It's understandable that U.S. auto makers are nervous about the prospect of having to sell luxury cars that are diminutive in size, as public perception has not yet caught up with the reality of urban congestion and the energy crisis. It's even more of a problem when your name is Cadillac, a brand that is synonymous with acres of bonnet, aircraft-sized motors and enough interior room for an entourage. So it's not surprising that Cadillac's Urban Luxury Concept is a technological tour de force, with every creature comfort imaginable, or that the press release reads like an apology.
The first thing that struck me about the Urban Luxury Concept was that despite a small turbocharged 1.0L three-cylinder engine with electric assist, engine start-stop, regenerative braking and a dual-clutch transmission, they're only projecting 56 mpg in the city and 65 mpg on the highway. I guess the acceleration expected by Cadillac buyers will ensure that every bit of the electric assist and turbo will be called upon, and it is a four seater, but … am I being unreasonable in expecting better gas mileage from an electric assist city car?
The Urban Luxury Concept certainly feels like a techno smorgasbord, from the electrically operated scissor doors through the array of touch screens, projected readouts and capacitive multi-touch switches.
It's a great car BUT … it's probably ahead of its time for an American brand that has hardwired “bigger is better” brand values. Congestion in American cities isn't nearly the problem it is on the streets of Paris, Shanghai and London, and gas prices are still reasonable enough to be largely disregarded by the upmarket clientele of the Cadillac name. Maybe with a different brand name, it'd get a far warmer response.
The Press statement:
Cadillac Urban Luxury Concept: A Study Of Efficient And Intelligent Design For A New Luxury Customer
Cadillac today introduced the Urban Luxury Concept, a design study exploring a new type of vehicle that offers a luxury experience in a diminutive size. The Cadillac Urban Luxury Concept complements its compact dimensions with the design, features and technology for which Cadillac is known.
“The Cadillac Urban Luxury Concept celebrates its scale with intelligent, innovative content that makes it unique regardless of its size,” said Clay Dean, Director of GM North American Advanced Design and Cadillac Brand Champion. “It has a small exterior footprint, but is roomy inside.”
Conceived and designed in the Los Angeles area, where tight, confined parking areas for apartments, office buildings and even suburban homes are part of everyday driving, the concept weaves Cadillac’s iconic design elements into a form that eschews conventional vehicle design to answer the needs of those metropolitan motorists.
Comparable in size to popular city cars found in Paris, Shanghai and London, the Urban Luxury Concept demonstrates a departure from conventional vehicle design. It seats four, with easy access to all seats available via a pair of scissor-type doors that extend outward and rotate forward when opened. The design fosters a roomy passenger area, which is trimmed in exquisite materials and features next-generation interactive technology. Touch-pad screens and projected readouts take the place of most traditional gauges and serve as the audio and climate system controls – a design feature that helps open up the interior for greater passenger space.
“While small in size, this concept is an exploration of what Cadillac could be in the future, as the brand continues to focus on redefining industry standards for advanced vehicle design and integrated technology,” said Don Butler, vice president for Cadillac marketing.
Engineers have developed a concept hybrid propulsion system for the Urban Luxury Concept that includes a turbocharged 1.0L three-cylinder engine employing electric assist technology, engine start-stop function, brake energy regeneration and a dry dual-clutch transmission. Based on extensive prototype and production experience, a combination of these technologies could offer projected fuel economy of 56 mpg in the city and 65 mpg on the highway, in a vehicle of the size and configuration of the Urban Luxury Concept.
A new scale of Art & Science
As a strong example of form following function, the unconventional body style maximizes passenger space and makes a technology statement. At the push of a button, the large, scissor-type doors push away from the body and rotate in a seamless, elegant motion. A large aperture allows for effortless entry and exit– particularly in tight city parking spaces.
“This is a new vision in vehicle design that was created to answer the needs of city dwellers,” said Frank Saucedo, lead designer. “The door design is purposeful and technologically advanced, which is the essence of how we’re taking Cadillac into the future.”
The Urban Luxury Concept’s design is marked by a sharp profile, supported by forward-sweeping body lines that combine to suggest motion even when the vehicle is stationary. The 19-inch wheels are pushed to the edges of the body – a design that creates almost no overhangs, leaving more space inside. In fact, the car’s wheelbase is 97.1 inches (2,467 mm), but the overall length is only 151 inches (3,835 mm). The interior room is bolstered by a wide, 68.1-inch (1,730 mm) stance and 56.9-inch (1,446 mm) height.
“It may not look like Cadillacs on the road today, but it shares the comfortable and high-tech elements that owners have come to associate with larger, traditional luxury sedans,” said Saucedo. “As more customers demand premium features even in smaller vehicles, a vehicle like the Urban Luxury Concept could be a solution.”
Technologically advanced interior
A large windshield and twin skylights create an open, airy feeling and enhance the perception of spaciousness inside with seating for four. A minimalist approach blends with refined materials, colors and lighting. These elements combine to create a passenger space that conveys the new perception of luxury: small, exquisitely detailed and fitted with the latest in digital technology. The front row passenger seat slides and reclines to offer a relaxing seating position. When folded flat, the seat’s rear panel offers modern parents a conveniently integrated Orbit Baby SmartHub™ docking station within reach.
“There is no minimum size for a Cadillac driving experience. The Urban Luxury Concept’s interior reflects the ‘smaller is better’ aesthetic that permeates the world of technology,” said Saucedo. “And while this design philosophy reflects what’s going on in the world around us, it also has a more practical use when it comes to the Urban Luxury Concept: It creates more interior space.”
The conventional “center stack” of controls is replaced by a divided interface that creates more space at the forward section of the interior. A pair of projected readouts flanks a large, prominent analog speedometer reminiscent of a high-end time piece, assisted by a high-definition head-up display. Capacitive multi-touch switches throughout the interior ensure seamless and intuitive electronic control.
The technology behind the unique touch pad controls is ergonomically tucked around the steering wheel to deliver real-time feedback for an efficient commute. The right-hand touch pad is hidden until deployed or detached by the passenger, who can interact online without compromising the driver’s control. Via the on-board network, a passenger can request destination directions or audio playlists be integrated in the driver controls. Also woven into the system is OnStar with advanced voice recognition interaction, which allows the driver to do more without taking his or her eyes off the road or hands off the steering wheel.
Befitting its role as a Cadillac, the Urban Luxury Concept’s interior materials convey luxury through quality and advanced technology. Blue and grey leather dominates the interior space and is contrasted by fabric selected for its high-tech look and feel, and usually found in couture fashion. It is used on the seats, as well as parts of the instrument panel and door panels.
The interior is finished with carbon-color wood inlays, brushed aluminum accents and ceramic materials. Ambient lighting conveys an upscale aura that is complemented by the ultra-modern Tanzanite glow of the touch-screen displays.