The Truth About Cars » Mark of Excellence The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Mark of Excellence Cadillac: What Is This GM You Speak Of? Wed, 10 Mar 2010 19:45:23 +0000

In 1989, Toyota launched a new luxury brand that would go on to largely replace Cadillac as a vernacular term for excellence in luxury. Known as Lexus, this brand has spent the last 20 years making headway in the US market without ever publicly associating itself with its parent brand. Could this strategy have contained a lesson for the brand managers at GM who have spent the same 20 years fretting (or not) about declining Cadillac sales? Apparently so, as BusinessWeek reports that Cadillac is distancing itself from the corporate mothership in hopes of improving Cadillac’s aspirational appeal. And yet, strangely, it’s still not clear that the lesson has actually been learned.

BW spoke with Cadillac Communications boss Nick Twork, who explained that Cadillac’s new independence movement means that:

Cadillac is erasing the GM name from its marketing and dealerships, changing e-mail addresses to from and exiting companywide promotions such as the Red Tag Event

But, it turns out, these first tentative steps away from the GM umbrella were not directly motivated by the relative success of luxury newcomers like Lexus and Infiniti, which were built from the ground-up without reference to their mass-market parent brands. According to Twork, the move was “absolutely” driven by GM’s restructuring. In short, the problem isn’t that Cadillac’s exclusivity is hurt by being perceived as a division of a huge, less-than-universally-admired automaker. Rather, the Government Motors stain likely plays extremely poorly with Cadillac’s core demographics.

BW plays along with the justification, burying any reference to the Lexus counterexample until the last two paragraphs. And not before Susan Docherty weighs in with some patented off-message cluelesness:

Consumers, in their minds, can separate out the corporation versus the brands. They can separate “Hey, I can still fall in love with a CTS coupe, but I may not necessarily be happy with the fact that General Motors had to go through bankruptcy.”

Or, apparently, not. Meanwhile, Docherty isn’t the only soldier in the Cadillac Army that’s marching out of step with the new drumbeat. The very last vehicle GM will ever sell with the “Mark of Excellence” GM logo attached is, get this, the brand-new Cadillac SRX.  Will the slightly more-subtle chiclet fall victim to a mid-cycle refresh? Will it be replaced with new fender flair in honor of Cadillac’s newfound independence? Or will it continue on until a replacement comes out sometime in the next three to six years? Instead of answers, our emails to Cadillac have yielded only an invitation to:

Please join Cadillac the evening of March 30, 2010 for a reception at [get your own damn invite].  Hors d’oeuvres, product news and a glimpse at Cadillac’s new marketing efforts will be served.

But then, consumers have had 20 years to associate Cadillac with GM while a seemingly independent Lexus ate its lunch at the dealerships. Perhaps we’ll have to wait a little longer to find out if Cadillac’s new independence extends as far as the badging on its vehicles.

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Review: Volvo XC60 Take Two Mon, 01 Mar 2010 15:21:47 +0000

Over the bridge and through the woods till mödrars hus vi gor. When Volvo first started their love affair with jacked up wagons equipped with AWD and some extra ride height, they had two groups in mind: The Swedes that live in rural Sweden with miles of unpaved dirt roads in the forest which turn to mud in the long dark winter, and the American soccer mom who thinks she needs an SUV like vehicle to cross the puddle in the Neiman Marcus parking lot. Thanks to our recently departed leader Robert Farago, we know how the XC60 does on pavement, but since Volvo offered to give us an XC60 for a week, I decided to take a different approach and review the XC60 in the dirt back-roads of coastal northern California and the icy roads of the Sierra Nevada to see if you can actually combine living off the grid and “Scandinavian luxury.”

On paper the XC60 looks like just what the yuppie doctor ordered. The XC60 boasts a Grand Cherokee and LR2 besting 9.1 inches of ground clearance, the same AWD system as the LR2 (which it should be noted was originally borrowed from Volvo’s S80 to begin with), sexy curves and some rugged looking plastic on the front and rear overhang. At 4174lbs, the XC60 is no lightweight but does somehow manage to be slimmer than both the LR2 and the Grand Cherokee.

Visually the XC60 is actually a departure from the Volvo styling that has been in place since 1999. Volvo’s design department somehow managed to make the XC60 instantly recognizable as a Volvo, yet change the form enough that when parked next to Volvo’s larger XC90 it makes its older brother look ancient.

Inside the XC60 is modern Volvo all the way. The only low point in this otherwise well designed cabin is the Nav system. Volvo used to be known for their trick pop-up nav system, and the coolness factor of the pop-up was a welcome distraction from the basic design of the system. Instead of this arrangement used in all other Volvo models, the Swedish design team crafted an Audi like pod for the nav screen in the center console and moved the screen for the radio up to a strange binnacle on the dash. There are two problems with this: First, the radio controls are way too far from the radio’s screen, and secondly the nav screen looks ill fitted and far too small for the hole they gave it in the dash. Adding insult to injury is the fact that should you not opt for the $1,800 nav system you get a bizarre cubby where the screen should go that tells all your passengers you were too cheap to splurge for the nav. I have been told to expect the new 2011 S60’s totally revamped Nav and audio package in the 2011 XC60, let’s hope so; it can’t get here fast enough.

With the rear seats up the XC60’s sloping rear profile means you are limited to 31cu ft of cargo space which expands to 67 cu ft with the rear seats folded. Compared to the Euro competition the XC60 packs a week’s worth of camping supplies (including water) with relative ease. Once off the beaten track it becomes obvious that the base 17” wheels are more on- than off-road tuned, but fortunately the rest of the suspension is up to the task. Suspension travel is well suited to heavily rutted dirt and mud roads and Volvo kindly supplies approach departure and breakover angles (22, 27 and 22 degrees respectively) which proved useful while navigating the many treacherous roads that litter the Lost Coast region of Northern California. Volvo’s optional skid plates, bumper bars and scuff plates are probably something Volvo should add to their press fleet as it was my mission to go where no $47,000 Euro CUV should ever be taken.

Let’s get things clear from the start, the XC60 is not, and never will be, a rock crawler. If you plan to ford more than a 10”of water or crawl over boulders or logs, then a Wrangler is what you need. If a luxury rock crawler is more your style and you only have $45K to work with, try a used Range Rover. The Haldex AWD system the XC60 uses is capable of delivering a 50/50 power split should it be needed, sending 90% of the power to the front under normal conditions.

Unlike a “true” SUV, the Haldex system operates using a locked center differential (to be honest there is no center diff at all, the transmission has the front and rear power outputs permanently locked), between the rear diff and the transmission lays a Haldex clutch pack that infinitely varies the connection between the transmission and the rear wheels. Power transfer takes less than 1/7th of a tyre rotation should a slip be detected, and the system can vary the clutch pack on its own whenever it feels like it. The system operates as advertised and strikingly well on sand, several inches of mud, steep ruts, a few inches of snow and moderate off-roading. As with many crossover AWD systems, when the going gets icy, the lack of a locking center differential becomes readily apparent. When climbing a steep driveway with an inch of slippery ice coating it, the XC60 spent much of its time spinning the front wheels, it was only when the traction control was disabled that the car shifted power to the rear and made it up the drive. That being said, I clocked over 26 hours on unpaved backcountry roads in the XC60 and didn’t get stuck. There were ditches we had to stop and fill in with logs to traverse, trees that had to be moved out of the way, and jaw-dropped looks from ATV and jacked up Wrangler owners we passed along the way.

On the road the XC60 handles with more prowess than it’s curb weight or FWD-biased drivetrain would suggest, but unfortunately Volvo’s choice of tires isn’t quite up to the task. The Pirelli Scorpions squeal at the slightest provocation and fail to grip when the going gets muddy or icy. Powering this Swedish cute-ute is Volvo’s sweet 3.0L twin-scroll turbo inline 6, which was introduced just a year ago. Quite similar in design to BMW’s new N55 3.0L I-6 engine, the T6 as Volvo calls it, pumps out 281 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque with the typically-Volvo flat torque curve. Mated to an Aisin 6 speed automatic, power delivery is smooth and strong, and with a 0-60 time of 7.4 seconds, one might almost say quick, almost. The XC60 climbs up rugged, un-paved muddy trails with composure, never seeming taxed.

One cannot review a Volvo without discussing Safety. Volvo proudly touts the XC60 as the safest vehicle they have ever built, and my experience with the electronic systems in the XC60 may just bear that out. After Volvo’s PR company handed me the keys to the XC60 I hopped on the freeway for my 30 mile drive home and like any techno-nerd the first thing I did was play with the electronics. The first thing the car did was bing at me and tell me I wasn’t driving in an alert manner. I hate it when my car is right. The second thing the XC60 did was scold me for following too closely with LEDs that reflect on the dash. And the last thing the XC60 did for me was save my bacon.

As traffic slowed, the adaptive cruise control disabled (Volvo’s system turns off and returns control to the driver below 5MPH) and my inattention returned. I was distracted by an accident on the other side of the freeway when the XC60 in rapid succession beeped loudly at me and piled on the brakes, snapping me back to attention. “Auto braking by city safety” appeared on the dash, completing the XC60’s party trick. Effective from approximately 2 to 19MPH, the XC60’s laser scanners detect moving and stationary cars and will either come to a complete stop or at least drastically reduce your speed at the last minute to avoid or reduce the effect of an accident. City safety is standard on the 2010 XC60 and I can safely say, it worked as advertised. Of course Volvo includes a whole host of other electronic nannies that are too numerous to list, but it’s safe to say Volvo’s reputation for building Swedish tanks is alive and well.

The XC60 proves that Volvo can make a dirt road-capable CUV with styling flair and enough electronic nannies to satisfy the risk-adverse in the crowd (not to mention your insurance broker). The real question is if buyers will actually cross-shop the XC60 with its German competition. Stacked up to the Q5, X3 and GLK, the Volvo shines with more power, excellent cargo capacity, unique styling and a suitably upscale interior. Starting at $33,000 for the FWD 235HP, model, our Volvo provided tester hit the nosebleed section at a whopping $47,395. Admittedly this can seem like a bargain when you look at the Q5’s starting price of $37,350 and a similarly equipped price of $51,625, the question is: Can Volvo get you to buy one?

Volvo provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

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Cadillac: In With The New, And Let’s Keep The Old Stuff Too Tue, 22 Dec 2009 19:50:25 +0000 The Cadillac XTS ConceptCadillac is showing off this teaser of its XTS concept, previewing the look of its forthcoming “flagship.” It’s edgy, it’s wedgy… too bad it’s almost certainly another Epsi-II variant in a GM lineup that hardly needs another. And while Cadillac keeps GM’s perpetual tease going, it’s come to our attention that the brand has become the carrier of a now-expired GM legacy, visible after the jump.

Courtesy: @joelfeder

Cadillac’s SRX, by virtue of being released just before the Chevrolet Equinox, is the last GM vehicle to bear the now-extinct “Mark of Excellence,” a fact that had escaped us thus far [Hat Tip: Twitter's Joel Feder]. And as a new 2010 model, those two nasty letters will grace the Caddy CUV for years to come. Sure, some vehicle had to be the last to bear the badge of pre-bankruptcy corporate pride, but how inappropriate is it that GM’s luxury brand is the last one wearing The General’s chiclet?

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