1988 Cadillac Fleetwood d'Elegance
8-cyl. 273cid/155hp FI
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Partly in response to a federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) mandate of 27.5 mpg, Cadillac introduced a downsized version of their Fleetwood coupe and sedan in 1985. In addition to being smaller, the upscale DeVille switched to front-wheel drive and continued to use the previous year’s 4.1-liter die-cast aluminum block V-8 engine, sitting side-saddle under the hood and producing 125 hp. Even the Fleetwood 75 limousine was now front wheel drive, though the Fleetwood Brougham continued unchanged from the previous year. Curb weight for the now-lithe Fleetwood was 3,346 pounds on the coupe, compared to 3,990 pounds from just a year earlier. The wheelbase was just under 111 inches (or 134.4 inches on the limousine). All the Cadillac styling cues were still present, only now in a more compact package with a nice large glass area for good vision.
Driving feel on the Fleetwood was sharpened by new power rack-and-pinion steering, and an all-new fully-independent coil sprung suspension was also installed. Interior and trunk room were similar in size, and a new 4.3-liter V-6 Diesel engine was available for 1985 only.
For 1986 onwards, the Fleetwood name became an option on the DeVille line, while the rear-wheel-drive Fleetwood Brougham sedan carried on as a distinct model. The loss of the coupe for the bigger car was not a huge deal, since only 3000 had been sold for 1985. What was gained on the Fleetwood Brougham was a slightly more powerful Oldsmobile 307-cid V-8 engine. Little changed for 1987, except that the Fleetwood Sixty Special nameplate was revived. This car was front-drive, with a 5-inch increase in wheelbase for improved rear legroom.
For 1988, the big news was an improved Cadillac V-8 of 4.5 liters, now rated at 155 hp, that was installed on the front-drive cars. The Olds-supplied 140-hp engine was retained on the rear-drive cars. The factory-built limousine was no more.
The 1989 front-wheel-drive cars grew 5 to 8 inches, most of which benefitted trunk space. Sedans also received a 3-inch longer wheelbase that helped rear legroom (though the Sixty Special saw a 2-inch decrease in wheelbase). For 1990, front-drive cars saw power increase again, this time from 155 to 180 hp from an alloy-block V-8 with multi-point fuel injection. The rear-drive cars were no longer part of the Fleetwood line; now simply called the Cadillac Brougham.
The Fleetwood’s alloy-block V-8 increased to 4.9 liters for 1991, though power remained the same. Anti-lock brakes became standard on all Cadillacs this year. The biggest change for 1992 was that engineers found an extra twenty ponies to power the 300 cubic inch front-drive Cadillacs.
Cadillac during this period faced tough competition from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and a new line of Japanese luxury cars like Lexus and Infiniti. All the same, this generation of Fleetwood sold quite well, and today they embody 1980s American automotive luxury. Sedans tend to be more underpowered than the coupes, which results in most enthusiasts gravitating towards the two-doors. Similarly, the Diesel engines experienced a host of continued problems and only draw the most dedicated of Cadillac fuel-efficiency fetishists. Fleetwoods are readily available, though many fell out of maintenance by their second or third owners, so practice patience and look for single-owner examples if possible.