Cadillac dares. Greatly.
In 1910, former US President, Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech at the Paris Sorbonne entitled, ‘Citizenship in a Republic’, a rousing panegyric in which he lauded the protagonist, the man in the arena, rather than the spectator or the critic. It was the figure of action who mattered, he posited, the man who dared. In the century since it was given, this oft-cited piece of oratory has resonated and inspired generations.
At the 2016 Pebble Beach auto show, Cadillac displayed Escala, one of a long line of high-end Cadillac concept cars destined to founder upon the jagged rocks of GM’s timorous caution. The Escala was an elegant fastback sedan, one which elicited an element of critical handwringing owing to its hatchback format, a curious style decision given the US car buyer’s long-held distaste for such layouts.
Certainly, Cadillac themselves appeared to acknowledge that they had some convincing to do, and since every concept nowadays must have a catchy PR slogan to underpin it, the one appended to Escala urged one and all to ‘Dare Greatly’. Taken in isolation, this phrase made little sense to the casual showgoer (or critic) and once the Escala-inspired CT5 made its debut in 2019, it made even less; the fastback silhouette having reverted to a conventional boot opening, causing many on the sidelines to ponder exactly who was doing the daring around here?
We can probably assume that just anyone with even a nano-quantum of automotive romance in their bloodstream wishes Cadillac well, for it is one of the grand marques, a true American institution. It is equally fair to suggest that General Motors have not been the best of stewards – indeed, at times, one could reasonably ask whether either carmaker was being competently managed at all? Since the marque’s precipitous fall from Mount Olympus, successive General Motors CEOs have exhibited an unwillingness, (call it cowardice if you wish) to recast the marque in a manner that truly befitted its once-imperious status as, if not standard of the world, then at least of the nation.
But suddenly, it would seem, from this distant eyrie at least, something has altered, and altered quite dramatically. It is called Celestiq and it really is quite something to behold.
The rise of Tesla has placed the US (and increasingly Europe’s) industry into a tailspin. In less than a decade the Silicon Valley disruptor has not only completely reshaped preconceptions around propulsion, but in the US at least, fundamentally altered what buyers are prepared to accept aesthetically. This is manifest, not only in form and silhouette – Tesla having largely desensitised the US customer to hatchback sedans for instance – but also in purely decorative terms. We have after all, come a very long way from Cadillac’s stylistic heyday.
The so-called legacy carmakers attempting to go head-to-head against the EV pioneers have been battling a moving target, one travelling at eye-watering velocity. On this basis at least, this appears a somewhat futile gambit, despite some impressive technological efforts by the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and more recently, Hyundai. Because the disruptors are always going to be several steps ahead – on tech at least.
Therefore, the corner in which carmakers find themselves backed into is not an entirely comfortable one. Nor is there a great deal of room for manoeuvre. But what the legacy marques have on their side is heritage, romance and narrative. Returning to foundational marque values is never a bad idea, at least if combined with competent execution.
And so then to Celestiq, introduced in production form this week, following a preview over the summer. For the first time since John. F. Kennedy was President, Cadillac has re-entered the very highest echelons of the luxury market with an Eldorado Brougham for the digital generation and a price tag on application to match. No rearward glancing retro reboot this however, the Celestiq is instead a bracingly futurist fully electrified saloon, a technological showpiece for the General Motors organisation and the legacy US auto industry.
The technology is as one might expect, impressive, with features such as adaptive air suspension, magnetic ride control, active roll control, rear wheel steering, an active rear spoiler, and all of the usual safety and assist systems which are a given on a vehicle such as this. Celestiq employs an aluminium spaceframe on GM’s premium EV platform. Carbon fibre is also used extensively.
Among the innovations making their debut on the vehicle include a four-zone adaptive smart glass roof panel, which employs Suspended Particle Device Technology, which eliminates the necessity for a headliner or sunshades. There are also 115 3D printed parts on the car, the largest number yet employed on a GM product. Matters of power output and battery range you can argue amongst yourselves. Adequate used to be how Rolls Royce put it. Adequate about sums it up.
But it is the exterior design that makes the biggest impact, the Celestiq certainly not being mistaken for anything else on the road. Conventionally beautiful or not, it is an arresting shape, handsome and really quite brave. After all, a fastback coupé silhouette is not even close to anyone’s expectation for a top-of-the-line Cadillac, Escala concept notwithstanding. Indeed, according to design chief, Michael Simcoe, the 2016 concept – which was to have entered production – in fact proved the jumping off point for Celestiq, once Cadillac management had made the decision to pivot entirely towards electrification. However, the visual differences between the cars truly are day and night.
One might expect a brash, confident frontal aspect and with its grille-front, the Celestiq fulfils this, albeit with more aplomb than Mercedes’ EVs have thus far managed. Characterised by fine proportions and clean flanks, (there are no exterior door handles) the Cadillac’s imposing appearance holds few visual surprises until one reaches the rear three quarters, where the designers took a distinct and highly distinctive diversion off-piste. Instead of playing it safe and cleaving to a three-volume shape, the tail dips to a sweeping fastback, the huge unglazed D-pillar punctuated only by the blade shaped upper rear lamp units. Say what you will about it, but the level of confidence on display here is somewhat thrilling.
While the exterior is all about shock and no little awe, the cabin appears a more pared back affair. Clean lines, fine materials and a sense of modernity in materials and technology that is not trying so desperately hard. There is enough glitz to identify it as an American luxury car interior, but a restraint that falls this side of outright chintz. Note to Mercedes-Maybach…
All Celestiqs are to be hand-built to order at what Cadillac describe as the Artisan Center at GM’s Global Technical Centre, in Warren, Michigan, the first production car to be produced at the company’s 66-year-old design and engineering landmark.
Of course, discussing a vehicle such as this in the current geopolitical climate is perhaps a little vulgar, and on a certain level, cars such as these are obscenely decadent, but leaving ethical and moral questions to one side, can we not revel in Celestiq’s sheer audacity?
And bravery is perhaps the watchword here, for both GM and Cadillac are making quite the leap, in pricing, positioning, to say nothing of customer expectation at this rarefied end of the market. One it can be imagined that will be observed with a great deal of interest, not just amid the broader industry, but especially in Gaydon, Warwickshire, where Theirry Bolloré and Gerry Mc Govern are in the process of reimagining brand-Jaguar, albeit not quite so exclusively. For regardless of whether your emblem is a goddess or simply a leaping cat, you only get one shot at this level of reinvention.
Certainly, this is not only a Cadillac like no other, but for General Motors, a programme like nothing they have attempted before – a closer approximation to what a Cadillac ought to be than anything GM have sanctioned in over sixty years.
Now therefore might not be the moment to ask whether the market is prepared to accept a $300,000 Cadillac, particularly after so long an absence from the highest echelons, or to question whether GM has the manufacturing, marketing or customer management abilities to truly take on the might of the super-luxury marques.
For now, let us simply step back in wonderment, firstly at the vehicle itself, but also at the fact that General Motors have after all this time found in themselves the nerve to ‘Dare Greatly’. Success or failure is at this moment immaterial – bravo for simply having tried.
 “It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt – 1910.
 Frequently cited by way of justification for some misdeed or other by errant politicians, business leaders or similar n’er do wells.
 Cadillac do of course also make the CT6, a somewhat po-faced, if imposing full-size luxury S-Class facsimile, sold primarily in China. The marque’s high-end centre of gravity on home turf is represented by the monolithic Escalade truck.
 Estimated to be upwards of $300,000 – before personalisation.
 The car’s underbody includes six large sand-cast aluminium components. Each casting reduces the parts count by 30 to 40 components, compared to typical stampings. This sand-casted process, say GM, is suited to “low volume, handcrafted, bespoke vehicles”.
 These include the steering wheel centre – the largest metal part GM has printed for production, the seat belt adjustable guide loop – the carmaker’s first safety-related 3D printed component, window switches, grab handles, console decor and structural pieces under the vehicle.
 As premium EVs display ever quicker 0-60 times, V-Max figures, charging times and range, it all becomes a mite tiresome. How fast is sufficient? How much range does a car like this need? The super-rich after all fly everywhere.
 The Celestiq appears more akin to a concept and the Escala its sanitised production equivalent. Quite the irony.
 Every visible metallic surface on the exterior of the vehicle is actual metal, including an aluminium grille, brushed aluminium bodyside, aluminium bootlining, sill finisher, tail and headlamp trim, and brushed metal liftgate body openings. Both grille and Goddess emblem are milled into cast aluminium, then machine-polished, brushed and tinted.
 It’s possible to see in the Celestiq’s rear three quarters faint reflections of the Lancia Gamma berlina, or perhaps even a hint of the Jaguar XJ-S’ sail fairings. No bad thing in either case – except of course for rear visibility.
Sources: General Motors Press/ Motor Trend
57 thoughts on “Star Fighter”
Wow! Impressive effort in so many ways. I hope they are serious and actually do it. The last time Cadillac had something* which could have justified the lable, “The Standard of the World” they bottled out and didn’t produce. Unfortunately, the established pattern is that Cadillac has chickened out more than once. I hope they have the courage to go ahead on this occasion. Right now would be a good time to have a go, since the German manufacturers are getting into serious distress. Competition in the sector is quickly weakening. Act now Cadillac, for as is well known, when your competitor is on the ground and the ref can’t see, or his attention is directed elsewhere, that is the opportune time to deliver a decent sprigging and some stomps or even a few solid kicks. As is well said, “Have some guts and bring back the biff!”
*Cadillac Sixteen was the last time they had a vehicle appealing to this level. They ought to get a limited run of those done as well. Not difficult as there are plenty of decent outfits throughout Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio to sub-contract. They’d not have to even bother going as far afield as California really.
Good morning, Eóin. Not many cars catch my attention the way the Celestiq does. I adore it. There are a few details I don’t like, but overall I think the design is fantastic. The engineering behind it is impressive too. However, at this price point we won’t see many on our roads, but that’s not the point of this car. Bring it on, Cadillac.
Great to see some comment on Mike Simcoe who has had a well deserved and absolutely stellar career. It was his work that took a set of Opel Omega doors and some sundry underpinnings to make one of GM’s most successful car ranges ever, the Holden Commodore VT, and VX and VZ variants. (Including the version without those doors, the Monaro/Pontiac GTO.) He has been one of the few things that kept GM design ahead over the years of GM’s nadir. That was his first big job at GM Holden and his deft and tastefully guided hand has stood him and the company well since. (though not enough to offset GM’s atrocious management decisions and internal accounting procedures which saw the loss of their previously vital European subsidiaries and the poor decision to close Holden altogether, handing the Australasian Pacific markets to Hyundai/Kia and Toyota,( not to mention leaving no presence in the world’s most developed and sophisticated market, Europe.)
Whether the new hatchback Cadillac can succeed in a market of resolutely three box saloons is another matter. At a price point competing with Rolls Royce, Bentley, and high end Mercedes Benz it’s quite a big risk – though since all the new top of the line SUVs from literally everyone are also hatchbacks maybe the risk is lessened somewhat. Time will tell whether Simcoe and Cadillac’s punt is worth it.
The Celestiq has impressed me greatly too and hopefully will materialise a return to form for Cadillac. The 2003 Sixteen concept was already a statement of intent but, although I loved it as I love the Celestiq now, I was not surprised that it did not go beyond a functional prototype at the time.
The 1910 speech by Theodore Roosevelt is fascinating as it may have inspired John F MacManus to write what is one of Cadillac’s most famous advertisements- “The penalty of leadership”.
It’s not just the copy that is powerful, it is also unusual because it does not mention a car at all nor show one. Below is one which I am fortunate enough to have in my collection; if it is difficult to read on your screen I have put the text below the photo:
“In every field of human endeavor, he that is first must perpetually live in the white light of publicity.
Whether the leadership be vested in a man or in a manufactured product, emulation and envy are ever at work.
In art, in literature, in music, in industry, the reward and the punishment are always the same.
The reward is widespread recognition; the punishment, fierce denial and detraction.
When a man’s work becomes a standard for the whole world, it also becomes a target for the shafts of the envious few.
If his work be merely mediocre, he will be left severely alone- if he achieve a masterpiece, it will set a million tongues a-wagging.
Jealousy does not protrude its forked tongue at the artist who produces a commonplace painting.
Whatsoever you write, paint, or play, or sing, or build, no one will strive ot surpass, or to slander you, unless your work be stamped with the seal of genius.
Long, long after a great work or a good work has been done, those who are disappointed or envious continue to cry out that it can not be done.
Spiteful little voices in the domain of art were raised against our own Whistler as a mountebank, long after the big world had acclaimed him its greatest artistic genius. Multitudes flocked to Bayreuth to worship at the musical shrine of Wagner, while the little group of those whom he had dethroned and displaced argued angrily that he was no musician at all.
The little world continued to protest that Fulton could never build a steamboat, while the big world flocked to the river banks to see his boat steam by.
The leader is assailed because be is a leader, and the effort to equal him is merely added proof of that leadership.
Failing to equal or excel, the follower seeks to depreciate and to destroy- but only confirms once more the superiority of that which he strives to supplant.
There is nothing new in this. It is as old as the world and as old as the human passions- envy, fear, greed, ambition, and the desire to surpass. And it all avails to nothing. If the leader truly leads, he remains- the leader.
Master-poet, master-painter, master-workman, each in his turn is assailed, and each holds his laurels through the ages.
That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial. That which deserves to live- lives.”
Good morning Eóin. It’s great to see GM finally taking the jewel in its crown seriously again and reinventing it for the EV age. The Celestiq (dubious name) is not perfect, stylistically, but it is ambitious and characterful. Am I the only person to find Tesla’s current range rather bland and nondescript?
The real test of the Celestiq, and GM’s ability to raise its game, will be how it performs against some formidable opposition.
(how I miss it… 🤗)
I beg to differ.
Tesla’s design is so pure, it is on the market for some 10 years and it can continue for a few more, untouched.
As is often writen on dtw, one way of defining a good design is when you have nothing else to ‘subtract’ from it.
That is what happens with Tesla’s saloons, given their basic proportions and stance are correct.
The same can not be said about their SUV, sadly, or most of other makers propositions.
I agree with you, Daniel. I don’t like Tesla’s. Sadly they are ubiquitous in my part of the word. The model S is really old looking now. The model 3 looks ungainly: the front seems to low and the side windows too vertical, giving the impression this car is rather tall, which it is not. The rear indicator is too small and its headlights are too bright. Every time I am blinded by another car’s headlight 9 out of 10 times it’s a Tesla model 3. The Y and X, the less said the better.
Having said that, Tesla’s growth is no small achievement, even though it’s success in the Netherlands was heavily subsidized by our government.
Good morning Gustavo. I was actually being slightly mischievous with my comment! I think that, individually, Tesla models are commendably clean and handsome, but there’s a bit too much of the ‘same sausage, different lengths (and thicknesses)’ going on when one sees the range together.
It will be interesting to see how Tesla evolves its very pared-back style when the time comes to replace its existing models. The Model S is already a decade old, which makes it geriatric in normal automotive terms, but perhaps the same rules don’t apply to Tesla?
Haven’t read the article yet (sorry!), but the (photo of) interior of the Celestiq(uementisme) really struck me as a nice design. Just like you say (that part I did read): pared back and disciplined but with enough chintz to identify it as American luxury – in the best way possible. Here’s hoping they get it to market and that the design – especially the interior – trickles down.
About Tesla: to me their design is basically handsome and nicely balanced, but done to death by ubiquity. I think few designs would survive the stretching (in some ways literally, like Daniel says) that Tesla’s design has undergone. For me the Model 3 is “the” Tesla design, what strikes me to be the starting point for all the rest. (I do rather like it, especially when it appears rather dainty and compact next to pretty much any EV competitor from an established brand – sadly including Hyundai whose efforts I otherwise very much admire):
I understand the Model S was probably designed first, but the 3 looks more “right” to me. Speaking of which, the Model S looks fine, if tired by now. The SUV offerings are nothing to write home about, especially the Model Y, which looks like a bad Photoshop stretch, losing every nuance that makes the Model 3 look rather nice to me.
I agree. Tesla cars with their plastic front panel look so cheap and insubstantial, whether they are or not. A jelly mould if you like. A car is or should be more than a white good. It should be emotional and fascinating. It does not matter if those attributes are arrived at superficially or not, only that they should be possible. Those flat moulded front panels do not allow for any character and simply say, to me at least, I don’t care, so why should you.
One thing that has always let Teslas down for me has been their badging. It’s awful and completely at odds with their high-tech image.
Thank you for that. And also bbbruno for posting the rather elaborate copy in Cadillac´s ad.
I´ve had a weeklong chance to see at least a part of the market Cadillac is operating in, having freshly returned from Savannah, Georgia. I´ll come to that later in some articles. Pertinent here is the near complete absence of Cadillac from the streets, unless in the form of some older vehicles that looked very parked-up. I saw one new CT6 and I saw a lot of Genesis products. In the 300,000 dollar range, perhaps the one or two Ferraris I saw represent the prevalence of cars in that price range. The Sovier Socialist republic of Denmark (irony alert) is thick with Porsches; the Land of the Free´s Savannah, less so. So, I am impressed with the eclectic Celestiq´s brave styling – is it a case of over-kill on the cost side? Perhaps a mere 150 k would have been costly enough?
On the references front, yes, I´d agree there´s Gamma in there and the Jaguar´s XJ-S famous C-pillar is surely unavoidably presesent. It also has something of the nearly-wrong look of the LWB Citroen CX Prestige. From the front three quarter you can see the CX – in fact, the CX seems to be the underlay for this car.
Well there’s a surprise on a sodden Sunday morning – an example of American excess which manages to be – what’s the word I’m searching for – yes, that’s it: elegant. I love it! Brash? No, actually. Assertive maybe and self-confident – as one would expect – but a genuine leap forward. I hope it succeeds, if only in influencing the stying of others.
The only detail which surprises me is that it has exterior mirrors to spoil the lines – commercial vehicles have new abandoned them in favour of cameras (as I’m sure you’ve all noticed)….
Shouldn’t a car named Celestiq be a Skoda?
A Superb idea.
Does this make that…
… more plausible?
Daniel, I’m sorry, I guess I’m not aware the current tesla’s line-up… 🤫
I was only eulogising the model S and his small brother.
But the ones I see seem not to be the ones on the pictures…
…plus I thought they had only a 3 model line-up.
Forgive and forget, I must go back and do my homework
Hi Gustavo. You were right to challenge me on my sweeping generalisation! The S is still a fine looking thing (although I prefer the original, pre-facelift iteration with a front grille) but the others all look a bit ‘fat’ to my eyes.
4car lineup. S, 3, X, Y. The ‘3’ was selected because I believe Ford had trademarked model ‘E’ in the usa. Elon at his finest 😉
Thanks for an insightful review. I think the Celestiq is impressive. Personally I prefer the 2013 Elmiraj concept, but you could argue this is more “Cadillac”. It’s interesting and bold in the way it manages to fuse elegance with traditional Cadillac chrome and ornament. The blade on the C-pillar allows the rear side glass to hark back to the ubiquitous 80s/90s Cadillac sedan DLO with rear quarterglass, and also lends the fastback an element of “three-box” in a similar way to Opron’s Renault 25.
As for Tesla, I think their overall forms and clean lines age pretty well, but I’ve often thought they are missing that last level of finesse…tiny chamfers on panel gaps, subtle light catchers, things you don’t notice, but something feels off if they’re not there. The sort of thing Audi was doing really well 10 years ago. The lack of them can give the slight impression of a styling buck rather than a machined, refined product. Tesla are getting better at this though.
Ceri: I would agree as to that elusive missing element in Tesla design, but I would not be surprised if this was in fact done intentionally. Tesla vehicles appear to be saying, ‘I am not a car’. They have more in common with handheld devices than automobiles and the aesthetics, such as they are tend to reflect that.
My suspicion is that the next design pivot will be towards the almost naive forms of the Cybertruck. My feeling is that this is a company (and founder) who for a whole host of reasons, has an innate need to be talked about (I’m doing it now!), and so must court controversy at every step. The business model may actually require it. The Model S replacement therefore, should such a thing occur, cannot not shock.
I would also concur as regards the Elmiraj, which was a stunner – as indeed was the Sixteen. But the sheer audacity of the Celestiq is thrilling.
The Model T has chrome door handles with no crown at all so you see a wobbly reflection and not an orderly one. Overall, they are bland, “bang out of date” even in 2014. Kia, Hyundai on the other hand, well that´s where the action is.
I think that Franz von Holzhausen deserves more credit here than some of us are granting him. Cybertruck aside, he has created a coherent exterior design language that I would argue is “automotive” and fits appropriately alongside the German three without being specifically imitative. Nobody else has accomplished that.
Conversely the interior design has been unapologetically modernist and not so automotive. Here is where Eóin’s point about handheld devices rings obviously true, though much more for the Model 3 and Y though than the Model S and X, which at least still feature a traditional primary instrument display visible through the steering wheel.
I don’t find that overall Tesla is less of an “automotive” project than the Nissan Cube and its ilk, or the BMW i3, or the moose-averse A-Class. The currently existing Tesla lineup is more performance oriented than all of those; Teslas comfortably inhabit the Nurburgring, autobahns, and sanctioned competition events from hillclimbs to drag racing.
Of course I’m putting the ridiculous pandering to “mobility”, CES, automatronic flying robots, and such other utopian silicon valley fed tripe completely aside, along with the unseemly speculative gambling on the stock value that unfortunately is hard to divorce from the cars themselves, never mind the asshat who runs the company. But it’s also possible to regard the cars in terms of their innate propensity for driving enjoyment while ignoring their inane sociopolitical baggage.
Now Cybertruck, which doesn’t yet exist outside of a few prototypes is a completely different animal, and while Andrew’s take from almost three years ago was pitch perfect…
it is perhaps time to consider an engineering and manufacturing oriented perspective which might lead sympathetic recognition of the claimed technical reason and the aspiration, the high concept, which no matter how implausible it may be, and no matter how provocative the design may be, and how practically impossible it would be to meet its targets (having blown through scheduling and pricing targets already), it still dares greatly*, and don’t its failures to date underline that?
If we assume inevitable failures that pave such a path to such a bold and high minded goal, perhaps we ought to look beyond our prejudice against the charlatans, scoundrels, rouges that seemingly inevitably become invoked whenever a trailblazing automotive design is attempted.
It feels to me like the Celestiq gives Tesla a longer leash to attempt to realize their daring proposal for the Cybertruck, if only because of the Celestiq’s outrageous price. As we know, Tesla never keeps its promises in that regard, and now it seems to me that there is less pressure on Tesla to even come close. At the same time we know that GM can probably fulfill their scheduling goals for this car, which puts Tesla under some extra pressure to step up and deliver. I personally believe that Cybertruck will end up compromised like that other stainless steel skinned car, thus I am simultaneously repulsed, impressed, and fascinated by it. We most certainly are living in interesting times.
*Stainless is extremely troublesome to weld. Tesla proposes an unusually thick-skinned exoskeleton formed with relatively simple press brakes, as opposed to the comparatively fancy transfer presses used to form the relatively complexly shaped metal monocoques we know and love. Compound curves are not allowed. How will they engineer this thing to function as a proper truck, how will they build it?
gooddog: Regarding Tesla ‘daring greatly’, I can only agree with that sentiment. What has been achieved, despite all predictions to the contrary is remarkable. Sadly, regarding what you term “the asshat who runs the company”, I too can only concur.
I suspect that the delays which have bedevilled the Cybertruck may well be down to the very problems you mention (and perhaps a few more besides). But in the immortal words of Dylan Thomas, “Oh, easy for Leonardo!”
Gooddog: I concur wholeheartedly with your comment. Good points, well made, especially about the Tesla design being “automotive” and fitting alongside the German Big Three. As for nobody managing that, I’d say: give Hyundai or the Chinese a few years. Possibly. Maybe.
Least said about a certain “manly odour”, the better.
“If we assume inevitable failures that pave such a path to such a bold and high minded goal, perhaps we ought to look beyond our prejudice against the charlatans, scoundrels, rouges that seemingly inevitably become invoked whenever a trailblazing automotive design is attempted.” I would (like Roosevelt, I suppose) apply these words to any trailblazing human endeavour.
Thanks Eóin and Tom for your compliments. I appreciated what you both wrote as well and am grateful for the pervading tone at DTW favoring civilized discourse which encourages contrapuntal expressions that are absent of rancor.
Richard, your criticism is spot on, and your perspective here is enlightening. These handles feel awkward to use, they don’t fit my hand any better than they please your eye. The feel is commendably solid but also obtrusively annoying, a blocky shape with sharpish edges, barely considering the general shape of the human hand in the crudest sense. It’s not compliant with the Rams-Ive school of design at all, rather a malappropriation of it. Surely these door handles are as aerodynamic as they possibly could be, but otherwise they’re horribly naive. Their ergonomic unpleasantness is a direct extrapolation of your visual impression.
Now looking at the Celestiq it doesn’t seem like GM have learned anything from Tesla’s mistakes in the area of ergonomics. They still have time to look closer at the kind of human to machine interface that Rolls Royce and Bentley present. It seems like every automotive designer wants to get rid of door handles completely (just look at their sketches), but Cadillac should have reason to doubt that is also what Celestiq buyers will want.
Thanks Gooddog, Eóin, Richard, Daniel… frankly: everyone here. The discourse on this site (even if I’m not always diligent in contributing to it) is a breath of fresh air amidst the routine rancour of everyday discourse, simultaneously dull and frightening.
I’ve never been close enough to a Tesla to consider the door handles, but judging by the way you describe them, they’re a design failure pure and simple.
You wrote what I wish I had writen about Tesla 😊
Between 3 and S, they are the quintessential ones, 10 year old or not.
Some designs just run a long way: so different in goals, market targeting and aesthetics, for some reason Fiat’s 500 is still alive and kiking after 15 years on sale.
And now for a shot in the dark:
If tesla was to use the Model 3 and Model S aesthetics to downsize further their model range, offering something likea supermini…
…would the final result be a BMW E1?
Thanks Gustavo. You might be right about the E1. If Tesla (hopefully delivered from the clutches of Musk at some point) manage to build such a car and make it look convincing… that would be quite a coup. It would also betray a certain amount of humility, which is why I don’t think Tesla under Musk will attempt it. So I hope he gets bored with it soon.
I agree with Eóin that Elon Musk has an innate need to be noticed – something he shares with the likes of Donald Trump or Boris Johnsson, worryingly – but I don’t think Tesla as company need to shock to exist. Their designs are (up until the Cyber Truck) actually quite conservative and – for the hatchbacks – it serves them rather well.
Not an EV, but a handsome looking thing with an innovative powertrain:
Especially from this angle:
They have got the hang of organising the front end now. It´s far removed from the grille-lamps-over-a-horizontal bumper concept that was the norm for decades.
I’ve seen a few of those around. What a looker and a remarkable contrast to its predecessor (which I see around regularly as well as the local semi-municipal taxi service has embraced zero emissions tech).
That’s a car I’d take.
Real life compatible range and refuelling time.
My next hydrogen fuel station is five kilometres away, regrettably it’s the only one I know.
That is an EV, it’s just not a Battery Electric Vehicle, but a hydrogen fuel-cell powered one.
I would postulate that “who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming” is the most critical (and most overlooked) part of that speech.
Very fine write up Eóin, there is indeed something thrilling about the ambition of the thing: to make an object of visual interest and – in the interior – beauty and thoughtful design, with a touch of bling, instead of the next vulgar shock-and-yawn-mobile. A category that GM themselves are quite fond of.
As far as I understand the hyper-rich (and that’s not very far) there are some among them who value difference and novelty above the usual ego crutches of conspicuous consumption. Some of Ferrari’s one-offs are quite nice, while others are more of the ego crutch variety. The Rolls Cullinan might be the best seller of the range, but the other models also still sell. I would also imagine that the Porsche Taycan sells on beauty more than anything (although it has plenty of other qualities). So maybe, just maybe, there is a commercial case for the Celestiq.
“I would postulate that “who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming” is the most critical (and most overlooked) part of that speech.”
David Bowie said that if he is not making mistakes he is not trying hard enough. You do eventually need things to work out out but innovation usually means failures on the way. Not innovating also means eventual failure too.
True, in the end, not innovating (or not trying) means guaranteed failure in the long run. Innovating (or trying) means at least the chance of success, or failure.
On a different topic: I wonder whether the resemblance to the Gamma is intentional? They’re very different vehicles, but the design of the Celestiq seems considered to me, so maybe they had a mood board of some description?
We’ll know for sure that the Gamma was an influence if they bring out a beautifully proportioned notchback coupe version.
And here I was wondering if I was the only one who saw similarities to the Lancia Gamma Berlina! Thanks so much!
To be fair, Eóin highlighted that similarity in his last footnote. So thankfully, we’re all on the same page here! I still wonder whether it’s intentional, though. I’ll be waiting for the coupé version, as David Walker says… 😉 The D pillar between the rear side window and the rear light certainly has the shape for it…
Renault, Renault, Renault. That Vel Satis looks better and better as the year roll past. The rear window is beautiful and so are the flowing lines along the sides. It really deserved to be made.
One can only wonder how they managed to mutate that beautiful and distinctive concept into the production Vel Satis and Avantime.
PlQ backed a Vel Satis production design proposal along similar lines to his team’s acclaimed concept. It was, how shall we say this, a victim of politics.
Add this one to the list of great concept cars that ought to have been made. I put it up there with the Lancia Fulvia remake (but more original) and the Lancia Gamma notchback proposal (Scala). Now I review that one it reminds me of the 1986 Jaguar XJ saloon.
I’m getting more Peugeot vibes, frankly (image from carsfromitaly.net):
Now that Renault is plundering its back catalog for “inspiration”, maybe at some point they’ll get to the Vel Satis again. Hopefully they’ll do a better job of honouring it than they’re doing with the 4 and 5.
I was just looking at the grille and lamps. As a whole, yes, Peugeot 505 springs to mind. That one was from 1979 though: before the Scala turned up.
Tom and Eóin
If what I once read is true, Tesla will not be sold until it delivers what it’ meant for:
Not a profitable carmaker, but in essence a mean of earning money selling carbon licences (is that the way of saying it?) to every other ICE manufacturers.
If that is true, Elon Musk is to be regarded not as fundamentally someone who seeks attention to himself, but otherwise a cold blooded human being who projects that enfant terrible image to (profit from and) disguise its inner computer-like self.
That reminds me of a comment once made by a colleague about a mutual acquaintance: “Behind all that personality, there’s a really dull person trying to get out!”
““Behind all that personality, there’s a really dull person trying to get out!” I think that accurately describes my own psychological profile. In many senses, we are all an act. Kurt Vonnegut said “We are who we pretend to be so be careful who you pretend to be.” Something that seems interesting is, on some level, interesting though not as interesting as it might appear at first sight.
Great article, Eóin, and great commentary by all as usual.
Whilst the Celestiq is impressive in many aspects, I can’t help but feel I’m looking at a potential next-gen Kia Stinger. In looks, what makes it a Cadillac other than the badge? Does that matter?
Yes, you found the most concise and colourfull way of expressing my (very cynical?) point of view 😊
Richard, top comment
We are all humans, we all have a desire to standout, we all need appreciation.
We all pretend to be more interesting than than we are.
The differeces (being more or less so) might exist due to diferent levels of self-esteem.
(Another shot in the dark)
I’m allways glad to keep extrictly to each post’s theme, as you can see.
DTW, allowing all this freedom of opinion will kill you 🤣
About avantime and production vel satis:
I see them as two very different animals:
I was taught in arquitecture school that one must learn to separate ‘liking’ judgements from ‘value ‘ judgments’.
(I don’t have a cue if i’m writing in english right now).
Thus, I may like avantime (a bit) and vel Satis ( not so much), but I can spend a night defending avantime ‘s aesthetical merits and atacking vel satis’s aesthetical shortcomings.
I feel sorry for PlQ, when I see a vel satis
When I wrote ‘value judgements’ I was maybe trying to mean ‘merit evaluations’
To my eye, completely professionally untrained in the design arts, but knowing what I like when I see it, the Celestiq is a modern take on the Jensen Interceptor. Squash the roof, widen the body, take away the rearward visibility by substituting metal for glass at the sides, then make it just a little too long and awkward in the wheelbase, and voila! Fantastiq! It does have my favourite six-spoke wheels, though. Even the frame of the Jensen’s rear window at the side is copied by the Celestiq’s corresponding slash on the metal.
The Jensen Interceptor photo on its Wikipedia page is instructive, showing its best view, I think. I prefer it to this new Caddy.
Someone mentioned the lack of digital rearview mirrors. Nobody yet has managed to imbue these digital marvels with that one physical characteristic all mirrors have — three dimensionality. The “picture” moves as your head and thus eyes do. No inexpensive digital camera image has managed that yet, so depth perception is entirely missing with the modern marvel. Useless in the real world in a overall way. I hadn’t considered this until I saw video reviews of modern European motor coaches/buses, after an article here on DTW some months ago. But then realized after the coach tester’s going on about that fault of a camera image substituting for a mirror, that yes! My car’s rearview backup reversing camera is completely useless with regard to depth perception. Without lines artificially imposed on the view to help, it wouldn’t be much help when parking.
Too bad Silicon Valley hasn’t invented even a poor digital substitute for the humble windscreen wiper. But they are trying with ultrasonic vibrations as in the latest fighter jets.
Its an interesting discussion – comparisons to Tesla’s innovativeness, doorhandles, and Teddy Roosevelt. Heady stuff to be sure. I’m just blown away by the sheer audacity of the Celestique – not just as a concept, its pricing (wow), but also that GM, known for a generalized approach to the market, would continence such a venture – it may make sense for repositioning Cadillac (applause here), but its certainly going against much of the dull, duller, and dullest voices that we hear so much of.
While one might have issue with ostentatiousness for a car of this expense, no small part of this heart is engaged by the bravado, the distinction, and the running against the grain that this represents. I have no idea if a two-volume design can succeed (the Gamma berlina was similar, it was no more successful). But then again, they don’t have to sell a lot of these to make their mark. So kudos to them, and to M. Simcoe for sure….