Tag Archives: Cadillac

Motoring, à la française

The Hyundai Intrado sport crossover concept comes unwrapped at the Montreal International Auto Show.

The Hyundai Intrado sport crossover concept comes unwrapped at the Montreal International Auto Show.

Thoughts from the 2015 Montreal Auto Show


There’s few things as unsexy as driving in Canada in the middle of January.

Brutal cold is never sexy, nor is starting your car in that same nostril hair-freezing temperature and shivering while the heater valiantly tries (and fails) to blow warm air.

Road salt and brown-grey slush covers everything – roads, sidewalks, your car, your pants – while the weather forecast teases you with warmer weather (which never materializes) on the last day of the week.

So it was fitting that the mercury was holding steady at minus 25 when I left Ottawa for the warm, glitzy confines of the Montreal Auto Show this past week.

Thankfully, the only salt to be found inside the Palais des Congrès was on my Old Dutch potato chips.

Here it is - the 2084 Camry! Actually, the Toyota FT1 concept is meant to tease a future design direction for the company.

Here it is – the 2084 Camry! Actually, the Toyota FT1 concept is meant to tease a future design direction for the company.

Unlike past years, lots of concepts were unveiled this time around, and mainly from Japanese automakers. Could it be they’re feeling a growing ‘beige’ backlash to their sensible but reserved offerings?

The wildest concept by far was the Toyota FT1, a two-seater supercar that was red enough and low enough to arouse Prince. Missing a drivetrain, the FT1’s totally un-Camrylike styling is a direction the company rep said Toyota plans to go in.

No word on whether the FT1 will be appearing alongside Corollas in Toyota showrooms anytime soon, but I somehow doubt it.

Supercars are hot, but they aren’t big sellers. Most of the concepts revealed at the show were a little more sensible, and shared a common theme: compact, sporty, 2-door crossovers aimed at adventurous, urban Millennials.

Subaru's VIZIV 2 concept (another 2-door sport crossover!) reflects the company's future styling plans.

Subaru’s VIZIV 2 concept (another 2-door sport crossover!) reflects the company’s future styling plans.

Have you finished vomiting yet? Yes, the ‘adventurous, urban Millennial’ is the new, hipsterized ‘young urban professional’ of yesterday.

Whether you’re grabbing your beard buddies and heading down to the Vance Joy/Lumineers concert, taking your open relationship girlfriend to the Lena Dunham book signing, or ironically shopping for Mason jars or corduroys by yourself, these concepts were meant to arouse apathy and muted passion all at once.

Subaru brought its VIZIV 2 concept, Hyundai rolled out the Intrado, and Volkswagen showed up with the T-ROC. Together, the concepts were meant to imply a design and market direction, one that (if accurate) should have America’s young people toasting their good fortune with overly hoppy craft beer.

Paging Millennials - the Volkswagen T-ROC might be the lifestyle you need.

Paging Millennials – the Volkswagen T-ROC might be the lifestyle you need.

All joking aside, the concepts have definite appeal. A Jack-of-all-trades vehicle that combines sportiness with modern amenities, a city-friendly body length and usable utility would seemingly be the perfect vehicle for a childless one-car couple.

They could easily be a second, more ‘fun’ car for a Baby Boomer couple. Or, just maybe, individuals of all ages might come to the conclusion that – based on its attributes – this is the car for them.

Besides the concepts, a number of models ready and waiting to be bought were given some time in the limelight.

The North American unveiling of the Mazda 2 revealed a newly KODOized styling job, a new 1.5-litre SKYACTIV-G engine, a longer wheelbase and basically upgraded everything. Despite the freshening up, it looks like the 2 will retain the sprightly personality it has made for itself.

The front end of the 2016 Mazda 2 shows off its new KODO design language.

The front end of the 2016 Mazda 2 shows off its new KODO design language.

The Fiat 500X, the larger crossover built atop the stretched 500L platform that underpins the Jeep Renegade, impressed with its pleasing proportions and tasteful trim. Compared to the 500X, the 500L looks like a birthday cake after a  grenade attack.

Lincoln’s refreshed-for-2016 MKX was at the show, but wasn’t afforded any unveiling time. Still the black MKX in the display reflected the new MKC-inspired styling job well. The treatment can best be described as ‘safely, subtly stylish’ and can only do good things for the mid-size SUV as Lincoln continues with its turnaround.

Missing from the Montreal show (due to overlap with the Detroit show) was the 640-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V sport sedan, which was a damn shame, though the ATS coupe and stunning Elmiraj concept gave journos something sharp (and sharp-edged) to look at.

The Cadillac Elmiraj concept rolled into Canada to show us what a luxury American coupe should look like.

The Cadillac Elmiraj concept rolled into Canada to show us what a luxury American coupe should look like.

I was hoping to come across the Hyundai Santa Cruz concept, but alas, no dice. Unveiled in Detroit, the clamshell door, short-bed unibody pickup concept has generated a lot of interest, and not just because it seemed more ‘fleshed-out’ than other concepts.

The Santa Cruz is downright appealing. While the ‘crossover coupe’ was all the rage at Montreal, I wouldn’t bet against this ‘crossover pickup’ getting the green light from Hyundai before long. It seems like the company was trying to strategically gauge consumer demand by unveiling a nearly production-ready prototype.

Build it, I say.

Orient express

Big in China.

Big in China.

While General Motors executives might be suffering through some sleepless nights thanks to the ongoing ignition switch/recall fiasco, the news these days isn’t all bad.

Bloomberg News is reporting skyrocketing GM sales in that exotic and lucrative market that all automakers lust over – China.

Yes, the eastern superpower is hungry for vehicles – especially high end vehicles with foreign cache, of which GM is only too happy to provide. Total GM vehicle sales are up 9.1% this June, year over year.

(See article here: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-07/gm-china-sales-rise-9-1-in-june-on-buicks-cadillacs.html)

It’s been reported for some time that Chinese car buyers fancy the Buick brand, and sales of those models certainly make up a fair share of the growing volume, but it’s Cadillac that’s now seeing the biggest sales bump.

Sales of Cadillacs rose 46% year over year in June, with the first half of 2014 showing a 72% overall increase. In contrast, Buick sales in June were 14% higher than in 2013. GM expects even greater sales in the second half of this year, and plans to do everything possible to ensure the trend continues.

Much cash is slated for spending in the coming years to boost production for the Chinese market.

Clearly, China is quite enamoured with the 111-year-old luxury brand, despite being far removed from much of Cadillac’s storied history. Clearly, they’re playing catch-up, though no word if there’s an online demand for imports of these:

Grab the technicolour dreamcoat - your ride just pulled up.

Grab the technicolour dreamcoat – your ride just pulled up.


Lincoln’s identity crisis

Kissin' cousins...

Kissin’ cousins…

Automotive columnist John Phillips has an interesting piece in the July edition of Car and Driver.

In it, Phillips describes the Lincoln Motor Company as being devoid of direction and purpose – an automaker undecided as to what it wants to be in the automotive landscape. Lincoln’s badge-engineered lineup (essentially, luxury re-treads of Ford vehicles), are a “distracting abstraction,” Phillips argues, existing solely as a second sales stream for Ford.

This kind of speculation is nothing new, as Lincoln has been drifting like a ship without a rudder for some time, but it’s still worthwhile. Lincoln is a storied nameplate that has become almost invisible, and deserves to return to prominence.

While traditional rival Cadillac now boasts an appealing lineup of aggressively styled vehicles that knows who their competition is, Lincoln’s offerings lack an overall design philosophy.

Judged on their own merits, each vehicle in Lincoln’s lineup has things to like about it, but there’s no denying they’re simply ‘Fords…with luxury’. Luxury, and an odd grille.

I know the retro waterfall thing is supposed to emulate the face of the classic 1940 Continental, but it always looked like a beached whale to me. The MKS is nice but forgettable, the MKT is a bizarre land boat that’s rarer than a Toronto Conservative, the MKX seems to be a top trim level for the Ford Edge, and the MKZ – the most visible new Lincoln – boasts a no-cost Ford Fusion hybrid drivetrain as its centrepiece along with ‘different’ styling.

The Lincoln MKS: a whale of a sedan.

The Lincoln MKS: a whale of a sedan.

Phillips argues that Lincoln needs to do something completely new – something that’s distinctly a product of Lincoln, and not Ford – in order to emerge from automotive purgatory.

I don’t see why this isn’t possible. Ford is making money, and I’m sure it would like to make Lincolns that generate large sales (and buzz). In the 60s and 70s, Lincoln was a powerhouse, selling luxury coupes and massive formal sedans like they were going out of style (and they were).

In the 1980s, Lincoln held its own over Cadillac precisely because they hadn’t gone on the badge-engineering ride that GM had entered Cadillac into.

(See clip for evidence that Lincoln played up this angle, advertising its “uncompromised individuality.”)

Things started to fall apart in the 1990s after the Mk VIII was put out to pasture and the front-drive Continental started withering on the vine, leaving the Town Car as the remaining ‘classic’ Lincoln.

The rear-drive Lincoln LS (2000-2006) that followed earned some impressive accolades, but is now as remembered as the Cadillac Catera of the same era – ie, not at all. Badge engineering began in earnest in the LS’s wake, with the introduction of the Fusion-based Zephyr in 2006.

The Zephyr thudded into the marketplace with lacklustre sales, forcing the Ford Motor Company to almost immediately rebrand it as the MKZ (while also giving it an engine upgrade and grille redesign).

The rest is history.

I’m sure Lincoln will one day find the direction it needs, but what direction that will be escapes me. I know many car enthusiasts still wish for a modern, rear-drive incarnation of the Continental (with suicide doors, no less!), but Cadillac’s newfound hotness didn’t come from re-hashing the deVilles and Fleetwoods of years past.

On its own, the new MKC small crossover is fairly attractive, with a duo of interesting turbo fours. However – call me a traditionalist – Lincoln needs to be primarily about sedans. We will watch.

The last dinosaur?

"Thar she blows!"

“Thar she blows!”

In a previous post, the topic of full-size front-wheel-drive American vehicles was given a thorough look-see.

Hot stuff, I know.

In the post, I stated I felt the Buick Lucerne (2006-2011) represented the end point of a lineage of General Motors vehicles that began with the introduction of the C-Body platform in 1985. On this platform rested the downsized, front-drive Olds 98, Cadillac de Ville and Fleetwood, and the Buick Electra.

The following year, the H-Body platform added the front-drive Olds 88,Buick LeSabre and Pontiac Bonneville to the lineup. And, of course, the rest is history.

When the plush, full-size Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS were put out to pasture in 2011 (taking their front bench seats and 4-speed automatics with them), it seemed that the last heirs to the fortune had died.

The lineage was broken, yes, but was the spirit, too?

As Rod Serling would say if he were alive today, “Submitted for your analysis…the Cadillac XTS.”


A Chariot for the Geriatric?


It would seem that General Motors just couldn’t stomach the gaping hole the departed DTS left in its lineup, so it introduced the XTS in 2013. With the taught, import-fighting ATS and larger, business-like CTS adding fresh style and performance to the marque, GM must have realized it couldn’t alienate traditional buyers while trying to attract new ones.

The retiree community needed a traditional Caddy to drive to the early bird dinner at 4:30 p.m., and funeral homes needed livery cars for when the Last Supper has come and gone.

Though it contains modern underpinnings (a stretched Epsilon II platform), and an up-to-date drivetrain (GM’s direct-injected 3.6-litre V6 and 6-speed automatic), the XTS is clearly the spiritual successor to all those front-drive plushies that came before it.

The 3.6 makes admirable power – with 321 horsepower and 274 foot-pounds of torque on hand, an XTS driver will have no trouble getting to the pharmacy before it closes. With available all-wheel-drive, handling and all-weather capability gets a boost.

The available 410-horsepower twin-turbo V-Sport model just seems pointless, however, and I’d be curious to see who actually springs for this.

Style-wise, the XTS is something of an odd duck. The front end, viewed head-on, is inoffensive, contains adequate brightwork and clearly marks this car as a Cadillac.

Side-on, the front end appears stumpy, with the leading edge of front door nearly touching the wheel well. A long, flowing crease originating at the front fender carries on to the rear of the car, breaking up the expanse of sheet metal and giving the long sedan less of a slab-sided look.

The XTS’s side crease, flowing roofline and sharply raked C-pillar are not unattractive – at the very least, the package is inoffensive, which is the design goal of many an automaker when trying to woo traditional return buyers.

Like the abbreviated front end, the rear deck can also be seen as stumpy, despite the car’s otherwise large rear overhang. Though it’s hard to see when an XTS is scooting past, the rear taillights actually have a vestigial tail fin thing going on.

Don't cut yourself by accident...

Don’t cut yourself by accident…

Certainly, towering fins were once the hallmark of Caddy design, so this represents a nod to the marque’s storied past. As well, given the vehicle’s short rear deck, the tiny fins serve to carry the car’s presence just a little bit further aft.

Overall, it’s something of a strange vehicle, but it’s one Cadillac clearly felt needed to exist.

How long will the XTS soldier on in the Cadillac lineup? Who knows, but it will be interesting to see what the design department does when it comes time for a mid-cycle refresh or even a full re-design.