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LA Show: GM takes Euro twist with baby Caddy concept

Top glass: The Cadillac concept's glazed A-pillars aid forward visibility for the driver, but the wedge-shaped side windows threaten to spoil the view for shorter rear passengers.

Radical hi-tech luxury light car shows new direction as Cadillac takes aim at Europe

18 Nov 2010

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

PROVING that General Motors is back in business and boldly investing in new model development, the US auto giant this week used the Los Angeles auto show to unveil the smallest-ever design for its premium Cadillac brand, the Urban Luxury Concept.

Ten millimetres narrower than an Audi A1 and 112mm shorter than BMW’s Mini Cooper, the tiny Caddy features four individual seats, all of which are accessed by a pair of long scissor doors that are designed for ease of entry and egress when the vehicle is in tight parking spots.

The unveiling comes less than a month after GM announced that it was investing $US190 million at its Lansing Grand River assembly plant, with the creation of 600 jobs and the addition of a second shift ready for the production of an all-new Cadillac model – the long-awaited Mercedes-Benz C-class and BMW 3 Series rival.

 center imageGM chief executive Dan Akerson confirmed at the plant announcement that “America’s fastest-growing luxury brand this year is about to get even more competitive with the addition of an all-new small luxury car”.

As GoAuto reported in August last year, GM officially revealed that Cadillac was developing an entry-level rear-drive and/or all-wheel drive small luxury sports sedan – dubbed ATS – that would go head-to-head with the 3 Series.

While production of GM’s small luxury car is confirmed, the success of city-sized premium cars like the Mini and Audi’s just-released A1 remains hard to ignore, as does the unexpected willingness of North American motorists to downsize.

Cadillac’s response is a 3835mm-long, 1730mm-wide two-door hatch with hybrid power.

The concept’s interior more closely follows the theme of Aston Martin’s Toyota iQ-based Cygnet than that of the more mainstream premium city cars in that it aims to offer an uncompromised level of luxury regardless of the vehicle’s diminutive dimensions.

Cadillac marketing vice-president Don Butler said: “While small in size, this concept is an exploration of what Cadillac could be in the future, as the brand continues to focus on redefining industry standards for advanced vehicle design and integrated technology.”

The futuristic, minimalist interior, which is trimmed in leather and fabric “selected for its hi-tech look and feel” is bathed in light from the large windscreen, dual skylights and also features the now de rigueur mood lighting.

Ample space is provided for occupants, achieved through the absence of a traditional centre stack and using a combination of multi-purpose touch screens and head-up displays rather than traditional instruments and switchgear, although a large analogue speedometer remains – which Cadillac claims “is reminiscent of a high-end timepiece”.

Where switchgear remains necessary, traditional push-buttons and flick-switches are substituted with capacitive touch switches, as used on some domestic desk and bedside lamps.

Under the bonnet is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, aided by electric assist and feeding power to the front wheels through a dual-clutch transmission.

GM estimates the drivetrain – which also features idle-stop and brake energy recuperation – to offer fuel consumption figures of 4.2L/100km around town and 3.6L/100km on the highway.

Externally, there is no mistaking this for anything but a Cadillac product, with its sharply creased, angular design and pillar lighting, not to mention the trademark grille featuring a huge Cadillac emblem.

With its 19-inch wheels pushed out to the very far corners there is little in the way of overhang, giving the Urban Luxury Concept a purposeful four-square stance.

Aiding forward visibility are glazed A-pillars that continue seamlessly into the roof in a continuous, upwardly swooping shape, with just a slim piece of metal separating the windscreen from the front-quarter lights.

From the side, the Urban Luxury Concept has a low, wedge-like appearance accentuated by a heavily defined upward crease along its flanks running parallel to the side windows.

Caddy’s city car concept was designed in the Los Angeles area, known for its tight parking, sometimes narrow streets and, of course, pollution and congestion.

Lead designer Frank Saucedo said: “This is a new vision in vehicle design that was created to answer the needs of city dwellers.

“It may not look like Cadillacs on the road today, but it shares the comfortable and hi-tech elements that owners have come to associate with larger, traditional luxury sedans.

“As more customers demand premium features even in smaller vehicles, a vehicle like the Urban Luxury Concept could be a solution.”

Meanwhile, Cadillac’s XTS Platinum concept – first revealed at this year’s Detroit show – is also tipped to make production, pitched above the current CTS 5 Series contender.

A further flagship model is also reportedly on the drawing board, which, along with the aforementioned ATS, will complete the Cadillac line-up to better compete with the likes of Lexus and the big three German luxury brands.

As GoAuto has reported, GM also unveiled its Australian-developed Chevrolet Camaro convertible at the LA show, which stands as further evidence of the company’s resurgent new-model program in the wake of the global financial crisis and its descent into chapter 11 bankruptcy.

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