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 2004 Luxury Buyer's Guide
by Martha Hindes

Cadillac STS
Cadillac STS

Luxury, performance? Performance, luxury? Which one will it be? Yes, BMW is known as a driver's car, with solid comfort taking a back seat to performance requirements. And yes, Lexus is revered for its gliding presence, at times at the expense of real road manners say critics.

Cadillac wants you to know there's something new on the scene that promises to deliver the best of both. The new STS performance sedan, emerging for '05 to replace the aging Seville, is the latest iteration in Cadillac's new breed of vehicle that has fine-tuned rear- or-all-wheel-drive capability without diminishing creature comfort.

While not the largest luxury model in Caddy's lineup (the older DeVille has that honor), it's far trendier; with such a wide spectrum of variations it can please an abundance of tastes. What other luxury car can go from about a $40,000 base price (in plain V-6 wrapping) to the $63,000 range for a loaded, bells and whistles V-8. And if you spring for the bigger bucks, there are even some extra toys for you to enjoy. Among them, a personalized surround sound system for each individual occupant from the Bose system's 15 (count them) speakers. Add in "Intellibeam" headlamps that automatically meld from high- to low-beam for oncoming traffic, a unique remote start with pre-cooling seats for those 90-degree-plus days, and "hers" and "his" auto door-opening key fobs and you're set.

All-wheel-drive versions for both the 255-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 and 320-hp, 4.6-liter Northstar V-8 add to driving kicks, especially in the "performance" rather than "touring" mode. Magnetic Ride Control, on equipped models, gauges and controls road bump feedback a thousand times a second. That boosts its performance, as well; to cut through corners with flat-bottomed precision and claim unfettered dominance of the road.

If you've been waiting for the best balance of drivability and cushiness in a handsome, crisp and no-nonsense exterior, with "cashmere" and Eucalyptus wood among the toney interior touches, hushed by "quiet steel" construction and enhanced safety features (take a breath) -- then by all means check out a Cadillac dealership in September. That's when the STS actually goes on sale. If the merger of talents is as effective as the company promises, what else can we say, but "Wow! What a ride."

Acura RL Luxury SedanJaguar XJ Long Wheelbase
BMW 645 CiLexus LS 430
Cadillac STSLincoln Town Car
Chrysler 300CMercedes-Benz S-Class
Infiniti Q45Volkswagen Phaeton