year, the bigger and more passenger-friendly upgraded STS is a solid choice for people who want real space for four riders in luxurious accommodations.


Base price: $43,035; as driven, $56,530

Engine: 3.6-liter V-6

Horsepower: 302 @ 6,300 rpm
Torque: 272 foot-pounds @ 5,200 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Drive: rear wheel

Seating: 2/3

Wheelbase: 116.4 inches

Length: 196.7 inches

Curb weight: 3,929 pounds

Turning circle: 36.9 feet

Luggage capacity: 13.8 cubic feet

Fuel capacity: 17 gallons (regular works fine)

EPA mileage: 26 highway, 17 city

0-60: 6.3 seconds (Edmund's)
Also consider: Infiniti M35, Lexus GS 350, Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The Good

• Powerful new V-6 engine

• Well-done interior stacks up well in luxury class

• All-wheel drive available

The Bad

• Rear-seat legroom on tight side but better than some

The Ugly

• A very attractive base price can escalate into the stratosphere with myriad of option packages