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It used to be that all Cadillacs were big, flashy, fast and sybaritically plush, perched at the undisputed pinnacle of boat-size, dinosaur-powered American luxury. And yet, even then, an Eldorado was something more. More expensive, certainly, and sometimes more powerful, but also more youthful, more individual. An Eldorado was the Cadillac of Cadillacs.
The world has changed since then, and so have Cadillacs, but somehow the Eldorado has hung on as the most Cadillac of them all. Defying the current trend toward anonymous four-door utility, it is the last remaining big luxury coupe manufactured in America, and one of the last in the world.
Cadillac's Eldorado remains brilliantly fast, lavishly comfortable, and individually stylish. And it is the only Cadillac whose projected demographic includes the number "40."
If the Eldorado Touring Coupe seems loaded with creature comforts, it's absolutely jam-packed with technology designed to enhance safety and improve the driving experience.
It all begins with the Eldorado's well-publicized and deservedly praised 4.6-liter Northstar V8. On the ETC, this engine produces 300 horsepower at 6000 rpm. This is matched by a brawny 295 foot-pounds of torque, though at a fairly high 4400 rpm, rather than down low, where it would produce an even heartier takeoff.
Conversely, the Eldorado Sport Coupe develops its 275 horsepower at 5600 rpm, and 300 foot-pounds of torque at 4000 rpm.
Either way, Eldorado has lots of power. Stand on it and it goes, whether from a standstill or cruising along slowly. The 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 automatic transmission is excellent. It shifts so smoothly that it's almost undetectable when accelerating in everyday driving situations.
Like any powerful front-wheel-drive car, the ETC exhibits low-speed torque-steer under full acceleration. Slam down the accelerator pedal from a standstill and you'll feel a slight tug on the steering wheel. You'll also get some front wheel spin if you've switched off the standard traction control system. However, the 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. In moderate driving, none of this will be noticed.
Three other sophisticated systems aid the Eldorado's road behavior. Variable-assist Magnasteer is standard; it adjusts steering effort not only to road speed but to cornering force as well. CVRSS, or Continuously Variable Road-Sensing Suspension is standard on ETC; it adjusts shock damping according to road conditions.
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. 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 driving mistakes, and the Eldorado will correct for them, helping you maintain control and stay on the road. StabiliTrak is standard on ETC, optional ($495) on ESC.
This Eldorado rides smoothly, yet it doesn't completely isolate the driver from what's going on. The CVRSS suspension is an advanced system that reads the road surface's roughness 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.
Besides traction control, the Eldorado comes standard with anti-lock brakes (ABS), which allow the driver to maintain steering control of the car in an emergency braking situation.
Also on ETC is 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 lets the driver maintain control of the steering. So in an emergency stopping situation, just put the brake pedal down hard and keep it there, and remember to steer around any obstacles.
In a time when tailfins are amusing and triple carburetors antique, Cadillac has clung to the notion of a high-style, high-luxury, high-performance personal coupe.
Now it is technology that distinguishes the Eldorado, and Cadillac has pulled out all the stops. 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.