Cadillac’s on the move—-big time

20 Aug 2011 | 2,040 views | No Comment
      By Don Hammonds    Cadillac, buoyed by strong sales and critical acclaim for its lineup by auto writers and journalists alike, is not about to sit on its crest.        In an explosive week or two of news, the company has announced a new convertible concept, confirmed plans for a new electric luxury coupe, and finally admitted what auto writers at Automobile Journal and other outlets have heard for ages:  There's a new compact sedan coming that's aiming right at the BMW 3 Series,  Audi A4, Infiniti G Series and similar cars. Cadillac will expand its model lineup in 2012 with a new entry in the compact luxury segment codenamed ATS. General Motors North America President Mark Reuss  confirmed  that in 2012 Cadillac will unveil a new luury compact now codenamed as ATS.  A sketch was released during the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars, showing a smoothly elegant sedan that bears a family resemblance to the CTS, but with its own distinctive styling highlights and cues.        The CTS is, of course a very strong seller, but we suspect most people think it's a competitor for the BMW Three Series.  Some people probably cross-shop the two, but in content, styling and size, it's always seemed to be a better comparison to BMW's Five Series.  So to us at Automobile Journal, it makes complete sense that Cadillac would move the CTS upscale  by anchoring the lower end of its car line with a new model----the soon to be unveiled luxury concept. The small Cadillac will begin production next summer at Lansing Grand River, the same Michigan assembly plant that builds the award-winning midsize Cadillac CTS sedan, coupe and wagon. The plant received a $190 million investment and 600 jobs for the new model.    “The car we codenamed ATS is being developed to be a driver's car on an all-new Cadillac-specific RWD-AWD architecture,” Reuss said. “We have extensively and exhaustively studied the competitive segment, and we have benchmarked the best. And when this car comes out, that will be readily apparent.”        Then there's the Cadillac Converj Concept, a striking, futuristic extended-range electric vehicle, that the company now plans to produce--a move that should please any of the auto writers like Automobile Journal who saw it in the flesh at a recent North American International Auto Show debut. Cadillac says that development of the ELR is just underway, so details on performance, price and timing will be announced later. The Cadillac ELR will feature an electric propulsion system made up of a T-shaped lithium ion battery, an electric drive unit, and a four-cylinder engine-generator. It uses electricity as its primary source to drive the car without using gasoline or producing tailpipe emissions. When the battery’s energy is low, the ELR  will "seamlessly switches to extended-range mode to enable driving for hundreds of additional miles," Cadillac says.  “The concept generated instant enthusiasm,” said Don Butler, vice president-Cadillac Marketing. “Like other milestone Cadillac models of the past, the ELR will offer something not otherwise present – the combination of electric propulsion with striking design and the fun of luxury coupe driving.” Cadillac selected the name ELR to indicate the car’s electric propulsion technology, in keeping with the brand’s 3-letter international model naming convention. The Converj Concept sparked the idea of combining the desirability of a grand touring coupe with electrification, said Ed Welburn, GM vice president, Global Design.       “There’s no mistaking it for anything but a Cadillac, an aggressive, forward-leaning profile and proportion showcases a uniquely shaped, modern vision of a personal luxury 2+2,” Welburn said.      Then, to top it all of, Cadillac unveiled the Ciel, at a special event prior to the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, prompting industry speculation that the return of the glamourous, big Caddy convertible is at hand.      "The Ciel – pronounced “C-L,” the French translation for sky – is a four-seat convertible that opens a new chapter in Cadillac’s design and product ascent, pushing the brand’s Art & Science philosophy into a new stratum," a Cadillac news release said. "Ciel is a new expression of Cadillac’s historical grandeur, as well as a celebration of open-air motoring." “Large, expressive luxury is innate to Cadillac and the Ciel recalls that heritage, while suggesting where the brand can go in the future,” said Clay Dean, global design director for Cadillac. “Authentic luxury is driven by experiences, not just products, and Ciel is about the experience of the journey.” The Ciel is is powered by a twin-turbocharged version of the 3.6-liter Direct Injection V-6 engine, paired with a hybrid system using lithium-ion battery technology. “The Ciel is about the romance of the drive,” said Dean. “It emulates the great touring cars seen on the greens at Pebble Beach, but with a modern flair that projects Cadillac’s vision for the future.” The four-door Ciel "embraces the social aspects of a recreational journey, with generous room for two couples. It evokes the spirit of the classics with a long, low proportion. The doors are French-style, with the rear doors hinged at the rear – there is no B-pillar – to reveal a sweeping view of the dramatic interior. Distinguishing fender lines run from nose to tail, and nickel-plated bright work accents the body lines, enhancing the visual length of the car and honoring Cadillac touring cars of the past," the news release said. "It added, "Ciel’s exterior flows seamlessly into the cabin, with the body color rolling over on top of the interior door panels. Like the exterior, the passenger space is accented with sweeping nickel-plated trim. It divides the body-color upper sections from a complementing beige lower color.  Italian Olive wood, machined aluminum and hand-tipped leather are elements that flow through the interior, complementing the primary colors with warm, rich tones." “There is authentic craftsmanship in the way the exterior and interior elements meld, much like a vintage wooden boat,” said Gael Buzyn, interior design manager. “It is romantic, not only in its form, but the materials – nothing smells as good as real wood and leather. It blends together for a rewarding feeling of uncompromising luxury.” Cadillac officials say that "Ciel literally and figuratively reflects the driving experience along the California coastline. The Cabernet paint color, developed specifically for Ciel, is inspired by the rich translucence of a glass of red wine held up to the sunlight." A prominent, polished aluminum windshield frame serves as in important structural element of the vehicle, as well as aesthetic one, recalling classic open cars of the past. Additional exterior cues, including a shield grille and vertical lighting elements, are pure Cadillac, but suggest a more organic interpretation of the brand’s signature design language that emphasizes the artistic and natural sides of it. The body sides, for example, are more rounded, sweeping upward. Bright work is used to bring contrast to the deep paint color, but plays a more supporting role. The car rides on large, beautifully finished wheels that feature brushed nickel plating over milled billet aluminum, matching the materials and appearance of other trim. Carbon ceramic brake rotors are visible behind the 22-inch rims, a visual clue to the Ciel’s foundation of performance.         The interior sure is interesting, with a blend of futuristic, romantic and retro flavored details. For instance,, the dash uses transparent gauges that provide information "within a detailed, brushed-aluminum housing that has the intricate depth of a high-quality chronograph. They offer dual readouts – analog and digital – as well as an information hierarchy. Additional interior features include:
  • Sloping bolsters on the seats that allow passengers to slide into the seats more comfortably
  • A personal device storage area on the front of the console with inductive charging and Bluetooth connectivity
  • A power-assisted transmission shifter that deploys as soon as the engine is started
  • Lighting in the armrests that combines a natural light well for daytime driving and ambient lighting for nighttime drives
  • Door storage areas that are inspired by premium fashion accessories and open with high-quality zippers
  • Pull-out blankets are available for all three passengers and retract automatically
  • All the seats have heating and cooling features, along with a drawer containing sun lotion, sun glasses and towels, as well as aromatherapy that is controlled from the rear armrest.
 

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