Concept Flashback – 2002 Cadillac Cien XV12 – Halo Hypercar Back in Product Plans?

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Cadillac in 2002 was just, just starting to reclaim its place in the luxury car ranks. Long blighted by horribly-engineered boats that failed every objective and subjective comparison with any true luxury brand, Cadillac was finally committing to rear-drive and actual merits as a corporate philoshophy.

The new Art & Science tagline for the brand’s style — coined by Leo Burnett Chicago — needed an exemplar. People were thrilled by the Catera-replacing CTS but the brand needed a real shove upmarket. And fast.

Enter stage left: the 2002 Cadillac Ciel concept running a mid-engine XV12 Northstar of 7.5-liters.

It was a huge hit for the brand, and helped keep the renaiisance moving at an even faster pace.

Cadillac of today is seeking a similar brand halo car above its poorly-named XT6 production flagship inspired by the Elmiraj concept. After the Ciel came Cadillac’s much-loved Sixteen concept — but both were a bit premature for the brand’s revival. The showrooms were still ghastly, and the products were too. DTS? 2003 STS/SLS? Terrible.

The latest rumor propagated by Johan de Nysschen is a true 911-fighter in Cadillac’s future. He will have to overcome the enormous flop of the XLR that shared much of the Ciel’s tail styling on a Corvette platform. The XLR was only pegged to sell perhaps 5000 units annually — and missed that target by 80-percent over its five-year lifespan on the market.

Over-promising and under-delivering has become a bit of an “Art & Science” for Cadillac in the last decade. We hope there is more Science in the future, and a bit less Art — if that makes sense.

Cadillac just named Publicis Worldwide their latest creative agency of record. This means a NY-centered appeal that will likely be terrible.

But nothing could be worse than Cadillac’s previous five agencies in seven years. There is no way that the agencies were the problem. Such a poor record tells it loud and clear: the Client is the problem.

For certain, though, Cadillac is in a better place than it was 12 years ago. The showrooms are fabulous now, but the vehicles are all overpriced by 20-percent or more, with poor resale values still haunting Ally finance.

There really is no easy answer. But beautiful, inspiring concepts like the Ciel are the closest thing the auto biz has to a silver bullet.

2002 Cadillac Cien

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Cadillac’s Most Upscale Performance Vehicle Yet

In keeping with the brand’s role as a technology flagship for General Motors, the premium V12-powered Cadillac Cien concept car is a befitting icon to usher in the brand’s 100th anniversary in 2002.

The striking, aerodynamic Cien – Spanish for 100 – holistically illustrates Cadillac’s fusion of design and technology in a modern mid-engine, two-seat supercar.

Dramatic Design

Cadillac’s design philosophy incorporates dramatic proportions and clean dynamic surfaces. It reflects not only the technology found within the vehicle, but also the technology used to create it.

“With the Cien, we strived to create an ultra-high-performance expression of design and technology,” said lead designer Simon Cox, executive director of GM’s Advanced Design Studio for Cadillac in England.

The Cien’s low, sleek appearance, inspired by the latest F-22 Stealth fighter aircraft, has produced a different look and proportion for Cadillac. It further demonstrates the reach of the brand’s identity.

Trapezoidal air inlets are milled into the front-end surface of the Cien, graphically forming Cadillac’s shield-like grille, which incorporates a centrally mounted wreath and crest insignia. These air inlets — which feed the front-mounted radiators — are flanked on either side by vertical headlamps, together creating the unmistakable ‘face’ of Cadillac.

In profile, Cadillac’s characteristic crisp-edged feature line runs the length of the body, suggesting tension in the surface, and also adding to the dramatic stance. Another taut line intersects the first, sweeping from the tail through the sail panel to the front of the vehicle. These main feature lines work together to give the Cien a dramatic and unique look, especially when viewed from above.

The body and monocoque chassis are produced from carbon fiber composite, derived from race car technology, that is both lightweight and strong.

Electronically controlled air inlets and outlets are integrated into the Cien’s body side. These active vents open and close as required for cooling. Also, air is directed to the V12 engine via intakes beneath the two characteristic sail panels.

The Cien’s rear view embodies Cadillac’s distinctive design heritage with fin-like vertical taillights, and a wide center high mounted stop lamp (CHMSL), which spans the rear deck, along with the characteristic centerline crease. The Cien also features an active spoiler that adjusts automatically depending upon the speed of the vehicle, and a removable targa roof panel for open-air motoring.

The blue glass on the Cien was inspired by sport-performance eyewear, enhancing the vehicle’s modern, high-tech look.

Unique Technology

Nestled between the 19-inch front and 21-inch rear wheels is a cabin featuring high-tech structural materials and Cadillac’s leading-edge technologies: Night Vision, OnStar, StabiliTrak, Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist and Communiport – which integrates the car’s audio, computing, navigation and wireless communication through hands-free voice activation.

Night Vision uses thermal imaging to help a driver detect potentially dangerous situations well beyond the range of the vehicle’s headlamps. The image is relayed to the driver via a heads-up display projected on the windscreen.

Additionally, the interior of the Cien features a digital instrument display relaying all of the vehicle’s functions, including diagnostics and satellite navigation, to the driver. LCD screens display images from the rearview cameras. A state-of-the-art entertainment system designed to match the car’s unique acoustic characteristics is incorporated into the cockpit.

Dark anodized aluminum accents reflect the Cien’s cool, technical appearance, and contrast the rich classic feel of the Bridge of Weir leather. The interior has a strong vertical theme, revolving around the car’s center console, which houses Cien’s controls, and the modern, yet classical clock. The interior further complements the concept’s lightweight theme, utilizing carbon fiber and aluminum structural elements in a design that combines luxury and performance.Concept Flashback - 2002 Cadillac Cien 1402Goodwood GMHistory Concept Flashback - 2002 Cadillac Cien 13 Concept Flashback - 2002 Cadillac Cien 12 Concept Flashback - 2002 Cadillac Cien 21 Concept Flashback - 2002 Cadillac Cien 22 Concept Flashback - 2002 Cadillac Cien 23 Concept Flashback - 2002 Cadillac Cien 24


Cadillac Cien’s 7.5-liter, V12 powerplant, which is visible through a clear window in the decklid, is a new concept engine from GM Powertrain named the Northstar XV12. The all-aluminum, dual overhead cam (DOHC) four-valve V12 engine generates 750 horsepower and 450 lb.-ft. of torque, yet it meets the packaging requirements and fuel economy standards of a V8.

The Northstar XV12 concept engine features several technological advancements over today’s V8 engines, including: GM’s Displacement on Demand technology, which allows the engine to run seamlessly on six cylinders at times to maximize fuel savings; direct injection gasoline combustion system for increased engine power, improved fuel economy and reduced emissions; and a combined starter generator.

The Cien is fitted with a semi-automatic transmission, controlled by Formula 1-inspired column-mounted electronic paddles.

Unmistakably Cadillac

Drawing on 100 years of rich Cadillac heritage, Cien honors the brand’s tradition of bringing innovative technology and trend-setting design to the luxury segment.

During its first century of leadership, Cadillac has claimed a number of industry ‘firsts’ and major engineering advancements including the introduction of electric self-starters, significant improvements in engine technology and the development of sophisticated suspension systems.

The same emphasis on bold, trend-setting design that has set Cadillac apart among luxury marques in the past is the essence of the Cien and of Cadillac as it enters its second 100 years.

“The Cien concept combines V12 power and dramatic proportions in a striking, modern design that is unmistakably Cadillac,” said Cox. “This concept is a most appropriate medium to celebrate Cadillac’s past, present and, above all, it’s future.”cadillac cien5

About The Author

Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of, an innovative and rapidly expanding automotive news magazine. He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank. Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)