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The moment you sit in the Eldorado Touring Coupe, or "ETC," as it has been badged, you know you're in a Cadillac. The cues and styling of the Eldorado interior say what Cadillacs have always said: "big," "lavish," "grandiose."
But dipping into the power of the forceful Northstar V8, a different breed of Cadillac comes to life. From the first takeoff this car identifies itself as a far more aggressive package than you remember, aimed at a much younger buyer. The ETC definitely has its strengths -- but it also has enough "old" Cadillac qualities to compromise the result.
If the Eldorado Touring Coupe seems loaded with creature comforts, it's absolutely jam-packed with high-tech mechanical systems and geegaws for enhancing the driving experience.
Everything begins with the ETC's well-publicized and deservedly praised 4.6-liter Northstar V8. This engine's 300 horsepower at 6000 rpm is matched by a brawny 295 foot-pounds of torque, though this torque comes at a fairly high 4400 rpm, rather than down low, where it would produce even heartier takeoff. The only transmission available is an excellent Hydra-matic four-speed.
The Eldorado Touring Coupe's 0-to-60 mph acceleration times are spirited, coming in right at 7 seconds flat. Passing maneuvers from 30 to 70 mph take only about 6.5 seconds, which is very uplifting.
The irony is that this superb engine only underlines the fact that the Eldorado Touring Coupe is front-wheel drive. So far, nobody has worked out how to make a really powerful engine work smoothly with front-wheel drive and Cadillac is no exception. Accelerating the ETC hard from standstill, it exhibits low-speed torque-steer, meaning the engine's torque is literally trying to pull the front wheels this way and that. It's an unpleasant effect. And furthermore, because hard acceleration transfers weight to the rear tires, away from the front drive-wheels, the front wheels quickly lose traction and begin to spin. Then the traction control, sensing wheelspin, begins to order braking pulses at the front wheels. In a nanosecond, the ABS and the engine are in direct conflict with each other, the former trying to stop wheelspin, the latter trying to accelerate, all in a high-tech attempt to compensate for the shortcomings of a front-wheel-drive system prematurely overcome by healthy horsepower.
Driven moderately, this performance cul de sac won't be noticed. However it is the stated purpose of the Cadillac Eldorado ETC and Seville STS to attract younger, sportier buyers. They're going to notice. Sophisticated traction control systems have eliminated many of the downsides of a rear-wheel-drive platform. We'd like this big Cadillac much better if it was rear-wheel drive.
Besides ABS and traction control, three other systems are standard in the Eldorado Touring Coupe -- Magnasteer variable assist steering, CVRSS continuously variable road-sensing suspension and StabiliTrak stability control. (On the base Eldorado, CVRSS is unavailable and StabiliTrak is optional.)
StabiliTrak 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 that can help to regain stability. Various top-line builders are using these systems now and, presuming the laws of physics haven't been too grievously violated by the driver, they really work.
The CVRSS suspension is an advanced system that reads the road surface's roughness and on rougher surfaces automatically adjusts the shock damping rate of each individual wheel. The result is reduced impact harshness, a smoother ride and more sustained contact with the road during extreme emergency maneuvers.
Magnasteer actively varies the amount of power-assist given the steering, more at low speeds to decrease steering effort, with increasingly less at higher speeds, where increased steering effort has a steadying effect.
Cadillac's Eldorado Touring Coupe has pulled out all the high-tech stops to win over younger, more aggressive buyers. The Northstar engine and much of the mechanicals are first rate.
However, from the minute you pull that utterly huge, heavy door shut behind you, you know this is a traditional Cadillac. It feels big. It doesn't offer the same level of road feel that modern imported luxury sports sedans offer. As a boulevard cruiser, the ETC is pure Cadillac. But as a real driver's car, it has a way to go.