More Than Just A Rebadged Cavalier!
Pros: Standard V6, Good reliability record, easy to maneuver, Lots of standard equipment, Cadillac style.
Cons: No overdrive with automatic transmission, High retail price when new, Somewhat small interior.
Bottom Line: I recommend the Cimarron to whomever craves Cadillac style in a small package, and doesn't have the money, patience, or taste for the BLS.
Full Review: I own a white 1988 Cadillac Cimarron with 156 thousand miles which I drive almost 200 miles a day, on average. I actually found it in a local newspaper while I was searching for another larger Buick (which had been my preference, previously) and happened to browse too far in the alphabetical listings into the Cadillacs. I knew of the Cimarron from my days of owning a Cavalier in college, and the advert made the car sound very attractive. After a thorough checkout of the appearance and mechanical condition of the car and what the Cimarron had to offer, I was persuaded to abandon my search and buy a car that, for one, didn't have a 3800 V6, and, for another, certainly wasn't large. But that's about all I could find not to like about it.
What I like about this car is its simple, elegant design and attention to detail, its maneuverability, its luxurious interior, its thoughtful features and power equipment, and its good dependability record. Even when not considering its high mileage, this car is in excellent condition inside and out, it runs beautifully, all the controls still work perfectly, and best of all, it's a Cadillac.
The Cadillac Cimarron, introduced in 1981, is structurally and mechanically similar to the contemporary Chevrolet Cavalier, and for that reason, most can't seem to form an opinion of it that isn't based on the relationship between the two. Certainly, most facts and figures for both cars are virtually identical. The 2.8-liter V6 under the hood even comes from Chevrolet. So for many, it's hard to see the Cimarron as more than a rebadged Cavalier that sold for around twice the price, despite continuous improvement with each model year.
But there is an end to the similarity between Cimarron and Cavalier, beyond which most critics have been reluctant to venture.
Let's start with Cadillac style. More than just an ad jingle, it means something about how a car looks, how it feels to sit inside one, and how it feels to drive one. The styling of this car is well-in-tune with other Cadillacs of its vintage, something that couldn't be said about the first few years of Cimarron's run. Composite integrated headlights, a tight crosshatch chrome grille, chrome bumpers, tasteful chrome accents, and a smooth angular body seem to declare it a Cadillac even before the classic chrome script enters the picture. Move to the inside, where luxurious leather seats with "Cimarron" embroidery script comfort the body and deep-pile Trinon carpet welcome the feet. A standard leather-wrapped steering wheel offers an easy grip and a sporty look, and velour-covered pillars and trim assure occupants they're in no simple Cavalier.
And speaking standard features, leather and velour are only a couple of the items standard on the 1988 Cimarron that weren't even available from the factory on any Cavalier of its generation for any price. Also standard, and exclusive to Cimarron, are, fog lamps, and Twilight Sentinel (which automatically activates headlights at dark and provides illuminated entry), and Cadillac-tuned suspension. In addition, the list of standards includes air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, dual power mirrors, AM/FM stereo, rear window defogger, heavy-duty battery, passenger assist handles, 14-inch alloy wheels, tilt steering column, cruise control, and carpet savers.
Options for the Cimarron this year included power seats (another Cadillac exclusive among J-cars), a Delco-Bose sound system, cassette, a trunk-lid luggage rack, wide-tread tires, and electronic instrument cluster, and a vista-vent sunroof.
The Cimarron has a large, low rear window and bright reverse lights, making backing a Cimarron, even at night, an easy and comfortable maneuver. The rear end features large taillights, a center window-mounted brake light, and amber turn signals. Seven bright red brake light bulbs and four bright amber turn signal bulbs on each side help protect you and your vehicle from other traffic behind you.
When most people think Cadillac, they think large. While this is a small Cadillac, most people wouldn't find it too cramped inside. Both front and rear headroom is excellent, even for most people who must avoid smaller cars due to their height. There is enough leg room for a 6-foot-tall person to sit directly behind another 6-foot-tall person. The rear seat will comfort two with a fold-down center armrest, and will fit three, though things will become somewhat tight. Trunk space for this smaller Cadillac is quite ample for its size class, easily accommodating several medium-to-large suitcases, plus your roadside hazard kit and first aid supplies.
In the area of performance, the 1988 Cimarron has a standard 2.8-liter V6 mounted to a 5-speed Muncie-Getrag manual transmission, though the optional 3-speed automatic is far more common. This is a vast improvement on Cimarron's original offering of a 4-cylinder (making it the only Cadillac to ever have one in the past 92 years). The 2.8 starts and runs flawlessly, produces a mellow exhaust tone, and delivers 125 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque. Traditional Cadillac buyers may find the pedals a bit stiffer than ordinary, but this little Caddy can muster up a great deal of acceleration for its class in little time.
The Cimarron's ride is also not what comes to most people's minds when thinking of Cadillac. To be sure, the Cimarron doesn't sail like an oceangoing luxury liner over the highway, but isn't stiff and jiggly either. Cadillac specifically tuned the suspension to extract the best qualities of a touring car and a luxury car. The Cimarron will corner well in both normal and urgent driving situations, especially with the optional 215/60R14 tires, and minor cracks and bumps in the pavement won't alarm the vehicle's occupants.
Buyers of used Cimarrons today will be glad to know that no recalls or major TSBs have been issued by GM for the 1988 model year, and most repairs reported for 1986 and later Cimarrons have been simply due to the age and mileage of the car. A Cimarron in good used condition is not hard to find for a fair price. However, because 1988 was the final year for the Cadillac Cimarron, production was limited to 6,454 units.