Cameron Conaway isn’t a car guy, but when he attended Cadillac’s media drive for the 2015 ATS Coupe he felt the pull to become one.
This post is in partnership with Cadillac.
When it came time to buy my first car, “Cadillac” wasn’t even on the short list—mostly because the pop culture influentials who used the word always likened it to “the good life” of high-end everythings. It just wasn’t part of a life a small-town guy like myself envisioned. Flash-forward to June 30, 2014. I’m standing in the most beautiful resort I’ve ever seen—The Winvian in Morris, Connecticut—and I’m surrounded by lifelong car enthusiasts. They’re going on about liters of this and turbo of that, about MacPherson struts and Brembo fronts, about torsional stiffness and ferritic nitro carburizing. The blur of it went over my head and into the picturesque blue skies… but, hold up… look at that beautiful car. That’s a Cadillac?
To be honest, I should have put quotation marks around my question because apparently I’d said it out loud.
A voice with a German accent responded:
“That’s a Cadillac.”
I had just stumbled into Uwe Ellinghaus, Chief Marketing Officer of Global Cadillac.
“I like it,” I said. “But that confuses me because I’ve never really liked Cadillacs. Tell me more about that.”
“Your insight is precisely what we’ve been shooting for,” Uwe said.
“So would you say Cadillac is rebranding itself?” I asked.
“Rebranding? Absolutely. But not from scratch. To create this [2015 ATS Coupe] we’ve worked hard to keep our original brilliance yet maintain the strength it takes to be vulnerable. And by that I mean take risks in order to be better. This is what separates us from the others in our class. They are great cars and they’re good at what they do, but they only improve upon their strengths. We’re working each day to improve upon all aspects—strengths and weaknesses. Those who have the science and the art, the function with the aesthetics, will shape the future of cars. We believe our team is doing just that.”
Uwe then showed me around the interior of the car. Here’s a glimpse:
Then he talked about how in creating the 2015 ATS Coupe they’ve taken a “gram by gram” approach. Does the interior leather need that extra lip? No. Then cut it. Does that screw need to be a quarter inch or could it be slightly shorter? Shorter. Then cut it. The result, as I’d come to find out during my nearly five hours of test-driving, is a car, an honest-to-goodness Cadillac, that has the legendary power and handling but now can display it with the lightest curb weight in its class. I often think of things in terms of their “pound for pound” rankings. It’s one of the remnants left over from my days as a mixed martial arts fighter. And I can honestly say I’ve never driven a car that has as much pound-for-pound self-confidence as this car. It’s low, lean and grounded. On the highway, on winding country roads, in the stop-and-go of the city… I took it just about everywhere and it responded with a kind of powerful agility that I’d never felt before.
After my drive I spoke with Bob Boniface, Director of Design for Cadillac Exteriors. Like Uwe, Bob also believes in the merging of disciplines (“the science and the art”), and he brings his own blended background to the team at Cadillac.
Ever since he was a little boy Bob has been sketching highly detailed portraits of cars. But it wasn’t until completing his economics degree at Vanderbilt that he was persuaded by his sister to follow his dream of being an artist. So he went back to school, studied art for years at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, and now he gets to see his sketches become real. When he talked about the body of the 2015 ATS Coupe he spoke of brushstrokes, of symmetry, of the synchronicity and the “family of shapes” exhibited by the Cadillac crest’s relation to the grill. Now this I could understand. His words were the descriptions I needed, the ones I was feeling yet couldn’t quite articulate.
After speaking with a variety of other leaders who helped with the development of this car—Dave Leone, David Masch, Jim Vurpillat, Brian Smith and Ken Kornas, among others—I got the feeling that Cadillac, one of the oldest automobile brands in the world, was now run by a team who seriously viewed it as a scrappy startup. There wasn’t a hint of complacency in their tone or talk. They were proud of what they’d created yet stoked to get back into the lab and see what they could do.
This post is in partnership with Cadillac.