• Friday, December 01, 2023
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Cruising machine


Back in the days, there was a clear line between sports cars, which were for young people (or the youthful and urbane), and luxury vehicles, which were for the older set. Sporty autos were simple, clean, simple machines with humongous engines. They were built for speed and fun, not comfort.

Brands like Cadillac, on the other hand, were slow-moving land yachts, with plush, over-stuffed interiors and boxy outsides that were meant to look like the great ocean liners of the past. They didn’t take off, they departed from the harbour with grace and distinction. The two types of vehicles could not have been further apart in design, features, or customer base.

What makes it unique? First off, the Ciel (which is French word for sky) is a 4-door convertible with coach-style doors, something not seen on an American car since the 1960s in the Lincoln Continental. In fact, there is much about it that recalls that classic, not just from the number of doors and how they open, but also the strong nose-to-tail character lines that top the fenders and the relatively slab-sided nature of the body.

Championing the glory of leisurely driving, Cadillac’s stunning new open-air handcrafted concept car speaks to luxurious motoring while focusing on simplicity. There’s no question that this car says that Cadillac can (after many years) once again define American luxury; it looks clearly toward the future though respectful of the brand’s heritage.

Inspired by the California coast, the car offered at a starting shop price of $150,000 was designed by GM’s LA-based Advanced Design studio) an elongated proportion that is surprisingly just a foot longer than the American manufacturer’s angular CTS Coupe. The Ciel sports a 3.6 litre V6 engine too and complimented by a hybrid system that uses lithium-ion batteries.

Outside and inside, the vertical lighting front and rear, and the large egg-crate grille are pure Cadillac design themes. The 4-seater’s cockpit is divided by a center console and the wood trim comes from a 300-year-old olive tree that was felled by a storm outside of Naples, Italy. Rather than borrow an existing platform, the Ciel actually rides on a purpose-built chassis with a staggeringly long 125-inch wheelbase.

The sheet metal is a striking interpretation of current Germanic styling trends—the sharp fender crease flowing down into the front fascia, headlights stretching back into the fenders—executed within the accepted boundaries of Cadillac’s “Art and Science” design language.

It does not adhere too strictly to either of these concepts, though, adding a bit of organic curvature where you might expect planes and angles. The huge, 22-inch wheels hide carbon-ceramic brake rotors, and the wheelbase is a long 125 inches. Inside, there’s the usual concept-car pizzazz, with holographic instrumentation, touch-sensitive pads on each door handle for each individual passenger’s climate controls.

The front-mounted engine is a direct-injection twin-turbo 3.6-litre V-6 mated to an electric hybrid system, which produces a combined 425 hp and 430 lb.-ft. of torque. And in typical concept car fashion, it rides on massive 22-in. Wheels.

This vehicle, which is quite honestly breathtaking, weds wicked performance and decadent luxury into one awe-inspiring package. It even manages to toss in a nod to economy cars, with its turbocharged V6 engine mounted to a lithium-ion battery pack. After all, with a name that’s derived from the French word for “sky,” it wouldn’t make sense for the Ciel not to be just a little bit green.

Make no mistakes. It is the perfect cruising machine, unbeatable for relaxing drives along the sea coast and can easily accommodate four adults, and do so in comfort with its olive wood interior, built-in sunscreen dispensers, and heated/ cooled seats.

The pillar-less suicide doors hearken back to great luxury rides of the past, while the sleek lines and modest instrument cluster suggest the simple elegance of modern styling. This magnificent machine brings past and future together splendidly, and looks jaw-dropping good while doing it.

Back in history and starting with the introduction of the radically styled CTS in 2003, Cadillac has sought to remake itself from the image of selling softly sprung American luxury cars into a world-class player with edgy styling and vehicle dynamics designed to challenge the best Germany has to offer.