“And best of all…it’s a Cadillac!” Those words certainly meant something back in the days of 8-tracks, pimpmobiles, and Gerald Ford. But, now is the time of iPods, hybrids, and Barack Obama. So, I wanted to know if this 10 year old Cadillac Eldorado was in any way still a great cruiser. I grabbed the golden keys and started her up. Cadillac has not produced the Eldorado since 2002, and only recently started producing two-door coupes again with the CTS Coupe.
The Eldorado started out as Cadillac’s flagship, but by its last year, had fallen out of favor due to its design, as 2-door luxury coupes became out of style. The final model was introduced in 1992 and brought the Eldo into the modern era with airbags, ABS, modern suspension, and a brand new V8. The Northstar engine became a household name for Cadillac, although it’s been gone since 2011. In the ETC, the 4.6L Northstar engine puts out 300bhp, a lot for a FWD coupe, and the most power in the Eldorado since 1972. The Eldorado has been FWD since 1967, which makes a lot of enthusiasts ignore it–the Eldorado is a car built for comfort, not for handling. Inside, the Eldo has plenty of options for a 2000 model, including a CD changer, Bose speakers, power everything, and a sunroof. The seats are covered in soft leather, with a large center console and a floor shifter–a departure from most Cadillacs of this era. So, there is a bit of sport-mindedness in this model, with its touring suspension and higher-output V8. But, once again, the seats are soft and not well bolstered, and the steering wheel is of a large diameter and a thin rim.
Cadillac did indeed have trouble selling this car when it was new. Their reason was that the market was moving away from personal coupes, but I believe it was also due to the fact that the FWD luxury market was quickly drying up and as a 2-door model, Cadillac had no place for it anymore. Just sitting inside this 2000 model made me realize just how far Cadillac has come since the turn of the 21st century. The CTS-V Coupe, which is Cadillac’s current flagship two-door, is much more modern and apes European cars with an American twist. This car doesn’t do that–instead, it is a modern interpretation of the classic big American two-door personal car, with wide seats, a simple dashboard, and “upscale” materials (although the ETC had real wood trim and real leather, it’s definitely a cut below what BMW was using in 2000).
The instrument panel is very easy to read, and the radio face and climate controls are basically identical to some other GM products, which makes them a walk in the park as well. The seats are still quite comfortable even after 10 years of use, and the view out, rear, and to the sides is excellent. However, the thick rear roof pillars impede rear 3/4 visibility. The low, flat hood, combined with the wide windshield, provide that classic American panorama view of the highway.
On the road, the big Caddy could be worse, but it’s no sports car. In a straight line, all is sort of well. The big V8 sounds surprisingly classy for an American engine. It pulls very well for its age but the automatic transmission that GM uses is rarely awake–it usually needs to kick down at least a gear or two before anything important happens. That said, the Eldorado certainly isn’t underpowered. There’s some minor torque steer, but the weight of the car has a dampening effect on the front wheels. There’s very little vibration on the move from the drivetrain even after 100K miles. However, these engines are known for issues, and mine had a loud squeak from the belts–not a great sign. The ride is typical classic Cadillac–very soft, somewhat therapeutic, but does not stay stable. Probably due to its age, the Eldorado did sway and dip a bit over large road imperfections, and lacks body control from side-to-side. It does have Stabilitrak, but I never had a chance to make it kick in. The brake pedal is a bit soft, and the nose hits the ground on hard braking, but the car doesn’t have issues stopping. However, handling is where this Caddy really falls off the wagon. In just 10 years, Cadillac has found the Nurburgring, and improved the handling of some of their more modern models. The Eldorado leans around in corners, and the steering is far too light–for a car that has a “Touring Coupe” trim level, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence when “touring”.
So, in short, would I consider a car like this as an enthusiast? Probably not–it had other issues (electrical problems, as well as a bad belt, which spells very bad news in a Northstar Cadillac), and the way this car drives is not at all comparable to other sporty coupes at the same price. It’s not a surprise that the Eldorado can’t keep up with the times, and its driving dynamics are just a joke for what it could be. If it were RWD, or if it were a lighter car, I’d like it more, but this is no sports coupe. No doubt about it–Cadillac’s come a long way since 2000.
-Albert S. Davis