Why Is Cadillac Making Life More Difficult for Itself?

Cadillac is changing the way it names its cars, yet again. The problem is it’s only going to get more complicated.


Cadillac has undergone perpetual rebranding for some time. As the company winds down its New York office space for the exciting move to be back closer to the engineering department in Detroit, Cadillac revealed more new engine badging. This time it’s based on metric torque or Newton-meters. The forthcoming XT6 will be the XT6 400 because of its relative proximity to 400 Nm of torque.

This is an awful idea.

Engine displacement is easy to grasp. You don’t need any context to understand a 3.0L engine is larger than a 2.0L engine. Torque is complex, difficult to explain in simple, precise terms and it’s less well-understood than horsepower as a metric. Even American car aficionados versed in torque understand it in Imperial “pound-feet,” and they’ll need to convert back and forth to provide context and grasp what Cadillac is talking about. The “T” after the three-digit number, moreover, stands for “turbo,” not torque.

This seems like at least a partial ploy to mislead buyers. Cadillac is rounding up to the nearest 50nm, which is significant, and the XT6 does not have 400 Nm of torque; it has 367nm of torque. In old Imperial units, the XT6 has 271lb-ft. The XT6 400 sounds more formidable than the XT6 300 because it’s a more significant number. A hypothetical performance vehicle with 410lb-ft of torque would become 562nm and thus be badged a 600. Torque will get bigger with EVs and yield more impressive numbers. Engine displacements, in contrast, will keep getting smaller.

This change does resolve one issue: engine displacement losing meaning with electrified engines. But, that’s not a problem Cadillac will encounter for a while. The company may be spearheading GM’s move to electric vehicles, but the first one is not launching until 2022 if all goes according to plan. In the meantime, Cadillac seems hellbent on convoluting its nomenclature for no reason other than bragging rights based on inflated numbers.

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