99-04 Cadillac Seville STS thoughts?

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2,804
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NJ
I like to pick your brains(*/zombie BRAAIIINSSS!) Anyway, Buddy is interested in 99-04 Caddy Seville STS with the 4.6 North star V8(300hp). I actually think they look very nice, but have heard a mixed bag of reliability. I know they can burn oil, I know they need to have coolant changed/flushed frequently(yearly from my understanding) and are notorious for head gaskets(heard this is very very costly). Electronic suspension components are expensive to? Anyone with experience or knowledge chime in, i'd like to be able to provide him with some info.
 
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14,505
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Top of Virginia
I owned a 2001. I'll give you my every thought on it. First, it's perhaps the nicest car I've ever owned, in terms of feature set and over all cache. You feel like a million bucks driving it. It's pretty fast, and okay on fuel. Although regular fuel is recommended, premium wakes the engine up pretty good. I couldn't speak to reliability, because I think mine was inordinarily bad. I found out after I bought it that the whole car had nearly been rebuilt. It was an Ohio car, but I don't think that gives a good reason for all the stuff that had been replaced (rust, etc). The entire exhaust system had been replaced. The radio had been replaced. The instrument cluster had been replaced. One of the seats had been replaced due to no heat. All of the pistons had been replaced due to oil consumption, and 10k miles later, GM replaced the entire engine (I guess the piston/ring kit didn't help). The replacement engine had a knock to it (piston slap probably) that I never really liked. Shortly after I bought it, I had to have the intermediate steering shaft replaced (very common for GMs of that era). I had it to the dealer 4 times for that, and it was mis-diagnosed as a number of things before they actually fixed the problem. They replaced both $900 front struts to no avail. Then they messed up the strut mount and had to replace one of those. These G-chassis cars are also extremely prone to front wheel vibrations. They came out with a revised lower control arm to help quell that, at least for some of the Pontiacs or Buicks (with a large hydro bushing). I'm not sure if the Seville has a revised LCA. I fought wheel balance issues with mine, and a road force balance fixed most of it. I still wasn't completely satisfied. As far as the engine in general, they can consume oil. Not all do, and some consume oil pretty heavily. It's a luck of the draw thing on that. And the Northstar had gone through a few revisions, and the 2000+ redesign largely fixed the head gasket problem, or at least reduced the rate of occurance. Another tweak in 2004 largely cured it, but the Seville never benefitted from that. If he were buying one, I strongly encourage a 2000+ model for this reason. Annual coolant changes are not necessary. These cars run fine with the Dexcool. Head gasket problems are a function of the mechanical strength of the head bolt threads in the block, not the coolant. As far as the driving, it was a mixed bag. Cadillac liked to compare it to a BMW, but I don't think it drove all that well personally. It is a large car, and it handles pretty well for a large car. But it wasn't all that satisfying to drive. The front suspension feels overly stiff to compensate for it being FWD, while still looking for some handling prowess. The Magnasteer rack wasn't very smooth...you could feel differences in effort during fast sweeping turns that was disconcerting. It wasn't a very balanced package to me. If it says anything, the Corolla I traded the STS for felt like a much more balanced and organic package. The STS feels soul-less, just like the Camry did that I used to have. The STS very much feels like a digital machine...it's competent, but you don't get that it-feels-like-an-extension-of-my-hands feeling that you do with better driving cars. I told a co-worker after my trade that I had more fun driving my Corolla at 4 10ths than I had driving the STS at 8 10ths. You could make the STS dance, but it wasn't all that much fun to do so. Mine was White Diamond, and it was a stunningly beautiful car. It just didn't "click" with me like my '97 did. Here are some pictures of both of them together. I sold the '97 to my brother shortly after I bought the '01. Never should have bought the '01.
 
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Apple Valley, California
IMO the Northstar engine is trouble. The head bolts pull the threads out of the block. The repair is inserts installed into the Aluminum block, new head gaskets etc. But you must remove the engine,trans and subframe to do so. Figure $4000 for a shop to do this repair. Somebody else mentioned Dash , Radio and suspension problems. Very common problems on these cars.
 
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14,505
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Top of Virginia
You do not have to remove the engine to do the Timesert repair. It can be done DIY for less than $1,000, tools included, without removing the engine or dropping the subframe. Some enterprising DIY-ers on Caddyinfo.com have done the deed themselves, in their garage. Doing the Timesert install itself is obviously more difficult with the engine in the car, but it is possible. Again, the rate of occurancesof this happening on the 2000+ engines is much less than on the 1993-1999 engines. And my '97 was trouble-free for 180k miles when my brother traded it on a new CTS. I'd be concerned about head bolts on a 1999- engine. I'd be less concerned about it on a 2000+ engine. It's also possible that the threads have already been repaired on a used one. In that case, I'd only buy the car if the repair was done at a Cadillac dealer with documentation. Many shadetrees use Heli-coils, and they do not work.
 

Anies

Thread starter
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2,804
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NJ
Wow, a real shame for sure. Car does look like a million bucks(nice photos!). I'll be sure to pass this info along to him. I'm just amazed that these cars retailed for $50+k and had so many issues.
 

Anies

Thread starter
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2,804
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NJ
Hokiefyd, I can't stop staring at your White STS, jeez now I know why he fell in love with the car(black). They are definitely lookers, and again the info will be passed on.
 
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14,505
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Top of Virginia
Originally Posted By: Anies
Wow, a real shame for sure. Car does look like a million bucks(nice photos!). I'll be sure to pass this info along to him. I'm just amazed that these cars retailed for $50+k and had so many issues.
You can buy them for remarkably low amounts of cash today. And if he's dead-set on the Seville platform, he can look into an SLS. The SLS did not have the active dampers that the STS had. And even with the STS, there are aftermarket passive dampers that are far cheaper than OEM active dampers. If he finds a 2004, that's SLS only -- there was no STS in 2004. A 2004 SLS would have the latest Northstar head bolt threads as well. These things are a lot of car; the bits and pieces that make them up are generally pretty good. There's a lot of aluminum in the engine, a lot of aluminum in the suspension, the unibodies generally don't have rust issues, overall, they're GENERALLY reliable cars. The pitfall is, if you do get a bad one, you're generally into it for a lot of money. They're best left to die-hard Cadillac enthusiasts.
 
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67
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Washington state
I don't own one myself, but my older brother has a 2000 STS bought it new has around 55K on it now, says its the best car he has owned no problems. I have driven it very nice great mileage 28-31mpg highway , no oil consumption. A neighbor has owns an 2001 STS now has over 200k on it, says its the best car he has owned no issues except replaced a MAF, and water pump and all the other normal items, tires, brakes, batteries,and such. Two retired gentlemen I know at the gun club are car collectors and they are both fond of the STS one owns a 2003 and says it one of his favorites, besides his corvette. He has had no issues drives his 03 STS as a daily driver mostly he reports it has 180K on it. He calls his GM cars his low-end cars as he owns BMWs Mercedes, Aston Martin, Audi, Lexus, Ferrari, and others, ...and you should hear the list of isuues with those cars! one of them is almost always in the shop! He claims his GM cheapies have been the most dependable. THe other gun club member also owns many cars, including an almost new Caddy CST and an Escalade and has had no problems but a list of problems from his other higher-end vehicles! It seems price is not a good indicator if a vehicle developes issues or not. a co-worker of mine sold his 97 Olds Aurora yeas ago(with the Northstar v8) with 70K on it because he was told the head gaskets would leak, but now wishes he kept it because the guy who bought it says it has been perfect and has over 200K on it. I would buy a low-mileage STS if it was well maintained. and my brother may some day trade his or sell it to me.
 
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4,288
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Michigan
^that is remarkable! I worked at a caddy dealer service dept and you couldn't go a day without a crank seals, head gasket, or position sensor Northstar appearing in the bay. It sounds like it is a total roll of the dice. Not worth it with so many known reliable cars out there for sale.
 

ls1mike

$50 Site Donor 2021
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In the Garage...
The 2001 and later ones got better. A guy I work with bought one used. A 2000. He verified the headgaskets had been done and it has been pretty good to him for the past 5 years. I think he to have the AC recharged. Which is the only thing he has had to do so far.
 
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14,505
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Top of Virginia
Originally Posted By: SSGSTbirdtoyman
I don't own one myself, but my older brother has a 2000 STS bought it new has around 55K on it now, says its the best car he has owned no problems. I have driven it very nice great mileage 28-31mpg highway , no oil consumption.
Are you sure it's the STS and not the SLS? 28-30 mpg with the SLS is common, with its 3.11:1 final drive, but with the STS's 3.71:1 final drive, the best that most people get is mid 20s at the most.
 
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SE Ohio
A long time friend of the family had one. She was an older lady, so I did most of her oil changes, etc. Awsome car, fast and comfortable, not as comfy as my merc but nice nonetheless!
 
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67
Location
Washington state
Indeed, you are correct my astute friend, my brothers car is an SLS version. Your question gave me a reason to call him as he lives out of town and I don't see him or his caddy very often. the last time I drove it was at least two years ago so I confused the models. I would presume the SLS may be found for a tad less than a comparable STS? What about the Olds Aurora have you ever driven one? I know they had a smaller version of the caddy northstar engine.
 
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Top of Virginia
Originally Posted By: SSGSTbirdtoyman
Indeed, you are correct my astute friend, my brothers car is an SLS version. Your question gave me a reason to call him as he lives out of town and I don't see him or his caddy very often. the last time I drove it was at least two years ago so I confused the models. I would presume the SLS may be found for a tad less than a comparable STS?
Here are the major differences between the STS and SLS: STS vs. SLS 300 hp vs. 275 hp 295 tq vs. 300 tq 3.71:1 vs. 3.11:1 (tranny is otherwise the same) active suspension vs. passive suspension (in this generation anyway) fog lamps vs. no fog lamps slightly firmer springs vs. slightly softer springs An SLS can usually be had for less than an STS, but in my opinion, may be a better buy. The active dampers on the STS are expensive to replace, though typically reliable. The SLS uses passive dampers, so replacement is easier. The SLS has a more relaxed driving style. The engine is tuned more for low-mid range power and the STS is tuned more for high-end horsepower. The differences in the final drives is dramatic. In the Cadillac, you could not get the 3.71:1 final drive with the 275 hp version of the engine, though you could in the Pontiac Bonneville for a short time when that engine was offered. My '97 SLS would loaf down the road at 80 mph at less than 2,000 rpm, and would net around 30 mpg on the road. My '01 STS in comparison would be hard-pressed to touch 25 mpg. In town, my SLS was around 18-20 and my STS was in the 16-18 range. I liked my SLS better than my STS. The STS was trying to be something it was not, but the SLS was more genuine: a nice, large, luxury sedan.
 
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