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I’m a used car buyer. The idea is to get the most car for your money and let someone else pay for the depreciation. After driving a used 2004 Chevy Impala to 156K miles, I decided to “step up”. The Chevy was a wonderfully capable and reliable car, but lacked bells and whistles. I started looking at Cadillac DTSs, but I was scared off by the archaic Northstar engine and battery under the rear passenger seat. So, I found a 2005 V6 STS with 47K miles (low miles for a 7-year old car). Most of what I say in this review would also apply to 2006 and 2007 STSs. You’ll note that this review points out lots of flaws with the car’s basic design, but as of now I still like the car and I don’t regret buying it. What this car offers is an inexpensive, feature-loaded, good-looking vehicle that has manageable size, uses regular fuel, and has reasonable power and gas mileage (actual 25 mpg on the highway at 70 mph). My purchase price was less than one third the original selling price and about as much as a low end new Fiat 500 or a high end Kia Rio, so I can accept some compromises.

From the outside the red car has an aggressive stance, a wedge profile, and with tinted windows it looks intimidating. I think so far this is the best rendition of Cadillac’s Art and Science styling, and even better than the rather cartoon faced CTS, ATS and XTS. The inside looks good too, but it’s made of very low quality, flimsy, creaky plastic all over the place. The seats and other surfaces squeak and creak just by the materials rubbing against each other. Luckily all the plastic noises aren’t heard much during driving, but just when you push on surfaces or when you get in and out of the seats. The creaking in the driver’s seat back was driving me nuts, so I took apart the panel on the back of the from seat and discovered all the surfaces that rubbed against each other making noise. I stuffed foam between all the rubbing surfaces I could get access to and this almost entirely eliminated the seat noises. The front seats are also uncomfortable, narrow, and hard. To make matters worse, the foot wells are very narrow and the side of the center console bulges into the foot well, restricting movement of the driver’s right knee. So, if you are big and wide, this isn’t the car for you.

There is very little storage inside the car. The door pockets are 2 inches wide and 2 deep and the center console storage is a 4x4x4 cube, but with build-in dividers which make the small space even less usable. The glove box is a ridiculous joke: it can hold one business size envelope and a couple of pocket tissue packs – no kidding. I can’t find anywhere in the interior to store a regular size flashlight. In the back seat area the rear doors have map pockets and there are pockets on the back of both from seats. There is a narrow pass-through from the center of the back seat into the trunk, which is ultimately useless – yet another idiotic paradigm espoused by “luxury car” market research that says rich people go skiing, but don’t go to Home Depot. The trunk is equally small for a car that looks “full size” on the outside. You cannot fit a 2x4 foot board in the trunk. The height of the trunk opening is only 17 inches, so it makes for a good gauge for sizing your airline carryon bag. On a positive note, the trunk lid is hinged on external gas shocks, so there is no further intrusion into the trunk storage space.

As I said, this car is loaded, including heated front and rear seats, cooled front seats, navigation with XM radio (I’m not sure who paid for that, but I have it, including TV audio channels). The NAV system is fairly easy to use without having to dig through the user’s manual for basic functions. There is also voice activation for car features, but you’d have to learn some key phrases for the car to recognize. The voice feature can be set to work in French, Italian, or German, or a British accent if you think that’s sexy. The car’s automated and memory features can be configured via the NAV system. One advantage of an older car is that there are still real buttons to control many of the key features, including audio and A/C, so that for typical usage you don’t need to dig deep into any menus. The NAV map is loaded via a DVD and the multi-format DVD/CD can also play mp3 files and movies (I think only if the can is stopped). This car has a Bose audio system with a 6-CD changer in the dash. I’m not much impressed with the sound quality, even though the system has 10 speakers.

The car weighs almost 2 tons, but the 260 hp/252 ft-lbs engine has great pick-up and passing power for daily driving. Cornering capability is good on freeway on/off ramps, even on variable radius curves. Turning radius is impressive as you can u-turn almost completely into the adjacent lane on the opposite side of a typical street median. On the road the car is reasonably quite, and emits muffled rumbles going over road imperfections. Much of car noise comes from the tires, but that depends on the type of road surface. Drive over new rubberized asphalt and it’s very quite. Drive over a ribbed concrete surface and you’ll have to turn up the stereo.

Odds and Ends: On the Web there is talk about the different sizes of front and back tires: the OEM tires are different sizes only in width, not diameter. The rims are the same size front and back and have the same bold pattern (as best as I’ve been able to find out); so, when you replace the tires you can put the same size tires on both front and back. My car has the same size tires (255/50-17). The car uses synthetic motor oil, so that’s an added expense. Being a GM car, it uses the corrosive DEX coolant and surprisingly the owner’s manual says to change the coolant at 150K miles! That’s insane, given that the old DEX coolant would rot the engine and certainly the heater core by then. I haven’t tried to change any light bulb, but looking at the front light assemblies it seems that it would be a major and pricy job.
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