1990 Cadillac Eldorado

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chicagotribune.com
The Cimarron, the V-8-6-4 engine, diesels and downsizing.

In the last several years, it seemed Cadillac nearly cornered the market on mistakes. Little wonder luxury car buyers fled to European manufacturers.

Now Cadillac is atoning for the goofs, and a major act of contrition is the 1990 Eldorado touring coupe.

The Eldo, you may recall, was transformed into a dinghy from a yacht in 1986, when Cadillac removed pounds and inches. Not only did Eldorado lose size, but it also lost the prestige image once associated with big ``boats.``

The Eldorado still features the long hood short deck style of past models without returning to the dimensions it once had. But the ride and handling and power and creature comforts that loyalists enjoyed before Cadillac transformed the machine into a munchkin are back in the limited-edition touring coupe.

A nice styling touch is the addition of body-colored door handles. Missing, however, is a decorative hood ornament. A current rage among youths is to tear the ornaments from auto hoods to wear as a badge from a neck chain. The vandalism has made the ornament undesirable because of the time and money it takes to replace it and repair the hood.

Wheelbase is the same 108 inches it was after being whacked down from 114 inches in 1986. Length is 191.4 inches. The 1986 downsizing reduced length to 188.2 inches from 204.5; after an onslaught of criticism, Cadillac extended the length to 191.4 in 1988. In 1992, the next generation, totally restyled, slightly longer and reportedly with a 32-valve, 4.9-liter V-8,will debut. But we digress.

The 1990 isn`t as big as the pre-shrunken long hood-short deck `80-85 versions, but its ride, handling and comfort have improved tremendously. With the special touring suspension, the Eldorado is far more nimble than predecessors. You get a soft, cushy ride, but stability in corners and turns, the road feel you`d expect in a sports model.

Eldorado had the road manners of a Mazda Miata or Chevrolet Geo Storm- tight turns without body roll or sway and stable corners, enabling you to leave the foot on the accelerator and not tap the brake pedal. Perhaps two words sum up the suspension system: comfort and control.

The 4.1-liter V-8 of past years has given way to a 4.5-liter V-8. It has been given a 25 horsepower boost, to 180 horsepower, by switching to sequential port fuel injection. Despite the Eldo`s tipping the scale at 3,426 pounds, the 4.5 responds without grunt or groan. And it does so very quickly, boasting a 0-to-60-m.p.h. time of 9 seconds. But the price you pay for that performance is in fuel economy and a 16 m.p.g. city/25 m.p.g. highway mileage rating.

After a week in the car, we suspect 16/25 is mighty generous. The digital fuel gauge drops from double to single digits with alarming speed. The Eldorado isn`t saddled with a gas-guzzler tax, but unless that 4.9-liter V -8 due in 1992 can deliver more power and more mileage, it would be difficult to fathom how the car could escape the penalty.

The suspension makes the touring coupe special. The regular suspension was returned and a larger rear stabilizer bar added. The power steering ratio was improved for quicker response, and Goodyear Eagle GT+4 16-inch radial tires were added for better road grip.

The engine compartment also was reinforced and strengthened, and the joint between the windshield pillars and the frame was beefed up to reduce ``shake`` transmitted through the chassis. That also means greater isolation from the vibrations of rough road surfaces.

Antilock brakes were added to the standard power brakes to ensure the ultimate in stopping capability, regardless of road surface or condition.

The suspension is complemented by the thick leather seats, with just enough of a side bolster to provide adequate lateral support in corners and turns.

Standard equipment in the touring coupe includes 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive, independent four-wheel suspension, air conditioning, electronic level control, power windows/door locks/seats, aluminum alloy wheels, AM/FM stereo with cassette and digital clock, tilt steering, leather-trimmed steering wheel, cruise control, rear-window defogger, dual electric mirrors, driver`s-side air bag and center console with flipover coin and cupholder.

The touring coupe is a limited edition. Only 1,500 will be built this year and 3,000 annually starting in 1991. Base price of the test car was $28,855, to which was added the touring coupe package at $2,975 (touring suspension, antilock brakes, leather interior and 16-inch wheels). The test car also added an upgraded Delco-Bose sound system with compact disc player at $872. With a $570 freight charge, the Eldorado touring coupe stickered for $33,000 plus change.

Had it had two more doors and traction control, the Eldorado touring coupe would have been as pleasurable to drive as a Toyota Lexus ES400, which starts at $36,000.



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