Cadillac Brings the Haute!

Highline manufacturers and upstart independent car companies have long used the Pebble Beach Car Week as a staging ground to debut brand new concept and production vehicles.  So when Cadillac announced a few weeks ago that they would unveil a new concept car during the classic car extravaganza, I was hardly surprised.  But nothing could have prepared me for the dramatic nature of the new car, or the flurry of Cadillac activity that accompanied it.

Though still featuring modern Cadillac design hallmarks like an upright grille and angular lines, the new Ciel (pronounced C-L) is a delightful throwback to the marque’s luxurious convertible sedans of the mid-20th century.  Immediately distinguishable from its production stablemates by an obvious increase in length (care of a wheelbase 12” longer than the CTS sedan) the Ciel is plush with bespoke luxury cues, including a pillarless door opening with rear suicide doors, and 22” nickel-plated billet aluminum wheels.  The cabin is trimmed in reclaimed Italian Olive wood, machined aluminum, and hand-tipped leather, while rear occupants are treated to unique accoutrements such as retractable cashmere blankets and a humidor.  The Ciel’s twin-turbocharged 3.6 liter V-6 motor develops 425 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque, and is mated to a hybrid transmission that provides all-electric driving at low speeds, not unlike a common Prius.

In retrospect, the unveiling of the Ciel was somewhat surprising given all of Cadillac’s other recent activities.  In addition to an early August announcement of plans to develop a compact luxury sedan intended to battle Mercedes’ C Class, Cadillac revealed just one day before the Ciel debut that it had approved production of one of its 2009 concept cars, the electric drivetrain Converj (below).  Employing a lithium ion battery system that is complemented by a 4-cylinder generator, the new model will be called the ELR.  As the car is just entering production development, there’s no word yet on pricing, performance figures, or the anticipated launch date.

And as if all that were not enough, Cadillac also recently committed to a busy social calendar.  On September 11 and 12 the company will continue its active sponsorship of the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz.  Beginning with a piano competition judged by Herbie Hancock, Ellis Marsalis and Danilo Perez, the Institute will celebrate its 25th anniversary the following night with an all-star gala celebration and concert co-chaired by Madeleine Albright, Quincy Jones, and Colin Powell.  Cadillac’s high performance sponsorship should give new meaning to the Monk classic “Straight No Chaser.”  Five days later, the manufacturer will serve as a premier sponsor at the Fairfield County Concours d’Elegance, which is increasingly regarded as one of the nation’s most prestigious concours d’elegance.