It’s a BMW M3 fighter, but it isn’t necessarily a Cadillac.
Oct 28, 2015 @ 12:00 PM
By Jack Baruth
Car and Driver Magazine
Great brakes on this new ATS-V. Very strong. I know this because I was traveling down a Kentucky two-lane at a speed just about fast enough to catch a Fokker triplane on the trot when I saw a certain full-sized American car parked perpendicular to the direction of traffic and consequently found myself engaging full ABS without mercy for perhaps three seconds. No, the reason for my impromptu exercise in brake-pad bedding wasn’t a Crown Vic or a Charger or any vehicle commonly associated with law enforcement. It was a ’79 Eldorado.
Not just any ’79 Eldorado. It was a Biarritz, the model that had both a vinyl Landau top on the C-pillar and a sheet of crisply-folded stainless steel covering the forward section of the roof. My grandfather owned one just like it when I was a child. Although the neighborhood where I grew up was chock-full of everything from blacked-out turbo Saabs to stately S-Classes, I loved the Eldorado best. It was roomy and it smelled good and most of all it was utterly confident in its identity as a Cadillac.
Somehow, that downsized Eldorado managed to retain everything that was desirable about the Cadillac brand while managing to shed enough weight and bulk to satisfy the demands of pre-Reagan propriety. The worst of the faux-Rolls-Royce dealer trim kits couldn’t quite ruin it. And as an Eldorado Touring Coupe, it even had a bit of sporting presence. But only as a steel-topped Biarritz in a muted metallic color did the Eldorado truly approach perfection.
Those were the last glory days for Cadillac, before the over-downsizing of the mid-Eighties and years of problems with everything from aging platforms to egg-shaped captive imports from Opel. The brand has been wandering in the desert for the past three decades, searching for an identity and a way back into the hearts of the successful, upscale forty-somethings for whom Cadillac ownership was a non-negotiable marker of “making it” in the Fifties and Sixties.
Fifty years ago, the Cadillac brand and the Cadillac product were absolutely aligned. Today, both are a bit scattered. How else can you describe a brand that offers everything from the too-compact ATS to the livery-special XTS to the monstrous Escalade? And the sub-brands are just as diverse. There’s Platinum, which means what “d’Elegance” once did to Cadillac buyers. There’s V-Sport, which means powerful but not overly aggressive.
Finally, you have V. It means kind of what “M” means for BMW and what “AMG” means for Mercedes. In the case of the ATS-V we brought with us to PCOTY, it means a 464-horsepower twin-turbo V-6, a track-oriented chassis, and the aforementioned Brembo brakes. It has these things because the fast German sedans have them and Cadillac aspires to compete directly with the Germans.