For the new model year, the Cadillac Seville, Eldorado, Fleetwood and DeVille offer a new 4.9-liter, 200-horsepower update of last year's 4.5-liter, 180-hp V-8.
In test driving a '91 Fleetwood, we found 20 more horsepower means you move from the light a bit quicker and quieter than with the 4.5.
It means that when you're on that hill and the 4.9 is under the hood, the speedometer needle rises if you press the accelerator. With the 4.5, you had to press the pedal as you approached the hill to gain the needed momentum.
It means when you're leaving a rest area on an interstate highway with a semi approaching, the 4.9 will pull you down the merger ramp and ahead of the rig. With the 4.5, you let the semi pass and then merge.
The 4.9 travels from 0 to 60 mph one second quicker than the 4.5 (8.7 seconds) but it isn't a rocket. That title will be reserved for the 5-liter, 32-valve, 200-plus h.p., V-8 coming out in the Allante in '92 and slated for other Cadillacs starting in '93.
But the 4.9 offers the oomph from the light or in passing or merging that the 4.5 came up short on.
The 4.9 has an added benefit. It's quiet. You don't notice a lot of rumbling up front. Perhaps that's because Cadillac also brought out a new four-speed automatic for 1991 that runs through the gears more smoothly and less audibly. Unless you pay close attention, you won't notice the gears shifting.
The 4.9 teamed with the new automatic is rated at 16 mpg city, same as last year, but 26 mpg highway, up 1 mpg -- and keep in mind that's with a 20-hp boost and whisper smooth transmission.
Standard on Fleetwood, Seville, Eldorado, but optional on DeVille is computer command ride control. The system monitors driving conditions and selects from three modes of suspension damping to complement ride and handling, the softest setting at low speeds, the firmest at high.
We had previously driven the 1991 Town Car from Lincoln-Mercury and felt that its suspension had the edge in providing flatter corners and turns than the Fleetwood, but the Cadillac had the edge on the straightaways for smooth, level ride. Yet both cars have come a long way from the days when the car would bounce up and down for two blocks after hitting a pothole.
Performance is emphasized for 1991 but not at the expense of safety. Standard on all Cadillacs are V-8 engines, anti-lock brakes and driver's side air bag (except in the rear-wheel-drive Brougham).
The Fleetwood, whose 113.8-inch wheelbase and 205.6-inch length provides the interior room of a baby limo, has some nifty systems for 1991.
Fleetwood base price is $34,925, up $1,935 from '90.