A Cadillac Cimarron Mea Culpa


Young Rich, I just read the road test of the 1982 Cadillac Cimarron that you wrote for the August 1981 issue of Car and Driver. I know you’ve been feeling ashamed of it for years – since I’ve been you – since you gushed over the little Caddy. Too bad that car became a punchline and what could be a great Jeopardy question under the category heading “Cars that tried to fool us.” Clue: Cadillac Cimarron. Answer: What exactly is a Chevy Cavalier?

Hey, everybody blows it once in a while in this business, buddy. I’m here to help you recognize it. Sorry it was your turn this time, but it’s good for a laugh all these years later. Okay, you were a fresh hit Car and Driver editor—very young, very eager to do the right thing—when Cadillac shocked the industry with the Cimarron. As your older and wiser self, I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t feel so bad about not moving it. Complained? For sure, but not deathly embarrassed by the mere mention of “that Cimarron road test.”

cimarron responds

Car and Driver

It’s not your fault that Cadillac tried to pass the car off as a genuine competitor to the small BMWs and Audis of the time. It seems silly now, but remember what a big change that was from anything wearing the wreath and crest badge? You said as much in the piece. Cadillacs of the time were about as different from autobahn-bred BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes as lions are from cows. Yes, they both have four legs, but they run very differently.

European luxury sedans were beautifully crafted, stiffly sprung, highly tactile passenger modules capable of sustained high speeds—and nimble backroads, too. Cadillacs, on the other hand, were schooner mobiles that bobbed as if they were adrift on the high seas, drove with all the responsiveness of a tractor-trailer, and had rococo interiors upholstered in velor sweatsuit material. They looked like cars clinging to earlier years; the foreigners are aiming for tomorrow.

Young Rich, I know you and you C/D colleagues (Hey Ceppos, no shifting blame to colleagues—Ed.) was also equally shocked and surprised that Cadillac would try to sell a car like this, despite how close it was to a Chevy Cavalier. Hell, it had blackwall tires and a manual transmission! You thought that was enough, because at the time it seemed that American brands like Cadillac, Lincoln and Chrysler would never get over the idea of ​​luxury cars that were light and nimble and dressed in restrained sheet metal and business suit interiors. But here it was. . . thing it was as unexpected as seeing an alien spaceship in the country C/D parking lot. Hope! There was hope for America’s luxury car manufacturers after all!

What was even more surprising is that you double-checked your enthusiasm for the Cimarron by pitting it against four import rivals—the Audi 4000, BMW 320i, Volvo GL, and Honda Accord—and found that, while the Caddy had some faults had, it could quite run with the competition and felt surprisingly good doing so.

Sorry about reality, eh, my young friend? The world looked at the Cimarron and saw an overpriced Cavalier, more so as the years went on, and GM was later pilloried for making cookie-cutter cars with barely perceptible brand-to-brand differences. Unlike you, other less enlightened souls failed to appreciate the nuanced differences between the little Caddy and its Chevy doppelgänger. Oh, well. You were young and calm and caught up in, well, I guess the intoxicating idea that Cadillac could save itself from certain disaster. Your colleagues agreed (Hey, Ceppos! Didn’t we say no blame?—Ed.), but then you all finally came to see the Cimarron for the huge marketing blunder that it was.

I’m a more compassionate guy in my old age, so I’ll tell you this, mate, so you don’t have to, “Mea culpa!”