Cadillac looks to the historic past to chart the future

Cadillac XT6 2021

By Bill Owney

Out with the old…

Grandfather was a Cadillac man.

A buttoned-up, straight-laced Republican in a stubbornly twisted Democrat town where the mob hires and promotes cops, Bill Golden nevertheless rose through the ranks to become police chief in Youngstown, Ohio, mostly because he was a man of few vices.

A fast ride, the best used Caddy he could buy, and a good 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 lesson. In a nutshell, that’s what he was, a thorough mensch, one of those people who constantly saw his duty and did it, someone who thought it was far more important to do well than to be perceived. as being right.

A duty Grandfather took seriously was watching over me. He had serious reservations about my dad’s mental acuity after Dad borrowed a Cadillac and wrecked it. This wound never healed.

For decades, Youngstown was a booming steel town and something of a quiet mob enclave, existing peacefully between the more brutal clans of Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Gambling and all other areas of mafia activity were there, but they were moderate. Violence was bad for business.

A cop of a cop, Grandpa was a well-respected part of the police force, earning high marks while leading first the patrol division and then the criminal investigations; but Democratic mayors continued to promote others to first place. Court records make it clear that the mob had a strong voice in these decisions, regularly paying large sums in municipal elections as well as sheriff’s elections.

Captain William Golden
Captain William Golden leads a parade in Youngstown, Ohio in the late 1950s. Youngstown vindictive.

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

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

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

Arrests piled up and soon Chief Golden was acclaimed, including a 1963 cover story 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 cache of dynamite. A thread had come loose.

Even a mob hitman, however, had the good sense not to touch the Cadillac parked in the garage.

“Bonasera, Bonasera,” said the Godfather. “What did I do to make you treat me so disrespectfully?”

Alas, the law of large numbers applies to more than mathematics. Over time, the historical average continues to assert itself. Within a few years, the Democrats were back in power. and grandfather chose to retire and accept a position as a special investigator for the governor.

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

Not Grandpa’s Cadillac

These thoughts washed over me on Sunday afternoon as I sat behind the wheel of a 2022 Cadillac XT6 and put my hands in my lap as I watched it drive itself on the interstate highways around town. .

A 14-speaker audio system, head-up display, French-stitched leather, class-leading sound and noise dampening, self-adjusting suspension, Brembo brakes, and soft-touch wood and leather accents top quality made driving this car a visceral experience that would have delighted Grandpa to no end.

Besides, does he drive himself?

To be more specific, General Motors’ Super Cruise isn’t self-driving; rather, it’s semi-autonomous technology that enables hands-free driving on approximately two million miles of US roads. It stays centered in its lane, can change lanes and stays a safe distance from vehicles ahead.

A small camera monitors the driver’s attention. If the driver is distracted, it will send several warnings before stopping.

Over time, GM claims Super Cruise will work on more than 95% of US 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 yet to, uh, get my hands on. Consumer Reports rates GM’s system far superior to Tesla’s; indeed, as the clear leader among 17 such systems currently on the market.

It would endlessly please my grandfather, who was always proud of Cadillac innovations, such as interchangeable engine parts (1908), electric starter (1911), synchronized gears (1928), safety glass (1928 ) and selectable suspension (1933).

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

1954 Cadillac El Dorado
This 1953 Eldorado convertible, owned by Mike Ventresca of Pasadena, California, was one of the open-top Cadillacs exhibited at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance alongside the Cadillac Ciel design concept. (Photo courtesy of Mike Ventresca.)

When he finally picked it up from the dealership, everyone in the neighborhood wanted to take a ride.

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

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

Cadillac Lyriq 2023
Defined by taut lines and clean surfaces, LYRIQ is assertive and modern, characterized by a low, sweeping roofline and wide stance that emphasizes agility and conveys confidence. Additional details, such as a pass-through roof spoiler, express the attention paid to aerodynamics to optimize efficiency on the highway.

Beautiful days ahead?

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

If one needs a seven-seat people carrier, for example, all a dealership has is an extremely expensive gas guzzler like the Escalade, whose popularity seems to follow an inverse rate of price gasoline, or the XT6.

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

Starting with the base price of the XT6 in the mid-to-upper $50,000 range, 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-liter V6, which was sturdy and powerful.

For the week we averaged 18 mpg which was acceptable but in today’s world that is not the case especially when for the same price you can get a Lexus RX hybrid that gets 31 mpg. It’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 in the development of electrified vehicles, like the $45,000 Chevy Blazer EV, which hit showrooms this week. The new Acadia and Traverse are also in the works.

The Cadillac XT6 is a pretty good looking car, and GM is offering substantial cash incentives, up to $6,500, to move existing models. At the right price, it’s a good buy even if, as Grandpa would tell you, Cadillacs aren’t particularly known for their reliability.

More importantly, the XT6 demonstrates that Cadillac has the knack for moving forward to re-establish itself as a source of innovation.

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