A Cadillac with more zip but less 'aura'

It's the first Cadillac to be equipped with a 4-cylinder engine since 1914 and the first with a manual transmission since 1953. Further, the front-wheel-drive Cimarron is one of the smallest Cadillacs ever built.

But is it a true Cadillac?

One thing is sure: The new Cimarron has far more zip than the '82 Cimarron, a major goof on the part of General Motors when it introduced its J-car line in 1981. The Cimarron, after all, is a Cadillacized J-car.

A stepped-up 2-liter engine with throttle-body fuel injection replaces last year's underpowered 1.8-liter, but the impact on fuel economy is slight. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the '83-model at 23 miles per gallon, compared with 25 in '82.

Like every other Cadillac for '83, the Cimarron is electronically fuel injected. Carburetors belong to the past.

Indeed, the Cadillac Cimarron is a true indication of the way the wind has been blowing in the automobile industry for the last half dozen years or more where ''small'' was in and ''big'' was out. Today, however, with big cars doing well, who can size up the market?

The Cimarron, fun to drive as it chases the import mystique, is very well appointed; the tuned touring suspension soaks up the bumps with ease; and the fuel mileage is good. But it does not include the aura of sitting behind the wheel of a Cadillac, with all the self-satisfaction that idea is supposed to include.

For his $14,000-plus (base price is $12,215), what does the car buyer get?

Tungsten halogen fog lamps are standard, but not available on the Audi 5000S and Volvo GT, and they're an extra-cost option on the BMW 320i and a dealer-installed option on the Saab 900S sedan. So what?

An electronically tuned AM-FM stereo radio is standard, but may be deleted for credit. Full instrumentation, including a tachometer, is standard, but so it is on a lot of the competition.

A 5-speed manual transmission, including overdrive, is standard.

The idea behind the Cimarron is not to move the typical Cadillac buyer ''down'' to a Cimarron, but rather to widen the market for the car division. If a buyer opts for a J-body Cimarron, maybe when he decides to replace it he'll stick with Cadillac and upgrade his car choice.

That prospect, according to Cadillac, is worth waiting for.

Cadillac division is having a good year, boosting its market share from 3.3 percent last year to 4 percent in 1982, indicating the market strength of the big-size, luxury end of the car market.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.