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 was designed by GM's LA-based Advanced Design studio) the Ciel—"sky" in French— is designed to comfortably seat four adults, featuring elegant lines and an elongated proportion that is surprisingly just a foot longer than the American manufacturer's angular CTS Coupe. The Ciel sports a 3.6 liter V6 engine too, but it's complimented by a hybrid system that uses lithium-ion batteries.
We had the chance to speak with members of the car's design team during its debut at Pebble Beach: Clay Dean, the Executive Director GM Advanced Global Design and Cadillac Brand Director, Niki Smart, Exterior Design Manager, and Frank Saucedo, Director of the Advanced Global Design studio. The team spoke about wanting "to put some swagger back in Cadillac." The same team worked on last year's more angular and considerably smaller Urban Luxury Concept car, though the Ciel is more an exercise in restraint and simplicity and the traveler's journey. It's about going there as much as it is about arriving there. Smart adds "There are so many things graphically around the car, but when the science gets so good that it's invisible, that's truly art."Dean elaborates, "I think it shows a nice bandwidth in what we're thinking about at Cadillac right now and the versatility of the team."
Selecting the color was a long and heated debate, finally resolved by taking pictures of how it changes in different light. Named Cabernet, the car's color reflects various pigments of red, yellow and gold hues depending on how the light strikes it, like holding a glass of red wine up to the sun. The interior boasts an equally beautiful surface, with the inside of the suicide doors, the panel, console and front seatbacks made of solid wood from a singular fallen olive oil tree, recycled from a west coast olive oil producer. The designers took interest in making the interior as simple and clean as possible. The cabernet and sand leather interior features a laser-perforated design and wraps the entire interior space.
The team spoke at length about staying true to the original vision throughout the design process. Whenever they got stuck or felt they were veering too far from it they pulled out the original sketches, which we were fortunate to track down exclusively for our readers.
Dean says, "How many things can I take away that I don't need to be bothered by?" To that end, zippers keep the contents of the storage areas contained, and the rear LCD screens are cleverly hidden by a sliding leather panel. The climate system is piped through a channel that surrounds the car instead of traditional vents. The dashboard is simplified and features technology that more seamlessly integrates with your phone and your data.
The studio worked with local vendors, including Metalcrafters for the body work.
Invoking dreams of romantic cross-country excursions or drives up the coast, the Ciel comes equipped to fulfill these sentiments: The low console, which spans the length of the vehicle's interior, is kitted out with a humidor and cigars, a compartment stowing a cashmere blanket, drawers stocked with suntan lotion and sunglasses, and armrests with ambient lighting for nighttime drives. "Luxury is not something that you need. It's something that you want," explains Dean.
Physically manifesting the feeling of what it formerly meant to own—and drive—a Cadillac at the pinnacle of its reign, the Ciel, if manufactured, has the potential to be a future classic. Perhaps it will be known as the car that reestablished Cadillac's reputation as a benchmark of living the American dream.