How can the brand update their image to include eco-friendly without alienating their customer base?
For almost two decades, the Cadillac brand has been striving to offer cars that appeal to a younger audience. Younger being someone say in their 40’s. Their longtime base customers were in essence forcing the company into extinction by themselves passing on. Cadillac adopted the ‘Art and Science’ philosophy in the late 90’s to focus product development in a new direction to become more competitive with German and Japanese imports in the increasingly crowded luxury car segment.
At this point Cadillac’s line was full of cars like the Deville and Seville, large sedans meant to provide a cushy ride on the highway and roads to and from the golf course. Younger buyers weren’t looking to own these land yachts and instead opted for smaller, more performance oriented cars like BMW’s 3-series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The luxury performance characteristics these cars has eventually spread up to more expensive models and other automakers like Audi, Lexus, Infiniti and Acura followed along. Luxury was now not only about show but also go.
In 1999, Cadillac unveiled the Evoq Concept Car at the Detroit Auto Show. This two seat roadster was the first appearance of the Art and Science design philosophy, which has evolved but is still represented on 2013 models vehicles. The vertical headlights and tail lights, angular lines(these continue to be softened) and pronounced grille are elements you should recognize as Cadillac.
PSFK had an opportunity to test drive a 2014 XTS V-Sport sedan and see the Elmiraj Concept Car in person, two vehicles which show Cadillac’s current and potential future takes on what luxury-performance means.
Photo by Richard Prince
Sharing the same chassis with the Chevy Impala(which we tested earlier in 2013), the new XTS feels and looks bigger. The exterior design evolves the signature elements mentioned above and tries to distinguish itself from its Chevy companion. Squint and you can similarities to the Impala particularly in the lower front fascia. Overall the styling is refined and the most calmed down from the harsh angular aesthetics of recent Cadillac models.
The V-Sport model we tested is fitted with every performance option available from the factory. Under the hood is a brand new twin turbo V6 which the engineering team spent years developing. The transmission was tuned to offer a consistent or flat delivery of torque. Translated to a car this size, it isn’t quick from a standing start but on the highway getting to triple digits on the speedometer doesn’t take much effort. The driving experience of the car could best be described as comfortable. The expectation with a lot of performance models is a harsh ride from a stiff suspension but the XTS seems fine for a long stint on the highway.
One area where more attention could be given is the design of the controls in the interior. Many of the buttons, particularly around the touch screen area weren’t intuitive to understand and use. In fact, almost every function has been converted to a button when a rotary knob or slider might be better. There were duplicate controls on the steering wheel which didn’t seem any easier to figure out in a short time.
So the XTS V-Sport is a current offering from Cadillac that gives more power and a spirited driving experience, as well as what’s next might be the Elmiraj Concept. This 2-door grand coupe gives a glimpse at styling language that might be seen on future Cadillac models. Overall the car has clean surfaces and very little in the way of fussy details. The angular vocabulary is nearly gone except in some creases in the hood and trunk. In person, the car has presence, partially because of it’s large size and long sweeping lines. It feels distinctly American and informed subconsciously by hot rods, a mix of grace and brute force. It seems a positive way forward for Cadillac and an own-able take on luxury performance separate from the engineering driven European and technology focused Asian automakers.