FORTY YEARS AGO CADILLAC LEARNED THE HARD WAY THAT IT SHOULD NEVER PLACE ITS BADGE ON SOMETHING THAT HADNíT EARNED IT.
Does your garage door have a badge on it? No. Everyone knows itís a garage door. And nobody cares how wide it is, how quickly it opens, or which kind of helper spring it uses. Yet car companies slap badges all over their products in an attempt to broadcast different facts about them to the public, which probably doesnít care. Forty years ago Cadillac learned the hard way that it should never place its badge on something that hadnít earned it. The Cimarron was a rebadged Chevrolet Cavalier, a substandard economy car that now makes regular appearances on listicles of the worst cars of all time. Badge engineering an expensive ďluxuryĒ version without any actual engineeringóor additional contentó was a blatant insult to Cadillacís own customers, a ploy so disingenuous that it almost killed the whole brand. Luckily, Cadillac hasnít done anything so egregious since. But it did recently begin applying questionable badges to its otherwise fine products. I recently drove an XT6 with a ď400Ē badge. Upon seeing it, I thought perhaps Iíd missed the memo that Cadillac had installed a 400-hp version of the ATS-Vís twin-turbo V-6 in the new SUV. Silly me felt like stupid me when I matted the throttle and pulled out in front of traffic expecting violent rollercoaster fury and received tepid merry-go-round g-forces in response.
Iíd forgotten about Cadillacís latest harebrained scheme to deceive its customers: using a badge that looks like a horsepower rating, but is, in fact, not. The number isnít pure fiction: it touts the engineís torque rating, except that itís expressed in newton meters and rounded (upward) to an even multiple of 50. The XT6ís naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V-6 produces, at its peak, 271 lb-ft of torque. This converts to 373 Nm, which Cadillac then presents as an even 400. Using engine output to differentiate models is actually a great idea. Itís far better than engine displacement, for example. That method worked perfectly well for decades, with the Germans in particular implementing badging schemes that were easy to decode and, for a while there, accurate.
Audi chose eight arbitrary categories from 30 to 70. If you see a ď55Ē badge on the back of one of its vehicles, youíll need to consult your spreadsheet to discover its total output is between 328 and 368 hp. This is akin to measuring the flour in a cookie recipe using a size 11 sock. Thankfully, Audi of America decided not to apply these extraneous and confusing badges to cars sold here. Too bad Cadillac didnít make the same decision, because using torque is even worse. Torque is a metric thatís barely understood by most enthusiasts, much less the typical kid-hauler XT6 customer. But browsing through all the output specs for the V-6, youíll see power ratings of 229 kW or 310 hp and torque output of 271 lb-ft or 373 Nm. Of all four, the metric torque output is the highest number. To a simple-minded marketing person with no understanding of anything, the bigger the number the betteróand one suspects thatís why Cadillac chose to use newton meters. Itís the same flawed logic that led Cadillac to offer a high-priced Cavalier. And unfortunately, itís just as easy to understand how annoyed customers feel when theyíve been deceived by something as simple as a badge. Especially one we didnít need in the first place.