While the latest opulent offerings from European and Japanese automakers tend to crowd headlines, it was storied U.S. companies like Cadillac and Lincoln that redefined automotive luxury in the 1950s and ‘60s through innovative, future-inspired design, high-end materials and state-of-the-art technology.
So what are these big old brands doing to remain competitive -- and to appeal to younger luxury customers -- in today’s evolving market landscape? Through reinvention, power and some wild tech, the elder statesmen of American automakers have gained renewed relevance.
Founded in 1902, Cadillac’s large, lavish sedans had largely become out-of-touch oddities by the end of that century. Sales of their ultra-comfy but gas-guzzling creations had been hurt by oil crises in the 1970s, before General Motors’ brand homogenization during the following decade left Caddy’s identity in tatters. All this changed with the 2000 announcement of its “Art and Science” design philosophy that began with the mid-size CTS and spawned bold, chiseled aesthetics, high-powered engineering and tech appointments which radically changed Cadillac’s brand philosophy.
The company’s incredible reinvention continues with the dashing, 550-horsepower CT6-V (previously called the CT6 V-Sport), which debuts an all-new, Cadillac-exclusive twin-turbocharged V-8 engine mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Yet this track-capable super sedan doesn’t forgo the marque’s signature, driver-centric refinement and comfort, with Magnetic Ride Control suspension, 20-inch wheels, and a 360-degree camera that includes video recording activated by the car’s security system.
Also new from Cadillac is its 2019 XT4 subcompact crossover, which belies its easy-to-park stature with outsize sumptuousness and comprehensive, intuitive tech. Starting below $35,000, the affordable XT4 offers the ultra-quiet cabin and extensive personalization options typically associated with spendy rides, including available carbon-fiber interior accents, spoke alloy wheels, and safety innovations like lane change and rear cross-traffic alerts.
You’ll feel pampered even on first entry to the new Lincoln Aviator, as its air glide suspension automatically lowers to assist access. Making its initial bow at this year’s LA Auto Show, this revived mid-size, three-row premium crossover is also available as Lincoln’s first-ever plug-in hybrid (which, at 450 horsepower, is the brand’s most powerful vehicle yet). The 2020 Aviator is a quantum leap in quality and personality from its 2002-2005 namesake, marking the debut of parent company Ford’s new rear-drive, unibody architecture and Lincoln’s upgraded Co-Pilot360 Plus suite of safety systems. The ride flaunts crisp, sculpted lines that lend style to what can be a stodgy class of vehicles.
The recently released 2019 Lincoln Nautilus is distinguished from competing mid-size, two-row luxury crossovers by a reassuring array of advanced driver-assist technologies, sophisticated comforts and connectivity, and pampering customer service. Time-savers and perks go beyond driving and include service pickup and delivery, and complimentary membership to CLEAR (a biometric service that speeds subscribers through security at participating airports and arenas). Nautilus also impresses under the hood, with a choice of turbocharged four-cylinder or twin-turbo V-6 powerplants ajoined to a new, tuned-for-comfort eight-speed automatic transmission.
Truck lovers can enjoy all-American luxury, too -- more than ever, in fact, thanks to the RAM Limited Tungsten, the company’s highest trim level to date. Introduced late last year and available in both Light and Heavy Duty models, Tungsten includes leather seats, real wood trim, and the award-winning Uconnect 4C infotainment platform with 8.4-inch touchscreen, plus Apple CarPlay support and Android Auto.
- Paul Rogers, Custom Publishing Writer