Cadillac's Eldorado is brilliantly fast, lavishly comfortable, and positively abuzz with gee-whiz electronic technology. It's also a two-door coupe, giving it all the personal style that the word implies. In fact, the Eldorado is the best-selling luxury prestige coupe in America.
ESC ($41,865); ETC ($45,000)
The Cadillac Eldorado's lines are clean and spare. But it looks heavy. Its high beltline, huge C-pillar, bulky trunk and small, bunker-like windows convey an impression of enormous mass. The closer you get, the bigger it seems. And with a generous 108-inch wheelbase, and an overall length of 200.6 inches, the Eldorado's size is no illusion.
The ETC version looks even more solid, thanks to its monochrome exterior. But the ETC's body-colored grille and bumpers do blend handsomely with the rest of its form.
The Eldorado's interior is large, elegant, and generous in its appointments. A beautifully sleek band of fine Zebrano wood trim encircles the driver and front-seat passenger. The dash is admirably simple and straightforward, with excellent analog instruments. The automatic twilight-sensing headlight system can be adjusted for sensitivity or switched off altogether.
The steering wheel has two paddles, one that controls audio volume and station selection, the other controlling the climate system's temperature and fan level. The wheel adjusts up and down, but does not telescope fore and aft.
A full multi-task trip computer is mounted on the dash above the console. It computes current cruising range, fuel efficiency, fuel used, average speed, elapsed time, battery voltage and percent of oil-life left, in either English or metric figures. Next to this computer are remote controls for opening the trunk and fuel door. A fine Bose AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo is standard on the ETC. The Bose system can be added to the ESC, along with a 12-disc remote CD changer in the trunk, as part of a $2,900 Luxury Package that also includes StabiliTrak stability control, woodgrain interior trim, and chrome wheels. The radio features a data system that will display the station, search for particular kinds of stations or look for traffic bulletins. It can even interrupt tapes and CDs with emergency information.
The Eldorado's heating and air conditioning panel presents readouts for both interior and exterior ambient temperature. A toggle on the lower right allows the front passenger to select separate temperature settings. Rear-seat passengers get their own climate controls as well. Heated seats come on the ETC and they warm quickly, but we found even the lower of the two settings too hot for extended periods of time. They are at their best while waiting for the engine and heating system to warm up.
The power outside mirrors automatically turn downward when Reverse is selected, a helpful assist for parking this large car. There is a compass in the rearview mirror, and our test car was furnished with an optional overhead garage-door opener ($107).
Our Eldorado Touring Coupe's upholstery was gorgeous, glove-quality light-cream leather, and the power front seats adjusted twelve ways. Lateral support is average, but the four-way power lumbar adjustment is excellent.
For safety, dual second-generation airbags are standard up front.
The Cadillac Eldorado is a fast car. Both models, ESC and ETC, have lots of power. Stand on it and they take off, whether from a standstill or from a slow cruise. It begins with the Cadillac's 4.6-liter Northstar V8, which has been well-publicized and deservedly praised.
In the Eldorado Touring Coupe, or ETC, this engine produces 300 horsepower at 6000 rpm. This is matched by a brawny 295 pounds-feet of torque, though at a fairly high 4400 rpm, rather than down low, where it would produce an even heartier takeoff. The Eldorado Touring Coupe can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 7 seconds, which is spirited performance. Passing maneuvers from 30 to 70 mph take only about 6.5 seconds, which is uplifting.
The Eldorado Sport Coupe, or ESC, develops its 275 horsepower at 5600 rpm, and 300 pounds-feet of torque at a slightly lower 4000 rpm.
The automatic transmission is excellent. It shifts so smoothly that it's almost undetectable in all but the hardest acceleration.
Like any powerful front-wheel-drive car, the Eldorado exhibits low-speed torque-steer under full acceleration. Slam the accelerator from a standstill, and you'll feel a slight tug on the steering wheel. You'd get some front wheel spin if you'd switched off the traction control system, but traction control is automatically re-activated each time you start the car. Whenever traction control senses wheel spin, it reduces engine torque and lightly applies the brakes to the front wheels, enhancing driver control. In moderate driving, however, none of this will be noticed.
Cadillac is GM's leader in technology and the Eldorado is absolutely jam-packed with technology designed to enhance safety and improve the driving experience. Variable-assist Magnasteer, which comes standard, adjusts steering effort not only to road speed but to cornering force as well.
The Eldorado rides smoothly, yet it doesn't completely isolate the driver from the road. The Continuously Variable Road-Sensing Suspension, or CVRSS, which comes standard on the Eldorado Touring Coupe, it adjusts shock damping according to road conditions. This suspension reads the roughness of the road surface and automatically adjusts the shock-damping rate at each individual wheel. The result is reduced impact harshness, a smoother ride and more sustained contact with the road during extreme emergency maneuvers.
StabiliTrak stability control uses yaw and lateral-acceleration sensors in conjunction with the suspension, steering and ABS to detect oversteer (fishtailing) or understeer (front-end washout). Immediately upon sensing either of these conditions, StabiliTrak applies braking to the one wheel to keep the car running along the driver's intended path. Several top-line automakers are using these systems now and, presuming the laws of physics haven't been too grievously violated by the driver, they really work. Drivers can make minor mistakes, and the Eldorado will correct for them, helping the driver maintain control and keep the car on the road. StabiliTrak is standard on ETC, optional as part of the Luxury Package on ESC.
Besides traction control, the Eldorado comes standard with anti-lock brakes (ABS), which allow the driver to maintain steering control of the car during emergency braking. The ETC adds a system that automatically adjusts the ABS according to the texture of the road. Slam on the brakes and the Eldorado delivers optimum braking force to each wheel without letting any of them lock up and skid. This helps the driver maintain even better control of the steering during an emergency stop.
Cadillac's Eldorado offers high style, high luxury, and high performance in a personal coupe. It also offers high technology. The Northstar engine, the silky smooth transmission and the suspension tuning are first rate. And with ABS, CVRSS, and StabiliTrak on the ETC, there's enough electronic alphabet soup to justify the price.