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The Cadillac STS: History, Generations, Differences

All things Cadillac STS on Automobile.

Aaron GoldWriterManufacturerPhotographer

Cadillac STS Essential History

Cadillac's STS moniker first appeared as a limited-edition, custom-built, sport-tuned version of the 1988 Cadillac Seville. Intended to stop the bleeding of Cadillac customers to European marques, the Seville STS entered series production in 1989 and was a marked (and rare) success for the brand. It wasn't quite a BMW-killer, but it showed that Cadillac was serious about developing a performance model.

A new Euro-themed Seville appeared for 1992, and the high-performance STS version was the car we enthusiasts had been waiting for. It was named Automobile's Automobile of the Year as well as MotorTrend's Car of the Year, and all this before it was fitted with the 295 hp Northstar V-8 in 1993. The STS remained a staple of the Seville lineup through 2003, with its softer-sprung stablemate, the SLS (Seville Luxury Sedan), outlasting it by a year.

Goodbye Seville STS, Hello STS

When the Seville's replacement showed up for the 2005 model year, it dropped the Seville name, and became simply the STS. While the Seville had been a front-wheel-drive car since the 1980s, the new STS had a longitudinal engine and was available with rear- or all-wheel-drive. That made it the first rear-drive Cadillac in 25 years, and the first all-wheel-drive car in Cadillac's history. Clothed in Caddy's new "Art and Science" design theme, the STS could be had with either a 255-hp 3.6-liter V-6, or a 320-hp 4.6-liter Northstar V-8.

469-HP Cadillac STS-V Arrives

Cadillac introduced its high-performance V-series cars with the 2004 CTS-V; the 2006 STS-V was the second car in the series, followed by the 2007 XLR-V. While the CTS-V used a Corvette engine, the STS-V used a new 4.4-liter supercharged version of the Northstar V-8 that produced 469 hp and 439 lb-ft of torque—monster numbers for the era. Though it was fortified with stiffer springs, quicker steering, and bigger brakes, the STS-V was tuned for civility, so it trailed contemporary German gunboats on twisty roads. A mesh grille, matching mesh insert between the tailpipes, and six-bolt wheels distinguish it from other STS models.

The Cadillac STS got its first and only facelift for the 2008 model year, with an enlarged grille, fender vents, and minor changes to the interior. The V-6 got direct fuel injection, boosting its output to 302 hp, and it was paired with a six-speed automatic. Many of the options reserved for the V-8 model were now available with the V-6, and the larger engine, still producing just 320 hp, was rendered largely superfluous.

Cadillac STS: The End of the Line

Cadillac dropped the STS-V after the 2009 model year, when the CTS-V gained a 556-hp supercharged V-8. The Northstar V-8 was dropped for the 2011 model year, which was the STS' last. There was no direct replacement for the STS, though the second-generation CTS, introduced in 2008, was nearly the same size.

Cadillac STS Highlights

Cadillac sold a long-wheelbase version of the STS, called SLS, exclusively for the Chinese market. It was introduced in 2007 and discontinued in 2013.

The XLR-V and STS-V are the only cars to use the supercharged version of the Northstar V-8. The CTS-V, in both naturally aspirated and supercharged forms, used Corvette engines.

Though it used the same engine as the XLR-V, the STS-V delivered 469 hp versus the XLR-V's 443 hp. Why? The STS had more space under the hood, allowing for lower-restriction intake and exhaust plumbing.

Cadillac STS Buying Tips

Like other late-model Cadillacs, the STS hasn't attracted much attention from collectors, though it probably should. The 1992-2003 Seville STS was a watershed car for Cadillac, the one that proved that General Motors really could compete with the Europeans on both style and substance if it set its corporate mind to do so. These cars can still be found in running condition, and often at bargain prices. The same goes for the 1989-91 version, which is less common, but also less expensive.

The 2005 STS is notable as one of the first examples of Cadillac's "Art and Science" design theme, and the supercharged STS-V of 2006 was a truly noteworthy car, one doomed to live in the shadow of the 2009-and-newer CTS-V. On the used market, the STS-V is generally more expensive than the regular STS, though it's a bargain compared to the CTS-V. It's also very rare for a GM product, with just over 2,500 made over a four-year run. The collector car market has not yet embraced the STS-V, but we feel certain that it will someday. If this is a car you have your heart set on, better to act sooner than later.

Cadillacs of this era were popular with older buyers, and there are still well-kept low-mileage examples to be found. States like Arizona and Florida, or other relatively rust-free areas popular with retirees, are a good place to look. Bear in mind that the Northstar V-8 engine is prone to electrical problems that can be expensive to fix. A thorough pre-purchase inspection by a mechanic well versed in Cadillacs is a smart investment.

Cadillac STS Articles on Automobile

RWD returns after a quarter-century absence.

Cadillac asks: Are you ready for STS-V?

A run-down of all the Vs so far.  

Cadillac STS Quick Facts

  • First year of production: 2004 (2005 model year)
  • Last year of production: 2011
  • Total sold (STS, including STS-V): 118,332
  • Total sold (STS-V only): 2,503
  • Original price (base): $40,525

Cadillac STS FAQ

What does Cadillac STS stand for?

STS stands for Seville Touring Sedan. The STS was the high-performance version of the Seville from 1989 until 2004. In 2005 the Seville was renamed STS. Cadillac also sold a version called the SLS, for Seville Luxury Sedan.

Is the Cadillac STS a good car?

The STS was certainly a landmark car, as it was the first rear-drive Cadillac in 25 years, the first all-wheel-drive Cadillac ever, and an early adapter of Cadillac's Art and Science design theme. However, unlike the Seville STS it replaced, the STS was tuned for comfort more than performance and never quite found proper focus. As a used car it's an affordable and comfortable ride, though V-8 versions can be troublesome.

How much is a Cadillac STS?

The Cadillac STS was introduced in 2005 with a list price of $40,995. Today, serviceable examples can be found for well under $5,000. The supercharged STS-V is quite a bit more expensive on the used market but still a good value considering its rarity.

What was the last year Cadillac made the STS?

The last year of production for the Cadillac STS was 2011.

2005 Cadillac STS Specifications
PRICE (base) $40,000 (est)
ENGINE: 3.6L DOHC 24-valve V-6/255 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 252 lb-ft @ 3,200 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed automatic
LAYOUT: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD sedan
L x W x H: 196.3 x 72.6 x 57.6 in
WHEELBASE: 116.4 in
WEIGHT: 3,922 lb