Update: Our spy photographers just caught an early test mule for the production 2016 Cadillac flagship sedan. Although the mule isn't as pretty as the Elmiraj, it's encouraging to see that test car out in the wild because it proves Cadillac is committed to bringing a flagship to market in the near future.
Monterey, California - The Cadillac Elmiraj rolled out Thursday evening at a special event in Monterey, as the city's annual celebration of all things automotive moves toward the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance on Sunday.
This large, dramatic coupe is a real concept car, not a production car in the making, but it does express Cadillac's on-going development of a full-size ultra-luxury model in the style of the Bentley Continental GT Speed and the Rolls-Royce Wraith.
After its presentation on Thursday evening, the Cadillac Elmiraj becomes the centerpiece of Cadillac's tent on Peter Hay Hill at the Pebble Beach concours, where a 1937 Cadillac Series 90 V16, a 1965 Cadillac Coupe Deville, and a 1967 Cadillac Eldorado will also be shown.
A Lakester with Luxury
The Elmiraj is a four-passenger coupe that stretches a prodigious 205 inches overall, recalling the big cars of Cadillac's past. The bodywork is simply a design concept, but the platform represents a new rear-wheel-drive architecture in the making at Cadillac. This car stands 55 inches high and measures 76 inches wide; the whole package weighs approximately 4000 pounds.
There's a real engine under the Elmiraj's hood, a twin-turbo 4.5-liter V-8 that is derived from the twin-turbo V-6 of the 2014 Cadillac CTS Vsport. The engine's output is rated at 500 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque. The Elmiraj has 22-inch cast-aluminum wheels that shroud Cadillac's latest disc brakes with monoblock calipers and carbon-ceramic pads.
"Elmiraj" is a stylized word meant to recall El Mirage Dry Lake, a site in California's Mojave Desert where hot rods have been making top-speed runs since just after World War II, and the Cadillac concept projects the same look of California-style performance. This is no surprise, since the car's exterior was developed at the GM West Coast Advanced Design Studio, an unpretentious yet inventive operation right next to the railroad tracks in arty, albeit semi-trashy, North Hollywood, California.
Picking Up Where the Cadillac Ciel Left Off
Nikki Smart, the lead exterior designer, says, "Elmiraj is about poise and proportion. We wanted a mature statement for Cadillac, where simplicity and subtle adornments create a purposeful presence."
The Elmiraj's grille makes a major statement, as is the fashion these days, and its long hood is a visual signature of a rear-wheel-drive platform. You'll also notice that the car wears a stylized version of the Cadillac crest as well as a Vsport badge, which is a new trim level for the 2014 Cadillac CTS that lies just below the high-performance V-spec model.
Although the Cadillac Ciel concept car from the 2011 Pebble Beach weekend is the Cadillac Elmiraj's direct precursor, it's easy to see elements of the Cadillac Eldorado of the late 1960s in the new concept, and this is no accident. Clay Dean, Cadillac's director of advanced design, notes, "We were influenced in particular by the 1967 Eldorado, both its actual design and the fact that in its time the car stood out in stark contrast and was a new direction." Actually, it's fair to say that the current Art & Science design vocabulary at Cadillac also has its roots in the front-wheel-drive Eldorado, as a look back at the hard-edged abstract geometry of the 1999 Cadillac Evoq concept car confirms.
Personalized Convenience and Super Luxury
Just like the Bentley Continental GT Speed and Rolls-Royce Wraith, the Cadillac Elmiraj complements its exterior expression of speed with an interior message of personalized convenience and super luxury.
The Elmiraj's cabin features titanium trim in a curve from the cowl to the doors, separating the leather from the Brazilian rosewood. Gael Buzyn, the lead interior designer for the project, says, "A concept provides an opportunity not only to explore new design ideas but also to pursue new techniques for elegant craftsmanship and materials."
The executive-style 2+2 layout has high-performance seats consistent with high-performance driving. More notable might be the valet feature, which allows the front seats to slide forward by ten inches and the rear seats to slide rearward by four inches, making ingress and egress easier. The rear seats also recline.
Here's the Art; the Science Comes Next
Built at the Eero Saarinen-designed GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, the Cadillac Elmiraj's platform is an opportunity for GM to display the kind of futuristic science-fair technology that the newly revised Mercedes-Benz S-class displays.
In fact, we suspect that the dramatically styled Mercedes-Benz CL expected to debut at the 2013 Frankfurt auto show might be a better model for what Cadillac's flagship will eventually become, as the Mercedes is meant to be a bit more technical than the super coupes from the British brands.
A little more than a year ago, Cadillac seemed to have no more fresh ideas. Now the Cadillac Elmiraj concept car shows us that the company might have bolder plans than anyone has anticipated.