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Pebble Beach: Cadillac thinks big

Big and bigger: Cadillac's Ciel show car "suggests where the brand can go in the future".

Blue-sky motoring returns to Cadillac in massive Ciel hybrid grand tourer concept

22 Aug 2011

CADILLAC has revealed a precursor to an all-new flagship model that harks back to the golden age of American land-barge motoring but without all the gas-guzzling drawbacks.

The open-top Cadillac Ciel grand tourer concept – appropriately unveiled at the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance where such old-style classic cars abound – is said to be underpinned by a new General Motors architecture that will spawn a latter day Eldorado.

This platform under the Ciel (French for sky and pronounced C-L) might be a variation of Cadillac’s new large-car architecture that will provide the basis of the recently announced XTS sedan.

On the launch pad for United States release in the first half of 2012, the XTS replaces both the STS and DTS that have been discontinued, and will be available in front- and all-wheel-drive forms.

The XTS – designed by former Holden stylist Max Wolff before he was poached by Ford’s Lincoln division late last year – is one of at least two new Cadillac models destined for showrooms next year, along with the ATS rear-drive sports sedan and – potentially – the all-electric, Volt-based Cadillac ELR that also has been confirmed for production at some future point.

163 center imageLeft: Cadillac Ciel. Below: Cadillac XTS Platinum and ATS teaser shot.

Although the Ciel show car abounds with design flourishes that are unlikely to make it into production, Cadillac says the styling language “suggests where the brand can go in the future”.

The boat-like cruiser, with its acres of leather, real olive-tree polished wood and long, low body, dispenses with the monstrous 12- and eight-cylinder engines of previous generations and adopts a modern and efficient hybrid powertrain employing a twin-turbo 317kW version of GM’s direct-injection 3.6-litre V6, hooked up with an electric motor and lithium-ion batteries that can provide electric-only drive at low speeds.

The all-wheel driveline ends at massive 22-inch wheels that, despite their individual size, look to be in proportion with the rest of the car, such is its massive dimensions.

For example, the wheelbase is 3175mm – 300mm longer than the between-the-axles stretch of the current Cadillac CTS and 260mm longer than that of the VE Holden Commodore.

Designed at GM’s North Hollywood studios in California, the Ciel was said to be inspired by that state’s iconic coastal drive, on Highway 1.

Cadillac global design director Clay Dean said the Ciel reflected the Cadillac heritage that was all about expressive luxury.

“The Ciel is about the romance of the drive,” Mr Dean said. “It emulates the great touring cars seen on the greens at Pebble Beach (during the Concours d’ Elegance), but with a modern flair that projects Cadillac’s vision for the future.”

Even the deep burgundy paint of the Ciel was inspired by California – a Napa Valley red wine in a glass held up to the sun.

In grand tourer tradition, the rear doors of the four-seat open-top limo are rear-hinged in what Cadillac describes as “French-style”. With both side doors opened, the pillarless access to the dark leather-clad seats is vast, revealing leather trim wrapped around the door ends.

The LED running lights – stacked vertically on the sharp outer edges of the front fascia –blend into a traditional Cadillac look, along with the typically monstrous crosshatched chrome grille that extends the timeless Cadillac theme.

Chrome ‘bright-work’ is evident all around the car, with a metal line framing the front fascia, running down the side, around the windscreen frame, the alloy wheels and around the interior.

The body colour rolls over the top of the doors and into the interior, where it meets a chrome strip that divides it from the wood trim that is said to have come from a single olive tree felled in a Californian olive grove.

Each piece of wood was dried in a kiln before being cut and photographed to allow precise matching by craftsmen who hand-machined each piece.

Passengers can pull a tab to unwind a cashmere blanket to be placed over their knees to make open-air motoring more comfortable. The blankets retract automatically when the passengers alight.

A cigar humidor and drawers for holding sunscreen, sunglasses and towels are placed around the vehicle. As well, aromatherapy is controlled from a rear armrest switch.

Cadillac interior design manager Gael Buzyn described the interior design as romantic in its form and materials.

“Nothing smells as good as real wood and leather,” she said. “It blends together for a rewarding feeling of uncompromising luxury.”

While the Ciel remains a pipedream for now, the XTS large sedan will become a reality from next year.

Based on the XTS Platinum Concept shown at the 2010 Detroit motor show, the production version was confirmed earlier this month by GM North America president – and former GM Holden chairman – Mark Reuss, who said it would be built at GM’s Oshawa plant in Canada for a second-quarter 2012 launch.

The large XTS will be followed a few months later by the smaller rear/all-wheel-drive ATS that will lead Cadillac’s counter-assault against the likes of BMW’s 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz’s C-class and Audi’s A4.

Early this month, Cadillac released an image showing the ATS in silhouette, revealing a muscular small car with smooth side lines.

Mr Reuss said the ATS would be “a driver’s car on an all-new Cadillac-specific RWD-AWD architecture”.

“We have extensively and exhaustively studied the competitive segment, and we have benchmarked the best,” he said. “And when this car comes out, that will be readily apparent.”

The XTS and ATS will sit above and below the current CTS in the Cadillac range, giving the luxury marque one of the freshest sedan ranges around.

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