Cadillac looks to its electric future with retro-inspired Celestiq

The futuristic Celestiq is also a blast from the past. Cadillac

The Cadillac Celestiq is a car of opposites. It takes elements of the brand’s storied past, but it’s also starkly futuristic. At a time when buyers are buying SUVs and clamoring for affordable EVs, it’s a $300,000 custom sedan, even though it’s all-electric. It’s easy to be skeptical of Cadillac’s “comebacks,” but after seeing the Celestiq in the metal at Monterey Car Week, it’s clear that the company’s designers have been working on a real showstopper.

The idea for Celestiq has been developing for years, but was formally announced at the 2021 CES electronics show. It’s still not official here: The first look in California was a show car, although camouflaged pre-production cars are now testing on public roads in Michigan . However, the nice thing about a semi-custom car at this price point is that the transition to production can mean a less toned-down end product than the typical show car to showroom transitions.

While Cadillac hasn’t built anything quite this exclusive in decades, the Celestiq’s intent is reminiscent of the V-16s of the 1930s and the Eldorado Brougham of the 1950s. Like them, the Celestiq is a hyper-expensive halo car that is meant to set the tone for future products and brazenly looks to outdo everyone from Lucid to Bentley and Rolls-Royce.

Cadillac’s second all-electric car aims to create a design mix in the future that emphasizes premium luxury and battery-powered modernity, but does not forget the roots of the American brand. The Celestiq will line up for what’s next for an electrified Cadillac lineup.

As GM CEO Mary Barra said at the Celestiq’s first full unveiling at Monterey Car Week, the Celestiq “sets the world’s luxury and electric tone.”

It tries to cover many bases. It’s a tall, roomy sedan that reflects Cadillac’s “longer, lower, and wider” era as well as the fastback designs of long ago. But it also has a smart glass roof, pillar-to-pillar dashboard display, touchscreens throughout and advanced driver assistance technology. It focuses on the passenger experience with a roomy rear row and plush materials and features, but also aims to be a driver’s car, with a low center of gravity, the rush of instant torque acceleration and plenty of range.

Like other recent GM EVs, including the Cadillac Lyriq, the Celestiq will use the company’s Ultium platform. That makes for familiar mechanical components and battery technology, but the real draw for the 500 lucky customers who get to buy one every year are all the details of the bodywork that rides on it.

2024 Cadillac Celestiq
Road testing began at GM’s Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. Cadillac
2024 Cadillac Celestiq
The first Celestiq came off the pre-production line. Cadillac

heavenly design

GM’s Barra knows this Cadillac is not like the others. She said the design and engineering team “wanted to do things differently.” While the production vehicle will no doubt see some design changes, the Celestiq is noticeably swoopy with an extremely fastback design. It’s almost comically long, with a back that doesn’t match the front.

It seems to use other wind-cheating designs, such as the 1970s Citro├źn CX and the experimental 1981 Mercedes-Benz Auto 2000 concept, but some inspiration undoubtedly came from Cadillac’s own fastback designs from the 1930s and 1940s. Even more modern versions of BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Genesis are coming in, but the details are all modern Cadillac. It’s amazing because it can leave the viewer a little baffled.

With an emphasis on aerodynamic efficiency, the Celestiq’s severed rear end is more than just a stylistic flaw. The Celestiq also has a unique door opener experience that seems prone to malfunctions. Without traditional door handles, the door pops open at the touch of a button, leaving the sides clean and flat. Side mirrors and backlighting are still conceptual and will need to be adjusted to comply with traffic regulations, but make for overly pronounced features on the show car.

The trunk behind the extreme slope will likely change, but as it is, it opens into a cavernous hatch, barely separated from the rest of the vehicle. The opening is too large and oblique and the cargo hold too open, which could comment on the purpose of this car. It is not a family vehicle to load and fill, but a premium passenger experience.

A smart four-quadrant suspended particle glass roof allows each passenger to choose the transparency of their overhead section, adding to the personalization of the ride. The moonroof aggressively places the ‘heavenly’ in ‘Celestiq’, which has the same nod to ‘intelligence’ (the ‘IQ’ ending) of the Lyriq.

2024 Cadillac Celestiq
The fastback profile is very pronounced. Cadillac
A classic grille on a battery powered sedan. Cadillac

Bringing it back

While the fastback shape references older fastback themes, the Celestiq also espouses the “longer, lower, and wider” ethos that Cadillac was famous for in the 1950s to 1970s. The low waistline and horizontal surfaces make the Celestiq look huge, but not visually heavy, and the large wheels give it some sportiness.

There are also small retro elements from the Eldorados and Coupe DeVilles from the 1960s through to the now-defunct CT6. While no tail fins made it to the new EV, the goddess hood ornament (first introduced in 1930) is back as a glowing fender graphic.

Other details, such as the guitar strings embossed in the center console, give it a unique and different feel, as does the red leather interior (seen in the show car) with angled vents in the necks of the front seats. The badge on the back repeats the modernity despite the retro profile with an illuminated “CELESTIQ” and Cadillac logo.

While competing against other high-end electric sedans like the Lucid Air and Tesla Model S, the Celestiq is a class above those EVs and will likely run into future electric options from Bentley and Rolls-Royce.

2024 Cadillac Celestiq
2024 Cadillac Celestiq
2024 Cadillac Celestiq

Look forward to something

While the Celestiq emphasizes its electric design with a flat, open interior thanks to the low-lying battery on the underside of the car, it is also a showcase for GM’s autonomous plans and the Ultifi software platform. This car goes beyond the hands-free driving of Super Cruise and introduces Ultra Cruise.

The Level 3 autonomous system enables hands-free driving from door to door, not just on highways. More sensors will be built into the vehicle, including light metering LiDAR.

Technology is sprinkled throughout the interior, with rear entertainment screens in front of the two executive-style seats. Between the seats, another touchscreen provides comfort settings, as does a center display in the front console. It’s overloaded with screens, especially with the front display dominating the cabin.

Bryan Nesbitt, head of design at General Motors, emphasized the battery powertrain that powers the latest Cadillac. “It takes us to an all-electric future.” That future can already be seen with the Ultium battery platform in the Lyriq and GMC Hummer EV.

Celestiq will be the first luxury sedan and most expensive vehicle to use the platform. Ultium can accommodate 19 different drive and battery configurations and will be powered by two electric motors on the Celestiq. The modular architecture can go up to 200 kWh, provide an estimated range of up to 400 miles and the car should be able to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds.

2024 Cadillac Celestiq
Bringing back a longer sedan style from Cadillac’s past. Sasha Lekach
2024 Cadillac Celestiq
The rear maintains conceptual styling. Sasha Lekach

When will the Cadillac Celestiq be available? How much is it?

The new flagship is expected to enter production in 2023 and be available in 2024. Cadillac plans to produce just 500 cars per year in a limited run with modified features and materials. While official pricing will have to wait until closer to the sedan’s sale date, GM insiders told the Wall Street Journal earlier this year that the price tag could exceed $300,000 depending on options and features.

During the unveiling, Barra recognized the Celestiq’s superior class compared to other GM EVs. “Cadillac will lead the way for electric vehicles and luxury.”

After years of trying to overtake German and Japanese competitors, the goal is to shoot to the stars with the Celestiq, lead. Let’s hope the production version lives up to what we saw in Monterey.

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