When the nice man from Cadillac dropped off the 2006 STS-V at our garage, he told us that the "V" emblazoned on the car's front fenders stands for Velocity. After a week with the Caddy's flagship sports sedan, we can see why. With its 468-horspeower Eaton-supercharged Northstar V-8 engine, the 2006 STS-V is the most powerful Cadillac ever to roll off GM's production lines. Nevertheless, Velocity was not the first thing that sprang to mind when we took possession of our Light Platinum tester.
From the outside, the STS-V presents an imposing spectacle: an aggressive square-jaw front-end is dominated by two huge chrome mesh intakes that enable it to inhale air for the supercharger. Square headlights and a clunky front bumper add to the car's boxy, tanklike profile. Inside, the interior appointments are far more in line with luxury and comfort than with the Spartan, rugged interior accents traditionally associated with performance driving. The STS-V's sumptuous eight-way power front leather-and-suede seats would double as armchairs in most family rooms, particularly with their built-in shoulder speakers. Other materials in the cabin continue the luxury theme, with olive ash wood providing the trim for the center console, doors, and shifter, and mock carbon fiber accentuating the heated leather steering wheel, and sweeping across the dash.
The matte black plastic for the head unit is a bit down-market compared with the rest of the interior, but this was quickly forgotten when we set eyes on the STS-V's huge in-dash tilting touch-screen LCD display. The main function of the display (which can be programmed with one of three background colors) is as an interface for the STS-V's advanced DVD-based GPS navigation system.
Navigating the navigation system
Although the display shows maps clearly, the navigation system's processing speed is sluggish. When zooming in or out, the map takes at least a couple of seconds to refresh, and most inputs are greeted with some kind of whirring or ticking sound as the unit thinks about its next screen. Those who have not read the instruction manual will find using the navigation system a challenge as the destination-entry screen displays a bewildering array of icons without any text explanation as to what they are for. These symbols include: a letter; the Statue of Liberty; an arrow; a house brick; a phone; a balloon; a road being struck by a bolt of lightning; a target; a globe; a hazard symbol; and a stack of paper.
Taking a wild stab in the dark, we surmised that the letter icon must be the means of programming a destination by address, a leap of faith that proved inspired as it brought up an on-screen keypad that allowed us to program in our address with ease using the large virtual letters. With our destination entered, the STS-V's navigation system provided clear turn-by-turn voice guidance to our destination in the same clipped, British accent that we found so diverting in the 2006 Range Rover Supercharged Sport. In addition to a street address, the system accepts destination entry via point of interest (Statue of Liberty button); intersection (house brick button, which is actually a stoplight); or by entering a destination directly onto the map (arrow button).
Additionally, the navigation system can be controlled using voice commands, which are initiated using a button on the left-hand side of the steering wheel. For specific voice commands, we were compelled to look in the manual, where we found the list of accepted formats for controlling the navigation system, the stereo, the Bluetooth hands-free calling interface, and the HVAC controls.
While the STS-V is unable to process destination-address entry via voice command (in the vein of some Honda cars we've seen), its navigation system does boast some very useful voice-command features, including: on-demand repetition of turn-by-turn guidance (say: Navigation repeat) and the ability to overlay points of interest on the map (say: Navigation Japanese restaurant, for example).
Voice commands also can be used to make phone calls via the STS-V's standard Bluetooth hands-free calling interface. Pairing our phone to the system was very straightforward using the CONFIG hard button on the head unit. Car and phone found each other immediately, and we were then able to make calls either manually via the touch screen keypad (which is curiously called up by pressing the AUX button); or by voice dialing (say "telephone enter" to prepare the system to receive spoken numbers).
Despite the ease of pairing, the final stage of placing a call using the voice-recognition system presented us with a challenge: having called out our chosen number, which the system understood and read back to us without any trouble, we were asked if we would like to continue. Our first attempts to confirm ("yes", "continue", "call") all proved incomprehensible to the system, and it was as a last resort that we tried "dial"--which succeeded in placing the call. Another quirk of the hands-free system is that, while calls can be placed without navigating to the Bluetooth keypad screen, there is no apparent way to end a call without using the touch screen. Sound quality through STS-V's front speakers was adequate to understand the caller on the other end of the line, and the car's built-in microphone enabled us to be understood with speakerphone quality.