PROS: Classic styling, powerful Northstar engine, interior accommodations and room, handling better than expected…
CONS: …but still massive, and no sports car; interior plastics not “Standard of the World,” Northstar reliability issues
After a brief stint driving a 1993 Ford Thunderbird, I decided it was time to buy another Cadillac. My budget at the time called for a slightly used model, a 1999 or 2000. Preferring the exterior styling of the ‘99, I found two with low miles for fair prices.
I’m sure you have heard of the phrase “love at first sight.” That was how I felt after seeing the dark blue Deville Concours. The salesman, an older gentleman named Mel, was truly a class act, even allowing me to test drive the car without his supervision. Though I had another car to look at, I decided right then and there this was the one. Without a second thought, I bought the car. An interesting aside: while going through the financial paperwork, another salesman asked my salesman, “What’s the deal with the Cadillac?”
“It’s sold,” Mel replied. Fate had smiled on me. Had I looked at the other car, chances are good it would not have been there when I returned. This bit of good luck was reinforced by a sign in Mel’s office which read, in all capital letters - “REMEMBER, THE CAR YOU LOOK AT TODAY AND PLAN TO BUY TOMORROW MAY BE THE CAR SOMEONE LOOKED AT YESTERDAY AND PLANNED TO BUY TODAY!”
The exterior styling of the 1999 Deville is classic, rivaled only be the last generation ’93-’96 Fleetwood as most regal Cadillac of the 90s. With a total length of just under seventeen and a half feet, the Deville’s size is truly intimidating. From every angle, the exterior is decidedly Cadillac - the egg-crate grille, the handsome profile, the vertical taillights - all recalling Cadillac styling in the most classic sense. The only thing missing on the Concours model is a proper, upright hood ornament; for the Concours, the “Crest and Wreath” is located on the grille.
Under the hood, the 4.6 liter Northstar V-8 powers the monstrously proportioned Cadillac from zero to sixty faster than one would expect. With 300 horsepower, the Concours gets an additional 25 hp more than the base Deville. Under heavy acceleration, the Front-Wheel Drive format can unveil some rather concerning torque steer, but only while pushing the car in ways it should only be driven on a track. For average, everyday driving, torque steer is not a concern. Overall, performance is excellent, more than adequate for everyday driving and with enough get-up-and-go when necessary.
Handling is better than expected for a two ton car sporting a Cadillac badge. Far from a land yacht, the Deville can handle most curves at a decent speed, but is certainly no sports car. Traction control, stability control, and anti-lock brakes come standard. Though the traction control rarely intrudes, it can be somewhat overzealous at low speeds (it can be turned off). However, it is on the freeway where the Deville truly excels. Imperfections in the road are handily absorbed by the Deville’s suspension, and speed-sensitive steering helps to keep the car on the road.
Though interior dimensions offer huge numbers, the interior cabin is where the Deville is a mixed bag. The leather seats are comfortable and supportive, and the leather-wrapped steering wheel and real Zebrano wood trim are a delight to the eyes and fingertips. However, rather cheap-looking (and feeling) plastic lines the interior panels, dash, and center console, and is very unfitting in a $40,000 luxury car. With its immense dimensions, it is possible to fit the entire starting lineup of your favorite basketball team inside and cruise comfortably to their next away game halfway across the country, without a single complaint about legroom.
Once seated inside the Deville, one will find an accouterment of amenities, for both driver and passengers. Power windows and locks are standard. Standard Air Conditioning can keep the interior cabin cool even on the hottest day. The dual climate zone system can hold a different temperate for the passenger if they so choose, and a rear mounted blower makes sure passengers in the rear seat aren‘t left out. For colder days, optional heated seats can keep buns warmer than a bakery. The steering wheel features controls for both the Electronic Climate Control and the stereo system. And the Concours’ upgraded stereo system is fantastic, with multiple settings to help customize the listening experience, whether the listener prefers Ludwig von Beethoven’s “Symphony Number Nine” or Jay-Z’s “Ninety-Nine Problems.” When the stereo is turned off, the interior cabin becomes an isolation chamber; the low noise level at cruising speed is quite fitting for a luxury car.
Over the course of ownership, little problems have reared their heads over the years. The radiator developed a pinhole leak and needed replacement. The turn signal switch failed. The A/C system needed to be recharged. Little things such as these plagued the Deville’s life, but nothing catastrophic until the engine was replaced at 109,000 miles, prompted by the infamous Northstar head gasket issues. Though dealership service can potentially be a wallet’s worst nightmare, all problems were resolved quickly. Only one problem recurred, but it was quickly fixed.
Overall, the Cadillac Deville Concours truly impresses. I prefer the classic styling of the ‘99 to the more generic ‘00 - ‘05 modes that followed. It is a confident highway cruiser and continues to turn heads to this day. It’s a shame Cadillac didn’t sweat the details with the interior, otherwise this car would truly be “Standard of the World.”