Looking Back to the Future

By now we ought to be seeing the replacement for the Cadillac Cien but there was nothing to replace. 

2002 Cadillac Cien concept car: source
2002 Cadillac Cien concept car: source

The Cien broke cover in 2002 as a showcar penned by Simon Cox. It’s fourteen years later and Cadillac are still trying to find their feet. The Cien concept car might have been a help in getting some credibility to stick to Cadillac’s tarnished brand. Looking at the photos of the car’s exterior, there’s not much about the car that strikes ones as unfeasible. Perhaps it doesn’t conform to the strict details of pedestrian safety. The finish has the hallmarks of something one could manufacture. Lamps are normally a giveaway and these look believable. Maybe the absence of mirrors is a telling trope, a standard of the concept car business. The interior is rather good-looking and lacks any obvious placeholders. Many concept cars fall down here: as the years go by one sees more clearly signs of hastily filled-in details and materials that have been worked by hand. Not the drum-tight Cien. In fact, one would not be surprised to see exactly that cars interior today, perhaps with a more prominent central screen.

Not much else raises suspicions that Cadillac’s real business involved kite-flying. What did Cox say? “I wouldn’t have done this car… if there wasn’t a chance it would be built.” He must be a rather disappointed chap who along with Gerry “I’m Gerry McGovern” McGovern must have the greatest number of plausible designs left on the cutting room floor. Both worked for large American firms which must mean something.

2001 Cadillac deville
2001 Cadilla Deville, in case you had forgotten what it looked like. Image source- jalopnik.com

Making the Cien concept more plausible, it had a working V12 engine. GM clearly for a moment anyway, thought this one might be a goer. The falling stock market took the blame for the Cien staying a flight of fancy. More realistically a hundred thousand dollar supercar didn’t fit all that well in a range made up of some remarkably mediocre cars (in 2005 they were selling sludge like the CTS, STS, Deville and Escalde).

A supercar customer was not likely to be well treated at the typical Cadillac store as at Ferrari or even Porsche. The Cadillac people were used to customers paying a lot less than the Cien was going to cost. Or would Cadillac have created a boutique Gold Circle for Cien clients?

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

2 thoughts on “Looking Back to the Future”

  1. Having driven a number of CTS over the years, perhaps I might ask why you regard it as sludge? My brother who was tootling around in a Passat B5 W8 6MT for seven years strongly considered the 2009 CTS before finally succumbing to the purchase of an Infiniti G37 AWD. Winter is an omnipresent aspect of living here in the frozen north hence the all wheel drive requirement.

    In your other recent Cadillac article where you disparage current Cadillac cars as driving like American cars, I had to laugh out loud at the out-of-date preconceptions. Having now driven several of the ATS models as well, it is fairly obvious that they are both quieter and more sporting than a plain old BMW 3 series, and let down more by interior design and over-ambitious pricing than anything else, at least in Canada. This I feel free to say having driven them; I’d wager you have not.

    On the other hand, the lack of a billowing cloud marshmallow puff riding model for the last six years or so has certainly cost Cadillac sales with its former demographic of well-off retirees. So perhaps it is a meeting of the minds coming from opposite directions – you believing they are sludge and former owners wishing they still were, as they exit stage left for the Lexus showroom following a Cadillac test drive.

    1. If you remind me which article you have in mind I’ll go and review it. I don’t like factual errors but I hate being inconsistent. Everything has to fit my Procrustean bed.

      About the CTS: it’s a fair cop, guv, I haven’t driven one. My sludge accusstion is based on my dim view of the styling and on trawling through consumer reviews like Edmunds where all too many owners lamented their CTS experience.

      My view is that older people just aren’t going away. A lot of people become mature consumers and Cadillac was best when it served this market. I liked the fabulous ride of cars like the Seville and Fleetwood and despite some low points, Cadillac could do a convincing rendition of comfort and quality. My impression of the new cars is that they chase someone else’s idea of good. The sludge cars are from the interregnum, neither old-school nor ‘Ring demons like the new CTS-V.

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