Growing up as a child, owning a Cadillac was a big deal. It meant you were either the Jones’s or you were trying to keep up with them. And I quickly came to see that the brand was as much ingrained in the culture around me, as Sunday dinners at my family’s house after church service. In the 90s, while other luxury brands were called out in hip hop music, it was the ’75 Cadillac Coupe DeVille that had been “pimped out” and bouncing on 24″ rims in music videos. Basketball players found comfort and style when Cadillac unveiled the Escalade. And just like that, the culture responded to the Cadillac call.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to the media reveal of the Cadillac 2020 XT5 & 2020 XT6. In a recent press release, Cadillac boasts that the brand’s first-ever XT6 will offer one of the segment’s strongest rosters of standard features and safety and driver assistance technologies, with a starting price of $53,690 (including destination charge)1, for the Premium Luxury FWD model.
For the momentous occasion, Cadillac pulled out all the stops and really threw a swanky affair. From the media dinner at the beautiful Kreeger Museum to a cocktail reception at the Ritz Carlton, it was hard to deny that Cadillac wanted to leave a lasting impression on their invited guests.
The brand didn’t hold back with branding everything the media came in contact with. The Cadillac emblem was plastered on cookies, napkins, even the orange slices in our signature cocktails. It’s rumored that they paid over $10K just to have the, Red Horizon colored XT6 placed in the lobby of the Ritz hotel. Like I said, they pulled out all the stops.
At the Kreeger Museum, like most automotive media functions, I was the only black woman in attendance. And while I usually try to fit in, without that awkward lone wolf feeling I usually get, I have a habit of counting the other black people at these functions. I don’t usually need more than 5 fingers to accomplish this task, at any given time. As I sat and ate my dinner, at a table full of men, I was quizzed on my credentials. One gentleman even went as far as to ask me what my favorite Cadillac was. While I’m pretty sure he thought I’d say “the pretty red ones”, I think he almost choked when I mentioned the picture I had on my wall when I was 16 of the Cadillac Evoq, a concept car.
And as magical as the evening was, nothing prepared me for the surprise I got when I found out who the interior designer was for not only the XT6, but also the XT5. The lead designer for the XT5 & XT6 was a black man from Michigan, and my eyes literally bugged out. Gary Mack, Senior lead Designer at General Motors, joined us at dinner to discuss his inspiration behind the interior design of the two vehicles.
After dinner, we drove to our next destination, a guided night tour of Washington, D.C. Gary pointed out the infrared system housed right below the speedometer called Night Vision. Night Vision is a safety feature that allows drivers to see potential hazards in front of them, at night. He also explained the decisions and thought processes for a lot of the technology in the XT6. “What do you guys think about these USB ports and cup holders in the third row”, Gary humbly bragged to us inside the vehicle. He said he insisted that connectivity in the back was equally as important as it being in the front two rows. As a mom with four children, who ALL have an electronic device, I really appreciated the rear seat USB ports.
That evening, while drinking cocktails with the Cadillac emblem branded on orange peels, I learned more about how Gary got into the automotive industry. A graduate of the College for Creative Studies in Michigan, Gary always had a love for the arts, specifically automobile design. He joked about how his dad believed in Gary’s talent so much that he personally called the GM offices to find an internship for his son. And it worked!! Gary has been with GM since 1999 and has been on the design teams for some pretty high profile car models like the 2003 Buick Centieme concept car, 2006 Chevy Equinox MCE, 2008 Suzuki XL7, 2009 Chevy Equinox, 2012 Chevy Camaro MCE and most recently the 2020 Cadillac XT5 and XT6.
When I asked Gary what his favorite interior feature was of the two cars, he explained that he loved the way the wood trim sweeps across the dash of the vehicle and then curls up at the ends (near to door). He noted that it was tough to execute but they pulled it off.
Outside of the office, Gary is extremely involved in helping underprivileged youth have access to creative art programs. His eyes lit up as he spoke about the programs he’s been a part of where he shares his love of automotive design with kids who are equally excited.
The next day, one of the lead engineers, James Hunter, took center stage as he presented the reveal of the 2020 Cadillac XT5. The vehicle presentation, situated at the beautiful Stone Tower Winery, was amazing. I’m still trying to figure out how the Cadillac team got the XT5 into that back area!! In his presentation, he encouraged us to gather close to not only hear him speak, but to also get a close look at the vehicle.
Jim….don’t worry, he said we could call him Jim, is also black. Yes, two lead team members at an auto event and I had the pleasure of speaking one on one with them both. I felt like I was in black girl automotive media heaven….and yes, that’s totally a thing! The winery was about an hour and a half away from the Ritz hotel, so Jim rode back from the winery with us. My riding partner, Sekou Writes, and I hammered Jim with questions about his time at GM, his home life and his love for engineering. He was extremely open with it all.
A former member of the National Society of Black Engineers, Jim explained a lot of the functionality within the vehicle. I received a call from my husband while I was driving and hadn’t hooked my phone up to the bluetooth in the XT6. So I drove with my phone stuck to my ear, trying to navigate the hilly roads of Virginia. Jim, clearly nervous about me driving and using a handheld device, explained that I could simply tap my phone against the NFC space on the dashboard, and my phone would instantly sync with the car. *INSERT JAW DROP* I’ve never had my phone pair so quickly. I’m used to having to pull over and go through a series of tedious steps to pair my phone with any other automobile I’m driving.
During our journey back to DC, Sekou wanted to use the cordless charging pad, housed under the infotainment area. He placed his phone on the pad and the charging indicator light turned green…and then it turned orange. It wasn’t charging. So I tried my phone, and it stayed green for a bit longer before turning orange. What a great opportunity to ask the cars lead engineer what that meant! Except he was stumped too. He called it into his engineering counterparts, and we had them on the case. I actually thought it was pretty cool that we uncovered this. Turns out, the orange light meant that since both Sekou and I have Google Pixels, the phone didn’t have the capability to charge without a cable. But that wasn’t a problem as there were more than enough USB ports in the vehicle.
As I pulled down the visor to apply my lipstick, Jim’s eyes light up. “How do you like those movie star lights around the visor mirror?”, he exclaimed. Funny enough, I did notice the lights. I thought it was a nice touch. It added to the celebrity like feeling Cadillac was going for in detail and design of not only the cars, but also the event to promote them.
About 60 minutes into our drive back, we had talked a small hole in Jim’s head. Then came the awkward silence. I turned on some music, but not too loud. Although Sekou and I were blasting WuTang Clan on the radio on the way to the winery, we were trying to be respectful of who we were riding back with. That’s when Jim told us to crank up the volume. So I turned it up a bit, and smiled. “No! Really turn it up!”, he shouts. So, now it’s officially a party!! I turn up the Bose 8-speaker sound system and we can barely hear each other screaming the lyrics to the songs on the radio. That’s probably how we missed our exit to get home as well, but hey!
Back at the ranch, the Ritz that is, we exchanged information and headed back to the Cadillac lounge area. They had a record player and I threw Beyonce’s Lemonade album on, as Sekou and I went over our day. We talked for over an hour, exchanging notes and pictures, hoping we didn’t miss anything.
Below are more pictures from the event. For more information on the XT5 and XT6, visit Cadillac.com.