Ever since it rolled out the stunning Sixteen show car a decade ago, Cadillac has repeatedly offered hints of what an all-new flagship might look like with a procession of sedan and convertible concepts that most recently included the Ciel two years ago.
So what to make of the new Cadillac Elmiraj, another stunning exercise – this time in coupe form – that General Motors’ luxury division drove up to Tehama, the hilltop retreat of actor Clint Eastwood, last night? Is it the long-awaited flagship or just another el mirage?
The long, lean coupe – which bore some of the long-nosed DNA of the old Cadillac Sixteen – certainly got people talking, precisely what a luxury brand’s premier model is supposed to do. And, as the maker’s advanced chief Clay Dean later told TheDetroitBureau.com, “There’s nothing here we couldn’t do today.” But the question is one of “would,” not “could,” and the reality is that Cadillac still has not decided what its long-awaited flagship will be. In fact, it still could be several different models.
The important thing, global design director Ed Welburn confided in us, “We have to move fast. The competition isn’t standing still.”
As for the Elmiraj, the coupe moves a bit away from the harsh angles that have defined Cadillac concept and production vehicles of the last decade with a more sensual and curvaceous shape that still maintains some of the distinctive cues we’ve grown familiar with, notably including the fin-like upright headlamps.
“We’re not going to throw out Art & Science,” the signature Caddy design language, stressed Mark Adams, the designer who oversaw the Elmiraj project. “We’re just going to evolve it” with a concept vehicle he described as a “rolling canvas of our brand.”
The Elmiraj is meant to be more of a driver’s car than the Ciel concept of 2011. It uses an all-new rear-drive platform that, in concept form, is powered by a 500-horsepower twin-turbo 4.5-liter V-8. Notably, said advanced design chief Dean, it features all-wheel-drive, something he says “is expected today” in the luxury market.
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The prototype takes the weight-saving approach pioneered in the still-new and well-received Cadillac ATS to new levels. The Caddy Elmiraj makes extensive use of low-mass materials that include carbon fiber, as well as aluminum, that would help improve both performance and fuel economy. And with a new flagship, Dean noted, you just might see carbon fiber used for such things as door panels, both inner and outer.
The material isn’t cheap but it’s finally beginning to come down in price, he added, as more manufacturers start to use it. You’ll see a carbon fiber hood and roof panels, for example, when the new Chevrolet Corvette reaches showrooms in the coming weeks, as well as on the BMW i3 and i8 electric vehicles.
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The interior of the Cadillac Elmiraj picks up on the sumptuous themes of the brand’s Ciel show car, though in keeping with its design theme, all the woods, leathers and chrome are reconfigured in a more driver-oriented layout. And, again, one gets the sense that this is an exercise in designing a car that Caddy designers and engineers really, truly want to build, rather than the classic fantasy-in-chrome concept vehicle.
Which loops us back to the question of whether they actually will build it. And here, the answer is a distinct maybe. Dean, Welburn and others TheDetroitBureau.com spoke to made it clear Cadillac is deep into the search for its next flagship – and they want to get it to market in the relative near-term after such a long wait.
But the ultimate question, according to Dean, is what should that flagship be? To some inside the company, it could be the all-new and far too long-awaited remake of the Cadillac Escalade that many had expected to see this week. In fact, Caddy will pull the wraps off the next-gen ‘Slade in October.
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Could it be a coupe? Or perhaps something entirely different, more in the direction of a Ciel convertible or a design even more radically different?
All these options are now being kicked around inside Cadillac’s design studios, it turns out, explained Dean, hinting, “We don’t think the flagship for Cadillac should be a traditional sedan.”
Here’s one more hint: Cadillac still is looking at the option of offering several flagship models. That should be no surprise. Developing an all-new, high-end platform like the one found under the Elmiraj concept is extremely expensive and the maker would like to spread that cost out across several different models to boost sales.
When will we finally see what Cadillac has in store? It appears the winnowing process is now underway but it will likely be a few more years before a production version of Elmiraj — or some other Caddy flagship finally arrives.
Tags: Cadillac, Cadillac Escalade, Cadillac elmiraj, auto news, cadillac ciel, cadillac concept, cadillac el miraj, cadillac flagship, cadillac show car, cadillac sixteen, car news, clay dean, ed welburn, paul a. eisenstein, paul eisenstein, thedetroitbureau