No More Horsepower for You!

Well, GM has decided it’s time to stop touting horsepower and displacement – it’s so internal combustion.

Instead, Cadillac will tout Newton meters – the metric version of foot-pounds – to tout torque.

Which is so very EV.

It is a change of verbiage intended to nudge people a bit farther down the electrification highway. Get them to use the new terminology. Hopefully, memory begins to fade of the old way of doing things.

The point is to take people’s minds off the bait-and-switch. Like New Coke, for instance – though that didn’t work out so well.

“We’re not talking about displacements anymore,” Cadillac President Steve Carlisle said during a media briefing this week.

Understandable – given Cadillac doesn’t offer much of that anymore. Most of its cars are packing engines in the 2.0-liter range – about the same engine displacement of a mid-’70s Pinto.

Granted, the Cadillac 2.0 engine is turbo’d and makes three times the power of the Pinto’s about-the-same-displacement engine.

But there’s not much puissance – or romance in “2.0” – or even “3.6” – the displacement of the biggest engine Cadillac puts in any of its current mass-production cars.

When Cadillac was Cadillac – a long time ago – displacement was essentially Cadillac. The division touted GM’s biggest V8s, which were exclusive to Cadillac and not (as today) repackaged “corporate” engines found in everything else GM sells.

Even the one V8 you can still get in a Cadillac is a Chevy V8 and no larger than the same engine sold in Chevys like the division’s repackaged Chevy SUV, the Escalade nee Tahoe.

Part of what made an Eldorado an Eldorado was the 472 or 511 cubic inches (American, not metricsexual) V8 under its mile-long slab of the hood. A line from a song comes to mind: What’s a little lady like you, driving all that automobile?

It doesn’t have the same punch when it says “2.0” on the decklid. And “ATS” reads like a line on a tax form.

Eldorado doesn’t.

“What’s the appeal of an electric motor and electric car?” continues Carlisle, making his pitch. “It’s the torque. It’s the early torque. It’s the drivability. It’s the acceleration. We see this as a step toward the future and moving into battery electric vehicles.”

He does not mention the autopsy room silence, the lack of anything resembling passion – of interest to the living.

And this anodyne, androgynous metric stuff.

Gotta remove the last little bit of American verve from the raked husk of what was once the signature American luxury car brand so that it can be just like every other “global” purveyor of same-same universalist modularity.

Carlisle says so, straight from the mic:

“It’s metric. It’s global. It’s universal. You have to think about all the markets we are doing business in.”

Except, of course, America is a different market. Well, it was – once.

Thanks to homogenizers of Carlisle’s sort, it is no more.

This depressing trend toward vehicular homogenization has been underway for decades. There are precious few distinctive combustion engines anymore, certainly – whether size-wise or otherwise.

The regs and mandates have seen to that.

Note that almost every car brand sells “2.0” engines. This is not coincidental. That displacement is just the right displacement in terms of complying with regs (here and in Europe) about emissions, including the newly christened one – carbon dioxide “emissions.” It also happens to be a sweet spot for turbocharging/specific output per liter of displacement.

But it makes it very hard to get emotional about Cadillac’s 2.0 vs. BMW’s vs. Audi – and Hyundai’s – 2.0s.

What’s the difference, exactly?

Well, this one makes 220 hp and that one makes 238 hp.

Contrast with 472 – or 511 – cubic inches. As opposed to a mere 350.

Cadillac once made V16 engines – with even more cubic inches.

And the engines – all of them – were highly individual in terms of their power delivery, something electric motors will never be.

Those huge V8s from the days when Cadillacs were Cadillacs weren’t merely huge. They were specifically huge, to dish out the massive torque at very low RPM that was needed to get 4,000-plus pounds of Eldorado rolling properly.

An electric motor can, of course, produce, even more torque. It’s why Teslas are so speedy – at least, briefly.

But it’s different because it’s all the same. A motor is a motor is a motor.

DeWalt vs. Black & Decker.

Functional? Certainly.

Emotion? Passion?

Is an elevator exciting?

Do you ever think about which brand it is?


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