Cadillac's new badging system torques comprehension

Henry Payne
The Detroit News
That 400 that will be on the back of the new Cadillac XT6 SUV designates the newton-meters of torque the engine produces. Torque represents the low-end pulling power of an engine.

As Cadillac moves its headquarters from New York to Warren, its ZIP code isn't the only alphanumeric that's changing.

The brand is undergoing a wholesale shift in auto re-badging. Again.

In a luxury auto market notorious for alphabet-soup badges, Cadillac will thicken the stew even further. In addition to changing its XT-badged SUVs and CT-badged sedans and introducing a "Y-brand" trim strategy, vehicles beginning with the XT6 SUV will get a new engine designation in order to signal the brand's transition to full-electric over the next decade.

Look out Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S, here comes the Cadillac XT6 AWD 400.

Beginning with the XT6 SUV, the new alphanumeric on the rear of the car will designate torque and engine type, such as 400 for the XT6. That's 400 newton-meters of torque — not pound-feet for us Americans — because most of the markets Cadillac sells in are metric. (Torque, for the uninitiated, measures the low-end grunt of an engine. Horsepower is a measurement of power that peaks at higher engine rpms.) 

Cadillac is determined to convert us to the metric system. And to electric cars.

CEO Mary Barra has declared that General Motors' future is "zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion" as it moves to electric autonomous cars. The engine badging is a nod to that transition. 

Its purpose it to communicate power and performance not just for internal combustion engines, but for electric propulsion, Cadillac President Steve Carlisle said.

"What we’re seeking to accomplish with this strategy is starting a conversation about the transition in drivetrain technology. When you think about electric propulsion – when you think about a convention for engine naming — you’re not talking about displacements anymore."

The new torque convention replaces designations like the "2.0T" that currently appears on a CTS sedan which emphasized an engine's displacement in liters (that's 2 liters, more metrics) and turbocharging. The new torque-badging will keep the “T,” by the way — for turbo, not torque. Got it?

The engine designation comes as Cadillac is in the midst of wholesale change of its model alphanumeric for the second time since just the turn of century.

As Cadillac repositioned itself as a high-tech, high-performance Nürburgring-tested brand to do battle against the Germans, the CTS replaced the Catera mid-size sedan in 2002. It started a trend that broomed classic car names like Seville and Deville in favor of more athletic sedans. Only the three-row bling-tastic Escalade badge — a nod to old-world Cadillac land yachts — remained.

With the SUV revolution came the SRX ute. But badge convention has also been upended as Cadillac tries to catch up with the German alphanumeric trifecta of BMW (the X1, X2, X3, X4, X5, X6 and X7), Audi (the Q3, Q5, Q7 and Q8) and Mercedes-Benz (the GLA, GLC, GLE and GLS).

Caddy SUVs now begin with XT (the XT4, XT5 and XT6). Sedans begin with C. 

Thus, while you catch up with SRX badge change to XT5, it will also get a "400" designation since is shares the same 400 newton-meter (that's 271 pound-feet) 3.6-liter V-6 engine as the XT6.

Your head hurt yet? There's more.

Cadillac is also changing its trim convention to the alphanumeric "Y strategy" to simplify its buffet of Luxury, Premium, Premium Luxury, Premium Performance and Platinum.

From here on, the XT6 will only be available as a Sport or Premium model. Want some good ol' Caddy bling? You can add a Platinum package to either.

Mercifully, the AWD badge (all-wheel drive) will remain unchanged. When the XT6 arrives at dealers in June, here's a handy tailgate translator: The XT6 badge will be to the northwest. AWD (if optioned) will be below that in the southwest corner. The 400 (newton-meters) will be at the northeast corner.

Cadillac's fickle badge allegiance is not unusual in the Motor City. It seems to be in the water. After changing its proper-name badging to alphanumerics last decade, Lincoln is changing back traditional names like Nautilus and Aviator. 

The ever-changing name-game drives auto analysts crazy, who complain it muddies consumer loyalty compared to the consistency of, say, BMW's 3-series (since 1975) or its X3 ute (since 2003).

Fans of Cadillac's Performance V-series badge can breathe easy. A 464-horsepower, 445 pound-feet torque (aka, 600 newton-meters) model will get no torque badging because, well, an ATS V-Series 600TT would be overkill. Everyone knows a V-series has grunt. 

But just you wait. Because later this year, Cadillac will be replacing the ATS with a re-badged CT4.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.