New Car/Review

1997 CADILLAC EL DORADO

by Tom Hagin

Cadillac

SEE ALSO: Cadillac Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 37,995
     Price As Tested                                    $ 42,836
     Engine Type                             4.6 Liter V8 w/PFI*
     Engine Size                                 279 cid/4565 cc
     Horsepower                                   275 @ 5600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               300 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                    108"/75.5"/200.2"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3857 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                    20 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/60R16
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Five-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                 95 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.33

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            17/20/22          
     0-60 MPH                                        7.8 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       15.7 seconds @ 93 mph
     Top-speed                                           110 mph
     * Port fuel injection

While in high school, a friend's father had a 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. Everything about the car was big, from its 126-inch wheelbase, to the massive, but underpowered 8.2 liter V8 engine. Everyone wanted to ride in that car, but it stayed in the garage.

For '97, Eldorado proportions have changed. Its engine has shrunk in displacement and the wheelbase is a more manageable 108 inches, while its powertrain would have made a stormer out of that '76 model.

OUTSIDE - The new Eldorado's shape is pointed and sleek. Its muscular haunches suggest a rear-drive layout, but Cadillac makes only one rear-drive car these days, a mid-sized V6 model. Most of the "Eldo" exterior trim is body color, including the mirrors, bumpers and side strip, while a chrome grille and high performance tires differentiate our test model from its more powerful sibling, the Eldorado Touring Coupe. It looks every bit the part of the traditional coupe, with its long hood, short trunk, and massive B-pillars, which, incidentally, block a good portion of the view to the rear. Our test car came fitted with aluminum wheels, with a chromed set as an option.

INSIDE - Inside Eldorado, there are several improvements for 1997. A modified climate control display makes it easier to change the cabin temperature, and the same has been done to the stereo controls. Nine new dashboard messages help keep the driver alert to what's happening outside and under the hood. Unchanged is the rich leather upholstery covering the seats, while a center console houses a short-throw T-bar shifter. Eldorado is loaded with standard features such as remote keyless entry, six-way power seats, and rain sensitive wipers, which automatically activate if moisture is detected on the glass. Power windows, door locks and outside mirrors are also standard. A unique option is the OnStar system, which links a cellular phone to a satellite navigation system and can provide location assistance, track the car if it's been stolen, automatically summon help if the airbags deploy, and even unlock the doors, all via a satellite.

ON THE ROAD - By now most all automotive buffs know about Cadillac's Northstar system, a powertrain combination that centers around an all-aluminum 4.6 liter V8 engine with dual overhead camshafts and 32 valves. In standard Eldorado form, it produces 275 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque, more than enough to launch the car very quickly to speed. Passing power is impressive, too, even over high elevation mountain highways. Fuel mileage is adequate, provided the driver can refrain from using a heavy right foot. A feature that hopefully won't need to be used is its "limp home" computer system, which allows the car to be driven short distances without any engine coolant. A set of platinum-tipped spark plugs, a distributorless ignition and an electronic fuel management system allows the car to be driven 100,000 miles between tuneups. GM's top-line electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission is the only gearbox offered.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Eldorado continues to be refined under the skin. Base Eldorado models use computer-controlled suspension, to automatically dampen road shocks instantaneously. The base model uses softer suspension settings than the Touring Coupe, giving an ultra- plush highway ride over almost any bump. New lower control arm bushings have been realigned to allow the main bushing to absorb more cornering loads, while a stiffening of the frame helped reduce vibration and harshness. Steering feel is enhanced for 1997 with the help of MagnaSteer, a combination of electronic and hydraulic systems which adapts to changes in vehicle speed and road conditions. Its front brakes have been improved as well. The brake pads are made of different material and each disc is an inch larger, which improves stopping power, and also helps keep the brakes cooler than before. A four-wheel anti-lock braking system is standard on both Eldorado models.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, ABS and side-impact beams are standard.

OPTIONS - The leather package adds $1,223, while stereo upgrade with a 12-disc CD changer is $1,513. Chrome wheels are $1,195 extra.

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