Years ago, Cadillac was associated with luxury and performance.
Today, in an effort to claw its way back to the top of the luxury heap, the U.S. automaker unveiled Monday the production Cadillac Celestiq, a hand-built, bespoke behemoth fastback sedan that adheres closely to the concept it unveiled in July of this year.
The vehicle, which returns to the 1960s land yacht era and has a weight on par with the Escalade at between 56,35 to 6,217 pounds, will start at a whopping $300,000 and be built at GM’s Global Technical Center in Warren, Michigan.
The company generated a lot of buzz since it unveiled the concept in July, and showed off the prototype at Pebble Beach this August, and TechCrunch got a first look at the production vehicle in Hollywood on Monday evening.
In truth, the company has been making great performance and luxury sedans for years, (vehicles like the CTS-V, the ATS, and the CTS), but it has failed to capture the American luxury market the way it had planned and wanted to. Previous sedans were designed to go after the better-selling German vehicles that unseated the company as the”Standard of the World,” Cadillac’s slogan for the last 41 years.
“We are going to continue to earn our way back up to the top of the luxury market and return Cadillac to the pinnacle of luxury,” Rory Harvey, global vice president of Cadillac, told TechCrunch, “and we don’t intend to stop.”
The Celestiq is Cadillac’s halo vehicle. Cadillac has previously said it planned to only make 500 vehicles. However, spokespeople at Monday’s event told TechCrunch that it intends to keep making the Celestiq for years to come, suggesting that the final sales tally could eclipse that initial figure. Harvey said that the company can make as many as two per week at the Warren Tech Center in Michigan.
A blend of old and new
While Cadillac has a strong history of hand-built custom coachwork that stretches to its very beginnings, this is the first modern vehicle with an all-electric powertrain that blends both modern technologies with bespoke customization.
Underpinning the Celestiq is GM’s Ultium battery technology, albeit in a different layout than other GM vehicles.
Tony Roma, Cadillac’s Chief Engineer, told TechCrunch that the company has actually been showing off the battery layout for Celestiq for two years, but no one ever asked about it.
The batteries are stepped across the underbody of the vehicle rather than laid, pancake-style in the chassis. The front portion of the battery pack is lower than the portion under the rear seats, and there’s an additional battery pack laid lengthwise under the middle of the vehicle, mimicking a transmission tunnel.
The dedicated EV architecture combines a 111-kWh battery pack and a two-motor, all-wheel-drive system. GM estimates that the Celestiq will put out 600 horsepower and 640 pound-feet of torque and get around 300 miles on a full charge.
Cadillac says that the Celestiq will travel 0 to 60 miles per hour in around 3.8 seconds. The company also says that on DC Fast charging, the Celestiq will gain as much as 78 miles of range in only 10 minutes.
That’s impressive, considering that everything on the vehicle that looks like metal is, in fact metal, adding to an already hefty weight. Most auto manufacturers will make things like trim and interior bits out of lighter weight plastics and coat them to look like metal. That’s not the case for the Cadillac Celestiq. Executive Chief Engineer Brandon Vivian noted during our preview, that is intentional.”
This is the flagship for Cadillac and we want it to be authentic and genuine,” Vivian said.
The company used a blend of additive manufacturing, stamping and casting to make everything from the body-in-white, to the aluminum steering wheel inlay and the compound curve body panels.
Additive manufacturing is essentially 3D printing, and according to Roma, the technology wasn’t really feasible for the project until about a year and a half ago. When the technique became available, Cadillac was able to pivot and use it in the build. There are 115 3D-printed parts on the Celestiq.
The evolution of additive techniques has also enabled Cadillac to offer even more bespoke features. “If you wanted your name or some sort of design cut into the steering wheel or the metal piece under the vents, we can do that. Because we can just print it into the file itself, and it’s not like I have a tool it all up,” Roma said.
Technology and packaging
“One of the most challenging aspects of designing the Celestiq was packaging a good-looking body around all of the technology,” Erin Crossley, the Design Director for Celestiq, told TechCrunch. That technology includes everything from the fixed glass roof that has four separate panels that can be individually turned opaque, patterned, or open, based on the preferences of those inside, to the 55-inch diagonal screen that stretches across the dash of the Celestiq.
Cadillac also says that the Celestiq will be equipped with the latest in Super Cruise technology, GM’s advanced driving assistance system that is as close to self-driving as is realistically possible, today.
The Celestiq will come with Ultra Cruise, which will build on GM’s Super Cruise, and allows for hands-free driving on mapped highways and divided roadways. Ultra Cruise will allow drivers to drive hands-free in the city. Cadillac says that the “vehicle will be equipped with all of the necessary Ultra Cruise hardware to enable incremental feature growth via over-the-air updates in 2024.”
The Celestiq will also include automatic remote parking, which allows the driver to be out of the vehicle while letting the car park itself in a parallel or perpendicular space.
While Cadillac has struggled to regain its Standard of the World moniker, at least here in the U.S., the company’s vehicles are popular in China, and it’s easy to see how the Celestiq may fit into the company’s global ambitions.
Its long, low roof and fastback design, with everything from retractable tray tables that nestle into the center armrest in the rear seat to individual screens at each seat, indicate that Cadillac is thinking about those buyers who prefer to be driven, rather than drive themselves.
When asked about ambitions for overseas markets, representatives for Cadillac said, “Celestiq will first be available in North America. As a global brand, we will look at expanding to other global markets later in the product lifecycle, including China and the Middle East.”
Cadillac says it will begin building the Celestiq at the end of 2023, and orders can be placed through dealers. Interested parties will then connect with a concierge service that will either guide them through the designing process or use an in-house developed AI to help them narrow down the multitude of options for color, finishes, materials, and customization.
As customers further customize their Celestiq, the price tag will climb above the $300,000 starting price.
While that price tag is well out of reach for most car buyers, Cadillac did say that a lot of the technology that the company used in developing the Celestiq will show up in more attainable vehicles as well. The manufacturing techniques, as well as some of the packaging and technology, is likely to show up in future Cadillac vehicles priced for those of us who are mere mortals.