New Car Review

1996 CADILLAC FLEETWOOD BROUGHAM

CADILLAC FLEETWOOD

by: CAREY and BILL RUSS

SEE ALSO:Cadillac Buyer's Guide

Nothing lasts forever. Traditions may last a long time, but eventually they pass from the scene. One such automotive tradition is the quintessentially American luxury car. Long, large, and luxurious automobiles for the wide open spaces of this country. Cars with a big V8 engine in front driving the rear wheels. Soft, cushy comfort for six well-fed Americans inside. This week's test car, the Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, is the last of a long, proud line. In size, style, and comfort it echoes the classic Cadillacs of the 1950s and 1960s. It is the longest production car sold in the U. S. today. Yet, modern engineering assures that the Fleetwood Brougham is far more fuel-efficient than its predecessors, has much better handling, and meets all safety standards. The Fleetwood platform provides a basis for limousine and funeral coach conversions. But American tastes are changing. European and European- influenced American and Japanese automobiles are the status vehicles for today's luxury car buyer. Many of the people who once would have purchased a car like a Fleetwood Brougham look to the new generation of luxury sport-utility vehicles for their transportation needs. So, production of the Cadillac Fleetwood and Fleetwood Brougham will cease at the end of the 1996 model year. It is ironically fitting, given today's changing population, tastes, and new traditions, that the plant in which the Fleetwood and its sister ships the Chevrolet Caprice Classic and Buick Roadmaster are made is being converted to truck and sport-utility production. Trucks are popular; large passenger cars are not. It's simple economics. And changing tradition.

APPEARANCE: The Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham looks like what it is: the ultimate evolution of the traditional Cadillac. It is big and boxy, nearly nineteen feet long and six-and-a-half feet wide. There is no "Euro-style" lack of brightwork on the car. The massive egg-crate grille and bumpers are heavily chromed. Bright trim surrounds the windows and lights, and highlights the massive sides of the car. The upholstered roof, stainless steel-trimmed lower body panels, and whitewall tires add to the traditional appearance of the Brougham.

COMFORT: The interior of the Fleetwood Brougham is every bit as traditional as the exterior. There are few sedans made that have more interior space. Front and rear shoulder room is well over five feet. The softly-padded bench seats are opulently upholstered with leather. The front seats have integral heating elements and adjustable lumbar support. Each side of the front seat is separately adjustable, and there is a new center armrest with dual cupholders, CD and cassette storage, and space for a cellular phone. The door panels and dashboard are finished with padded leather and wood trim. Naturally, seats, windows, door locks, and mirrors are power-operated. The six-speaker Delco AM/FM/cassette sound system is new this year, and has an optional CD player or changer.

SAFETY: The Fleetwood Brougham is equipped with both antilock brakes and traction control as standard safety equipment. Both the driver and front passenger have an airbag. Daytime running lights are new for 1996.

ROADABILITY: On the road the Fleetwood Brougham is most definitely an American luxury car. No firm European sports suspension here. The ride is very soft, and occupants are well-insulated from the outside world. Speed-sensitive power steering makes the Brougham easy to maneuver. In a great improvement over the large Cadillacs of yesteryear, the spring and shock absorber rates are correctly matched on the new Fleetwood so that there is no excessive motion when quickly changing lanes or when traveling on poorly-maintained roads. Good sound insulation and low levels of wind noise make the inside of the Brougham luxuriously quiet. It epitomizes the classic American large luxury car.

PERFORMANCE: With General Motors' 5.7-liter V8 under the hood, the Fleetwood Brougham is not underpowered. This 260-horsepower engine is as venerable and classic as the Fleetwood itself, and is a close relative to the engine found in the Chevrolet Corvette. There is plenty of power for hills, passing, merging, or full loads, and fuel economy is surprisingly good. The 4-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission shifts smoothly and quickly. A trailer towing package is available. It gives the Fleetwood the ability to tow trailers weighing up to 7,000 pounds, a higher rating than many sport-utility vehicles.

CONCLUSIONS: The end of an era is approaching. When production of the Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham ends at the end of the 1996 model year, the traditional big Cadillac will be extinct. The highways of America won't be the same.

SPECIFICATIONS:
1996 CADILLAC FLEETWOOD BROUGHAM

       Base Price             $ 36,995
       Price As Tested        $ 40,512 
       Engine Type            V-8, ohv, pushrod, 16 valve, spfi
       Engine Size            5.7 liter/350 cid   
       Horsepower             260 @ 5000
       Torque (lb/ft)         330 @ 3200
       Wheelbase/Length       122"/225"
       Transmission           four-speed electronic automatic w/od
       Curb Weight            4470 lbs. 
       Pounds per Horsepower  17.2
       Fuel Capacity          23.0 gal. 
       Fuel Requirement       Unleaded regular (87 oct)
       Tires                  Goodyear Eagle GA all-season
                              P235/70R 15
       Brakes                 disc/disc - ABS standard
       Drive Train            front engine/rear drive
       
                    PERFORMANCE
       
       EPA Economy - miles per gallon
         city/highway/observed     17/25/22.1
       0 to 60 mph                 8.7 sec.
       1/4 mile (E.T.)             17.3 sec
       Coefficient of Drag.        .36 

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