By on June 23, 2017

A Frat Bro in Cadillac Country

“Pshhh, it’s not that fast. Your car is faster,” the young man wearing the Alpha Gamma Delta shirt said to his blonde companion. We were in the parking lot of a stadium in Orange County, under the shade of a white tent with a Cadillac logo, beside a sign reading: “ACCELERATION.” It was unclear which Cadillac he was disparaging, as both the ATS-V and CTS-V were available for full-throttle rips. He may have been trying to goad his girlfriend into driving, but the trash talk indicated this was no press junket.

Welcome to the Southern California edition of Cadillac’s Truth + Dare summer tour across America.

Two weeks earlier, I was wondering how the hell I was targeted on Twitter by a Cadillac ad with an invitation to a ride-and-drive event. For financial reasons, “automotive journalist” doesn’t fit the profile of a typical Cadillac customer. My BMW Z3 recently celebrated its 20th birthday. But they weren’t asking for my tax returns and I’m fascinated by the Cadillac brand, so this seemed like an opportunity to see how they present themselves to the public. All I had to do was drive from Los Angeles to Anaheim on a Friday at 2:00 p.m.

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Two hours later, drenched in sweat from my Z3’s insufficient A/C, I arrived at the stadium of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, cursing the whole idea of cars.

Thankfully, the Cadillac reps who checked me in didn’t care. They found my reservation on a white iPad and handed me a white Cadillac hat that made me feel less like an outsider. I was transferred to a Cadillac “docent” who led me to join a group waiting under a tent that read “TECHNOLOGY.”

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Within minutes, I found myself riding in the brand’s flagship CT6 as its assisted parking system scanned a row of cars. When the sensor measured a spot large enough for the sedan, the system emitted a pleasant “beeeep” and the CT6 guided itself into place. The Cadillac rep still had to operate the brake. It hit me that we are currently in limbo: Most people believe that technological advancements will solve our traffic problem, but we don’t even trust the current tech to parallel park by itself.

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Our next stop was the aforementioned “ACCELERATION” tent, featuring two of the fastest cars ever produced by General Motors. Impressive 0-60 mph times (2.9 seconds for the ATS-V, 2.8 for the CTS-V) didn’t much impress the brother from AGD, but they felt fast to me. The setup mimicked a drag strip, with separate lanes for each V-Series sibling. Understandably, the Cadillac reps timed the takeoffs to discourage racing.

Once the other car reached the end of the track, we were given the go-ahead to “roll on the gas” and “keep it pinned to the floor until you see the orange cones.”

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This was, as you might imagine, an absolute blast. I salute GM for allowing anyone with a driver’s license and a Twitter account to stomp on its latest machinery. While I can’t definitively say how the V-Series cars perform against their German rivals (comparisons between single manufacturers are oftentimes uninformative), I can now claim to tell the difference between GM’s supercharged V-8 and twin-turbocharged V-6. Both are potent powerplants, but the booming noise and nonstop acceleration from the CTS-V makes for one hell of a product differentiator.

After that, the Cadillac docent ushered our group to a line of running cars for a short drive around Anaheim. The potential risk in putting us on public roads directly after teaching us how to drive as fast as possible was enormous. But there were no V-Series cars available and the roads around Angels Stadium were congested. “You’re gonna be moving like turtles across a lettuce patch,” the Cadillac rep said. He was right.

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I drove a CT6 Plug-In Hybrid, the model I selected when I checked in. The CT6’s hybrid system is barely perceptible, and at times it seemed pushing the accelerator pedal only made the fan louder. The CT6’s gauges flashed green with eco-encouragement. It had a giant, fingerprint-collecting touchscreen and a rear-view mirror that looked like you were watching television (this car’s audience loves television). When we returned, one of the participants said the CT6 Plug-In felt down on power. Another asked, “Can we go back to Acceleration?”

Last up was “NIGHT VISION,” an exhibit that I initially wanted to skip. It turned out to be fascinating technology, a modern-day update of GM’s Autronic Eye of the 1950s. Instead of detecting oncoming headlights, the Autoliv-designed system scans for heat. In a darkened room, they sat us in two parked CT6 sedans, turned the fog machine and turned on the high beams of an XT5 pointed at us. We watched the dashboard peer through the fog and highlight first a “pedestrian” and then a “deer.”

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Night Vision would be more useful in Northern Michigan than in Southern California, but I could see the pedestrian detection technology being incorporated into Cadillac’s upcoming Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving system. I also got a picture of what the system “sees” when it looks at me. Creepy.

After the event we were invited to lounge in the main tent. The groups who finished earlier were already there. Many of them gathered stacks of granola bars and were stocking up on the complimentary cappuccinos. So, not much different than journalists, then.

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A Cadillac rep estimated they would see 1,200 people over the weekend, and that was just in SoCal. Cadillac has scheduled similar driving events across the country. (I can only imagine the cost.) However, if you’re going to convince people that your brand is the next BMW, yo’re going to have to pay for it.

Cadillac dared to build a tech-heavy lineup that includes a pair of premium sports cars. Now it wants to take the new family on an expensive road trip, even though the reaction may be total indifference, as expressed by our friendly frat bro. As I eased my broken BMW onto the crowded freeway, I wished the people at Cadillac good luck. They’re going to need it.

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39 Comments on “Playing Truth + Dare: A Frat Bro Goes to Cadillac Country...”


  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I’m assuming Frat Bro is wealthy and well-connected for him to receive an invite to the event. Unless Cadillac is, randomly and one person at a time, trying to build the most obnoxious customer base imaginable. ATS-V: for when you’re too rich for the slammed Impreza STI you climbed out of.

    Also, Cadillac needs to talk to Norm about trifecta tuning their V line ASAP if Frat Bro Girlfriend’s car can walk them in a drag race. Then they could also have a “50MPG WHILE TOWING” tent at this event.

    • 0 avatar

      So true, 30-mile. I know Cadillac is loath to send their Escalades off-road, but a muddy drag race between two Escalades towing horse trailers would definitely sell some metal in the heartland.

      I was also wondering what the bro’s gf could possibly be driving. My guess was a heavily tuned G35 coupe. Or maybe that STI you mentioned…

    • 0 avatar
      BufferOverflow

      @30Mile: “I’m assuming Frat Bro is wealthy and well-connected for him to receive an invite to the event. ”

      Maybe neither. I saw dozens of ads for the Cadillac Truth+Dare experience last two weeks on twitter. One was being even being held locally.

      I went to the sign-up page, but then decided not to bother — my 84-year old mother in law has a CTS and I’ll never be caught dead in one.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      This is coming to Ohio but I rather have other manufacturers to compare.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4dI7H_Lg-w

    Boys Playing With Dolls.

    Millennial Asian Clothing Designers Jumping Gleefully, Like A Winged Fairy, in a SoHo Street.

    Dare Greatly.

    Cadillac

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      DOCENT: Vroom Vroom, four banger like your Civic in high school, dude. Except now it costs 4x as much but is so kewl!

      • 0 avatar

        In a related note, I’m slightly shocked / disappointed that I haven’t seen a review of that “Cadillac House” coffee “experience” in SoHo. Your granddad’s Cadillac “tax dollars” at work…

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          Where is the Cadillac Escala and the 1st review thereof?

          (Oh, I forgot; Cadillac only advertises imaginary vehicles such as the Escala in their REAL commercials, to try and trick people into dropping by their dealers’ showrooms – sort of like what they did with the beautiful, ballsy, muscular El Miraj, only even more deceptively).

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I would think the “Cadillac experience” culminates in a trip to the service advisor for any number of fun maladies (head gaskets, and pistons, and timing chains, oh my!).

        • 0 avatar

          I was there about a year ago. Its a ground floor corner area-There are rotating car exhibits (new and old caddy). There are two or so non car designers they feature, again in rotation. The coffee is very good. It is clear that a lot of money was spent on the real estate. There are folks there to very soft sell the product. Overall a good experience…I’d sit there instead of Starbucks if I lived in the area and needed to work at home but outside my apartment. For GM execs, it is a great function space and home away from home in the Big Apple. What it means to the brand, or if it was a good use of money, is entirely another issue, but it probably gave a lot of Detroit based folks company rides to NYC.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Where was Deadweight’s invitation?

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      This was for betas and Cuckolds.

      They even had a low-T medical test to be able to get an attendance invite.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4dI7H_Lg-w

      Dare Greatly (with Cadillac/GM pistons and motors):

      http://www.cadillacforums.com/forums/cadillac-ats-performance-forum/613529-2-0t-bad-pistons-roll-call.html

      • 0 avatar
        EAF

        I did not read your link DW, I believe GM has had a boat load of problems with the ring-lands on their 1.4t Ecotec engines as well. Encore / Cruze / Sonic probably a tune issue, LSPI???

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          GM is catching down to Chinese Domestic Market (CDM) quality of the GAC Trumpchis and the Roewe 350s, that’s all (particularly now that they’re manufacturing vehicles in China and exporting them to the United States and Canada) – that’s all (solid business plan, ala GM always) –

          2.0Ts and 1.4Ts blowing pistons and motors up, and GM 1.5Ts literally melting.

          • 0 avatar

            Wow, DeadWeight called me a cuck with “low-T” on a Cadillac article – that’s kind of like a rite of passage around here! DW, I thought of you when I was sitting in that ATS-V, knowing that all the engine in the world couldn’t help me escape that plastic dashboard.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            To be clear, and precise, I didn’t necessarily call YOU either, despite your being invited to this event.

            Someone driving a 20 year old BMW (the type of vehicle Cadillac is still trying to crib, and the type of person who has my rebuttable presumption of respect) with a broken AC/compressor is almost certainly not in their beta/cuck demo that they’re inviting to their “we’re cereal about beating BMW, Audi, Mercedes, blah blah blah” ad nauseum events, even if you are an autojournalist of some type.

            And you did keep it real in your concluding paragraph, so there’s that.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    “Within minutes, I found myself riding in the brand’s flagship CT6 as its assisted parking system scanned a row of cars. When the sensor measured a spot large enough for the sedan, the system emitted a pleasant “beeeep” and the CT6 guided itself into place.”

    Kia Ceed ($16,000 car) doing same thing in 2013.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3i19Wv1e7o

    Dare Greatly.

    • 0 avatar

      DW, I thought you would know better than to post one of them Eur-o-pean cars in this here North American car forum!

      In an related note, two years ago, I went around interviewing people at the major car companies for an exhibit on how the car is built for an auto museum. I was blown away at how confident the KIA engineers were – the way they talked, it seemed like they were competing against the best in the world, not the other economy car companies. It’s a thin line between vision and delusion.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      You could get this as an option on the 2010 Escape.

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        So what you’re saying is is that 7 years after we could get automatic parking, we STILL require the driver to operate the brakes. Me thinks full autonomous cars are much further away than the engineers would like you to think – even if part of the delay is the lawyers.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    So jealous you got to go this. I’m in my early thirties, live in LA, and drive a Gen 2 CTS. I’m even a former frat bro! Yet I received no invite. :-(

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged Miata Man

    The quoted 0-60 times seem optimistic next to what I’ve seen in R&T, C&D, and M(-o-u-s-)T, all of which peg both the ATS-V and CTS-V at around the four-second mark.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    So assuming FCA is not bankrupt or sold, which exists in five years: Alfa or Cadillac?

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Just imagine if GM had put the Holden Commodore under Caddy, it would have been the best Cadillac since… before I was born.

  • avatar

    I will now take this moment to share with you 2004-era photos taken by my father of me and my friend at an old GM Auto Show in Motion event hustling around a then-new SRX and a DHS. I drove the DHS four times because no one else wanted to.

    http://i64.tinypic.com/9i5w5l.jpg

    http://i67.tinypic.com/105rti1.jpg

    We were both 19, so technically not allowed to drive (had to be 21), but I got away with it by wearing a button-down Van Heusen shirt while my buddy wore a neon green Oompa Loompa T and got wristbanded.

    I only almost got kicked out once for taking a turn way too hard in a Malibu Maxx.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I just got a $50 gift card test drive offer from Chevy. It specifically excludes test driving the Corvette or Camaro….

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    I would have gone for the gratis and gluten free, non GMO, fair trade, open range, organic, locally obtained chow. I would have rolled down to the Big A in my 73′ Fleetwood. After stuffing my gullet with free grub, I would have loudly espoused that them Chinese things ain’t real Cadillacs and left for greener pastures.

    In reality, I can not imagine anything worse than spending a hot afternoon in a smoggy endless black top parking lot sandwiched between the noisy 55 freeway and the concrete lined Santa Ana River. Great Venue Cadillac. I will admit, the coffee shop in Manhattan would be an improvement.

    • 0 avatar

      As much fun as it was to drag race a few times, I pretty much unequivocally agree with this. Cadillac would have gotten more converts to the brand if they had a fleet of 1970s Fleetwoods and organized a drive up Pacific Coast Highway in California (or A1A in Florida; Lake Shore Drive in Chicago; Woodward Ave. in Detroit, etc.).

      I think even Cadillac can admit that’s never going to happen. Sad.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Uh, Ayy-Gee-Dee’s are a sorority. Credibility lost in the 1st sentence.

    • 0 avatar

      I readily admit that I have no experience whatsoever when it comes to fraternities and sororities. Dudebro was wearing an Alpha Gamma Delta shirt from the University of Alabama that seemed to be cut for men, so I just assumed it was from a club for boys. Should have researched it either way – apparently AGD members are referred to as “Alpha Grandmas” on the U of A campus. Details like that really make a story. Thanks for the comment.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “Both are potent powerplants, but the booming noise and nonstop acceleration from the CTS-V makes for one hell of a product differentiator.”

    A GM pushrod V8 is better their a waste-of-time, low MPG V6 with mad turbozzzz?

    What a shocking development!

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, when I was at the event, the Cadillac reps told me that the TT V-6 got about 30 m.p.g. when you weren’t drag racing. When I heard that, I thought, “not too bad – my BMW gets about 31-32 m.p.g., and look at all this horsepower I could use. Turns out, the maximum efficiency that the buff books could extract was 27 m.p.g., and if you’re driving like that, what’s the point of a 400+ horsepower car?

      On the other hand, the prices on the CTS V-Sport (with the same TT V-6) are so low these days, it’s almost tempting.

  • avatar

    BMW has been doing these events for years. You are given a basic auto school discussion about oversteer/understeer and contact patches. They then spilt you up into groups and you drive the “car of the day”, which in prior events was 2 series, and the most recent, 5 series. You then autocross, first with an instructor (BMW keeps a lot of racers employed between gigs) and then you drive.

    While you wait, they have a stable of cars, so I’ve been able to try out the 3 (two versions) the 6, an M240 track pack, and the i3. They give you a route (last time it was actually programmed into the nav system). I also went once to a ///M Power Tour event, where I drove M3 and the MX5. I’m bad, I turn off the nannies, and channel my inner Clarkson.

    While the current 3 and 4 have lost the plot, they are using what magic dust they still have for the 2. The Track Pack car even had LSD, and I am familiar with the roads around the Meadowlands, so we had lots of fun with On Ramps….

    When I went to Cadillac House, Ms. Lee said she’d put me on the list for these events…but no ! Maybe I didn’t blog right….

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I should’ve bought a new BMW 1M (hobbled together from various other BMWs) when they were discounting them new – they are now destined to be collector’s items and are currently highly sought after on used market.

      One KF the last great/very good BMWs.

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