1990-1999 Cadillac


Consumers responded poorly to Cadillac's 1990s models, like this 1992 Cadillac Seville. SWee more pictures of the 1990-1999 Cadillacs.

Cadillac, after decades as America's luxury leader, was reduced to also-ran status in the 1990s. There were several reasons, starting with a stale image.

Journalists began to quip that the typical Cadillac buyer was "somewhere between 60 and death." That meant the brand wasn't appealing to the younger upscale trendsetters who preferred the cars of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota's upstart Lexus, for their superior workmanship, cachet, and performance. And once customers are lost, they're awfully hard to win back.

General Motors compounded the problem with "brand management," attempting to win sales more by clever marketing than imaginative design or world-class quality. Though Cadillac did pioneer several praiseworthy innovations and began exploring new markets, the efforts were often too little or too late.

As a result, total division sales declined from over 220,000 units for 1990 to just over 185,000 in 1999 -- a painful 16-percent drop. And there was worse to come. Quite simply, rivals had eclipsed Cadillac in design, engineering and buyer esteem, and GM's finest just couldn't seem to get back in the game.

Few of Cadillac's models of the '90s appealed to a young, upscale audience. The 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville is shown here. Few of Cadillac's models of the '90s appealed to a young, upscale audience. The 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville is shown here.
Few of Cadillac's models of the '90s appealed to a young, upscale audience. The 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville is shown here.

That's not to say every Cadillac of the 1990s was a dud. The 1992 Cadillac Seville, the 1992 Cadillac Eldorado and the 1994 Cadillac De Ville represented solid technical and design progress, and other initiatives promised to put Cadillac back in the hunt against unprecedented competition, foreign and domestic. Yet somehow, too many buyers were unmoved.

A perfect symbol of Cadillac's late-1990s situation was the Cadillac Eldorado, which languished with little change of consequence from 1992 though the end of the decade and beyond. To be sure, demand for big luxury coupes had been withering since the early '90s, yet Eldorado returned year after year as the sort of car Cadillac said it wanted to get away from.

At times, it seemed Cadillac itself didn't have a clear idea of what a Cadillac ought to be. During the 1990s, it conjured up a premium two-seat convertible, the Allante, but aimed too high with its pricing, and by the time it finally got the car sorted out, the public had lost interest. Then it thought a gilded version of a sedan from GM's German Opel division might make it as a BMW 3-Series fighter. But the Catera was not the bold statement Cadillac needed at that point.

The 1993 Cadillac Allante was priced too high for most car buyers. The 1993 Cadillac Allante was priced too high for most car buyers.
The 1993 Cadillac Allante was priced too high for most car buyers.

What Cadillac really wanted was to attract younger buyers without turning off its older customers, but the company ended up satisfying neither group entirely.

Despite some competitive products, Cadillac couldn't overcome a brand identity that was stodgy at best, tasteless at worst. In the 1990s, owning a Cadillac had somehow gone from status to stigma. Ironically, it was an SUV, introduced in 1999, that would restore some luster and hope at Cadillac.

We'll begin our discussion of the Cadillacs of this decade with a look at the 1990 Cadillac lineup on the next page.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.
  • 2000-2008 Cadillac: Discover how bold design, big power, and an SUV fuel a Cadillac comeback.

1990 Cadillac

The 1990 Cadillac Seville Touring Sedan (STS) boasted quick acceleration and sporty features.
The 1990 Cadillac Seville Touring Sedan (STS) boasted quick acceleration and sporty features.

The 1990 Cadillac lineup featured various upgrades to existing models, all of which were designs held over from the mid- to late-1980s.

A driver-side airbag was newly standard, as were some minor accessories that had been options. Performance of Cadillac's front-wheel-drive coupes and sedans (Seville, Eldorado, DeVille and Fleetwood) benefited by a switch from single-point to multipoint fuel injection that took their 4.5-liter V-8 from 155 to 180 horsepower and improved torque by five pound-feet to 245 total.

The extra horsepower was welcome, especially for the 1990 Cadillac Seville and its coupe cousin, the 1990 Cadillac Eldorado. Cadillac was increasingly pitching these cars as performance-oriented rivals to import-brand sports sedans.

Cadillac had some luck in that arena with the Touring Sedan version of the Seville. This featured a discreet monochrome exterior, beefy tires on handsome alloy wheels, firmed-up Touring Suspension, and a shorter final-drive for quicker acceleration. The Seville Touring Sedan package proved popular enough to rate separate-model status as the 1990 Cadillac STS, and added standard antilock brakes (ABS) to boot.

The 1990 Cadillac Seville and 1990 Cadillac Eldorado sold better than they had a few years before, but still not as well as the division needed. Eldorado volume dropped from near 31,000 for 1989 to about 22,000 for 1990. Seville, however, more than made up for that loss, soaring better than 40 percent from 23,000 to 33,000.

High-tech touches like a standard traction-control system were introduced with the 1990 Cadillac Allante. High-tech touches like a standard traction-control system were introduced with the 1990 Cadillac Allante.
High-tech touches like a standard traction-control system were introduced with the 1990 Cadillac Allante.

The 1990 Cadillac Allante, Cadillac's two-seat luxury convertible, was given several high-tech features intended to spruce up image and sales.

Heading the list of changes to the 1990 Cadillac Allante was a standard traction-control system, a first for a front-wheel-drive car, plus a revised "Speed Sensitive Suspension." The latter now stayed in its "soft" mode up to 40 mph, instead of 25 mph, for a smoother low-speed ride; as before, it then selected "normal," going into "firm" only above 60 mph. "Firm" also kicked in automatically during hard acceleration, braking, or cornering.

Also, the 1990 Cadillac Allante now came with a driver-side airbag, and a compact disc player lengthened the standard-equipment list.

Straining to keep price attractive, Cadillac now offered a second 1990 Cadillac Allante model, this one without the previously standard removable hardtop. Price was $51,500, an eye-opening $6,313 below the "full" version, which was hiked to $57,813.

Despite this, and the arrival of a pricey redesigned version of the car Allante was supposed match in quality and prestige, the Mercedes-Benz SL (which started in the mid-$70,000s), Allante sales only got worse. Model-year output for the 1990 Cadillac Allante eased to 3,101 units, from 3,296 in 1989.

Cadillac plowed ahead with several significant changes to its 1991 and 1992 models. Learn about these on the next page.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.
  • 2000-2008 Cadillac: Discover how bold design, big power, and an SUV fuel a Cadillac comeback.

1991 and 1992 Cadillac

Notice the redesigned grille and hood bulge on this 1991 Cadillac Sedan de Ville.
Notice the redesigned grille and hood bulge on this 1991 Cadillac Sedan de Ville.

Leading the changes for the 1991 Cadillac lineup was a displacement increase for the division's mainstay V-8 engine.

Pushed out from 4.5 liter to 4.9 liters (300 cubic inches), this engine powered all models except the Cadillac Allante and the big old rear-wheel-drive Cadillac Brougham. Horsepower rose by 20 to 200, and newly integrated electronic transmission controls insured its smooth, efficient delivery.

Equally laudable, antilock brakes (ABS) went from optional to standard status for the 1991 Cadillac DeVilles, 1991 Cadillac Eldorados, and the base 1991 Cadillac Seville.

The 1991 Cadillac DeVille and companion 1991 Cadillac Fleetwood models were also heavily facelifted. The highlight was a new grille and more-prominent hood bulge.

Finally, Cadillac revived the DeVille Touring Sedan after a three-year absence. Starting at around $35,200, the 1991 Cadillac DeVille Touring Sedan stood apart with a subdued "monochromatic" exterior, stout 16-inch alloy wheels shod with blackwall performance tires, shorter final gearing for better pickup, thicker stabilizer bars for tighter handling, and posh wood-and-leather interior trim. All this made for a more-agile DeVille, but nothing close to a true European sports sedan.

The 1992 Cadillac roster get significant new additions in the form of the redesigned 1992 Cadillac Seville and 1992 Cadillac Eldorado.

The new look and personality of 1992 Cadillac Seville and 1992 Cadillac Eldorado suggested things were changing at Cadillac. Both were smooth and curvy, clean and elegant, a refreshing break with their recent boxy past.

Styling, however, was no longer so similar between the two, and there were greater differences elsewhere as well. For example, 1992 Cadillac Seville now strode its own 111-inch wheelbase, while the 1992 Cadillac Eldorado stuck to a 108-inch span. Both models grew some 12 inches longer and 2.5 inches wider, but the Seville was taut, purposeful, and even bold for a Cadillac -- enough to make the Eldo seem cautious to some eyes.

The pricey 1992 Cadillac Seville had new, more elegant styling. The pricey 1992 Cadillac Seville had new, more elegant styling.
The pricey 1992 Cadillac Seville had new, more elegant styling.

Prices had many eyes popping. The 1992 Cadillac Eldorado started at $32,000, while the 1992 Cadillac Seville was up in $35,000–$38,000 territory. Then again, inflation had taken a toll, and both cars were actually fine values against comparable imports.

As before, the more-enthusiastic buyer opted for the Seville Touring Sedan or an Eldorado with a new Touring Coupe option package, which made an "ETC." Either choice meant firm suspension, wider tires on 16-inch wheels, less exterior chrome, and a more driver-oriented cabin with front bucket seats, center shift console, and analog instead of electronic digi-graphic instruments.

In all, the new "personal" Cadillacs were everything expected of the marque -- and more. Fittingly, they sold well. In fact, both almost doubled their model-year production from '91 to '92, the Eldorado exceeding 31,000, the Seville reaching almost 44,000. The '93s skidded to about 21,500 and 37,240, respectively, doubtless due to higher sticker prices reflecting the costlier Northstar engines.

The only notable changes to the 1992 Cadillac Fleetwood and the 1992 Cadillac DeVille Touring Sedan was the inclusion of traction control as standard equipment.

For 1993, Cadillac made technological changes to win back its reputation as a leader in mechanically sophisticated cars. Continue to the next page to get the details.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.
  • 2000-2008 Cadillac: Discover how bold design, big power, and an SUV fuel a Cadillac comeback.

1993 Cadillac

Cadillac introduced its state-of-the-art Northstar V-8 engine in the 1993 Cadillac Allante.
Cadillac introduced its state-of-the-art Northstar V-8 engine in the 1993 Cadillac Allante.

Changes to the 1993 Cadillac line demonstrated that GM was repositioning Cadillac as its technology leader, an attempt to win back an image that had traditionally blended mechanical sophistication with luxury and prestige.

Every 1993 Cadillac, for example, got as standard steering and suspension that both firmed up as vehicle speed increased. This was designed to provide a confident, roadworthy feel while still providing light steering and a soft ride in around-town driving.

Those features in fact had been pioneered by the ill-starred Cadillac Allante, which had reached the end of its life, and would not return after model-year 1993. The last Allante was unquestionably the best, however. Credit a brilliant new Cadillac V-8 for that.

Called "Northstar," this new V-8 boasted dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, all-aluminum construction, and state-of-the-art engineering throughout. Though sized at only 4.6 liters, it belted out 295 horsepower.

The 1993 Cadillac Allante also boasted a more-sophisticated traction-control system and a faster-acting "Road Sensing Suspension" (RSS). But by this point, the impressive 1993 Cadillac Seville and 1993 Cadillac Eldorado, both of which had been redesigned for 1992, were bringing in far more customers than the two-seat Allante ever had.

For the benefit of collectors, production totals for the Cadillac Allante's last three model years were 2,500 units for 1991, just 1,931 for 1992, and 4,670 for swan-song 1993.

The Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe (ETC) flew from 0 to 60 mph in just 7.5 seconds. The Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe (ETC) flew from 0 to 60 mph in just 7.5 seconds.
The Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe (ETC) flew from 0 to 60 mph in just 7.5 seconds.

Some of that Northstar magic rubbed off on the 1993 Cadillac STS, the sporting version of the 1993 Cadillac Seville, and 1993 Cadillac ETC, the hot-rod edition of the 1993 Cadillac Eldorado.

Their iron-head pushrod 4.9-liter V-8 gave way to the sterling new Northstar V-8. As in the last Allantes, the new engine packed a 295-horsepower punch that produced 0-60 mph times of around 7.5 seconds in Consumer Guide testing, more than a second quicker than before.

Both the 1993 Cadillac STS and 1993 Cadillac ETC also gained speed-sensitive power steering and optional Road Sensing Suspension.

Arriving for the base 1993 Cadillac Eldorado was a $3,000 Sport Coupe package with a special 270-horsepower Northstar V-8 tuned for extra torque (300 pound-feet versus 290) at lower rpm, all the better for low-speed lugging power. An alternative Sport Appearance option for the base 1993 Cadillac Eldorado offered ETC-type interior and exterior appearance for just $875.

Every 1993 Cadillac Eldorado and 1993 Cadillac Seville benefited from standard passenger-side airbags, minor rear-suspension tweaks, and improved traction control that would throttle back on engine power as well as apply the brakes to keep you on the straight and narrow.

On the next page, we'll look at an important makeover for 1994.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.
  • 2000-2008 Cadillac: Discover how bold design, big power, and an SUV fuel a Cadillac comeback.

1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville and Sedan de Ville Concourse

The 1994 Cadillac DeVille Concours was powered by a 270-horsepower twincam Northstar 4.6-liter V-8.
The 1994 Cadillac DeVille Concours was powered by a 270-horsepower twincam Northstar 4.6-liter V-8.

The 1994 Cadillac lineup was highlighted by a redesigned 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville and a sportier 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville Concours version, the latter replacing the DeVille Touring Sedan.

This was the final element of a three-year Cadillac makeover that had welcomed a popular redesign of the Seville and Eldorado for 1992 and introduction of the impressive Northstar V-8 for 1993.

All DeVilles were now sedans; the Coupe de Ville was retired, the shelving of its evocative name signaling the end of another era in American motoring. The Sixty Special also was dropped.

The main difference between the 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville and 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville Concours was motive power. The 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville used the 200-horsepower pushrod 4.9-liter V-8. The 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville Concours used the 270-horsepower twincam Northstar 4.6-liter V-8.

Both the 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville and 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville Concours looked like slightly smaller versions of the 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood, so few might have guessed they were built on a new K-Special version of the Cadillac Seville platform.

A 209.7-inch overall length combined with a 113.8-inch wheelbase to increase passenger and parcel space on the1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville and 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville Concours versus previous models. Styling had bit more "crease in the pants" than Fleetwood, but was conservatively handsome.

For mainstream luxury cars, the 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville and 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville Concours were a pleasant surprise: smooth, quiet, and fully equipped. The 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville Concours proved a virtual hot rod; Consumer Guide clocked a test example in a swift 6.8 seconds 0-60 mph.

The standard traction control and Road Sensing Suspension of the 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville Concours struck a happy balance between Euro-style handling and American-style ride. As ever, 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville aimed at older, less-energetic drivers, but was hardly the barge the Fleetwood was.

Both the 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville and 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville Concours drank fair amounts of premium gas, but that still didn't concern most Cadillac buyers. Amazingly, DeVille's base price remained unchanged for 1994 at $32,990; the 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville Concours started at a reasonable $36,950.

Continue to the next page for more on Cadillac's 1994 models.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.
  • 2000-2008 Cadillac: Discover how bold design, big power, and an SUV fuel a Cadillac comeback.

1994 Cadillac Eldorado and Cadillac Seville and 1995 Cadillac

Road Sensing Suspension was standard for the 1994 Cadillac Seville STS.
Road Sensing Suspension was standard for the 1994 Cadillac Seville STS.

While most of the 1994 Cadillac news was made by the redesigned full-size 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville and 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville Concours, the 1994 Cadillac Eldorado and 1994 Cadillac Seville were in for their share of updates.

The 1994 Cadillac Eldorado, its Sport Coupe package was dropped, but the 1994 Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe (ETC) became a separate model.

The 1994 Cadillac Seville adopted the high-torque Northstar to become the 1994 Cadillac SLS ("Seville Luxury Sedan"), and the Road Sensing Suspension was now standard for both the ETC and STS.

Sales of the 1994 Cadillac Eldorado and 1994 Cadillac Seville staged a modest recovery, Seville climbing back to nearly 47,000 and Eldo close to 25,000.

Though such numbers weren't great compared to early-1980s sales, they were a darn sight better than late-1980s volume. Just as important, the 1994 Cadillac Eldorado and 1994 Cadillac Seville suggested that some Cadillacs could be serious alternatives to top-flight European and Japanese cars.

Freshening the 1994 Cadillac Eldorado and 1994 Cadillac Seville in addition to redesigning the 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville and 1994 Cadillac Sedan de Ville Concours seemed to give Cadillac some momentum and thus hope that its vehicles could evolve along with changing premium-car tastes.

Thus, Cadillac was doubtless dismayed to see 1994 model-year sales go down instead of up. At least the 1994 loss wasn't devastating, about 10,000 units to just over 120,000. Sales in fact would stabilize at a reliable 100,000 or so per annum in 1996 and through 1999.

The 1995 Cadillac model range mostly stood pat, though every 1995 Cadillac gained five horsepower. Subtle styling updates included a body-color grille for the 1995 Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe (to match the 1995 Cadillac STS). Typical of Cadillac was a new standard feature: headlamps that switched on automatically with the wipers.

On the next page, we'll take a detailed look at the 1990s evolution of the Cadillac Brougham and Fleetwood.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.
  • 2000-2008 Cadillac: Discover how bold design, big power, and an SUV fuel a Cadillac comeback.

The Cadillac Brougham and Fleetwood of the 1990s

Cadillac proudly marketed the Brougham as the longest American-made car. The 1992 Cadillac Brougham is shown here.
Cadillac proudly marketed the Brougham as the longest American-made car. The 1992 Cadillac Brougham is shown here.

The big rear-drive Cadillac Brougham sedan was an old-school Detroiter that seemed an anachronism in the early 1990s: heroically over decorated, uncomfortably under suspended.

But Cadillac couldn't let it go, for two good reasons. Some buyers wouldn't have a front-drive car, and that described every other model in the 1990s Cadillac lineup (the Cadillac Sedan de Ville, Cadillac Eldorado, Cadillac Seville, even the limited-production two-seat Cadillac Allante.)

The second good reason was that the Brougham made more money per sale than any other Cadillac model. Besides, it had the longest body of any car in produced in America, as Cadillac was proud to advertise.

Because the basic design was long since paid for, Cadillac could keep updating the Brougham without eating into profits.

Accordingly, the 1990 Cadillac Brougham gained standard antilock brakes and answered requests for more power with an optional 5.7-liter V-8. This was the biggest engine for this car in years and came from Chevrolet. It required an extra-cost trailering package, but its healthy 175 horsepower was welcomed by "stretch limo" converters.

The base engine on the 1990 Cadillac Brougham was a 140-horsepower Oldsmobile 307-cubic-inch V-8. But this was in the 1991 Cadillac Brougham by Chevy's evergreen 305 cubic-inch V-8, and horsepower jumped to 170.

The 5.7, meantime, was lifted to 185 horsepower and offered as a freestanding option for the 1991 Cadillac Brougham. No other major changes occurred for the Cadillac Brougham, except for a worrisome 60-percent sales plunge from nearly 34,000 units for 1990 to just fewer than 14,000 for 1992.

But Cadillac was still devoted to "traditional" cars, and proved it with a big new Cadillac Fleetwood for 1993. The 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood was basically a rebodied Brougham and replaced that model, though the Brougham name lived on for a spiffy interior-trim option.

To avoid confusion, Cadillac dropped the front-wheel drive Fleetwood coupe for 1993 and erased the Fleetwood name from the Sixty Special sedan.

The 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham's styling had traditional touches. The 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham's styling had traditional touches.
The 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham's styling had traditional touches.

Styling of the 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood remained "formal," but was curvier and more contemporary than that of the Cadillac Brougham. Ample bright trim and an expansive eggcrate face maintained tradition.

Wheelbase of the Cadillac Fleetwood was unchanged at 121.5 inches, a size familiar since 1977. But overall length tacked on 4.1 inches to reach 225.

To Cadillac's credit, curb weight rose only 90 pounds despite the added sheetmetal and new standards including the "Airbank," dual front dashboard airbags wide enough to protect all three occupants of the still-standard front bench seat. A plastic fuel tank helped minimize weight gain, while newly standard traction control helped drivers stay safely on course in foul weather.

The 185-horsepower 5.7-liter Chevrolet V-8 was standard for the 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood. Better performance was in store for the 1994 Cadillac Fleetwood with adoption of the new 260-horsepower version of Chevrolet's LT1 5.7-liter, with sequential multipoint fuel injection (instead of single-point). Electronic transmission control was also added. Only detail changes occurred for the 1995 Cadillac Fleetwood.

A new 260-horsepower version of Chevy's LT1 5.7-liter engine was just one highlight of the 1994 Cadillac Fleetwood.

For so much opulence, the new-wave Cadillac Fleetwood was reasonably priced in the mid-$30,000 area, and thus quite a bargain against comparably sized luxury imports.

Buyers responded, and Cadillac Fleetwood model-year production almost doubling for 1993 to nearly 32,000 units. The 1994 Cadillac Fleetwood drew fewer orders (just over 27,000), and calendar-year output was back to Brougham levels by 1995 at around 13,400 (a dip of 7,000 from calendar 1994).

But the sales issue was soon rendered moot, as GM dropped all its rear-wheel-drive sedans after 1996 so the Texas factory that made them could pump out more sport-utility vehicles for a market gone crazy for trucks.

Cadillac was the first carmaker to offer a new communications system. For more information on this innovation, read the next page.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.
  • 2000-2008 Cadillac: Discover how bold design, big power, and an SUV fuel a Cadillac comeback.

1996 and 1997 Cadillac

After several years of new and revised models and a near-constant updating of its engines, the pace of change for the 1996 Cadillac and 1997 Cadillac lineups slowed, though there was one unexpected addition in the form of a foreign cousin come for a visit.

Alterations to the 1996 Cadillac line mostly ran to new features from the fertile minds of GM electronics engineers. The 1996 Cadillac Eldorado, for example, introduced optional "Rainsense" wipers that automatically activated when sensors detected moisture on the windshield (recalling a 1958 Eldo convertible show car).

The sporty 1997 Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe (ETC) added a new Continuously Variable Road Sensing Suspension (CVRSS). These were shock absorbers that automatically adjusted firmness according to input from sensors on road speed, wheel movement, steering angle and so forth.

The Continuously Variable Road Sensing Suspension also featured in the 1997 Cadillac Seville as standard equipment for both the 1997 Cadillac Seville SLS and the sporty 1997 Cadillac Seville STS. And both the 1997 Cadillac Seville SLS and the sporty 1997 Cadillac Seville STS offered GM's new OnStar communications system as a dealer-installed extra.

Using a cellular phone link to a satellite-based navigation system and a 24-hour staffed operations center, OnStar could provide "live" route and location assistance, track a stolen car, and even remotely open the doors should you lock yourself out. The system would also automatically summon emergency help if the airbags deployed in an accident.

Most people found OnStar much easier to use than the video-type in-car navigation systems then coming into vogue, and its emergency-services component was unique. OnStar was eventually spun-off as a semi-independent company whose basic hardware and services, both steadily improved, would spread to other GM divisions and even a few other automakers. But Cadillac offered it first on the 1997 Cadillac Seville, 1997 Cadillac DeVille, and 1997 Cadillac Eldorado.

Speaking of the Cadillac Seville, it wasn't really doing it job to snare young, rich, Euro-intending buyers away from Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz. Cadillac trimmed prices of the 1997 Cadillac Seville by $2,500-$3,000 in an effort to spark sales, but model-year production disappointed at just over 45,000 units.

Fortunately for Cadillac, the full-size Cadillac DeVille remained a consistent, fairly solid seller. Thoughtful yearly improvements played a part.

The 1997 Cadillac DeVille, for example, offered optional OnStar and got a discreet facelift that omitted rear fender skirts, allowing a wider rear track for more-stable handling. Also new that season was a luxury 1997 Cadillac D'Elegance version priced between the base 1997 Cadillac DeVille and the sporty 1997 Cadillac DeVille Concours.

In 1998, Cadillac would introduce its version of a European sports sedan. For the lowdown on this new Cadillac, continue to the next page.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.
  • 2000-2008 Cadillac: Discover how bold design, big power, and an SUV fuel a Cadillac comeback.

The Cadillac Catera

The 1997 Cadillac Catera was Cadillac's version of a European sports sedan.
The 1997 Cadillac Catera was Cadillac's version of a European sports sedan.

The Cadillac Catera was Cadillac's effort to satisfy America's taste for European sports sedans by importing from Europe an Opel built by General Motors' German division. It didn't work.

Cadillac had hoped its American-designed front-wheel-drive V-8 Cadillac Seville would be a sufficiently "Euro" Cadillac for American buyers. But the Cadillac Seville never seemed suave enough to snare savvy import buyers, or sufficiently splashy to sate traditional Cadillac customers.

The Cadillac Catera, a midsize sedan, came over for 1997 as the division's contender in the fast-growing "near luxury" class.

The 1997 Cadillac Catera was basically a "Cadillacized" version of the 1995-vintage Opel Omega from GM's German subsidiary. It was even built in Germany, allowing Cadillac to claim genuine European breeding.

And indeed, the Cadillac Catera seemed to have all the right stuff to be a bona fide sports sedan: trim size, a smooth 3.0-liter twincam V-6, all-independent suspension, tasteful design, and full-house equipment. It even had rear-wheel drive, plus as much Cadillac style as designers could ladle on to an existing design.

Trouble was, the Cadillac Catera was rather heavier than the rival BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class, yet was relatively short on power. And it didn't offer a manual transmission as a "proper" Eurosedan should.

Although the 1999 Cadillac Catera Sport sported new features, sales were well below expectations. Although the 1999 Cadillac Catera Sport sported new features, sales were well below expectations.
Although the 1999 Cadillac Catera Sport sported new features, sales were well below expectations.

Initial advertising was also off-target, featuring a cartoon duck and the slogan "Catera is the Cadillac that zigs." Critics quickly trashed the campaign as ineffective and, given Cadillac's aims, rather juvenile. Later ads downplayed the duck, and a model-year-1999 update ushered in a more-serious Cadillac Catera Sport model with larger wheels and tires, rear spoiler, firmer suspension and, belatedly, standard front side airbags.

Despite a couple of interim price cuts and attractive lease deals, the Cadillac Catera never really caught on. Sales peaked in 1998 at over 30,000, skidded below 15,000 the following model year, then limped along in the 12,000-16,000 area through end-of-the-line 2001.

On the horizon for 1998 was an "international" makeover for the Seville. How did it fare both in the States and across the pond? Find out on the next page.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.
  • 2000-2008 Cadillac: Discover how bold design, big power, and an SUV fuel a Cadillac comeback.

1998 and 1999 Cadillac

The 1998 Cadillac Seville STS won high marks in America for its luxury, comfort, and performance.
The 1998 Cadillac Seville STS won high marks in America for its luxury, comfort, and performance.

The 1998 Cadillac headliner was a redesigned 1998 Cadillac Seville. It was the best Seville yet, and would carry the Cadillac banner into Europe as GM attempted to establish a beachhead on its rivals' home turf.

The 1998 Cadillac Seville was built on a new G-car platform, the stiffest in GM history. The 1998 Cadillac Seville gained 1.2 inches in wheelbase, yet stood 3.1 inches shorter overall than its predecessor.

The 1998 Cadillac Seville SLS continued with the 275-horsepower version of the sterling Northstar V-8, while the sporty 1998 Cadillac Seville STS again used the 300-horsepower Northstar. In all, 1998 Cadillac Seville was a roomier yet tighter-handling Seville that ceded little, if anything, to comparable import-brand sedans in performance, dynamic ability, ride, comfort, and luxury.

Audaciously, Cadillac earmarked 20 percent of 1998 Cadillac Seville production for its first-ever attempt at European-market sport sedan. Cadillac was trying to establish itself as a true "global brand"; there was even a right-hand-drive STS for sale in Britain.

But despite being the most "international" Cadillac yet, the Seville bombed in Europe, judged unacceptably big and thirsty for local conditions and lacking the build quality of BMWs and Mercedes. Said Britain's CAR magazine in November 2001: "The STS is massive, brash and worryingly vague to drive. [Its] V-8 engine is nice, but the rest of the experience feels like a bad copy of a Lexus LS...Owning this car is a sign of terminally bad taste."

Pictured here is the interior of Cadillac's most expensive 1998 model -- the 1998 Cadillac Seville STS. Pictured here is the interior of Cadillac's most expensive 1998 model -- the 1998 Cadillac Seville STS.
Pictured here is the interior of Cadillac's most expensive 1998 model -- the 1998 Cadillac Seville STS.

As it turned out, things weren't too rosy on this side of the pond for the 1998 Cadillac Seville. The redesign had carried with it tasteful but only cautiously evolutionary styling. And these were among the costliest cars in the 1998 Cadillac showroom. The 1998 Cadillac Seville SLS started at $42,495. With a base price of $46,995, the 1998 Cadillac Seville STS ranked as the most-expensive 1998 Cadillac.

Sales of the redesigned 1998 Cadillac Seville limped to 34,600, a drop of nearly 11,000 units from 1997. The 1998 Cadillac Eldorado, meanwhile, sustained its modest 19,000-annual sales pace, despite continuing on a carryover design.

That's not to say the 1998 Cadillac Eldorado didn't have something new to offer. The 1998 Cadillac Eldorado ETC edition helped introduced "Stabilitrak," Cadillac's new antiskid system.

Also standard for the 1998 Cadillac Seville STS and 1998 Cadillac De Ville Concours, and later standard or optional for other front-drive Cadillacs, Stabilitrak took the Continuously Variable Road Sensing Suspension idea a step further. It used sensor input to brake one or both front wheels to keep the car on its intended path, a boon for "dynamic" safety. Curiously, though, the Cadillac Eldorado would never get the "passive" safety benefit of front side airbags like other Caddys.

The 1999 Cadillac lineup of cars was little changed. One interesting new option exclusive to the 1999 Cadillac Eldorado and 1999 Cadillac Seville was "active" power front seats.

"Active" power front seats designed to prevent body aches were an option for the 1999 Cadillac Eldorado ETC. "Active" power front seats designed to prevent body aches were an option for the 1999 Cadillac Eldorado ETC.
"Active" power front seats designed to prevent body aches were an option for the 1999 Cadillac Eldorado ETC.

These seats provided a gentle message via small powered rollers in the cushion and backrest, plus a series of air bladders that automatically inflated and deflated from time to time. The idea was to relieve pressure points that could induce body aches on long trips, and it worked tolerably well.

But a much bigger introduction was on tap for the 1999 model year. We'll cover Cadillac's first SUV, the Escalade, on the next page.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.
  • 2000-2008 Cadillac: Discover how bold design, big power, and an SUV fuel a Cadillac comeback.

The 1999 Cadillac Escalade

To compete with the Lincoln Navigator, Cadillac introduced its first SUV, the 1999 Cadillac Escalade.
To compete with the Lincoln Navigator, Cadillac introduced its first SUV, the 1999 Cadillac Escalade.

Ironically, the big image boost Cadillac worked so hard to achieve in the 1990s came not from a car but a truck, the first in Cadillac history. This was the 1999 Cadillac Escalade, an upscale clone of the already posh Yukon Denali sport-utility wagon from sibling division GMC.

The 1999 Cadillac Escalade was an answer to the success of Lincoln's Navigator SUV. Sales of full-size sport-utility vehicles were growing faster in the late 1990s than those of compact and midsize SUVs.

The 1999 Cadillac Escalade included the Cadillac-style grille and interior trim, and which used real wood and the same leather found in Cadillac passenger cars.

This interior shot of the 1999 Cadillac Escalade shows its rich wood and leather styling. This interior shot of the 1999 Cadillac Escalade shows its rich wood and leather styling.
This interior shot of the 1999 Cadillac Escalade shows its rich wood and leather styling.

Power for the 1999 Cadillac Escalade Power came from a 255-horsepower, 5.7-liter V8 engine that drove a four-speed automatic transmission. AutoTrac four-wheel drive could be used on dry pavement, and the 1999 Cadillac Escalade was capable of towing up to 6500 pounds.

The 1999 Cadillac Escalade accelerated to 60 mph in 10.5 seconds, about mid-field for luxury models. However, the 1999 Cadillac Escalade weighed a hefty 5,500 pounds and felt sluggish, especially when attempting to pass on the highway. Excess weight also hurt fuel economy. Consumer Guide's test 1999 Cadillac Escalade averaged only 11.2 mpg.

The 1999 Cadillac Escalade wasn't as quiet or comfortable as a luxury sedan. Ride and handling were subpar by any measure, with mediocre suppression of harsh impacts and a ponderous feel through turns. Stopping power was satisfactory, but the brake pedal felt mushy.

The 1999 Cadillac Escalade had more standard features than GMC's Denali, including a wood-rimmed steering wheel and a new version of GM's OnStar satellite-based information and emergency-assistance system.

The Cadillac-grade leather upholstery gave the 1999 Cadillac Escalade a rich feel inside. But an abundance of hard plastic interior panels and parts-bin switchgear gave the Escalade's cabin an ambiance closer to a GM truck than a luxury automobile.

The front bucket seats of the 1999 Cadillac Escalade were too soft and flat for optimum comfort. Lack of a powered backrest recliner and automatic climate control were telltale omissions for a vehicle in this $50,000-price category.

The front cabin was spacious, with enough room in back for three adults without crowding. Lincoln's Navigator, however, could seat as many as eight. Tall interior step-in and surprisingly narrow rear-door bottoms made getting in and out of the 1999 Cadillac Escalade's back seat a problem.

Thanks to the 1999 Cadillac Escalade, owning a Cadillac was considered "cool" again. Thanks to the 1999 Cadillac Escalade, owning a Cadillac was considered "cool" again.
Thanks to the 1999 Cadillac Escalade, owning a Cadillac was considered "cool" again.

At the rear was a drop-down tailgate teamed with swing-up glass. Cargo space was generous, even with the rear seatback in use. Plenty of storage bins and cubbyholes gave space for miscellaneous items.

Cadillac execs were publicly baffled, but privately delighted, as sports heroes, recording artists, and a few movie stars made the "'Slade" their ride of choice, often customized with gold trim and outsized wheels. Despite such debatable alterations -- or maybe because of them -- the Escalade made it cool again to own a Cadillac.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.
  • 2000-2008 Cadillac: Discover how bold design, big power, and an SUV fuel a Cadillac comeback.