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Let's Have a Serious Conversation About Cadillac
“What are they doing?”
This is the question that has invaded my mind twice when it came to Cadillac. The first time was when I heard that the ATS & CTS were being replaced by the same car. The second time was when I found out that that wasn’t going to happen, but that the new “V” cars were severely underpowered. But I decided to wait and let it play out. Let Cadillac roll out its hand, let the public review its hand and let Cadillac explain itself. And I can wait no more. What the hell is this brand doing?
The 2020 Cadillac CT5
Firstly, let’s start with the initial decision to replace two separate cars in two very different segments with one car. It rarely ever works. And having one car do double duty never really works. But Cadillac should know this already, the second-gen CTS was a prime example. In sedan & wagon form, it competed solely with the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes E class. In coupe form, however, it was a BMW 3-Series competitor, specifically in the M3 vs CTS-V comparisons. Even though, in theory, the CTS-V coupe should have been butting heads with the BMW M6. Cadillac has been down this road of having one car do everything before. So to even consider going back to the one sedan strategy is mind-blowing to me. It was so set-in-stone that various outlets said the CT5 replaced both the ATS & CTS sedans and even at the vehicle’s press release, Cadillac preferred you compare the CT5 to the 3 Series instead of the larger and more equal in size 5-Series. I’m personally glad they eventually made two sedans, the new CT4 becoming the actual 3-Series fighter but that leads me to my next point.
The 2020 Cadillac CT4-V & CT5-V: They Don't Even Look The Part!
“Why are the new V’s so underpowered?” As Jalopnik sadly has pointed out, the new Cadillac CT4-V only has 24 more HP than a Toyota Camry TRD. Cadillac seemed to sense the tension in the room during the release of the V’s and was quick to announce true V’s were on the way. But I’m struggling to understand the logic behind this decision. Sure, I get Cadillac wanted to balance luxury with performance and instead of giving the vehicle top-spec power, it lowered the power, and by association the price. What it also saturated was brand integrity. One look at a FB Conversation told me that this guy isn’t alone in his thoughts, I had them too.
This Guy Gets It
Another thing: the low level of power has people making comparisons. They say the new CT4-V could be excellent competition for the BMW M2 and Audi S3. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but those cars are not the intended competition, as the CT4 is definitely larger than an Audi S3. And performance-wise, an M2, and by association, an Audi RS3 and Mercedes-AMG CLA45 would murder this new caddy. I understand it’s built on the Alpha platform and will probably be fun to drive and handle beautifully. But it’s just not on the M2’s level. And in that sense, is it even a real “V?”
The main issue is I don’t quite get what the strategy was here. Why not just call it a V-Sport? Lexus still sells the IS, ES & GS F-Sport, and they are doing fine. BMW took the approach of adding M before that specific vehicle’s number associated name, letting you know that this vehicle has performance parts but is not an official M brand vehicle, as is the case with the new M340i. You will not call it an M3. The BMW and Mercedes way of showcasing a performance sub-brand won’t work for Cadillac, as Cadillac does not use numbers for vehicle trim names, preferring to use words instead. Cadillac had already found a tried and true formula with the V-Sport lineup. Don’t mess with something if it ain’t broke. For example, the new CT5-V, which has a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 with 355 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, should be the Sport trim in the CT5 lineup. The V-Sport should be the one packing about 430-440 HP, competing with the Mercedes-AMG E53 and rivaling the power of the last V-Sport. The real “V” should be a V, what we’ve come to know as one. The fast, high horsepower one.
Apparently, the reason why the new Cadillac performance vehicles are called “V’s” is because consumers were “intimidated” by the V’s of old. So instead, they chose to make the brand more accessible and easier to get into for everyone. Vehicles that balanced luxury and marginal performance. If you’re smelling some PR crap after hearing that, so am I. Blaming the lack of sales for the CTS & ATS-V on people being scared to drive them is hilarious. They were never the Dodge Viper in terms of a fear factor. And the BMW M5 seems to balance luxury and performance well while having the power, nullifying Cadillac’s whole point. The real issue here is Cadillac’s denial of the true issues their cars failed. Interior quality needs to be upgraded and with how cheap these new cars are, I don’t think that’s an issue that’s been solved. When competing against the Germans, you bring your A-game. Cadillac has never brought its A-game. Another reason I lack hope for the future of V’s is the CT6 situation. It was originally going to be launched as a CT6 V-Sport, only to be called an official V. And with the Blackwing 4.2L V8 only making 550 HP, I fear that name change decision was really made because Caddy couldn’t get more power out of the engine.
The root-issue is Cadillac is having what is essentially a mid-life crisis. A brand identity crisis. Cadillac is relying on its name far too much to keep itself afloat and that way of thinking is only sinking it deeper. You can read this article by Kristen Lee from Jalopnik about Cadillac’s brand direction. The number of times it’s stated that the brand will keep customers interested, that the brand is this, the brand is that. But no real answers, only vague remarks. They are believing too much in the brand to realize they aren’t helping the brand. And they don’t seem to realize that the Cadillac name doesn’t seem to have the same pull to consumers as it does to the people working at Cadillac. Hell, even calling the CT4 the “goal of attracting the “new generation” of Cadillac customers”, showcases this point. It will be a perfectly fine vehicle, but it does nothing the ATS before it hasn’t already done. It won’t be better than a Genesis G70 or BMW 3-Series. So even at a dirt-cheap price, I don’t expect things to change. This is not the vehicle to lure customers of a new generation, a younger demographic into showroom floors. And that halo vehicle Cadillac keeps mentioning isn’t coming anytime soon. And the same can probably be said for EV’s. Cadillac has a lot of work to do to get right because right now, the brand is in limbo, shooting itself in the foot. But don't take my word for it, take Alanis King Jones's word. (I'm gonna miss you as a Jalopnik writer but best of luck to you in your future endeavors.)
© 2020 Joshua Nightshade