Young Rich, I just read the 1982 Cadillac Cimarron road test you wrote for the August 1981 issue Car and Driver. I know you’ve been embarrassed about it all these years—since I’m you, after all—since you’ve been drooling over that little Caddy. Too bad the car continues to be a punchline and what could be a great Jeopardy question under the category heading “Cars that tried to trick us.” Hint: Cadillac Cimarron. Answer: What exactly is a Chevy Cavalier?
Hey, everybody blows it once in a while in this business, man. I’m here to help you admit it. Sorry it’s your turn this time, but it’s a good laugh all these years later. Okay, you’re a newly minted person Car and Driver editor—very young, very interested in doing the right thing—when Cadillac shocked the industry with the Cimarron. As your older, wiser self, I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t feel bad about not flashing it. disappointed? Sure, but not ashamed of the term “that Cimarron road test.”
It’s not your fault that Cadillac tried to make the car a genuine competitor to the BMWs and small Audis of the time. It seems silly now, but remember what a big change it was from anything wearing a wreath and crest badge? You said a lot in that piece. Cadillac at the time was different from BMW and Mercedes-Benz which bred the autobahn like lions from cattle. Yes, they both have four legs, but they run very differently.
European luxury sedans are beautifully crafted, tautly suspended, highly tactile passenger modules capable of maintaining high speeds—and nimble backroads, too. The Cadillac, on the other hand, is a kush-mobile that rocks like a drift on the high seas, drives with all the responsiveness of a tractor trailer, and has a rococo interior lined with velor tracksuit material. They look like cars that hold on to the past; the foreigner is targeted tomorrow.
Muda Kaya, I know you and you C/D colleagues (Hey, Ceppos, don’t blame the co-workers—Ed.) is also equally shocked and amazed that Cadillac would try to sell a car like this, even though it is close to the Chevy Cavalier. Hell, it has blackwall tires and a manual transmission! You’d think that was enough because at the time, it seemed like American brands like Cadillac, Lincoln and Chrysler would never get the idea of a luxury car that was light and nimble and dressed in restrained sheet metal and business attire. But this is this. . . thing that was as unexpected as seeing an alien spaceship land on C/D parking lot. Hope! After all, there is hope for American luxury automakers!
What’s even more surprising is that you revise your enthusiasm for the Cimarron by pitting it against four import competitors—the Audi 4000, BMW 320i, Volvo GL, and Honda Accord—and find that, while the Caddy has some flaws, it can run with a lot of the competition and feel great. enjoy doing it.
Too bad about reality, huh, my young friend? The world looked at the Cimarron and saw an overpriced Cavalier, even more so as the years went by, and GM then fell for making cookie-cutter cars with almost imperceptible brand-to-brand differences. Unlike you, other less enlightened souls cannot appreciate the nuanced differences between the little Caddy and its Chevy doppelgänger. Oh, fine. You’re young and resilient and stuck up, I think it’s an intoxicating idea that Cadillac might be saving itself from certain disaster. Your colleagues agree (Hey, Ceppos! Didn’t we say no sharing of blame?—Ed.), but then you all ended up coming to see the Cimarron because of a huge marketing blunder.
I’m a more loving man in my old age, so I’ll say this for you, friend, so you don’t have to: “Mea culpa!”