SEE ALSO: Cadillac Buyer's Guide
"Eldorado" is a venerable name in Cadillac history. It has graced a wide variety of Cadillacs since 1953. The cars bearing the name have always been very American in flavor, and definitely machines for their time.
The current Eldorado lineup continues that tradition, with American-style luxury and performance, and state-of-the-art technology. There are two models. The basic Eldorado is tuned for American luxury tastes. The Eldorado Touring Coupe - also known as the ETC - has a more international flavor, with a firmer, more sporting suspension calibration, faster steering ratio, and more power. Both utilize the world-class Northstar V8 engine system and leading-edge technology for improved safety and performance.
Like the other premium Northstar Cadillacs, the ETC has a degree of electronic control of and communications between its various chassis and engine systems that puts it in a league with the most advanced aircraft. Unusually, chassis systems, including the suspension and speed-sensitive power steering, are electronically- controlled and "talk" with each other and the engine, transmission, and antilock braking and traction control systems for improved control. The "Stabilitrak" stability enhancement system ties all other systems together, and uses data from a yaw rate sensor and lateral accelerometer (both commonly used in aerospace applications) to improve control during high-performance driving or emergency maneuvers in a manner similar to electronic control assistance in modern fighter jets. Furthering the aerospace analogy, the optional "OnStar" cellular phone-based communication system can give the Eldorado driver directional and valet assistance even beyond the level of air traffic control.
I experienced the workings of the Stabilitrak system at Cadillac's 1998 model introduction at the Road Atlanta race track. It works, and it works very well. During a recent, lower-performance week at home with an ETC, I found it to be a very All-American sort of car. It's a high-tech boulevard cruiser for the mature but not quite reformed hot-rodder with a penchant for comfort and technology.
APPEARANCE: The Eldorado's lines are classic Cadillac, from the egg-crate grille right back to the vestigial tail fins and vertical taillights. It's a bit more angular than the norm these days, showing some influence from the late Cadillac Allante, styled by the Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina. In no way does the Eldo look dated, though. In fact, angularity seems to be coming back into fashion in automotive styling. The Eldorado is a small car only by Cadillac standards, but its design makes it look quite compact. Despite being a front-wheel drive machine, it has the classic long-hood, short deck sports coupe style. No "cab-forward" here. The Eldorado Touring Coupe may be distinguished from the regular Eldorado by its body-colored grille.
COMFORT: The international influence is most apparent inside of the ETC. The interior is a contemporary two-tone, dark-over-light design with Zebrano wood trim. Even with the thick C-pillars, it is light and airy inside. Seating areas front and rear are of perforated leather for extra comfort on hot days. The front buckets are heated, power- adjustable, and wonderfully comfortable. Rear passengers have a surprising amount of room, and map pockets, ashtrays and lighter, adjustable vents and fan controls, and a fold-down console. Back up front, the instrument panel presents all important information in a well- shaded binnacle, with large analog gauges and an informative, readable information display. The new Bose AM/FM/cassette/CD audio system and climate controls sit in an extension of the center console, and are conveniently-placed with large, well-marked controls. Long-distance comfort is the name of the game, and Cadillac knows the ETC's clientele: the trunk will easily swallow two sets of golf clubs and a week's worth of luggage for their owners.
SAFETY: The 1998 Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe has passive safety features including safety cage chassis construction with front and rear crush zones and side-impact protection. The dual airbags are lower-powered this year. Standard Stabilitrak and optional OnStar enhance active safety.
ROADABILITY: Although more firmly-sprung than the Eldorado, the ETC is still more of a luxury car than sports car. But it's a luxury car with an attitude, thanks to modern electronics. The fully-independent Continuously Variable Road Sensing Suspension (CVRSS) adjusts shock damping to driving and road conditions as the car moves down the road for maximum comfort and control in all situations. When enthusiastic or emergency maneuvers are taken, Stabilitrak keeps the ETC in line very well.
PERFORMANCE: The not-quite-reformed hot rodder will thoroughly enjoy the 300-horsepower Northstar V8. It is an aluminum alloy, 32- valve, dual overhead cam design that is very appropriate for a contemporary, civilized, powerful luxury car. In normal operation, a muffled hint of power can be heard. Put the pedal to the metal, and the Northstar growls with a most satisfying roar. It moves the ETC very quickly, too. The 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission is smooth, quick, and unobtrusive.
CONCLUSIONS: The Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe is a very contemporary luxury car that takes maximum advantage of state-of- the-art technology.
SPECIFICATIONS Base Price $ 42,695 Price As Tested $ 44,587 Engine Type dual overhead cam, 32-valve, aluminum alloy V8 Engine Size 4.6 liters / 279 cu. in. Horsepower 300 @ 6000 Torque (lb-ft) 295 @ 4400 Transmission 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic Wheelbase / Length 108.0 in. / 200.6 in. Curb Weight 3876 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 12.9 Fuel Capacity 20.0 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded premium, 92 octane Tires P225/60 ZR 16 Goodyear Eagle GA Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent short and long arm electronic shock adjustment standard Drivetrain front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 17 / 26 / 17 0 to 60 mph 7.1 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 15.4 sec Coefficient of Drag (cd) 0.33 OPTIONS AND CHARGES Safety and Security Package: electronic compass mirror, garage door opener $ 207 White diamond exterior color $ 500 Performance tires $ 250 CA/ NY/MA/CT emissions $ 170 Bose AM/FM/Cassette/CD sound system $ 100 Destination charge $ 665