This competition could be called the “Old Off” given the cars at hand – it’s been 7 or so months since I purchased the 91 deVille, so I figured now would be a good time to write the comparison JP Cavanaugh requested. Both are (supposedly) full size 6 passenger vehicles with V8 power, softly sprung suspensions, along with plenty of plastic wood and chrome for a true Brougham touch. So let’s break it down into various categories, starting first with…
OK, you can stop laughing now. Most people who bought these cars weren’t interested in outrunning Bimmers, however they did like the instant torque and bragging rights of a V8, fuel economy be damned. The Cadillac has the final evolution of the much maligned HT4100 aluminum V8, enlarged to 4.9L and bestowed port fuel injection to give it some real oomph with 200 hp @4100 RPM and 275 lb-ft of torque @3000 RPM. The Mercury has the beloved Modular 4.6 L 2 valve mill, making 224 HP @4,750 rpm and 272 lb-ft for torque @3,500 RPM.
Despite having more horsepower, the Mercury is slower off the line – I’m sure gearing as well as the torque curve has something to do with it, but it is noticeable. On the highway both can hustle without issue, but the drive by wire nature of the Mercury means there is lag from when I push the petal down to when it downshifts whereas the Caddy responds instantly. There is a hit for that lovely instant gratification – the Caddy averages 15.7 MPG around town vs 21 for the Mercury…and Premium unleaded at that.
Neither car is happy in the twisties, but the live rear axle in the Mercury is especially twitchy unless you have really good rubber. The ass end of the Mercury likes to come unglued when it rains on curvy ramps, and in the snow it is awful even with the traction control. The independent rear suspension of the Caddy makes all the difference – it is much happier taking curves and I never feel like it is dangerous in inclement weather. When I feel more secure in a Suburban than the Mercury…that says something.
I did replace the air ride in the Caddy with conventional springs – with no reduction in ride quality or handling. One less thing to worry about, plus I rarely have 3 other people and their luggage in the car.
So even with the less than stellar mileage, the Caddy takes the performance category for the better handling and instant throttle response.
This isn’t quite an apples to apples comparison given the trim level difference – my particular deVille has only one option on it, the Delco Bose Gold sound system. Aside from that it has a manual passenger seat, Primavera cloth interior, no lighted vanity mirrors, no locking fuel filler door, and no trunk pulldown assist. But it does have Electronic Climate Control, power driver seat (manual recline), power mirrors, rear defroster, and rear vents for heat & a/c. Both have loads of plastic wood trim, analog instruments, and are tan in color. However, the Cadillac feels much nicer to the touch – the Mercury has hard, cheap feeling plastic surfaces everywhere that look like the tarted up Crown Vic bits they are.
The Grand Marquis does have very comfy heated leather seats, and a power passenger recliner. As far as roominess goes, the front seats of both feel about the same, with the Cadillac having a more useful clamshell armrest for storage & cupholder, with the Mercury’s cupholders placed on the dash in front of the EATC. The rear however is where the Caddy shines – with no big driveshaft tunnel, wider doors, and a bit more legroom, there is no back seat penalty. Shoulder room would be tight in both cars trying to fit six in, but would be a bit more comfortable in the Merc side by side. Getting in and out is easier in the Mercury since the car isn’t as low to the ground, but once inside I like the Caddy a bit more.
Trunk space is a clear winner for the Mercury – despite all the Mafia jokes, the FWD C body deVille is not a “six body trunk”…four at best. Load height is better with the Caddy, but the deep well trunk on the Grand Marquis will allow you to go into the moving business if desired.
For the heated seats and trunk space, the Mercury gets the nod in interior comfort – but only slightly.
Ford Quality Control apparently took the day off when this car rolled down the line – the 28 year old paint on the Caddy has held up perfectly while the paint is peeling like crazy on the Mercury. For the first 11 years of its life, the Merc was garaged or under a car port, washed regularly, and still this happens. Aside from that, I like the exterior styling of both – even if the “Whale” styling of the Mercury was getting long in the tooth.
The big chrome grill, wide tail lights, sidemarker lamps, and curves work on a full size car. The Caddy matches it with chrome and then some with the metal pushbutton door handles, finned taillights, and powerdome hood. Chuck Jordan worked magic on the 1989 redesign and these cars finally said Cadillac again instead of “740 Brougham.” Hearsay to some Broughamites on here, but I like the aluminum rims on both cars vs the wire wheel covers. Much cleaner appearance, especially since neither car has the perquisite vinyl top for the full Brougham look. For the paint issues, and the tail finlets, the Caddy wins for exterior.
1991 was the second year all deVille’s came equipped with a drivers side airbag, and the first that anti-lock brakes became standard (a fact that your brake pedal will remind you of!). Aside from that, rear outboard lap and shoulder belts were standard with only the middle passenger lap belt only. The Mercury has driver and passenger airbags, along with side impact airbags for the front passengers, lap and shoulder belts for all three rear passengers, the LATCH system for car seats, as well as ABS and traction control. So hands down, the Mercury is a safer car to be in – unless it’s snowing/raining and you have bad tires.
Giving the General credit where credit is due, they did put some lovely tech into the 1991 deVille – you could get it with keyless entry, it came with a standard central door locking system, an Oil Life monitor was standard equipment, the Electronic Climate Control was still ahead of what was on most other cars, and the six speaker Delco-Bose Gold speaker system still sounds great after all these years. I did replace the head unit with a modern Sony HD Radio one however – as much as it pained me to yank out the AM Stereo unit, having HD and the ability to play audio from my iPhone is higher up on the priorities list. And the power antenna in the rear pulls in signals much better than the in glass affair in the Mercury – not to mention the electrical system is quieter in the Caddy, which is important for AM listening (for me at least). But the Mercury has steering wheel controls for the audio system & the EATC – not to mention the keyless entry keypad, adjustable pedals, and the nifty message center that does what the “Fuel Data Center” in the Caddy does, plus all the usual low washer fluid/change oil/door ajar messages. So the Mercury wins the tech category – but given the 17 year difference, it should! The big difference being the adjustable pedals, door keypad, and traction control.
This one is a tough one given the age difference – all I have had to do to the Mercury is change the oil and some light bulbs. The Caddy however when I bought it I immediately drove it to the shop for a new brake master cylinder. Other repairs in the 7 months of ownership include the new rear shocks, new water pump, new battery, and it also needs a new A/C compressor. For a 28 year old car – not bad! But if there is a “Cockroach of The Road,” it is the Panther platform. Especially the 3rd gen with everything sorted out – no intake manifold cracking, no valve seal oil burning, and the tough as nails 4R75E transmission backing it up.
The 4.9 in the Caddy is much MUCH improved over the 4100, but I still throw in those GM cooling system seal tabs as preventative maintenance when the fluid is flushed. I’m convinced that Cadillac didn’t put the 4.5/4.9 in the Brougham from ’88 on because they were worried about fleet usage, despite the 307 Olds only giving barely acceptable performance levels pushing around that much heft. The Hydramatic 4T60E is durable enough in these cars, and does shift smoother than the 4R75E – GM could still get it right when they wanted to. Even with the relatively trouble free miles of the Caddy, the 4.9 still worries me a bit so the Mercury gets the durability trophy. Just as long as the primer holds off the rust.
Both cars have zero squeaks or rattles – impressive given the body on frame nature of the Grand Marquis, both are wonderful road trip cars, and both excel at isolating you from harsh roads (thanks PennDOT!). But that being said, the Mercury really is not “luxury” – yes, the steering wheel has “wood”…but the dash looks and feels cheap. I suppose they didn’t want to make it too nice and encroach on Lincoln Town Car territory, but even still – the car has solid bones but Ford just cheapened the hell out of it post 1998, especially by 2007. The rear doors have the cutout for ash trays, but no ashtray – little cues like that.
But there is one more thing that has me driving the Mercury less and the Caddy more – my Grandmother. Grandma Z has dementia, and as of late it has been getting worse. With that, she forgets that she gave me the car and has been calling me asking for it back. Trying to reason with her just ends up getting her upset, so I’ve taken to telling her that it’s in the shop. She also at times believes that she still has Pappy Ron’s 1995 S-10 – that was sold back in 2010.
So it adds to my general stress and anxiety driving the car – and with that I have decided to sell the car. I didn’t have these feelings with my first two vehicles that I inherited from my Pap – I supposed because his death was sudden rather than having to watch the long fade into darkness, and in the case of the 84 Sedan deVille, it stayed in the family until the 4100 gave out sometime in 2008. But whatever I get from selling the car will go to her, as she now requires someone to help out at home – not cheap.
Have no fear – as I still have the need for a RWD BOF land yacht in my life. Here it is for a future article. I take delivery this summer if all goes according to plan.
I really enjoyed your comparison of two nice big comfortable cars. I would enjoy the Cadillac more. It has the square-shouldered styling I like and in that condition they are becoming very rare on the streets. But I imagine repair costs would be higher than the Mercury in most situations, and no matter how well maintained the Caddy is just plain older, with older plastics and rubber parts just closer to dying of old age. So, reluctantly, I would choose the Mercury for practical reasons. And RWD could be fun at times. If they were made the same year, hands down the Cadillac. Smooth as silk drivetrain, big flat windshield, lots of fancy details such as vanity lights and ashtrays all over the place. Now I’m talking myself back into the Caddy.
Hell with practicality, then. If you only want that then there are many better choices than either of these. Cadillac style it is!
This strikes me an “apples and oranges” comparo?
Perhaps a Lincoln Town Car in place of the Mercury would had been a more fair comparison?
(I realize BigT doesn’t have a long term TC; he is merely comparing what he has.)
If it was a early 90’s TC vs this car, the TC would win. More trunk space, better engine, and an interior that is on par (or better) than the Caddy – especially the 90-94 Town Cars. I had a 93 TC and it was nicer than the 91 deVille.
The Mercury is in a tough spot – it aspires to be a plusher car than the Vic…but it really wasn’t despite the added wood trim and leather. Ford couldn’t justify the money for a separate instrument panel like Lincoln, so it was stuck in limbo.
Well, I’ve been trying to post a comparison of my ’96 Fleetwood vs. ’94 Town Car, but the site just eats my posts.
I’ll offer a brief comparison along similar lines… actually, this is more of an apples-to-apples comparison. I own both a ’96 Fleetwood Brougham and a ’94 Town Car Cartier. The Cadillac is superior in every way except visibility, trunk space, and cup holders. The Lincoln feels flimsy and underdamped, while the Cadillac is rock-solid on rough roads at high speeds. I’m actually shocked by how similar the Cadillac’s chassis and suspension feels to my (former) w140 S320. (The Mercedes was superior to the Cadillac in many other respects, of course, but they had a similar ride on all but the most challenging roads.)
The interior design of the Cadillac is much less ornate than the Lincoln, but the material quality is leagues ahead. And that’s in spite of the fact that 1994 was the peak year of the “fat Panthers,” i.e., the highest-content version of the platform ever offered by Ford. The Cadillac is NOT a Mercedes competitor here (the door closure isn’t Teutonic), but almost everything feels hefty and solid.
In terms of performance, the LT1 engine in the Cadillac easily outclasses the 4.6 in the Town Car, and GM’s 4L60E transmission is (in my humble opinion) one of the better 4-speed automatics ever made, giving smooth shifts at almost any speed. Ford’s AOD-E lives up to its herky-jerky reputation. Brakes are squishy in both cars, but the Cadillac is much easier to modulate and prevent the last-second clamp-down. Because of the superior brake modulation and suspension, the Fleetwood gives a proper luxury car ride, while the Town Car just feels wobbly.
Steering is similar in both cars: overassisted. High-speed driving requires constant attention or you’ll wander into the next lane. The Cadillac’s superior suspension makes it the winner for interstates, but the steering is an area where both cars are clearly inferior to a big Mercedes.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I’ll give the Cadillac a solid win here: it has awkward lines for sure (ugh, the C-pillar and the too-tall roofline), but it has a formal and imposing look, with its chrome rocker panels and tail fins. The Town Car is (relatively) modest, though far better proportioned.
I suppose none of this will surprise CC readers, and the market agrees: off the top of my head, I would guess that a similar-condition Fleetwood is worth about 3x a Town Car. I almost never drive the Town Car anymore (and am actually trying to sell it).
A cleaning of the MAF and Throttle body should help with the hesitation you feel in the GM. If the tires have been around for a long time I’m betting that is why you feel that it is skittish in the rain and bad in the snow. With good tires I’ve not had any problems in the rain, unless I’m asking for them, and Panthers with the traction control do pretty well in snow, though even better if you throw 50-100 lbs in the trunk.
Maybe or not; you might prefer to be in one of the Cadillacs if you’d rather not die in a fire.
More detailed info in the Center for Auto Safety’s testimony on the Panther gas tanks includes this nugget: Ford’s own statistics showed the 1992-97 Crown Victoria has a fatal rear crash fire rate 3.6 to 4.8 times higher than the comparable 1985-96 Chevrolet Impala/Caprice […] People survive crashes in Caprices when they burn to death in Crown Victorias. NHTSA also tried to limit the crash fire hazard to CVPI’s by saying the vast majority of fire deaths were in police vehicles. It’s wrong again – as many civilians died by fire in 1992-01 Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis and Town Car fire crashes as police officers.
(“Safety at Ford has never taken a back seat to other issues” in the 2nd link is an interesting claim; counterexamples abound even if we disregard Panther fuel tanks. The Pinto burn-death memo wherein Ford decided to quietly pay off victims and their families because it would be cheaper than fixing the cars, the ’60s-’80s transmissions that jumped out of Park and were “fixed” by slapping a use-the-parking-brake decal on the dashboard, the steering wheels that come off, the ignition switches that catch on fire, the alternators that catch on fire, the ABS wiring that catches on fire…)
I own an 09 P71 and looking at the pictures of the interior I have to agree with your assessment: a lot of hard plastic with a smattering of wood does NOT make any car a “luxury” car.
As far as safety, I really don’t think all that much about the fire potential that Ford warns you about with strategically places stickers. In nearly 50 years of driving I have seen about a dozen burned cars, including 1 Pinto. All the others had fires that started under the hood. And having grown up in Pa I also agree that I would rather drive a FWD car in the winter. Luckily, my car rarely sees snow.
Thanks for sharing your impressions on these. The paint on your Mercury is a head scratcher. I saw this sort of thing a lot on early clearcoat cars white and blue vehicles fromGM and Chrysler seemed the worst) but have never seen this on later panthers. I wonder if your hood got repainted at some point.
Of any Cadillac on this platform you seem to have chosen the best one. I, however, have just never warmed to these. Perhaps spending time in one might help.
FoMoCo vehicles were decimated from cost cuts in the late 90s. I would love to have the interior and suspension of an early one with the structure and powertrain of the late one.
The suspension on the 03+ cars is a big leap over that used in the 97- cars. Yes the rear sway bar was there accross the board in 92 and isn’t on the 03 up cars but the rest of it more than makes up the difference. Either way you want one with the HPP package that came with a rear sway bar regardless of year.
The issue seen here involves the base coat delaminating from the primer. So we have the BC/CC coming off as one layer leaving the primer layer visible. This is exactly what I saw on those white GM vehicles in the past. Clearly there was an issue forming the chemical bond between primer and base coat.
I have painted four vehicles of which three were Single Stage and one BC/CC. Done from the bare metal base where the epoxy primer forms a mechanical bond to the scuffed metal substrate. Color coat then applied in the window specified by the paint manufacturer being PPG. Clear coat on the one car during that materials window. The Mustang was painted in 1990 and is still all intact.
So what happened here? Contamination? Out of the window? One would think highly unlikely. Incompatibility of the paint materials? If repaint then poor preparation? Or possibly a small ding/nick in the color surface allowing Mother Nature to work her magic under the color edge to start the cancer? This last reason is going to be why the cancer will continue to now spread.
Cadillac had the HT4100 in the full size RWD DeVilles. While the car felt quick, the sprightliness came at a cost of premature transmission wear.
My parents had a very beautiful 1984 Sedan DeVille (ordered sans vinyl roof because my father hated vinyl roofs). After three years, the automatic transmission failed. The 4100 was just not enough engine for such a big car. Apparently Caddy got the message, because the 4100/4.5 no longer powered the Fleetwoods which remained on the large RWD when the DevIlle downsized to front wheel drive.
My condolences to you about your grandmother. I had to endure the same thing with my father until he passed away in February. It’s a terrible thing to go through. I sincerely hope I don’t put my family through the same thing.
I’ve had experiences with both a Panther (the box shaped ’91) and this generation of DeVille (an ’87). The 5.0 had more torque and horsepower than the approx 130 hp Caddy. The Caddy got slightly better mileage. They were both equivalent as far as reliability, with both needing normal work from time to time. The Mercury was quieter on the highway with less wind noise. The Caddy needed less attention to the steering as the Marquis tended to be more sensitive to ruts. I visited the local Pick-N-Pull for parts on both of them and they were readily available and cheap.
Which would I own again? The Mercury. A Ford RWD transmission is a lot less expensive than a Cadillac FWD one and the less said about the 4100 V-8, the better. Mine didn’t give me any trouble.
The dash board on both cars screams “Rubbermaid”. Look up the dash of a 1963 Pontiac if you want to see how good a cheap dash can look.
Or this one, from the 1962 Plymouth,
Very much enjoyed the comparison, thank you! I love comparison tests…
Never really understood the fascination many enthusiasts have with Panthers but I guess a lot of it just comes down to them being the last of their kind (BOF, RWD sedans) and also being rare, period, in being domestic, affordable, RWD sedans. My rental of a ’11 Crown Victoria didn’t endear me to them as it felt cheap and outdated (which it was at that point, at the end of its run, I acknowledge). It’s funny how Ford invested a lot in under-the-skin updates back in ’03 and left the interior and exterior and engine virtually untouched.
I’m sure they’re cheap and durable but it’s a pass from me. I’d rather an ’07 300 or Charger V8, even if it spends more time in the shop.
As for the DeVille, these were a nice update from the 740 Brougham (love that!) but that interior underwhelms me. Early 1980s Cadillac interiors (and the Brougham) may not have been better in terms of material quality but they seemed to be more visually appealing. However, it’s good to hear the Caddy has nice materials (as it should!) — if it looks a little bland but feels nice and suitably premium, then that’s fine by me. And these DeVilles were nice and space-efficient. I’d love to take one for a spin one day.
I feel as though your ’91 DeVille would be a more comfortable daily driver than a Brougham — I wonder if I’m off the mark here? I’ll admit, though, I have more of a soft spot for the following generation of DeVille with its slab sides. Anyone drive both of these and can tell me how they compare? (Besides in powertrain reliability, I know about the Northstar)
Funny you should ask that….my 2nd car was a 96 Deville! Dark green with a tan landau top – the interior was much nicer looking, but the plastics were easier to break – and there was more plastic in the 96 than in the 91. The 96 had better looking fake wood – I eventually bought the real Zebrano wood trim pieces off of a Concours to replace the factory trim. Interior had more room, easier to get in and our, and the trunk had a bit more space. The car also handled better with a bit less float, but still had a great highway ride. I would take a 94 or 95 with the 4.9 over the 91.
Anyone know what make and model this car is it looks like an 80’s sedan or town card someone said it was a 1965 Lincoln Continental but to me it looks like something else, also looks like an emblem off to the right of the grill.