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1976-2004 Cadillac Seville
As the European luxury imports made more inroads in the US, Cadillac saw that their big cars were not in the same category, and sought to create a smaller Cadillac. The Seville was conceived for this niche. Interestingly, the Seville was also Cadillac’s highest priced car, counter to the idea that as you go up in size you also go up in price.
The Seville was based on the GM corporate X-body platform, which the Chevy Nova was also based. But with a front suspension similar to GM’s Camaro/Firebird F-body and other suspension upgrades, GM designated it as a K-body. A chiseled body with arched wheel openings and a severely upright top profile ushered in those features for other Cadillac and GM cars as that look caught on.
When debuted in April 1975 as a 1976 model it was marketed as “international”, pegging the Seville’s target. The first 2,000 Sevilles were all Georgian Silver, and all equipped identically. Production that first year was 43,772 units.
Initially produced with a two-piece top, all 1976 Sevilles came with vinyl tops to hide the seam. Cadillac wanted a unique top profile but shared basic tooling with the Nova body, so this was their solution. In 1977 Cadillac tooled for a one-piece top to allow for painted tops. The Oldsmobile fuel-injected 350ci engine powered Sevilles, with a diesel option in 1978—the first American car with a diesel. 1978 also saw the upscale “Elegante” option package for the first time. This first generation ran through 1979.
In 1980 the second generation Seville was much more baroque, with styling cues from 1950s Rolls-Royce sedans. This new K-body platform was front-wheel drive with an independent rear suspension. As the 1980s progressed the Seville got even more baroque with the “Full Cabriolet Roof” option which mimicked a four-door convertible.
The Buick V6 could now be ordered in a Seville, as could the new V8-6-4 variable displacement engine for this one year only. The standard engine for 1983 was the HT-4100, which was mated to a four-speed overdrive automatic transmission, giving the Seville 27mpg. In advertising Cadillac proclaimed Seville was “The American Standard of the World.”
Mileage and emissions were becoming both marketing and engineering hurdles to overcome, necessitating a downsizing. The new third generation Seville released in 1986 was much smaller, featuring a traverse-mounted V8 front-wheel drive. 1985 would be the last year for the controversial “bustle-back” design.
In 1986 the all-new Seville was drastically downsized, with styling getting harder to distinguish from other GM divisions. The standard engine was the 4.1-Liter V8 attached to a four-speed automatic. Sevilles came standard with two-tone paint. A digital “driver information center” displayed outside temperature, fuel economy, and various engine data.
Seville became the first car ever to have functions monitored by a computer, or ECU. Called the “Body Control Module/Engine Control Module” (BCM/ECM) it was developed by Hughes Electronics. In 1990 the Seville became fuel-injected, also receiving a facelift.
By 1987 safety was a big marketing point, so enhanced security features included serial numbers on major components for theft prevention with a theft deterrent system incorporating the horn, and electrically activated locks.
As better emissions equipment and improved computer functions got better a limited edition “Seville Touring Sedan” (STS) became available. It was said to have “European-feel” suspension for better control. Besides the improved suspension the STS received a number of subtle modifications to the body, lighting, and interior to distinguish it from other Sevilles.
The previous 4.5-Liter V8 was dropped in favor of the new 4.9-Liter V8 in 1991, backed by the 4T60-E electronic four-speed automatic transmission. Besides anti-lock brakes becoming standard equipment, “Computer Command Ride” automatic tuned suspension was available starting this year.
A fourth generation Seville lasted from 1992 to 1997. It was well received and garnered the 1992 Motor Trend Car of the Year award. In 1993 the Seville received Cadillac’s unique “Northstar” quad-cam 32-valve V8 as well as suspension upgrades.
Seville continued as either the SLS luxury sedan or STS touring sedan by 1995. Cadillac improved both the performance and handling of their flagship sedan, receiving praise from the automotive press. The Northstar was now putting out 275hp. Sales for 1995 saw 38,931 Sevilles sold.
For 1996 there was now an optional Northstar 300hp engine along with the standard 275hp version. Both were backed by the 4T80-E electronic automatic transmission. “Rainsense Wiper System” first available this year was a system detecting rain to automatically activate the windshield wipers.
The last generation Seville was introduced in 1998, lasting through 2004. Based on a 112-inch G-body platform featuring a transverse-mount front-wheel drive, it was engineered for either left- or right-hand drive, for overseas markets in Japan, United Kingdom, and South Africa. The Seville was discontinued in 2005.