: 2002 Cadillac Seville SLS: A superb luxury car or a childhood illusion?

09-11-07, 02:08 PM
Let me first preface all of this by saying that this Cadillac is without a doubt, the nicest car I've ever owned.

Iíve been enamored by these automobiles since a very young age, having subsequently developed a lifelong infatuation with them. A Cadillac had always been the car I aspired to own; they were to me, the pinnacle of motorcars; they were in every sense of the term, "The Standard of the World." In trying to figure out how I cultivated this impression, I think it stems from the fact that as a child, those I knew who drove Cadillacs were adults whom I both respected and admired. There was the sheer grandeur surrounding the chance to ride in one. When in fact one is four feet tall and riding in one of these great machines, everything is downright spectacular. The large swaths of leather and wood, all of the tiny little chrome buttons and switches, and the wonderfully cavernous interior all amounted to an occasion as special as one's birthday, or Christmas, or waking up on an Easter morn to a giant basket of chocolate and candies.

I consider myself lucky to be in the position now where I can own and maintain one, but after three weeks of ownership I'm afraid the infatuation may have been for naught, but through the looking-glass.

Let me tell you the reality of the situation - birthdays mean you're only a year closer to your death, there is no Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny is really only a big, burly truck driver named "Duke" or "Butch," that delivers the candy to your local supermarket. What's even worse than all of that? I'm afraid that Cadillac is not the "Standard of the World," not by a mile.

Even with my illusions shattered and hopes dashed, the Cadillac Seville is one hell of a good looking car.

Looking toward the exterior, a quick glance shows this generation Seville to be no different than its immediate predecessor. While still appearing to be chiseled from a solid block of metal, this Seville is a bit softer around the edges despite coming across as both leaner and more athletic overall. The lines running along the side panels are more pronounced than before, and flows nicely into itís redesigned back-end. Around back one will find one of two external Cadillac wreaths affixed proudly into itís LED brake light, which runs almost the full width of the carís deck lid, nestled above the new, larger taillights. Around front, the trademark egg-crate grille is a touch lower than on itís previous incarnation and is flanked by more rounded, integrated headlight clusters, anchored by the optional fog lamps installed beneath. Having been finished with the optional monochromatic package leaves overall brightwork limited to the Sevilleís badging, window trim, and itís also-optional 16Ē wheels.

All of this combined with itís wide, hunkered stance provides this Cadillac with an inherent look thatís both aggressive yet conservative, powerful while being subdued. An appropriate appearance because, boy is it fast too.

I have yet to take the car to its electronically governed speed of 112MPH, the point where this Cadillac says, "No son, you've already eaten your cake," and proceeds to stop sending fuel to the engine. One can tell however, that with the proper rated tires and the removal of the electronic nanny, this car wants to run well beyond into territories occupied by marques that begin with "Ps", "Fs," and "Ls." Despite the fact I haven't quite reached that point of electronic chastising, the Seville feels as poised and collected at extra-legal speeds as any car with sporting pretenses should feel. Although there are some who think that a sporty, front drive car is an oxymoron, this Cadiilac really handles the task with aplomb.

GM has gone a long way in ensuring the Seville's sporting aspirations with it's continued development and incorporation of the Northstar System, an integrated powertrain, chassis, braking, and steering system that together provide a truly world-class ride. The crown jewel of the Northstar System is of course, the Northstar engine - an all-aluminum, 32-valve, DOHC V8 engine that produces a silky-smooth 275hp at 5600rpm and an earth-moving 300lb-ft of torque at a low 4000rpm. Cast for the role of handling all that power is GM's venerable "HydraMatic" 4T80-E transmission.

While only being a four-speed automatic, this gearbox is excellent at it's job, providing both near transparent operation during lazy-Sunday cruises as well as aggressive shift points for more spirited driving. It's inclusion of the Stabilitrak system helps to keep the 4000lb Seville pointed in whichever direction the variable-assist steering wheel tells it to go. This system, which has independent control over the Seville's four disc brakes also ensures that the car remains composed if the driver gets overly-confident with his driving abilities, within reason of course.

While the General may have outdone itself with this Cadillac's powertrain, one step inside reveals an interior more suited for the likes of say, Dame Edna than for actual royalty.

It's as if the original design team was on the right track and then suddenly, out of nowhere struck by some horrible, unknown illness leaving the unsuspecting victims bereft of all visual and tactile senses. To make matters worse, General Motors, scrambling in a panicked state, seemingly chose to replace them with those who could only be but a handful of mid-level accountants from Hyundai, some Chrysler junior marketing execs, and a janitor from Lexus for good measure.

The results were less than stellar.

Gone is all of the excessive, ornate ostentation from the land-yachts of yore. In it's place is an interior befitting a generic, non-descript, Japanese, entry-lux sedan. There hasn't possibly been a space this devoid of character since the 2000 Republican convention.

Take the wood trim for example, Cadillac went through all the trouble of trudging through the rainforests of Cameroon to chop down the revered and endangered Microberlinia bisulcata in order to adorn their cars with tasteful bits of real Zebrano wood, only to have mismatched pieces. Perhaps this is just an anomaly specific to my car, but it's noticeable, and it's irritating.

Then there are those seats, good in theory but bad in execution. It boggles my mind that even with eight-way directional control, adjustable lumbar, and adjustable height headrests, I for whatever reason cannot find a truly comfortable driving position.

And those map lights, whatís the point of even installing them?

There was a time when Cadillac used to install map lights bright enough to land a Cessna. Everyone remembers which oneís Iím speaking of Ė the oneís that were large enough to be pushed without even looking at them, the oneís which put off so much light that even Stevie Wonder could find what he was looking for. Soft light may be appropriate for ambient lighting, but not for a map light, not for a light with a purpose.

While there is more, I dare not delve any further for the sake of my own sanity, but this is not to say that there aren't some genuinely nice touches inside the Seville.

For starters, as someone who has never owned a vehicle equipped with both a tilt and telescoping wheel it is a welcome option, especially when trying to find that elusive driving position. Then there is the parking brake that self-releases once the gear shifter is moved out of Park - ingenious. As is the ultra-sonic rear-parking assist.

The one downside though is that I can never plead ignorance after backing over my neighbor's annoying dog, or children, ever again. I jest of courseÖ

The automatic climate control is also top-notch. Anyone with a significant other who seemingly dwells along a different line of latitude than oneís own will especially appreciate its dual-zone operation.

The other "automatics" are welcome features as well, such as the optionally-equipped RainSense II automatic wiper system and the Twilight Sentinel automatic headlight system.

I have however discovered a slight annoyance when using the two in tandem. It seems that the automatic headlights come on whenever the wipers are on. To have the RainSense system active they have to be left on in the ďintermittentĒ position. This all means of course that if I wish to take full advantage of the rain-sensing wipers, the automatic lights automatically become redundant. Needless to say I've opted to enjoy the automatic headlights as I, like many others use them much more frequently. This means I have resigned myself to manually operating my wipers.

How twentieth-century.

When all is said and done I really like this car, as the Cadillac Seville is without a doubt a fine automobile, but does this fine car stack up against expectations, against the illusion of what a Cadillac should be?

Not so much.

While GM went the extra mile with all of this car's underpinnings, they failed to back up their statement on the superficial level. Sure it's a handsome car and it's powered by a world class engine, but it is on that superficial level, that level dominated by all of man's senses, that one begs to ask a fundamental question.

What about this car makes it better than the rest of the competition?

For a car that is supposed to represent "The Standard of the World," Iím afraid the most telling answer is it's obvious lack of one.

2002 Cadillac Seville SLS Quick Look:

Four door, front-wheel drive, luxury sedan.
4.6L, 275hp, 32-valve DOHC V8
4-speed, automatic transmission.

Original MSRP - $48,209
Current Market Value* - $11,000-$14,000
5 year average depreciation value Ė 73%
EPA Mileage Estimates Ė 19/28mpg
Real world mixed-driving average Ė 20mpg

Performance - *****
Ride/Handling - ****
Comfort - ****
Interior - ***
Exterior - ****
Amenities - *****

ted tcb
09-11-07, 11:49 PM
Solid review.
I agree on the rainsense wipers ... I have the expensive HID option, and I hate driving with them on all day long, just so my wipers are parked in the auto position ... dumb design.
I also agree on the seats .... tons of adjustments, but I never get comfortable, and seats this hard should really have deep side bolsters, or just give up on the sporting pretenses and make the seats lounger soft.
I disagree on the rest of the interior ... I feel that Cadillac is a leader in the application of real wood with auto interiors.
I find the depth and luster of the zebrano wood to be absolutely gorgeous, and its everywhere, from my steering wheel, shifter, console, and all
along the door panels. Mine match up very nicely.
The teardrop instrument panel and illuminated analog gauges are seemless, elegant, and timeless to my eyes.
One of my favourite features is the automated key start ... just jab the key all the way to the right, release, and the car
cranks on its own ... way cool!
I love the ride quality, straight line tracking, trip computer function, Bose 425 watt system, rear seat heaters, and beautiful 17" polished
chrome rims.
The sound of the Northstar and dual exhaust under WOT is pure American hot rod ... gotta love it.
The build quality is average ... at 6 yrs old, I'm starting to notice the wear on certain components.
My wife's 02 Tribute is tighter than my 01 STS, which doesn't thrill me to say the least ... my car is starting to develop some
creaks and squeaks.
Having said this, if I want a perfect STS, I could cough up $60k and purchase one. For the $12k mine cost me, I am quite content to
live with the odd rattle.
All in all, great used car value if you can afford the odd expensive repair.

09-12-07, 12:39 AM

Thanks for taking the time to read the review and comment! I really do like the car and it is by far the nicest I've ever owned. Even despite having a "lowly" SLS, the performance is utterly exhilarating for a car that weighs two tons.

I agree with you completely on the seats. I have no problem with firmer seats - I generally prefer them, but to properly execute these particular firm seats they need much more in the way of lateral support. More side bolstering on the seat backs, as well as more side and thigh bolstering on the seat cushion - being of slender build I find the seats do a poor job with keeping me snugly in place.

The wipers/headlights thing just confounds me. I wouldn't think it would have been that much more work to have gotten them right. In my mind, "automatic, rainsensing wipers" means just that - I shouldn't have to engage the wipers at all for them to work. It makes sense to have the lights come on with the wipers as it is mandated by law in most places now, but how hard would it have been to tie some sort of five minute delay with the lights after the wipers were last engaged - that way for light or intermittent showers the lights could stay on without constantly flashing on and off each time the wipers sweep across the windshield.

As far as the wood trim goes, like I said I think it's an anomaly specific to my Seville. I love the depth, texture, and color of the trim that wraps around the dash and is on the doors and center console. However, the shifter knob wood is noticeably darker than the dash/console trim and has a burled texture. That would be fine but the wood on the steering wheel is noticeably lighter than the dash/console. So I'm left with three different shades of wood in my car. I wouldn't have mentioned anything if it weren't noticeably so.

Although I am 98% sure that mine was just a fluke I do wonder if something like this has shown up on other SLSs? The reason I wonder is because since that wheel/shifter trim was an optional package on the SLS opposed to the STS which came from the factory with such, perhaps there could have been random mismatched pieces installed on the SLS every now and then... who knows.

Aside from a few little things here and there I do think that these used Sevilles represent some of the best values on the luxury market. I'm glad and support all those who feel the need to buy a brand new car every few years because once they've taken the astronomical hit in depreciation people like me can pick up one of these beauties for up to 70% off the original price, even if I have to wait 4-5 years for it!

Thanks again for reading!

09-12-07, 09:08 PM
Great thorough review . Our 01 SLS is perhaps the best car we have owned. It has features I could not even get in 06 and 07. Heated rear seats and power tilt/scope steering wheel were not avalaible on my 06 SRX AWD V8. Power steering wheel WAS STILL not available on my 07 Lade. I still love driving the Seville .

09-13-07, 01:00 PM
Excellent review, sounds like it was straight out of a magazine. I definitely agree on the seats, no matter how much I tweak the settings I still can't find a proper driving position. Not to mention the shallow side bolsters, I find myself sliding around in even the smallest bends.

Though for endless comfortable cruising, the car shines like no other.

09-13-07, 02:48 PM
Excellent review, sounds like it was straight out of a magazine. I definitely agree on the seats, no matter how much I tweak the settings I still can't find a proper driving position. Not to mention the shallow side bolsters, I find myself sliding around in even the smallest bends.

Though for endless comfortable cruising, the car shines like no other.

Thanks for reading! I know some don't particularly care for my long-windedness...

As far as the *ride* of the car, it's fantastic for cruising. It remains straight as an arrow, with very little in the way of bobbing or weaving, all while soaking up most road imperfections, granted they are smaller than say - Rhode Island!

But those damn seats... the farthest we've driven the car thus far has been to our summer house down in Chincoteague, which is about 170 miles from our home. We didn't even get through Maryland before I had to stop and stretch my legs, which at that point I let the wife take over driving. The seats themselves are nice, I was totally comfortable while riding shotgun, it's just when driving that they're a pain.

In comparison I could make that entire 170 mile trip in my Regal GS without stopping and be fine when we go there - not much in the way of bolstering, but plenty "cush" enough to keep your posterior happy. Then on the other end of the spectrum I could drive for hours on end in our Sebring when it was still in daily driver duty. Those seats definitely aren't "cush," but their design and relative driving position made them extremely comfortable - I've driven that thing all the way to SC without the slightest bit of fatigue.

But I'm completely with you - despite being 6' tall, I'm not what one would consider a "big" person and I find myself sliding around a bit in the twisties. The best compromise I've found is to keep the lumbar totally deflated so that the seat back can "hug" me as much as possible. But I can't do that for too long cause I'm getting old and lumbar support is my friend :yup:

But thanks again for reading! I'm glad your could relate to some of the things I wrote!

09-15-07, 03:15 PM
That's one of the greatest reviews I have ever read !
I will only add a few things for outside and inside .
The car really is so beautiful and looks so hot . However I have to say , since it's a Cadillac -albeit it's made for Europe- some Cadillac features are lack .
For instance : Bumper guards deleted I really see no point of deleting them . Ok,Most American cars don't come with them but wouldn't they look cool ?
Another complaint from me is that rear blinkers are yellow color which is very European rather than American ! Ok, this might target for Europe but hey first of all this is America's top brand car and it's American !
Other than that I can't pick up more flaws regarding the outside
LAck of chrome trim is the biggest flaw but keep in mind I am a chrome fan lol
Interior :
You summed it up nicely and so well. I want to add a few comments on the wood trim . It's really nice and help it's class differ to other class is to use real materials like wood . So is leather . Who would like to have a fake leather in their car !
Well, speaking of zebrano I ain't a fan of them yet I love wood interior . However I prefer burr walnut / walnut over zebrano . I wish Cadillac should give other wood trim preferences as well .
I don't know why but whenever I get in a Jaguar I could feel and smell resonances of wood and interior ! I ascribe this Jaguar do use a different material rather than being more luxurious .
Seat controls are nice but quality of the plastic used in Sevilles suck ! I hate to say but this is an Un Cadillac .Still, much better than its previous models .I wish they had used more leather in the door trims as well as headliner . The headliner looks so cheap considering it is a Cadillac .
There are some rattles and odd noises but I don't care with them as much .
It's the best FWD car ever made imho and hopefully will be . I must admit , if it was not a Cadillac I would never buy a Seville due to FWD .
I love it when the seats "whirr" when you sit on the seats . I think this auto /power lumbar support is one of the coolest features .
Rear climate controls and air vents nicer than a W140 .
It rides great but I still love how FWB floats around lol
In general , I love the car but it's some flaws and mostly due to using of cheap plastic !
It's not the best Cadillac ever made but still a Cadillac ! :thumbsup:

09-17-07, 10:20 PM
I [heart] my Zebrano!

01-25-08, 04:56 AM
I also love Zebrano wood in my STS ! :)

Hovever . . . very good review

11-03-08, 12:02 AM
I am looking at a 2001 SLS with 112k miles on it how long should it last ..I have never owned a caddy befor i have always had Town Cars .

Well i take that back i did buy a caddy years ago but only had about 3 weeks then i sold it .

11-08-08, 09:03 AM
I have a late model Deville, but it comes with Zebrano wood trim, which I love.

Sorry to hear about the interior, I feel somewhat similarly underwhelmed by my car's interior (review coming soon!). I will say this though, when I purchased, I thought it was great. Only after cross-shopping with other luxury brands did I feel the Caddy was somewhat lacking in the interior department.

11-09-08, 11:31 AM
You should post this in the Seville/Eldorado forum if you want responses...

Ernest Henn
03-22-10, 03:20 PM
My god your glass is half empty not half full.Do you think GM made the Cadillac just for you.There are thousands of people out there that are not quite so particular as you are.They enjoy a car that is head and shoulders above must others.If you want to spend thousands or tens of thousands more you can get custom what ever you like.I own a 02 DTS and let me tell you it is by far the best car I have ever owned let alone driven.The seats fit me and are very comfortable.My god,to make such a big issue about the wipers.I think it makes perfect sense the way they are set up.If it is too much trouble for you to turn the switch on to the first position when it starts to rain then maybe you should consider haveing someone else do the driving for you.The old saying that you can't make everyone happy certainly seems to apply here.I am sure if you take your car to a custom shop they can remmedy all you problems for $$$$.I for one am going to keep mine the way it is and enjoy every minute of it.Try makeing your glass half full.Thanks for your time.

03-22-10, 06:39 PM
Holy thread revival!