With a new presidential limo contract soon to be awarded, it's probably a good time to look at the current terrible limo. Like America's foreign policy at the time of its introduction, "The Beast" was a clumsy solution to a delicate set of priorities that caused more problems that it solved.
We were all excited when "The Beast" first appeared in photos back in 2009. It seemed like a giant tank, which it kind of is.
Specifically, the Secret Service-requested vehicle is a heavy-duty GMC Topkick truck platform that had been cleverly designed to look like a Cadillac STS on the outside so that you can't quite tell it's basically a dump truck underneath.
The thinking was that, given America's many enemies abroad and crazy people at home, we needed the biggest, baddest rolling vehicle possible. And big and bad it is.
There's eight inches of armor plating around the 18-foot-long vehicle with glass thick enough to deflect Iron Man and titanium and kevlar basically everywhere. There's only one window that opens, and even that only drops three inches to allow for the driver to talk to other agents or pay tolls or whatever. It's even rumored to have a spare oxygen tank to provide fresh air in the event of a terrorist gas attack.
In the sense that it can keep the President alive under a heavy attack The Beast seems like it would do a fine job of resistant bombardment even though, thankfully, we've never seen that tested.
Unfortunately, in every other way the current fleet of vehicles — which includes the older DTS-style, truck-based limos from 2005 — is pretty terrible.
Let's start with the size. The limos are far too big. So big they can be thwarted by a slightly angled driveway as in the video above at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin. All those large 7-Series limos can make it through but the big, heavy, DTS limo gets stuck.
Here's "The Beast" unable to get around the driveway at 10 Downing Street where the British Prime Minister lives.
I'm not an expert on security, but I've visited armoring companies and talked to experts about their goals when designing these vehicles and they talk a lot about how they try to keep the passengers alive long enough to get them somewhere safe. Therefore, being stuck is a bad thing.
To the credit of the designers, it's possible that the lower overhangs of the new STS-style Beast and what appears to be a taller ride height may have diminished this problem, but they seem to be using the older versions overseas in Europe where the streets aren't designed for 'Murican trucks — possibly because the new Beast is just too big.
But let's say there's no high curb or angled drive in the way. Let's say The Beast has nothing but open road ahead. Right now it's slow. Too slow. The top-speed is said to be 60 mph, meaning a bad guy in an old Beetle could easily catch up to it. It's actually slower than The Beast wooden roller coaster.
Some have complained that the vehicle is diesel since this leads to fuel-related mixups, but I actually think a diesel-powered vehicle makes sense given the relative stability of the fuel. Still, even with a diesel engine this gas guzzler only gets 8 mpg, which is terrible.
Finally, it's ugly. Cadillac has moved far away from this design language because it's so bland. The Germans, the Russians, hell, even the Chinese have better looking limousines.
American carmakers have turned their product quality and design around in the last few years and we deserve a presidential limo that reflects that. Maybe a Tesla?
Photos: Cadillac, AP