Cadillac's Eldorado and Seville -- smaller in size and too similar

Sure, they're nice cars, very nice cars, but are they Everyone's idea of a Cadillac? I've just spent several weeks in two '86-model Caddies, one an Eldorado Biarritz and the other a Seville Elegante. Few cars have more amenities and comfort than these two cars, the first a sporty 2-door, the other a 4-door sedan. But what really sets them apart as Cadillacs? Not much.

While it may be true that they achieve ``unprecedented levels of leading-edge technology,'' as Cadillac general manager John O. Grettenberger says, so do a lot of other cars these days.

The marketing problem for General Motors is twofold:

The squeezed-down cars are adulterating the image for which the GM divisions have long striven. A truncated '86-model Cadillac Eldorado doesn't have the same flair as the front-drive Eldorados of the past 18 years.

The various GM luxury cars are not only similar to other cars on the market, they drive and look like each other. How does one tell the difference between a Buick, Oldsmobile, or Cadillac? You can't, except superficially.

If, however, the GM general managers follow through on their plans, there will be more of a divisional difference between GM cars within the next couple years. Motorists will more than likely welcome the split.

Despite sameness and smaller size, however, one back-seat rider in the fourth-generation Eldorado, when asked about the ride, reports: ``It still has a big-car ride.'' That's comforting to know, both to the rider and GM. The sitting room up front, however, seems tighter at least, even though the Cadillac people insist the inside dimensions provide almost the same passenger space as the '85-model Eldorado.

The instrument layout is excellent and all control buttons are easy to reach. While hardly a tire burner, the 4.1-liter V-8 engine still provides smart performance and, happily, is exceptionally quiet when running. But that didn't totally make up for a loose-fitting piece of outside trim on the Eldorado or front-floor rugs that wouldn't lie flat.

Both the Eldorado and Seville have an emergency foot brake that requires pumping to set. With an automatic transmission, the brake releases when the car is put in gear. Both cars have a tiny bell that rings when the turn-signal lever is moved.

While I figured around 20 miles per gallon in the Eldorado in a one-week test, I should point out that the engine had only a couple hundred miles on it at the start. Engineers report that a brand-new, tight-fitting engine doesn't loosen up and stabilize till it's traveled at least 6,000 miles. On an expressway, you can figure in the mid-20s. In a 320-mile run in the Seville, I averaged just under 26.

The Cadillac Seville, at $26,000, is 16.6 inches shorter than before. Like its Eldorado ``twin,'' it is a total redo of the '85 version -- making the third body style since the Seville was introduced in 1976 as Cadillac's top-of-the-line luxury sedan.

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