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First look: Caddy's sweet and sour Sixteen

Striking the right note: The local media cheered the Sixteen on its debut at the Detroit Opera House

GM shows there's life in Cadillac with the Sixteen concept

14 Jan 2003

AN arrogant excess or a breathtaking example of what the world's largest car-maker can do when it is energised?Such was the breadth of the debate over the Cadillac Sixteen from the moment the covers came off the ultra-luxury saloon at the Detroit auto show last week.

Designed to give GM's struggling domestic luxury brand an image lift in its until now losing fight against imported luxury cars, the Sixteen certainly overwhelmed every other Detroit debut and was rightly awarded the car of the show.

But was it excessive or excellent? The local media had no doubt, cheering as the car was debuted by GM product boss Bob Lutz at the Detroit Opera House.

But not everyone was convinced, and the engine was much of the reason why.

The car's name refers to its 13.6-litre V16 powerplant, which produces an incredible 750kW - or 1000hp in the old measure.

Cadillac's first V16 for 63 years is an all-aluminium pushrod design with such technology as cylinder deactivation for improved fuel economy - Cadillac says the engine can achieve nearly 20mpg on the highway - and variable valve timing for improved performance and emissions.

Even in the USA where V8 trucks rule the roads and gasoline is cheap an engine like this seems over the top.

But the rest of the package - which is similarly gigantic - was less divisive.

The powerplant is housed in a 5.79 metre aluminium four-door body that has managed to take Cadillac's angular "Art & Science" design language to a higher, smoother and more pleasing level. A bigger canvas always helps?The styling also stood in complete contrast to Mercedes-Benz's derivative Maybach 62 which was on show at Detroit, and BMW's Rolls-Royce Phantom, which was as squared off as the Sixteen was rounded.

Wrapping the exterior package up are the gullwing hood and 24-inch wheels, which actually don't look over-sized sitting under that long body.

The whole lot hangs off a backbone chassis which Cadillac dubbed an "endoskeletal structure".

Inside there are opulent interior appointments, including hand-stitched leather seats, hand-woven silk carpets, walnut burl veneer inlays and crystal accents on the instrument clusters.

So will it be built? The complexity of the engineering and the minute market would work against it, but GM product supremo Bob Lutz refused to rule it out.

"I think the car works. Put it that way," Mr Lutz told the media at the launch. "Our dream was to make a car that embodied everything that (once) made Cadillac the standard of the world."The fact that the Sixteen is a concept dreamed up by the all-powerful Mr Lutz suggests it must have a chance of making it into extremely limited production.

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