The road beyond the headlights was black, gray and white. Black was cool. Gray was warm. White was hot.
Animals, including humans, appeared white. Animals emit lots of heat. I could see them in the distance, darting across the street or ambling along the highway. Some scrambled behind shrubbery, which appeared gray through the night-vision lens of the 2000 Cadillac DeVille DTS sedan.
Four-legged white things, probably cats, were moving behind and underneath bushy gray things. Hmm. Suppose I, or my spouse, arrived home after dark. Porch and driveway lights are off; but night vision is on. Some two-legged intruder is hiding behind the shrubbery. His white-hot "heat signature" would expose him.
Suddenly, Cadillac's night vision made sense to me. So did the OnStar communications system I once disliked. I preferred the automatic, satellite-directed navigational systems found in Acuras and BMWs. I didn't want to push an OnStar button and talk to an OnStar employee--the system is staffed 24 hours--to get map aid. That would be like asking my wife for directions. What man wants to do that?
Then Binta, my lawyer daughter, leased a Cadillac Catera. She installed OnStar with premium service. I was unimpressed--until she began using OnStar to make theater and restaurant reservations from her car using hands-free telecommunications. Once, in her adopted city of New York, she got a flat tire in a not-so-great neighborhood late at night. She hit the OnStar button and reported the situation. OnStar pinpointed her location and sent help within 25 minutes.
That made me a believer. But is all this mobile tech too much? I don't think so. Will people buy it? Yes, eventually, the same way they began buying computers and wireless phones. It's a matter of perceived value. Initially, I saw no real benefit in OnStar. My daughter did. She won't drive a car without it or some similar system.
Similarly, I thought night vision was a joke. Here was an infrared technology developed by Raytheon Systems Co. to better help our soldiers kill other soldiers on nocturnal battlefields. What was it doing in a luxury car, displaying black, gray and white images in the lower-left quadrant of the windshield?
Then I saw what I otherwise would not have seen--four-legged white things scampering behind gray bushes; a car emerging from a dark street on my left, made visible only by the white-hot heat emanating from its right-front wheel; and there was a lonely human figure, slightly bent and carrying a bag of some sort, slowly moving along the edge of a darkened Virginia road.
It made sense.
I settled into the new DeVille's leather embrace. I like Cadillac, always have, and couldn't give a pahooty about people who put down the car because of long-ago quality and stylistic sins committed in its name.
Fact is, the new DeVille is as competent as, and in some cases better that, its luxury competition from Lexus, BMW, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Jaguar and Audi.
It's just as pretty, just as well engineered, just as safe. And when it comes to technology, it beats the heck out of the competition in terms of imagination.
But don't take my word for it. Drive one and compare.
Nuts & Bolts
2000 Cadillac DeVille
Complaint: Despite its streamlined styling, the 2000 DeVille remains a big, heavy car, tipping the scales 4,047 pounds. The doors weigh so much, they seem designed for bodybuilders.
Praise: An overall beautiful, exceptionally well-engineered front-wheel-drive luxury sedan. For 2000, GM has refined the Northstar V-8 engine, increasing its fuel economy by two miles per gallon while further reducing vibration and tailpipe pollution without penalizing performance.The really good news is that DeVille owners no longer have to pay extra bucks for premium unleaded fuel. The new engine runs quite well on regular.
Head-turning quotient: The new classic. A Cadillac that has a genuine chance of capturing an audience of younger buyers.
Ride, acceleration and handling: In all three areas, the new DeVille beats or matches anything in its sales category. Period.
Engine specifications: The DeVille's Northstar 4.6-liter, 32-valve double-overhead-cam V-8 is designed to produce 300 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm.
Capacities: Seats five people. Carries 19.1 cubic feet of luggage. Holds 18.5 gallons of gasoline.
Mileage: About 27 miles per gallon in mostly highway driving.
Price: Base price is $44,700. Dealer invoice on base model is $41,056. Estimated price as tested is $50,100, including $1,995 for night vision; approximately $700 for sonar-operated rear anti-collision system; an estimated $456 federal luxury tax; and an estimated $2,249 in state and local taxes and fees. All of these are preliminary prices and subject to change.
Purse-strings note: It's hard to talk about value with a straight face in this price range, but compared with the competition, the DeVille offers excellent value for the money.