1991 Cadillac Fleetwood

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$691–$8,143
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Orlando Sentinel

Auto industry analysts have predicted that luxury cars will account for the most growth in the new-car market in the 1990s. The reason: Baby boomers will be reaching their peak earning years.

Inan effort to capitalize on this, both Toyota and Nissan, following Honda's lead, set up luxury car divisions. Cadillac, which commands the largest slice of the luxury car market, has not taken lightly the introduction of the Honda, Toyota and Nissan luxury cars.

Though the shape of most Cadillacs hasn't changed much in recent years, under the skin, it's a different story. Instead of changing sheet metal, Cadillac engineers have been building first-rate drivetrains, finding new ways to isolate noise and vibration, and equipping each model with new levels of technical sophistication, in such things as the suspension and air conditioning systems and the transmission.

The Fleetwood sedan is one of the most popular entries in Cadillac's lineup. The 1991 model should continue to please its loyal following.

ENGINE, TRANSMISSION, PERFORMANCE

Cadillac is aware that many luxury car buyers also want performance. So this year, the GM division has served up a highly revised version of the company's 4.9-liter, fuel-injected V-8. This year the engine makes 200 horsepower, which is enough to give the 3,600-pound car ample performance. One expects any Cadillac to run smoothly, but the test car approached Lexus' standard-setting level of smoothness. At idle in the Fleetwood it's nearly impossible to detect if the engine is running.

Under heavy acceleration a minimum amount of engine noise finds its way into the interior. Thanks to a new computer-controlled, four-speed electronic transmission (4T60E), shifts are effortless, well-timed and nearly imperceptible. Along with the impressive new automatic transmission in the new Saturn cars, GM is pulling away from the rest of the world's automakers in perfecting smooth-shifting automatic transmissions.

Steering, handling, braking

One of the most striking things about the Fleetwood is its interior. Cadillac has adorned the Fleetwood with some real wood, stained American Walnut. The wood combined with the optional leather seats make for a very attractive package.

However, I would not describe the ride as sporty in any way. With a wheelbase of 113.8 inches and a length of 205.6 inches, the Fleetwood is a bit unwieldy in high-speed maneuvers.

The car is at home on long, smooth highways. Transporting six adults in comfort is its forte. The four-wheel, independent suspension system handles most bumps and incongruities in the road with ease.

The power assisted disc/drum brakes and the power steering were up to the usual Cadillac standards. The brakes arrest the action with just a tap of the pedal.

FIT, FINISH, CONTROLS

One of the most striking things about the Fleetwood is its interior. Cadillac has festooned the Fleetwood with s ome real wood, stained American Walnut. The wood combined with the optional leather seats make for a very attractive package.

Switches for such things as power windows and seats are easy to reach and operate. I found the air conditioning and heating system to be superb. The switches for the windshield wipers and cruise control were easy to operate and did not cause undue diversion from the road.

The Fleetwood is put together tightly. Everything worked perfectly, from the power seats with the myriad of adjustments, to the electronically controlled mirrors. There were no rattles, squeaks or other noises. The CD player made for concert hall sound. The seats were comfortable but lack lower back support.

If you are looking for a traditional luxury car, and Cadillac is a marque you are fond of, the 1991 Fleetwood should certainly fit the bill. Though the styling is a bit conservative, maybe even a bit behind the times in this aerodynamic age, the car is packed with up to-date technology that makes it a pleasure to drive.

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