When you think of big, ultra-luxury four-seat convertibles, two cars come to mind: the Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe and the Bentley Azure Convertible. The Bentley is the cheaper of the two, with a starting price of just $365,000 or so, which is $85,000 less than the Phantom’s price of admission. Back in the day, Cadillac used to build grand convertibles as well, although not in the same price league as Rolls-Royce or Bentley (in the modern era, at least). Enter the Cadillac Ciel (pronounced C-L) concept, which harkens back to the Caddys of old with a nod to the future as well.
First, there’s the styling. Front end and rear-end are both pure Cadillac, which means they’re polarizing in design. The side view is more conservative, and it’s clear that the Ciel was heavily influenced by the Rolls-Royce Phantom. That’s not to say that the Caddy concept is a rip-off or even a derivative of the Phantom, but it’s clear which market the Ciel would be targeted to. If it were built, of course, and Cadillac is clear that the Ciel is a design exercise in “historical grandeur” at this time.
The styling may be pseudo-retro, or at least influenced by the past, but the technology is cutting edge. There’s LED lighting in front and rear, “connectivity portals” for all passengers and a twin-turbo V6 engine supplemented by a hybrid drivetrain powering all four wheels. Over-the-top luxury abounds, including a retractible cashmere blanket for rear-seat passengers, Italian Olive wood trim, a rear-seat cigar humidor and a chronograph-inspired instrument panel.
It’s neither the right time nor the right global economy to build a car like the Ciel, and history has not been kind to luxury automakers who launch high-end models in weak economies. That’s a shame, because the Ciel really does evoke memories of what Cadillac used to be about, long before badge-engineered disasters like the Cimarron and the Catera. Let’s hope that Cadillac doesn’t bin the Ciel after the 2011 and 2012 show circuit, because the Ciel represents not only what used-to-be in America, but what could someday be again. For that reason alone, I’d like to see it built.