Its baffling that GM would put a four door vehicle on the market with rear windows that don’t go down… at all! Diplomat scores points for offering more standard equipment and at least being durable enough for police and fleet use. Diplomat and Monaco M-bodies had a long lifespan, from 1977 to 1989.
Coming out of the oil embargo and the smog era, it was a difficult time to be an auto enthusiast.
In case it wasn’t obvious, this video is from Chrysler.
Admittedly, Diplomat was not the worst looking car in the world. With clean lines, a tasteful hood ornament, padded vinyl roof, wire wheel covers, and Cadillac-like headlamps, it pretended to be upscale.
Nothing redeeming here. A fastback, yes. Fast, no. Oldsmobile’s attempt at European design was a failure.
Ford was betting on the ignorance of its customers, and it worked. They found more than two million idiots.
I admit, I’m being a bit harsh. You have to evaluate these cars in the context of their time. We may look back on the Camry in 30 years and wonder what the hell we were thinking.
I’ve been a rail fan since I was a kid. My mom often reminds me of when I would jump up and down like an excited puppy at the sight of a diesel locomotive. Despite my enthusiasm for trains, reality cannot be ignored: high speed rails are too expensive to connect this vast country.
High speed rail is defined in the United States as traveling over 110mph. Most Amtrak trains, on well-maintained rails, are currently capable of 90-100mph for short periods of time, but real world performance is affected by freight trains that have priority access, frequent breakdowns, accidents with cars, and poorly maintained rails.
Most of America’s rail network continues to be built and maintained by private freight carriers. Private operators once carried the bulk of passengers between cities until competition from government-subsidized air travel and highway development created competition after World War II. Cars with reasonable levels of reliability, refinement, and affordability made it possible to travel intermediate distances in reasonable time. A drive from St Louis to Kansas City takes 4 hours by car and 5.5 hours by rail, and although traveling by train is easier and more relaxing, the car offers door-to-door service, independence, and freedom.
Costs are comparable as well, with a fee of $26 to take Amtrak from STL to KC and fuel costs of $33 to take a 25mpg car at $3.30 per gallon. Of course, you have to pay to insure and maintain a car, and there’s the safety factor — mass transit of any kind of statistically safer than driving. The addition of a passenger increases the cost of one way rail travel to $52 while the car remains at $33. Drive a 50mpg Honda Civic hatchback like the one I reviewed earlier this month and that $33 fuel cost drops to just over $15.
Most importantly, unless you are traveling to a destination more than 300 miles away, a car is usually more convenient than booking a train or flying.
The northeast is perhaps the only one major region of the United States with the potential to benefit from high speed rail. Amtrak’s Acela contributes to nearly half of Amtrak’s annual revenue, with over a dozen stops between Washington DC and Boston MA. This region of the United States somewhat mirrors western europe with its population density and closely knit network of large cities within a 500-mile span. Certainly, the northeast corridor is a worthy candidate for high speed rail development as the gains in productivity and efficiency would be seen by a large segment of the population.
Now imagine if Kansas City and Chicago (also 500 miles apart) had major population centers like Philadelphia and Baltimore between them rather than corn fields. The per-person cost to build and maintain a modern rail system in middle America would drop significantly, but unless St Louis becomes a top-ten city again or two more major metro areas pop up in the middle of nowhere along I-55, a self-sustaining HSR system is unlikely to happen.
HSR advocates would benefit from leaving their Washington DC cubicles and experiencing America’s vastness at the ground level. Contractors and rail manufacturers like General Electric are salivating over the $53 billion President Obama has pledged, leaving states and municipalities with long-term maintenance costs that, once again, would benefit private industry at the expense of taxpayers.
Despite Vice President Biden’s claim that high speed rail would (and in some regions like the northeast, it certainly could) increase productivity, it simply isn’t true in most cases, which makes it difficult to justify tens of billions of federal dollars for HSR development. Between New York and Los Angeles, for example, a Boeing 747 can carry over 350 passengers in less than five hours. At a generous 120mph, it would take at least an entire day for high speed rail, and that’s not including intermediary stops at each major city in between.
I detest flying, and even with all the breakdowns, delays, and cramped bus rides I’ve had to endure with Amtrak, I still take the train when I can. You get a ground-level view of the world around you without having to remain alert and stare at a piece of pavement, but duplicating the vastness of the Eisenhower Interstate System with railroads is completely unrealistic.
This is the end of the line for American comfort cruisers. The Lincoln Town Car and Cadillac DTS will cease production later this year.
The Town Car ends 31 years of service (on its existing platform) on a sad note, losing features, options, and configurations every year since 2000, with the notable exception of rack and pinion steering in 2003. The Cadillac DTS gained a well-received Platinum edition in 2007 with upgraded interiors and limited-run paint choices, and GM put some marketing muscle behind the car to keep it relevant.
Both cars will be manufactured until summer 2011 when parts supplies run out. Its a sad ending for two quietly pleasing cars.
The DTS as we know it began as a top trim level for the 2000 Cadillac Deville DTS, a car that sold in respectable numbers on the popularity of The Sopranos and baby boomers that were still young enough to drive. In 2006 the body and interior were heavily revised and the Deville name was dropped in favor of the more European-sounding DTS.
I’m sad to see this car go, especially because the front wheel drive 2012 Cadillac XTS that will be replacing the STS and DTS looks like a tarted up Dodge Intrepid.
Enough nostalgia. Let’s talk about my test drive.
After the 2011 Chicago Auto Show, everyone gets the itch to buy a car. My friend Mike owned six vehicles and decided it was time to unload a few of them and pick up a newer car to go with his Escalade. He headed up to Chicago and took home a 2008 Cadillac DTS Platinum, black with black Tehama leather and light ash wood.
The car had an MSRP of $64300, and it showed. The first thing you notice when you get in is the lighted aluminum rocker panel that says “Platinum.” French-stitched leather covers the soft padded dashboard from ear to ear. Platinum also receives a steering wheel with light ash trim and chrome accents.
And then there’s the intoxicating smell. If you’ve ever walked into a high-end leather goods store, you know the scent goes straight up your nose and triggers the pleasure region of your brain. Its the smell of money, a rich and inviting scent normally found in high-end European cars and luxury lounges.
At night, the analog clock gives off a mysterious glow. Here’s a picture of the clock in the 2007 DTS I rented years ago:
Front seats have a massaging function that moves the lumbar adjuster up and down, forward and back to keep you refreshed. Front seats are heated and cooled. Back seats get heat as well as lumbar adjustment, an unusual treat for rear passengers.
Door panels front and rear are dramatically improved over the standard DTS, with sitched leather inserts and a soft fuzzy material lining the map pockets. Real light ash wood with horizontal accents look exquisite.
The most impressive detail is the expensive Alcantara used to cover the headliner, pillars, and visors. This is a genuinely nice place to be.
These kinds of details separate luxury items from standard consumer goods.
The compromise, you might assume, is that the DTS Platinum will drive like a marshmallow, and you would be wrong. The Performance and Platinum versions of the DTS receive Delphi’s Magneride which firms up the suspension quite dramatically when cornering, using a charged fluid to stiffen the ride and reduce body roll. The technology is also used by Ferrari, Audi, and the Corvette. Magnasteer noticeably increases steering effort at higher speeds and while cornering.
Winding down Hog Hollow Road, which goes straight downhill and has a few curves, I felt completely in control. While it was nothing like a BMW 3-series, the nose-heavy DTS did what it was told without drama or fuss and felt like it was willing to take on more. Compared to the base model 2007 DTS I rented years ago, Magneride made a dramatic difference.
Performance and Platinum DTSes receive a 292hp version of the front-wheel drive Northstar V8, an improvement of 17hp, and it shows. Its easy to pull into traffic or pass on the highway, with the satisfying deep growl of the Northstar entering the cabin at full throttle.
Unlike my 2001 Seville STS, which has brakes that feel a bit mushy, the DTS has linear pedal modulation and a nice bite at the beginning, but not such a strong bite that it upsets the ride. It certainly doesn’t feel like it weighs 4009lbs.
Unfortunately, for city folk, the DTS has a massive turning radius, which makes the car feel much bigger than it is. Fortunately, here in the suburbs, most of our mall parking is diagonal.
As for gadgets and gizmos, it has a power rear sunshade, the previously mentioned heated and cooled seats with lumbar front and rear and a massaging function, bluetooth, Onstar, XM, navigation, front and rear park assist, and a Bose sound system. The Bose system gets the job done, producing more bass than the standard DTS, but its nothing earth-shattering. Unlike past Devilles and Sevilles, the LCD display is cleanly blended into the center stack. Buttons are large and easy to use.
Expect 20-22mpg on the highway, which is where this car belongs. The DTS is a heck of a way to see America and the last of a dying breed, unless you count the Hyundai Equus and Genesis. It figures that GM would finally get something right and then discontinue it.
Ride: 9/10 — Magneride stiffens the suspension a bit but not excessively so.
Powertrain: 8/10 — The Hydramatic transmission only has four speeds, but torque is sufficient enough to make up for it. Gears change responsively.
Interior: 10/10 – Did I mention the Tehama leather and light ash wood? I’ll mention it a tenth time in case you missed it.
Quality/Reliability: 9/10 — Cooling system issues with the Northstar seem to have been resolved for this generation, and quality surveys reflect it.
Overall Value: 10/10 — This is the used luxury car bargain of the decade. If you find one, buy it.
You know Jenna Fischer, a St Louis native, as Pam Beasley/Pam Halpert from The Office. She plays the accessibly cute receptionist-turned-saleswoman-turned-office manager married to Jim Halpert, the sardonic salesman who acts like he’s better than his job at Dunder Mifflin Paper Company but lacks the ambition to get off his ass and do something about it.
She was also in a few noteworthy comedies including Blades of Glory, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Hall Pass which is in theaters now, and… well that’s all I can remember. She’s been active since 1998 but didn’t hit the big time until The Office premiered on NBC in 2005. You might have also seen her in the pilot episode of Undeclared, a hilarious Judd Apatow sitcom that apparently no one but my brother watched (thus its cancelation).
On Myspace, Fischer wrote about an incident where she and her sister ran into paparazzi while grocery shopping, reenacting the scene in the photo below:
At first glance, it looks like another boring, black Mercedes C-class driven by yet another wealthy white woman, but a keen eye (I actually have terrible vision) reveals that its a 2005 Mercedes C55 AMG, a V8 wolf in sheep’s clothing capable of 0-60 in 4.7 seconds and the quarter mile in 13.3s @ 108mph. [Edmunds got slightly poorer figures.]
For proof, look at the AMG wheels and quad tail pipes.
That’s serious business for a luxury sedan, encroaching on first-generation Cadillac CTS-V territory. Watch as this beast struggles to gain traction:
Pam Beasley, her character on The Office, drives a blue Toyota Yaris. Blech.
Hopefully that’s the last time you ever see a Yaris on this blog.
Fischer attended high school at Narynx Hall in St Louis and once worked at Long John Silvers as a teenager. Her college years were spent at Truman State University, which is in the middle of nowhere (Kirksville) just south of Iowa in north central Missouri.
Like many St Louisans, she has a habit of over pronouncing the letter “S”.
You probably came here for pictures of Jenna, so I’ll shut up and share:
During the Superbowl, BMW aired an advertisement for the new BMW X3, a small SUV designed and built by Americans and exported to other countries. The first generation of the X3 was poorly received for its cheap interior, harsh ride, and mediocre build quality. It may have looked like a BMW, but the South Carolina-built SUV was nothing like its big brother, the X5.
Today’s X3 is dramatically improved, and for inexplicable reasons, BMW wants to capitalize on the X3′s American roots.
Its unusual for a manufacturer with a distinct and positively associated national identity to distance itself from it — BMW thrives on its reputation for German engineering.
Popular perception says Germans are focused, precise, and driven people who design and build the greatest machines and drive them with the same determination they put into building and designing them. The fantasy of the Autobahn contributes to the aura of Teutonic superiority.
The Mercedes ML, built in Alabama, earned a reputation for poor quality with interiors that withered to pieces, panel gaps you could stick your shoe in, and a mess of electrical and mechanical issues. A Top Gear survey in 2004 put the American-made Mercedes SUV dead last on a list of 142 cars.
It wasn’t until 2005, after eight years of mediocrity, that the model underwent extensive improvements. However, the damage to Mercedes-Benz’s stellar reputation was done, making room for Audi and BMW to rapidly increase sales volume.
Despite the damage done to Germany’s manufacturing reputation, people still aspire to own German cars for their “Germanness.”
Americans survivors of the Great Depression and World War II are aging and expiring, with memories associating Germany with The Third Reich fading into the past. Baby Boomers and Generation X have embraced the BMW 3-series, Audi A4, and Mercedes E-class as status symbols and objects of desire.
This makes BMW’s “Made in America” ad campaign all the more bizarre. Communication always has a goal, and I’m baffled by what BMW is trying to convey.
There’s different ways to measure one’s standard of living. Working 40 hours a week and having a larger home, nicer car, and more wealth than others could denote a high living standard. Likewise, so could having access to education and health services.
In Norway, an auto enthusiast might be miserable because of brutally high taxes.
A pint of beer exceeds $12 and a frozen pizza $16, but consider that the average Norwegian earns a decent living, over $51,000 per year. Car ownership in Norway is entirely optional thanks to thorough and functional public transportation.
Bigger engines are taxed heavily.
Trucks and SUVs are taxed heavily.
Vehicle registration costs hundreds per year.
Vehicles are taxed with VAT included, resulting in double taxation.
Vehicle ownership is typically limited to those with higher incomes, considered a bit of a luxury. Public transportation is used for commuting while vehicles are reserved for shopping, travel, and leisure.
Americans drive 12,000 miles per year, on average, which includes daily commuting. If our automobile travel was limited only to weekends, we might drive 50 miles a week, which comes to 2,600 miles per year.
Its unwise to generate results based on input data that isn’t entirely accurate, so don’t use this blog article as a source for your college research paper. Now let’s play with the numbers.
American annual fuel cost: $3.30/gallon, 12,000 miles per year, 23mpg:
Norwegian annual fuel cost: $8.30/gallon, 2,600 miles per year, 34mpg:
[Again, these are loosely accurate numbers intended to demonstrate the potential cost difference.]
With a European diesel hatchback, one could expect more than 50mpg, but bus and train fares could exceed $1200 per year. It ends up being a wash, though you won’t have to change the oil or replace any parts on a bus.
Because Norway has little in the way of domestic manufacturing, most vehicles are imported from the UK, Sweden, Finland, France, and Japan, and each imported vehicle is heavily taxed.
New Car Prices, Norway vs USA:
$52,500 in USA
$182,500 in Norway
$49,565 in USA
$124,600 in Norway
$23,110 in USA
$54,100 in Norway
Simply put, its expensive to live there, even for Norwegians. I have nothing against the people of Norway or their notions of egalitarian utopia, but I’ll stay here.