I also discovered
at once that the Toronado corners well. It sticks. My impression was that it
handled better in turns than any big normal U.S. car I have ever driven, and
the credit must go to those pulling front wheels. I had assumed, wrongly, that
putting so much machinery in the front would give the car a bad weight
bias—make it nose-heavy—but I learned that the weight distribution is actually
a reasonable 58% front to 42% rear. There was, of course, none of the
rear-wheel breakaway that you can get cornering a rear-drive car.
struck me as being a more forgiving car than others of its bulk, that is,
harder to get into trouble. For example, we all know what can happen when you
try to drive onto a concrete road from the shoulder when the road is not flush
with the shoulder. In a rear-drive car when the rear wheels cramp up against
the edge of the road and start climbing they tend to make the car jerk and go a
little out of control. This is not the case with the Toronado. On one occasion
I left the proving ground's twisty handling course and took the car up a 27%
grade. That's steep—comparable to one of San Francisco's hairier hills. I went
over the brow of the hill under full power, lifting all four wheels off the
road, and I can report that the car flies just about as well as it drives.
Nothing broke when we came down, and the car did nothing vicious. Under braking
there was none of the usual nose dive.
advantage of this car over conventional ones is that it can pull up a pretty
steep grade in fresh snow without snow tires. So at least I was told by the
engineers—I also saw a film of the car operating in snow—and I have no reason
to doubt the claim; superior traction on snow and ice is one of the best things
about front-drive cars. Neither snow tires nor chains should be necessary on
the Toronado except on really precipitous iced hills. Also you are spared the
fishtailing of conventional cars on snow and ice. The Toronado just pulls
straight ahead. The car is not sensational for acceleration; it is by no means
a power-pack car like the Pontiac GTO. I would say its power performance is
average for a big V-8—which means all the power the average driver wants or
adjustable torsion bars in front and single-leaf springs at the rear, augmented
with both vertical and horizontal shock absorbers. All the drive components sit
directly over the front wheels—which aids stability. Wheelbase is 119
inches—slightly below average for a big U.S. car—and the overall length is an
average 211 inches. There is more overhang in front than is usual, and less in
The car's ride is
excellent—surprisingly so, since the typical big V-8 is apt to give you a
floating or wallowing sensation at highway speeds. To come up with a stable car
but not at the expense of ride takes a lot of doing, and I think Olds has done
it. Normally you expect to get a stiff ride and good cornering or a soft ride
and lousy cornering. The Toronado provides a good compromise. For long trips at
high speeds it will be hard to beat for comfort and stability.
I had two
reservations about the car: serious brake fade under hard use and slow
steering. Year in and year out these are typical failings in nearly all U.S.
cars in the eyes of sports-minded drivers like me, and I am happy to see
fade-free disc brakes making headway in Detroit little by little. The
Toronado's drum brakes could be more fade-resistant, and should be. I am told
the car's steering—three and a half turns from lock to lock—is quicker than
average, and while the engineers would like to make it quicker yet for expert
drivers they feel the public would need a lot of conditioning to anything like
sports car quickness before it would be generally acceptable.
has been exercised inside the car. Instruments are neatly grouped on the
driver's side and there are no design distractions on the passenger side. Since
there is no drive shaft there is, of course, no transmission hump or
drive-shaft tunnel down the middle of the car. The flat floor will be one of
the Toronado's strong selling points.
When you put six
people in the conventional car those in the middle have their knees up under
their chins. With the hump and tunnel eliminated, you sit normally. Another
nice thing about the Toronado is the amount of rear-seat headroom. I am 6 feet
2, and I found the rear seat quite comfortable.
the Toronado as a "contemporary American Grand Touring car." Whatever
it is, I like it. It is not a car for those who must have super-fast steering,
stiff springing and a seat-of-the-pants sense of the road, but it has comfort,
adequate power, an attractive design, superior cornering qualities and
high-speed stability for a car of its size. As a front-drive, it also offers
the buyer a distinctly different and valid kind of car in a country that can
well afford variety but for years has seen virtually nothing but the old
front-engine, rear-drive stereotype.