Retro Road Test – 1992 Cadillac Sedan de Ville

I’ve always had a thing for the 1989-1993 Cadillac Sedan de Ville and Coupe de Ville. They just seemed to be the right car for Cadillac at the time, and although right-sized compared to the yachts of fifteen years prior, still had plenty of luxury and traditional Cadillac cues.

1985 Continental Givenchy. Similar to my grandmother’s Rose Quartz 1987 Continental.

It probably all started when my Grandma Ruby had a mishap with her 1987 Lincoln Continental. Someone hit her car in a parking lot, and though no one was hurt, she had a partially crunched turn signal, cornering lamp and bumper. Fortunately the other party had good insurance, and a Garnet Red 1990 Sedan de Ville was provided to her in the interim, courtesy of Hertz.

1990 Sedan de Ville

I was already into Cadillacs and Lincolns-the Continentals my grandparents had over the years was certainly a contributing factor-but this Sedan de Ville was a revelation! So shiny and new. I was impressed. Garnet, with silver lower cladding, and a dove gray leather interior. Although I was about ten years old at the time, I was all over this car. I was more impressed riding in it and crawling all over it than if it had been a new Corvette or 911. I was a Brougham aficionado from an early age.


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At that time, every summer, Grandma Ruby would take me out to lunch. A typical day would be lunch at Bishop’s Buffet, followed by visits to Sexton Ford and South Park Lincoln-Mercury (where I would acquire all manner of Mustang, Escort, Continental and Cougar brochures), and a trip to Toys R Us or Kay-Bee Toys, where I was allowed to pick out a model car. So of course she knew I’d be interested in the Cadillac rental. And I was! I still remember clearly that ride, and how smooth and comfy that Sedan de Ville was.

Years later, I test drove several of these, back when I was thinking of getting a ‘college car’ so as not to worry about my pristine Volvo 940SE Turbo sitting outside, getting door dinged, puked on, etc. I drove several between 1999-2000 or so, and was impressed with the ride, handling, and glass area. Excellent interior room too! Ultimately though, I convinced my folks I didn’t need to go into the dorm, as my college was right there in town, thereby saving them a chunk of change, and my not having to live in a dubious cracker box. Win-win!

So, while I never did get one of these, I’ve always been a fan. Although this car started out as the very downsized 1985 Sedan de Ville and Fleetwood, they sold well right from the start (never mind what some over-opinionated bloggers may or may not say; repetition will not make it true) and the 1989 stretching and “Broughaming up” made them just right.

Recently, Dahl Ford got in a remarkably well-preserved example, and as I was driving by one day with no time to stop, I mentally filed it away. Later that week I called K V Dahl, the general manager and a friend of mine, to see about doing a test drive. Not to buy, as I already have one more car than I need, but to try out and write up for RG. K V said come on down. So I did.

Now, this was not done solely for me to joyride in a car I love…well, not totally, anyway. I’d driven a lot of cars since the late ’90s, and wondered if my original impressions would hold up. Would it feel antiquated? Less luxurious, with all the insane gadgetry that has appeared over the last decade and a half? Perhaps even better than I originally thought? Hmm.

It was a damn windy, cloudy Saturday morning when I arrived at Dahl Ford. I spoke to Allan, one of the managers, about the Cadillac, and one of the salespeople, Gunnar, got me a dealer plate and keys. As I got behind the wheel, my first impression was man, this car has GREAT glass area.

Yes, glass area has gotten especially sucky over the last fifteen years, has it not. I will never understand why adding loophole-sized windows and Band-Aiding such with doofy little cameras and sensors is better than just having windows you can see out of, but I digress. But not in this car!

Even with the formal C-pillar (adorned with the wreath and crest, of course), sight lines are excellent. Over the shoulder is fine too, much, much MUCH better than the 2017 Fusion I recently had while my car was in the body shop.

The instrument panel was very clear too, with the optional digital instruments. As befitting an early 1990s Cadillac, it had power everything, and electronic climate control, and woodgrain everywhere.

And no touchscreens! Thank God! I hate those, for even if they happen to be relatively user-friendly, my OCD kicks in with all the fingerprints that accrue. I HATE that!

Look, buttons! Actual, tactile buttons. And not multi-menu screens, causing you to drive off of a cliff trying to bump the temperature two degrees. Why, they are even blue and red, so even a total nincompoop will know what to do! Ease of use. Something more modern systems have, if not completely ignored, have bumped several positions down the list.

Everything clearly labeled, and clustered right in the driver’s line of sight. Very nice! I liked how the dash wrapped around on the left and the right, all the important stuff is right in front of you.

“Okay Klockau, we get it,” you might be thinking. “You like the car, got it. How does it drive though?” Well, it drives nicely. It’s kind of hard to believe that the 4.9 V8 is derived from the slow 4.1 liter “Hand Tighten” HT4100 introduced on 1982 Cadillacs. The engine was bumped to 4.5 liters in 1988, and improved immeasurably. For 1991, it was bumped once again to 4.9, and became a very lively engine-in Cadillac context, of course.

Even twenty-five years after it was built, this Sedan de Ville zipped out of the Dahl Ford lot with authority. I was surprised at the handling of this car, as it had been at least a dozen years since I drove one. Of course, a lot of it is the front wheel drive, but this car steers most excellently. And with all the glass, you can see around you and assess potential nimrod motorists with aplomb, and get out of the way before they graze your car’s flank.

Being a Cadillac of course, there are no cosseting bucket seats or BMW-like side bolsters, but the seats themselves are comfortable-thrones, really. Plenty of leg room and stretch-out room too.In addition, the car is new enough to have two pop-out cupholders in the center arm rest. That Grande Latte Venti ain’t gonna fit, though.

One thing GM got right-space utilization. This car has excellent room. Especially in the back! The rear seat had much more legroom than my Town Car. And not just because it’s front-wheel drive. It’s just a good design. I tried out the back seat myself, and it would be a great place to read the paper and take a nap as you were chauffeured from St. Louis to Minneapolis.

This car was clearly a much-loved example, originally purchased by a pastor, and recently traded for a loaded-up Escape, but still, the materials used held up remarkably well. I’m sure this car was garaged all its life too, as the paint shone brightly.

This car was originally ordered in Taupe, with Dark Cherry lower cladding, and a Taupe leather interior. Depending on the lighting, it can look charcoal gray or mauve. It’s an interesting color. I like it, but don’t remember seeing many in this combination, even when these were still new cars.

Our neighbors bought one of these Sedan de Villes in 1991, but it was a relatively common color, Academy Gray with dove gray leather. Still a sharp combination though. They traded in a late ’80s Ninety-Eight Regency for it.

I need a third car like I need a hang glider, but I was still somewhat tempted by this car. The price was not bad, and it was clearly well cared for over the years. One thing it definitely needed, however, were whitewall tires. You may have noticed the top picture of this car in this article has whitewalls. I digitally added them to that picture, because the car simply should have them. A Cadillac of this era with blackwall tires looks just as odd as a Corvette or 911 would look with whitewall tires. They just lend that extra Cadillac touch.

This is a nice car for someone. Maybe a Sunday driver. My sincere hope is that whoever buys this doesn’t buy it as a winter beater or work car, and drive it into the ground. It could easily happen. Then one day it needs a starter or a fuel pump, and the owner junks it. It happens all the time. But this car is so nice, it deserves to be preserved. I wish it well.

Special thanks to K V Dahl, Dahl Ford and their staff, for indulging my Brougham addiction. Thanks guys, it was fun!

12 Replies to “Retro Road Test – 1992 Cadillac Sedan de Ville”

  1. Paul E

    Oh, come on… you NEED this car, if for just being the youngest person at a CLC (Cadillac LaSalle club) meet by a few decades. Seriously, this looks like a very clean example of this generation of Cadillacs.

  2. ArBee

    Mmmm…I hate to be a bad influence, but this would make an awfully nice counterpart to your Lincoln. Something this lovely that has survived so long, in such nice shape, deserves an appreciative home. When you closed the door and walked away, didn’t it whisper, “Don’t leave me…please”?

    It’s just me, but I’d stick with the blackwalls. Whiteys suit an earlier generation of Cadillac, but this one looks purposeful and important with the black tires. All in all, gorgeous. Take ‘er home.

    • Danio

      Indeed, the church must have fallen on hard times. Like Tom, I had grandparents who had many Cadillacs and Lincolns prior, during and after the era of this car. I remember in the last years of the “fat” Town Cars, the price had escalated significantly so my Grandfather thought he would give a loaded Grand Marquis a try. He hated it and ended the lease a year early to get into another Lincoln. When Lincoln skinnied the Town Car in ’98, he went to Cadillac. It’s hard to go back!

  3. Tom C

    Great write-up, Tom. You know I will always have a special place in my heart for these cars. They were and still are a perfectly sized luxury car, not too big and not too small with tons of interior space and comfort. They ride beautifully, are well-built and handle well too. They are also durable and decent on gas. One of GM’s best cars ever IMO.

    • Brad

      I had this EXACT Caddy,,
      Mine was midnite blue with silver
      I went on a road trip from Vancouver to Portland Oregon ,,
      Wow that car was soooooo comfortable
      And I got 30 mpg ( 7.0 Ltr / 100 km)
      Fuel consumption,,
      Driving at a steady 60 mph
      With the cruise on
      Yes I checked the actual fuel ⛽️ used and indeed it equalled to 30 mpg
      That 4.9 Ltr v-8 is one of the best engines built fur Cadillac

  4. Eric Daume

    Regarding visibility out of cars nowadays, there have been three major changes:

    – curtain airbags are thick and make pillars bigger
    – roof crush strength requirements also require bigger pillars
    – styling

    Two out of three of those are definite wins for modern cars–ask Jack about the crashworthiness of early 90s vehicles.

    It’s funny how dated that interior looks to me. We had a (contemporary) ’92 Accord when I was growing up, but it feels closer to a modern car than this Caddy. This feels more like a step back to the late 70s. Wobbly chrome buttons, fake wood, etc. But to each their own.

  5. CJinSD

    “Although this car started out as the very downsized 1985 Sedan de Ville and Fleetwood, they sold well right from the start (never mind what some over-opinionated bloggers may or may not say; repetition will not make it true) and the 1989 stretching and “Broughaming up” made them just right.”

    I suppose they sold strongly compared to anything Cadillac can fantasize about today, but they were a miserable disappointment in sales volume compared to the cars they replaced. I can’t find the De Ville’s numbers after 1984 broken out from the FWD and RWD Fleetwoods and Broughhams, but the lot of them combined for a little more than two thirds of what the De Villes did on their own while they were easier to take seriously.

    • Danio

      By that point, I’m not sure anything they could have done would have stopped the market share erosion. They just weren’t “it” cars anymore aside from anyone over 55.

      • CJinSD

        Right up until the end of the RWD cars in 1984, they sold to exactly the same kind of dead-enders as BMWs sell to today. 220,000 a year of them.


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