Cadillac looks to the storied past while charting the future

2021 Cadillac XT6

By Bill Owney

Get rid of the old…

Grandpa was a Cadillac man.

Bill Golden, a tied-up, straightforward Republican in a stubbornly crooked Democratic town where the mafia hires and promotes the police, nevertheless climbed through the ranks to become chief of police in Youngstown, Ohio, largely because he was a man of few vices. .

Driving fast, the best used Caddy he could buy, and a fine cigar after Sunday dinner were his only indulgences.

“I could have been so rich if I hadn’t been so honest,” he once told me during a boxing class. In a nutshell, that was who he was, a decent person, one of those people who consistently saw his duty and did it, someone who cared far more about doing the right thing rather than being considered good.

One duty that Grandpa took seriously was to watch over me. He had serious reservations about my father’s mental acuity after my father borrowed a Cadillac and destroyed it. That wound never healed.

For years, Youngstown was a thriving steel town and a sort of quiet mob enclave that coexisted peacefully between the more ruthless clans of Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Gambling and all the other mafia activities were there, but it was subdued. Violence was bad for business.

Grandpa, a police officer, was a respected part of the police force and earned high marks when he first led the patrol department and then led criminal investigations; but Democratic mayors continued to promote others to first place. Court records make it clear that the mob had a strong say in those decisions, regularly pouring large sums of money into city hall and sheriff’s elections.

Captain William Golden
Captain William Golden leads a parade in Youngstown, Ohio, sometime in the late 1950s. Youngstown V indicator.

Cutline: Captain William Golden leads a parade in Youngstown, Ohio, sometime in the late 1950s. Youngstown Vindicator.

That changed in the early 1960s when more than 80 car bombings swept through the city. “Youngstown tune-ups”, they were called. A new mayor brought in a new chief, who thought it would be a good idea to keep a close eye on gangsters and prosecute them whenever possible, who thought it might be wiser to work with the FBI rather than from against it.

“I don’t get sores, I give them,” he told me with a sly grin as he showed me how he hid recording equipment to get the goods on a corrupt officer and his mafia connection. Bugs were rare at the time.

The arrests piled up and Chief Golden soon received widespread acclaim, including a 1963 cover article in the Saturday Evening Post. The biggest compliment came the morning Grandpa’s unmarked Chevy police sedan wouldn’t start. Under the hood was a stash of dynamite. A wire had come loose.

Even a Mafia hit man had the good sense to keep his fingers off the Cadillac in the garage, though.

“Bonasera, Bonasera,” said the godfather. “What have I ever done that you treat me so disrespectfully?”

Unfortunately, the law of large numbers applies to more than just math. Over time, the historical average always asserts itself. Within a few years, the Democrats returned to power. and Grandpa chose to retire and take a job as a special investigator for the governor.

The steel mills were eventually closed, but to this day mob is the norm in Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.

Not Grandpa’s Cadillac

These thoughts washed over me on Sunday afternoon as I sat at the wheel of a 2022 Cadillac XT6, resting my hands in my lap as I watched it drive through the city’s highways.

A 14-speaker sound system, head-up display, French-stitched leather, premium sound and dampening, self-adjusting suspension, Brembo brakes and premium, soft-touch wood and leather accents made driving this car a visceral experience that left Grandpa infinitely happy would have attended.

Besides, does he drive himself?

To be precise, General Motors’ Super Cruise is not self-driving; rather, it is semi-autonomous technology that enables hands-free driving on approximately two million miles of U.S. roads. He stays centered in his lane, can change lanes and stays a safe distance from vehicles in front.

A small camera monitors the driver’s attention. If the driver is distracted, it will send multiple warnings before shutting itself off.

In time, GM says Super Cruise will operate on more than 95% of America’s paved roads. So far, GM owners have logged more than seven million miles on the system without incident. In the XT6, it’s a $2,500 option and requires a $25 monthly subscription after a three-year free trial.

Introduced in 2017, Super Cruise is one of the best driver assistance systems I’ve got my hands on yet, er, not my hands. Consumer Reports rates GM’s system much better than Tesla’s; indeed, as the clear leader among the 17 such systems now on the market.

My grandfather, who was always proud of Cadillac innovations such as interchangeable engine parts (1908), the electric starter (1911), synchronized gears (1928), safety glass (1928) and selectable suspension (1933), would not put an end to that. . ).

We were living in Alabama when he came to visit us in his 1954 Eldorado, the first car with power steering. He was two years old when he bought it and it burned the transmission on the way, so we spent a lot of time in the dealership center that week. Dealers at that time were downtown, not suburbs.

1954 Cadillac Eldorado
Owned by Mike Ventresca of Pasadena, California, this 1953 Eldorado convertible was one of several open-top Cadillacs on display at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance alongside the Cadillac Ciel design concept. (Photo courtesy of Mike Ventresca.)

When he finally got it back from the dealer, everyone in the area wanted to go for a ride.

The fascinating thing about Cadillac’s Super Cruise is that it will soon be supplanted by a truly autonomous system, Ultra Cruise. It is believed to be available soon in Cadillac’s Lyriq, which is now in production. (Don’t try to order 2023. They’re all gone. Caddy is now taking orders for 2024 models.)

Sure, Ultra Cruise will be available in the Celestiq, which Cadillac introduced Friday. Cadillac’s first hand-built car is expected to sell for about $300,000 and will be available in 2023.

2023 Cadillac Lyriq
Defined by clean lines and clean surfaces, LYRIQ is assertive and modern, characterized by a low, fast roofline and wide stance that emphasize agility and exude confidence. Additional details, such as a continuous roof spoiler, express the careful attention paid to aerodynamics to optimize efficiency on the highway.

Clear days ahead?

Cars like these probably can’t come soon enough for Cadillac dealers, who have witnessed a steady erosion of market share towards fresher and more fuel-efficient competitors from Europe, Japan and South Korea.

For example, if you need a seven-seat passenger car, a dealer will only have a hugely expensive gas-guzzler like the Escalade, whose popularity seems inversely related to gas prices, or the XT6.

The latter is a beautiful vehicle, but at night, when you can’t see the signature Cadillac design cues, it looks exactly like the GMC Acadia and Chevy Traverse from which it sprang. The mechanics are pretty much the same too, so no matter how much lipstick and eyeshadow GM puts on it, it still rides like a Chevy. In our tester’s case, a $75,415 Chevy.

Starting at the base price of the XT6 in the mid-to-higher $50,000, there are better choices: Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, Genesis GV80, Audi Q8, BMW X5, Lexus RX, Volvo XC90. Our tester came with the optional 3.6-litre V6, which was robust and powerful.

For the week we averaged 18 mpg, which used to be OK, but in today’s world that’s not, especially when you can have a Lexus RX Hybrid that gets 31 mpg for the same money. That’s 72% better.

An electric future

Cadillac Delestiq
Photo courtesy of Cadillac

Keep in mind that this situation is very dynamic. GM CEO Mary Barra is investing heavily to develop electrified vehicles, such as the $45,000 Chevy Blazer EV, which rolled into showrooms this week. The new Acadia and Traverse are also in the pipeline.

The Cadillac XT6 is a nice enough car, and GM offers significant monetary incentives, up to $6,500, to move existing models. At the right price, it’s a good buy, even if Cadillacs, as Grandpa would say, aren’t exactly known for their reliability.

More importantly, the XT6 shows that Cadillac has the talent to move forward to re-establish itself as a source of innovation.

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