Well, that didn’t take long. Mere weeks after unveiling the big, beautiful Cadillac Elmiraj concept at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, our spy photographers caught an early development mule for the rear-wheel drive 2016 Cadillac flagship.
That GM has been tinkering with a full-size, rear-drive vehicle to sit atop the Cadillac lineup is hardly a secret. Official press materials for the Elmiraj concept indicated the two-door showcar was “constructed with chassis and structural elements of an ongoing Cadillac vehicle development project slated for future production.” The release went on to proclaim “this new vehicle architecture expands the brand’s commitment to lightweight rear-wheel-drive performance.”
That’s a verbose way of saying the Elmiraj sat atop an early version of the automaker’s new Omega platform, which is designed to be slightly larger than the Zeta platform presently used in the Chevrolet Camaro, Chevrolet SS, and Chevrolet Caprice. Coincidently, the mangled-looking Caprice you see here, photographed just outside of GM’s proving grounds in Milford, Michigan, also sits atop an early version of the Omega platform.
Although an ultra-premium Cadillac Omega model, codenamed 01LL, has supposedly been put on hold, this less-expensive, Omega-based Cadillac flagship, codenamed 01SL, is still approved for production. If all goes according to plan, the finished Cadillac flagship – likely a four-door coupe – should launch in time for the 2016 model year.
Like most development mules, the bodywork is nowhere near representative of the future Cadillac’s styling, but merely a means of shrouding new mechanical bits during real-world testing. The choice of Holden/ Chevrolet Caprice bodywork isn’t surprising, as the Caprice is the largest rear-drive sedans in GM’s global portfolio.
There are plenty of cues that indicate this particular car isn’t your run-of-the-mill Chevrolet Caprice. The awkward headlamps, cribbed from a Chevrolet Captiva Sport/ Saturn VUE are certainly different, but the most significant cue lies with the front fenders. Roughly 3-5 inches of sheetmetal has been added between the trailing edge of the Caprice’s stock fender and the leading edge of the front door, suggesting the car’s underpinnings are longer than that of the present Caprice.
For the record, today’s Caprice PPV measures 204.2 inches in length, and rides upon a 118.5-inch wheelbase. Cadillac didn’t provide a wheelbase measurement for the Elmiraj, but did say the striking four-passenger coupe measured 205 in length. 2011’s Cadillac Ciel concept, also rumored to be built upon an early iteration of the Omega platform, was 203.7 inches long and rode upon a 125-inch wheelbase. It doesn’t appear as if this mule’s Caprice body was widened, despite the fact it measures only 74.8 inches wide and both Cadillac concepts are closer to 76-77 wide.
Cadillac didn’t disclose what sort of suspension the Elmiraj utilized, but the Ciel concept allegedly used a short-long arm independent front suspension arrangement. If that’s indicative of the finished Omega platform, it’s a departure from Zeta, which uses MacPherson struts up front. Rear suspension is expected to retain a multilink IRS arrangement, although it’s unknown how the finished design will differ from that of the Zeta.
Revisions made to the remainder of the Caprice body are few. Large wheels with low-profile tires are a big departure from the police-grade steel wheels fitted to U.S.-spec Caprice PPV models, and appear to have been pulled from the 2014 Cadillac CTS parts bin. The rear bumper features odd cut-out panels on both sides, likely providing additional clearance for structural elements lurking beneath the surface. The lone piece of camouflage is a fabric flap just behind the rear passenger-side door. Look closely, and you’ll see the gas filler door is no longer behind the rear wheel well as it is on a stock Chevrolet Caprice, suggesting the hard points beneath the skin differ from those of the current Zeta architecture.
It’s unknown if this Cadillac flagship mule packs any new powertrain inside the engine compartment – fitting, considering there’s still some mystery surrounding what engines the final product will use. The Ciel concept was shown with a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6 – an engine that’s now entered production by way of the 2014 Cadillac XTS Vsport and 2014 CTS Vsport – along with a hybrid driveline. The Cadillac Elmiraj concept boasted a twin-turbocharged 4.5-liter V-8, allegedly producing 500 hp. We wouldn’t be surprised if both engines wind up as options on the production car, though the hybrid driveline is questionable. Do expect either an eight- or ten-speed automatic to direct power to the rear wheels.
Another mystery: the name. GM previously trademarked the LTS name, which many pundits believed to be reserved for the forthcoming Cadillac flagship (i.e. “large touring sedan”), but we hear there’s push from within Cadillac’s management to wean itself off acronyms and revert to traditional names. Does that mean a 2016 Fleetwood is in our future? Only time will tell.