1985 Cadillac Fleetwood Examined: The Downsized Caddy Disappoints
From the September 1984 difficulty of Automobile and Driver.
When extravagant luxurious and ostentatious opulence are your inventory in commerce, downsizing presents a tough drawback. The one cause to downsize is to enhance effectivity, a purpose diametrically against the extra profligate appetites. The posh-versus-efficiency crunch has come to a head at Cadillac with the disclosing of its 1985 de Ville and Fleetwood fashions, its model of Common Motors’ new front-drive C-body cruisers. GM most likely might have delayed the front-drive remedy for its large sedan for an additional 12 months or twothe market has quickly relaxed its hue and cry for increased gas efficiencybut the federal government’s CAFE necessities have made additional procrastination too pricey.
Not solely is a extra trendy sedan needed, nevertheless it presents Cadillac with the chance to broaden its market past its conventional clientele, which is each rising in age and lowering in quantity. A extra functionally environment friendly automotive, Cadillac hopes, will entice a few of the luxurious patrons who at the moment flip to abroad producers for his or her transportation. After all, the problem is to draw these new patrons with out turning off the outdated ones.
Placing such a stability isn’t a simple activity, however Common Motors has given Cadillac a superb basis on which to construct. The brand new C-car, a design shared with the Buick Electra and the Oldsmobile Ninety Eight, is a totally trendy, space-efficient giant sedan, geared up with front-wheel drive, a unitized body-and-frame development, and a totally impartial suspension. Cadillac’s Fleetwood is 2 and a half toes shorter, 4 inches narrower, and about 600 kilos lighter than its rear-drive predecessor, but it has just about an identical inside house. Gasoline financial system jumps from 16 to 19 mpg metropolis, and acceleration can be improved. By any goal measure, the brand new automotive is a wise and modern luxurious bundle.
Therein lies the issue. Common Motors’ premier division does not deal in wise, sensible luxurious. A Cadillac exemplifies extra, coddling, substance, and power. Issues of experience and house are addressed with inertia and sheer measurement. A smaller, extra environment friendly automotive is at odds with this fastidiously maintained picture.
To reduce the shock of downsizing, the Cadillac stylists have folded the Fleetwood’s exterior sheetmetal into acquainted patterns. The wedge form that’s a part of the generic C-car design has been camouflaged with strains which are crisp and upright. Sharp vertical edges mark all 4 corners, and lengthy horizontal strains at every finish visually improve the brand new automotive’s width. A formally upright rear window and a standard search for the grille and the taillights full the household resemblance. These styling cues do add bulk to the 195-inch-long, 3500-pound Fleetwood, however the brand new automotive is way much less visually imposing than the 226-inch, two-ton-plus luxo-cruiser it replaces. We predict its styling is profitable sufficient to draw Cadillac’s conventional purchaser, although we doubt that it’s going to do a lot to broaden the market.
The inside posed much less of an issue to the Cadillac designers bent on preserving the standard picture as a result of the downsized cabin is each bit as spacious because the one it replaces. The sprint is a split-level affair adorned with chrome beading, panels of simulated leather-based, a minimal allotment of devices, and in depth labeling. The door panels are fitted with casket-handle door pulls framed by panels of velour, faux wooden, and extra chrome beading. Lifelong Cadillac homeowners will really feel completely at residence, although potential converts might stroll away shaking their heads.
From a purely purposeful standpoint, the 2 teams are handled equally. There’s as a lot inside house as anybody might need, with almost limitless headroom and legroom entrance and rear; each benches will comfortably seat three. Sadly, the seats are as flat as a park bench, and a number of other testers complained that they offered inadequate upper-back assist.
The Fleetwood’s powertrain, nevertheless, was favored by all. Though Oldsmobile and Buick have a port-injected, 90-degree V-6 as the highest engine selection for his or her C-cars, Cadillac gives the world’s solely transverse-mounted front-drive V-8, with an aluminum block besides. One other Cadillac unique is a viscous torque-converter clutch, which locks up earlier, but extra easily, than a traditional design does.
These measures endow the front-drive Fleetwood with as a lot powertrain refinement as any of its predecessors. The 4.1-liter, fuel-injected V-8 idles quietly and easily, low-speed acceleration is powerful, and throttle response is fast and progressive. The four-speed transaxle deserves a lot of the credit score for this poise because it deftly shuffles by way of its duties in response to the motive force’s calls for. The sheer silence of the powertrain is spectacular underneath most circumstances, damaged solely by a surprisingly robust mechanical hum from the engine when it is giving its all. Factoring within the 22-mpg C/D noticed gas financial system, we discover no fault with this powertrain from any potential purchaser’s viewpoint.
Regardless of the up-to-date ranges of motivation, driving the brand new Fleetwood is just not what we’d name a satisfying expertise. Cadillac’s dealing with engineers, just like the stylists, apparently felt the necessity to make the smaller automotive remind its driver of its bigger antecedents. Consequently, the extra refined chassis drives very like the land yachts of yesteryear. Each transfer is comfortable, languorous, and prolonged.
Turning the steering wheel produces no fast response; flip it some extra, and finally the multifarious bushings compress, the comfortable tires develop some cornering drive, the physique heels over, and the automotive truly begins to alter course. As well as, the Fleetwood appears to have little resistance to sharp rocking motions within the pitch airplane; a tough press of the throttle sends the nostril skyward, and something however the mildest brake functions drops the entrance bumper well towards the bottom.
We are able to guarantee you that these exaggerated motions will not be brought on by the Fleetwood’s robust grip on the highway. Its stopping distance from 70 mph is a prolonged 232 toes, and it manages solely 0.64 g on the skidpadthe lowest determine we have ever recorded for a contemporary automotive. This represents a big lack of adhesion; the final rear-drive Sedan de Ville we examined achieved 0.67 g on the skidpad. To make issues worse, the brand new Fleetwood so overworked its left-front tire throughout our roadholding take a look at that the rubber peeled proper off the rim, a failure we would by no means earlier than skilled throughout testing on any automotive. (In response to Cadillac’s engineering division, if the tire is inflated to at the very least 10 psi, such a failure can solely happen on account of a part defect. Our Fleetwood’s tires have been set to the really useful 30 psi instantly earlier than the take a look at.) Among the blame for the low adhesion likely belongs to the Uniroyal Tiger Paw Plus all-season tires mounted on our take a look at Fleetwood, nevertheless it’s clear that Cadillac’s suspension engineers have closely biased the chassis calibration towards experience consolation and noise isolation.
One cause for such a one-sided strategy will be the new automotive’s unitized body-and-frame development, the primary in a “giant” Cadillac. Though the entrance suspension, the engine, and the transaxle experience on a rubber-isolated powertrain cradle, the brand new Fleetwood should do with out the rubber-isolated perimeter body that beforehand fashioned the primary line of protection towards bumps and small highway irregularities. To compensate for this lack of isolation, the Cadillac engineers softened each facet of the suspension, and the result’s a really soft automotive. Massive bumps are enveloped and smothered, small ones are filtered out at floor degree, and the automotive is extraordinarily quiet. Nonetheless, the brand new Fleetwood does not have the almost whole isolation of its predecessor, and it appears considerably much less exact in response to regulate inputs.
May it’s that Cadillac is attempting too arduous to show its environment friendly new sedan into an old-school luxocruiser? To make the Fleetwood match this position, Cadillac has pushed its styling and dealing with to extremes inappropriate to the dimensions and design of the brand new C-bodies. The result’s a bundle with even much less stability than the outdated automotive loved. Conventional clients might properly take a liking to the brand new mannequin, although we suspect that, given a ch0ice, many would like a brand-new old-style Cadillac. The true drawback is with the brand new guard, who we doubt will present a lot curiosity on this downsized protector of basic American automotive luxurious. The Fleetwood might supply what they need in measurement and gas urge for food, nevertheless it nonetheless exudes ostentatious extravagance quite than quiet competence. The mantle has been handed; the last word nondriver’s automotive continues to be a Cadillac.
We are able to perceive Cadillac’s need to guard its buyer base, however we want the division had discovered a approach to take action with out excluding the youthful, extra enthusiastic sorts. A sporty, European-style possibility bundle like Buick’s T Sort might do wonders for this Cadillac’s enchantment. Higher but, GM’s status division might make the most of its well-established de Ville and Fleetwood nameplates and orient one among them towards the standard market, whereas letting the opposite forage for brand new clients. (Since there’s a $4000 distinction between the Cadillac C-cars and their lesser brethren, there must be ample room for at the very least some experimentation of this sort.) As issues stand now, the brand new Cadillac does little greater than assist the Common’s CAFE common, whereas sustaining the division’s profitable absorb a steadily diminishing market.
Cadillac’s new front-drive Fleetwood is just not the stuff of automotive fans’ desires. Fears and doubts, not desires, have been the motivating forces behind the event of the Cadillac division’s new cruiser. It has been cunningly and lovingly crafted to enchantment to individuals who already personal Cadillacspeople who’ve expressed grave doubts concerning the knowledge of smaller, extra environment friendly Cadillacs, individuals who’ve at all times favored extreme, inefficient Cadillacs simply high quality. It’s a higher and extra modern Cadillac in each approach, however it’s all softness and indecision, in sharp distinction to the agency, decisive German automobiles which have executed a lot to undermine Cadillac’s conventional standing as America’s Quantity One standing automotive. It’s a Cadillac beater, not a Mercedes beater. I discovered the seat so comfortable, so wanting in assist, that I couldn’t actually report whether or not it dealt with properly or not. I discovered the brake and accelerator pedals hung so excessive that my foot repeatedly slipped off at essential moments, to the discomfort of my passengers. Make no mistake, this can be a fairly good automotive, however it’s geared toward America’s prosperous senior residents, not you and me. David E. Davis, Jr.
I shake my head at Cadillac’s self-satisfied refusal to embrace the progressiveness of at the moment’s Detroit. At a time when Lincoln’s Continental Mark VII LSC and Buick’s Electra T Sort present that American consolation needn’t exclude high quality highway manners and good efficiency, the brand new Fleetwood is a reminder of a previous when underachievers have been the norm. The Electra T Sort, which springs from the identical C-car shell, is important and exact, handing over a lot better efficiency and habits and infinitely higher really feel than the Cadillac. Because of this, the Electra is a much better automotive for good drivers and a a lot safer automotive for all drivers. Why, even the outdated Fleetwood drove higher than the brand new one. Cadillac, spare us the output of your fuddy-duddies and provides us the promise of your finest boffins. Till then, if you’ll excuse me, I really feel a bit ailing. Larry Griffin
Let’s not confuse the difficulty right here. The Cadillac division was not attempting to outdo Mercedes with this new front-drive mannequin, nor was it trying to woo die-hard Audi nuts or corral all of the under-35 overachievers. That is high quality by me. There’s nothing flawed with Cadillac’s conventional method for coddling passengers. So the notion of constructing it extra environment friendly was okay on this quarter.
The fundamental styling bundle is good, one of many neatest shrink jobs in Detroit’s historical past. The brand new Fleetwood manages to seem like a “actual” Caddy however is tightened up sufficient to look extra “with it” and socially acceptable.
It is also quiet and rides like whipped cream, so I predict an enormous hit. Caddy loyalists will not care a lot that the dealing with’s klutzy or that the tires attempt to peel off the edges at a stroll or that the entrance seat is all flawed or that the drivability is beneath par. They most likely will not even discover that the brand new automotive is nearly as thirsty because the outdated or that it does not drive almost as properly.
However I do. And that makes the brand new Fleetwood the 12 months’s largest disappointment. Wealthy Ceppos
1984 Cadillac Fleetwood
Automobile Sort: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 6-passenger, 4-door sedan
Base/As Examined: $20,402/$22,948
Choices: Delco-Bose sound system, $895; leather-based inside trim, $550; six-way energy passenger’s seat, $225; cruise management, $185; tilt-telescope steering wheel, $184; rear-window defogger and heated mirror, $165; energy trunk pull-down, $80; twilight sentinel, $79; intermittent wipers, $60; different choices, $123.
pushrod V-8, aluminum block and heads
Displacement: 249 in3, 4087 cm3
Energy: 125 hp @ 4200 rpm
Torque: 190 lb-ft @ 2200 rpm
Suspension, F/R: struts/struts
Brakes, F/R: 10.3-in vented disc/8.9-in drum
Tires: Uniroyal Tiger Paw Plus M+S
Wheelbase: 110.8 in
Size: 195.0 in
Width: 71.7 in
Top: 55.0 in
Passenger Quantity, F/R: 57/53 ft3
Trunk Quantity: 15 ft3
Curb Weight: 3477 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 11.7 sec
1/4-Mile: 18.2 sec @ 74 mph
100 mph: 51.2 sec
High Gear, 3050 mph: 5.6 sec
High Gear, 5070 mph: 8.1 sec
High Pace: 105 mph
Braking, 700 mph: 232 ft
Roadholding, 282-ft Skidpad: 0.64 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Noticed: 22 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Mixed/Metropolis/Freeway: 23/19/31 mpg
C/D TESTING EXPLAINED
Csaba Csere joined Automobile and Driver in 1980 and by no means actually left. After serving as Technical Editor and Director, he was Editor-in-Chief from 1993 till his retirement from energetic responsibility in 2008. He continues to dabble in automotive journalism and LeMons racing, in addition to ministering to his 1965 Jaguar E-type, 2017 Porsche 911, and trio of motorcycleswhen not snowboarding or mountain climbing close to his residence in Colorado.