The 1989 Cadillac Fleetwood Sedan offers a sedate way to travel - in a big way.
Passengers can relax on tufted seats in a roomy interior. Any jostles or bumps from the road are carefully cushioned. Even the impressive 4.5-liter V8 pours on the power without throwing you abruptly back in the seats.Mostly, this car is huge. It's like having your whole living room in the back seat.
For 1989, General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac division added 9 inches to the length of the Fleetwood Sedan and its sister car, the De Ville, and another 3 inches to the cars' wheelbase.
The exterior styling also accentuates the large size. Subtle tailfins make the Fleetwood look similar to the big Cadillacs of earlier days. The new Fleetwood also has full rear-wheel fender skirts.
Why the change? Big is better with buyers.
After the De Ville and Fleetwood were downsized in the 1984 model year, many buyers and critics blasted the new models and sales suffered. With the new, bigger Fleetwood and De Villes out, Cadillac reports model-year sales of the cars up more than 26 percent - to more than 71,500 through early this year compared with year-ago sales of more than 56,700.
Cadillac projects full model-year sales to rise between 11 percent and 15 percent over 1988 model sales of 148,398. Despite the size, however, the 1989 Fleetwood Sedan test car was surprisingly easy to handle. I didn't have much trouble keeping it in its lane, even on windy roads. Additionally, electronic Teves anti-lock brakes helped slow this big auto down safely, even on rain-slicked streets.
The engine, coupled with four-speed automatic overdrive transmission, performed well and provided a smooth ride. The computer-controlled transaxle was specially set so there would be smooth shifting, Cadillac said.
The company also noted that the car can go from 0 to 60 mph in less than 10 seconds. But the engine sure swigged down the gasoline in city driving. I went through a gallon of fuel, according to the on-board computer, making just a couple of 6-mile trips.
The car made more efficient use of fuel, as expected, on the highway and officially, the EPA rating for the Fleetwood Sedan is 17 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway. If you're paying $30,000 to buy one of these cars, the price of gasoline may not be a big worry.
Inside the Fleetwood Sedan, there were pleasant surprises and nice touches. Lighted vanity mirrors popped out of the ceiling for rear-seat passengers. Front-seat occupants had the regular vanity mirrors on the back of the sun visors. Floor mats were reversible and machine washable - the short nap on one side was for sloppy winter weather, with the longer nap on the other side ideal for less-dirty times of the year.
The driver could make sure brake lights and blinkers worked because of small monitor lights above the rear window. The red monitor lights would blink and light up in conjunction with the brake lights and blinkers. Likewise, there were small light monitors on the front hood that indicated if headlights and blinkers were on.
The test car also had some options that took care of things automatically: an automatic rear-view mirror that adjusted to headlights (an $80 option), a six-way memory driver seat (a $235 option) and door locks that automatically locked when the car was shifted out of park (a $185 option).
Needless to say, there was plenty of legroom, hip room and head room in this car in the front seats and in back. Roominess is what this car is all about. The trunk, with 18.4-cubic feet of space compared with 16 cubic feet in last year's model, was monstrous. All this makes the Fleetwood and De Ville distinctive in today's market where smaller cars dominate.
Cadillac says competitors include the Lincoln Town Car - which is both wider and longer than the Fleetwood by a few inches and starts at more than $25,500 - and the Lincoln Continental, which is about the same length and width as the Fleetwood and starts at more than $28,000.
Cadillac spokesman Kyle Johnson said the company has only demographics of early buyers. He said buyers range in age from 40 to 60, with an average income of $50,000.