By on September 19, 2012

Kyree writes:

Mister Mehta,

I should start by saying that I thoroughly enjoy the pure and unadulterated experience of TTAC. I also enjoy poking fun at you because you are a Mark VIII diehard, while I am a huge fan of the Gen-8 Riviera, which you have described as having an exterior full of “unrefined lumps and curves.” I suppose they’re both great personal luxury coupes–the Riv’s just a better one. (Tongue out!)

Just as well, I should say that I am currently in school to be a mechanical engineer (with a concentration in the automotive field), but the parts I wish to create are the visual ones that the customer would see (body, dashboards, steering wheel hubs, et cetera. As such I derive particular enjoyment from your Vellum Venom segment, as peoples’ eyes glaze over when I describe elements like DLOs and A-pillars.

The first is the Cadillac ATS. It is, in a departure from Cadillac trends, a world-class car with world-class styling. The goofy full-length grilles and drastic proportions were eschewed for something that is demure and agreeable. I couldn’t believe the GM luxury division would be able to manage such a feat, but it seems that they have. I’ll let you be the final judge on that, though.

The other vehicle is the Infiniti JX. It is the first production car to fully feature the brand’s new “windswept” design cues, mainly on the front fascia and the controversial D-pillars. Though it does hide its stretched-Murano/’13 Pathfinder origins, I don’t know what to make of it.

Hopefully, you’ll take these into consideration, and thank you for many moments of literary and aesthetic enjoyment.
Kyree

Sajeev answers:

I’ll answer/debate your comments in order of importance, lowest to highest.

  1. Son, a Gen-VIII Riv fan taking shots at the Mark VIII is like a dandelion hatin’ on a Redwood.  I’d be terrified if you were an original Lexus SC fanatic, however. (Tongue Out!)
  2. Think for yourself, but you can see what I make of the Infiniti JX right here. It should be “windswept” to the Over-Designed CUV Detention Hall: the same one where the Pontiac Aztek parks itself in shame…for different reasons, obviously.
  3. I was once in school to be a mechanical engineer too!  I wanted to work with designers and help them make parts. Then, on a fateful evening in 1996, FoMoCo had an open house for engineering students in a fancy hall at UT Austin. Not to wallow in the past, but Ford engineers in the business said that “our” dream could never happen.  I took the business card of Dan: someone at Ford who knew what they expected from Automotive/Industrial Design students. I then wandered away from campus to the luxurious confines of my 1983 Continental Valentino in the student lot. I marinated over what I just heard. And about 1.5 years later, I was a student at the Center (now College) for Creative Studies doing the damn thing for real. My point?  Don’t hold your breath for working on the stylish bits, such “cross functional” opportunities are rare for engineers. 
  4. I agree about the ATS:  it’s the high point of Cadillac’s Art and Science design.  The original CTS was horrifying and everything else was either milquetoast (STS, DTS) or only mildly interesting (XLR, current CTS, Escalade). The only problem?  Proportioning: the size of one item relative to the rest.  The ATS has fascias with a nice balance between grille/headlight/bumper/hood/etc, but the package is too Acura TSX-like.  From their current, Escalade-centric sales stats in Germany to the disconnected-from-reality BLS, we all know what makes/breaks a Cadillac…especially for the Europeans.  I even heard (off the record from a fellow auto-journo?) that GEN-I CTS’s for sale in the Czech Republic generally retail for the same price as a comparable Ford Mondeo. Which equals Cadillac Design FAIL.

 

What does a designer consider when making a REAL Caddy aimed at European-minded minds?

The space between the front axle and the firewall (dash-to-axle ratio) needs to be long, which the ATS nails.  But you need the right amount of front/rear overhang to sell a Cadillac. You need a hood that oversells that (standard, cough) V8 engine. You need a trunk that puts a BMW’s Bangle Butt to shame, reminding people why America is NUMBER ONE, SON. And if that extra overhang adds 1-2 seconds to the ATS’ lap times on the ring?  Go back to my “Cadillacs don’t sell well in Europe” notion above. Nobody frickin’ cares about that!!!

You need something like…wait for it…a proper European Touring Sedan from Cadillac. Why have “TS” anything, when you want to pay for what those letters stand for?

 

 

Don’t you dare call it a DTS.  Aside from the obvious superiority of its naming convention, the DeVille Touring Sedan got it right.  It looks like a Caddy, but it has the cleaner design elements of a European car.  Perfect? Far from it. It suffers from the same half-assed upgrades as most Euro-centric GM products of the time. Remember the Oldsmobile International Series?

Plus, this is wrong-wheel drive in a class of RWD excellence.  Imagine something like the DeVille Touring Sedan on an ATS platform! The proportions, NOT the dated styling.

 

 

Proportioning and overhang: talk about overselling that Standard V8 Engine! I’d work that body over in rear-wheel drive Art/Science fashion, then respectfully turn heads at the ‘ring any day. Proportioning is what makes a modern day Cadillac.

More to come, when I spot an ATS in the wild.

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33 Comments on “Vellum Venom Vignette: The Normalization of Art and Science?...”


  • avatar
    Sundowner

    Sajeev, when you offer objective opinion about car designs, I agree with you pretty much spot-on. When you stray into your love zone of luxury sedans, your tastes seem to align closer to what I’d expect of an AARP member. Like so old that they lament the loss of a tape deck in new cars to play thier Lawrence Welk tapes. Like so old that there just MUST be a pocket in the console that will hold denture cream. Like so old that they will be upset that crusie control doesn’t work below 18 mph. Like so old that they think bluetooth is a fabric upholstry pattern from teh 60′s. (you see where I’m going with this, right? ;) )

    • 0 avatar
      Halftruth

      Ya man.. I am feeling that too.. I think he has a point about the older Caddy’s proportions.. At least you can see out of it!!

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        Those insanely large windows amuse me, and repulse me at the same time. Horrible. Nothing ruins the looks of a car as much as huge windows do, and cars had insanely large windows for way too long.

        High beltlines forever!!

        Why do you need/want to see the bottom of a car next to you?

    • 0 avatar

      You are definitely not taking my “Art and Science” addition to the DeVille Touring Sedan to heart. In the paragraph below the black one.

      Keep the DeVille’s proportions, add Art and Science style sheetmetal. Ain’t nothing fuddy-duddy about that.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Everyone always cracks the ‘old fogie’ jokes about Cadillacs but I tend to disagree, a Cadillac is supposed to be an aspire-able top-of-the-line stylish ride, and I think with most models in the past they nailed it. Trouble was the ‘kids’ gravitated toward offerings from the Land of the Rising Sun and if they could swing the payments, Teutonic snob mobiles, and that kind of stuff drives Marketing nuts. So the swung the pendulum the other direction, too far IMO, and became the new Panzer wagon.

      I have to say it seems to be working as a friend of my brothers (mid 20s) just yesterday told me he loves his 2010 lease and wants to move up to the Catera Coupe… this on a cop’s salary tells me he’s blowing a nice chunk of income for a GM product that’s not a 400% markup truck. Weird sells I suppose, esp when you betray your entire brand’s hundred plus year heritage to do so.

      I have to agree with Sajeev on the ATS it much less of a fail than the first (cough cough and current) generation CTS, it doesn’t make me want to vomit which is a huge improvement over the other sedan. I also have to point out I think the grille is very well done on this vs CTS, it seems a bit thinner, perhaps wider, and much more refined. Well done GM!

      Oh and personally I know sedans are the order of the day, but I think ATS is too small to be a proper Cadillac sedan (although so is CTS), a coupe would have been more appropriate IMO… an ATS coupe in place of Catera’s would have worked out nicer.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        “Cadillac is supposed to be an aspire-able top-of-the-line stylish ride”

        Ha ha! I merely “aspired” to a top-of-the-line Impala LTZ from a base model – but I love it anyway…I passed on a Buick. It does have that wonderful Caddy 3.6L engine, however.

        Once upon a time I wanted a Cadillac, but I see no real advantage from what I have. Perhaps I’m just a “regular guy” after all. I’m cheap, too…

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I know there was a time, despite the models all being clones of each other, where the materials on a Cadillac were vastly superior to the ones say on your Lumina/Caprice/Impala of the day. I’m not sure this is still true, now it seems if you buy Cadillac, you get access to a unique model you can’t get in a Chevy/Buick, usually with Cadillac-only engine choices to match.

        Hehe of course oops we put the good engine in standard on the outgoing fleet car, but for car guys this was just a parting gift from a once ubiquitous platform.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @Zackman- In 1995 I made a trip to the Lordstown plan with a company Seville SLS. Parked in my drive was a new Olds 88 with the exclusive to 1995 Olds H car extended range 3.8L V6. Not quite the same comparison, but I remember thinking the Olds was 90% the car of the SLS, but about 1/2 the price. You have to pay a lot more to get just a little more cars in some cases. Your Impala seems a very good example for today.

        Hanging out on Woodward the night before the cruise, I spotted an ATS. It stood out because of its proportions and lighting and grabbed my attention making me me wonder “What the hell is that?”

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “exclusive to 1995 Olds H car extended range 3.8L V6″

        extended range?

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @28-Cars-Later
        Inside GM powertrain, we called the new 205 HP 3.8L V6 the Extended Range V6 because it had higher RPM breathing than its 170 HP predecessor (thus extended rpm range). I remember the noticably higher revs the new engine could achieve while still pulling when I bought a new Olds 88 to drive across country on a family vacation. It was a wonderful family car, for the time. I also lost my *ss compared to our Cutlass Supremes when I sold it after a year! I loved the car, but got a new car every year for my wife back then.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Doc Olds – Thx for the clarification.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    “Imagine something like the DeVille Touring Sedan on an ATS platform!”

    I would rather imagine a Gen-VIII Riv on a Lexus SC platform.

    The only thing that really stands out to me about the DeVille Touring Sedan is that it has a low beltline and large greenhouse. Just like German sedans used to have. But German sedans no longer have those either. And of course FWD makes its dash-to-axle ratio horrible. In terms of early ’90s Cadillac the Fleetwood was much better than the DeVille.

    • 0 avatar

      The overhang stands out too. If it was RWD, sported a standard LS motor (let’s update the V8 too) and had modern Cadillac styling, we’d have a unique reason to buy a Caddy over anything.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        There is no unique anything about modern luxury vehicles sans the badge. I can see the DeVille proportions. It’s like staring at a Magic Eye, after a while you can see through all the typical 90′s GM horse crap and find it’s inner beauty.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        Re Sajeev: So a long car with a clean design featuring a very defined three-box layout, rear wheel drive, and a pushrod V8? I guess the modern DeVille Touring Sedan is the Chrysler 300C.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        Re tresemonos: When I stare at the DeVille it turns into an Oldsmobile 98 or Buick Park Avenue. An updated, super clean design rear wheel drive Buick Park Avenue is available, in China. Or to the coppers as a Chevy Caprice. They can even get an LS V8.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Dumping XTS and building a proper Fleetwood seems like a slam dunk to me, esp if you are going to restrict Caprice sales to police only.

        Chrysler puts out the 300 for 30K? Despite the recent 300 goodness remind the buying public these are Chryslers, drop a standard LSx in your Fleetwood and up the msrp 50%, cha ching!

      • 0 avatar

        racer-esq: you missed the part about overhang and overselling things in a traditional Cadillac way. The 300 has never cut the mustard with its German overhangs.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        I bet the XTS contains a lot of short term profit. It’s basically a tarted-up Malibu for $50K. But it is long term bad for the brand. It would have been better for the brand if the top Cadillac sedan was based on the Holden Caprice/New Chevy Caprice, with the 6 liter LS, Cadillac styling and a really nice interior.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        @racer-esq

        Very much agreed, maybe ‘New GM’ will start thinking long term.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        The only way I see XTS being bad for the brand is if it stays in production instead of a true RWD flagship sedan or becomes like a Panther (sorry Sajeev) or W body, where it’s in production too long. From what I’ve read, it’s supposed to be a short term solution. We’ll know if the Ciel concept ever gets into production.

        Conceptually, the XTS is the same idea as many Audis, nominally FWD but can be AWD. The XTS appears to be much better trimmed and equipped than any other Epsilon bodied car. Which is how it should be.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        There are basically two VW/Audi platforms, the mass market transverse platform and the premium longitudinal platform. The premium longitudinal platform is FWD in its base form, but still a premium platform, with things like the four-link front suspension, that cannot be had in lower than an A4 (its availability in the old Passat made that car a performance bargain).

        The XTS is like Audi building an A6 or an A8 out of a Jetta.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    “What does a designer consider when making a REAL Caddy aimed at European-minded minds?”

    Huh?

    I thought the ATS was aimed at the Chinese market, or some such thing.

    Actually, I don’t disagree with the rest of the post, just the premise that the ATS was aimed at Europe. Or am I misreading that?

    Maybe John Mallett or Reeves Callaway will get busy stuffing an LSx into an ATS once there are more in the wild.

    THAT would be the REAL deal.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      Cadillac faces a huge problem. Does it sell a classic Cadillac boat, similar to the Chrysler 300, for $30K, like the Chrysler 300, or does it try to match the German tiered structure, where a Chrysler 300 size car goes for $70K+ (e.g. S/7/A8). Matching the German tiered structure is where the profit is, but it is also very difficult. Everything has to be the latest and the best.

      If Cadillac is going to try to match the German tiered structure then the base Cadillac has to be a small car with a turbo-inline-4. There has to be a reason to upgrade. If the base Cadillac is a large sedan with an LS V8 then where does Cadillac go from there?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Copying the Germans was a desperate sell out move IMO, they are going to have to find something unique to do with the brand if its going to survive beyond 2025 or so.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @28 Cars: I keep hearing that same line about copying the Germans, but by the same line of reasoning building a newer 1969 Sedan DeVille wasn’t getting the job done either.

        The Germans define the market. GM knows it, the Japanese know it (mostly Toyota, the other two aren’t really in the ballgame and actually Toyota is falling out, IMO) and even the Koreans know it. Witness the slightly Teutonic Genesis Sedan (now with “R” badging!). If the Germans didn’t define the market, we’d have another 1980′s era Infiniti with belt buckle front grille. But, since the Japanese have mostly failed (not all but mostly), everyone has a Mercedes-like grille.

        It’s the swimming pool that everyone wants to be in.

        Except in that pool, the Germans are the sharks, and they intend on eating everything else alive. Cadillac is trying to grow sharks quickly. Right now they’re at barracuda or killer whale stage.

        But, I see them growing sharks and soon.

      • 0 avatar

        “If the base Cadillac is a large sedan with an LS V8 then where does Cadillac go from there?”

        Cadillac doesn’t necessarily need to go anywhere. The decline of this brand has a direct correlation to the number of platforms added to the portfolio. It all started with the Calais. (probably)

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        @geozinger

        I like the sharks in a pool comparison… of course it isn’t as adroit as say, snakes on a plane, but I digress.

        Personally I would stop chasing volume with Cadillac altogether since as you point out, there are many sharks in the pool and Cadillac’s blood has been in the water since the late 70s… not to mention they lost all credibility with many luxury buyers a long time ago. Slim down to three models, Fleetwood, Eldorado, Catera and drop the trucks as they insult my intelligence. High profit, low volume similar to whats rumored to happen with this ‘SS performance’ brand which supposedly is coming out. Chase volume with your tarted up Opeluicks and Daeworolets.

        The screwed up thing is though Geozinger, the trucks make up a little over half the sales volume… 2011 SRX with 56,905 and 2011 Escalade variants at 25,503 of a total of 152,389 units according to the Internets. So in essence they are married to trucks for better or worse.

        Maybe one day they will build something akin to the Ciel and realize something authentic and highly profitable is preferred to reverse engineer someone else’s secret sauce.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @28 Cars: I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who finds the ‘Sclade distasteful, on so many levels. I’ve been in both generations of SRX, and I liked them. Again, the market dictates *some* kind of SUV for luxury marques. And again, Cadillac needs to be there. Good Gravy, since Mercedes can sell that upholstered ammo box with AMG V8 for ridiculous money, what does that tell you?

        I’m hoping that at some time in the near future, Cadillac can get slimmed down to a smaller lineup. All car companies need a volume leader, this will probably fall on the ATS I’m guessing.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “Maybe John Mallett or Reeves Callaway will get busy stuffing an LSx into an ATS…”

      Methinks Cadillac will do that themselves (ATS-V) once the fifth gen small block enters production.

    • 0 avatar

      Geozinger: From what the commercials say, the ATS is aimed at people who’d buy a BMW 3-series. At least in America.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    I have mixed feelings about the ATS. On the one hand, it promises to be the most driver-oriented car Cadillac has ever made and that’s exciting. Cadillac has a real advantage with Magnetic Ride Control which is very impressive. I had it on my last car, an STS with the Northstar and performance package and the combination of smooth ride and seamless transition to firm damping was a revelation. I miss it in my current CTS.

    On the other hand, I find the muted Arts & Science styling to be boring. It may be well-proportioned, but it lacks the exciting/polarizing details that make the CTS such a unique car. The grill, in particular, has a timid quality. I am glad, however, to see the omission of the silly fender vent.

  • avatar
    outback_ute

    Sajeev I can’t see how an ATS with the overhangs doubled in length would benefit Cadillac, it would become the size of the CTS without any interior space.

    The front overhang on that Deville looks to me to be larger than any of the ‘proper’ Cadillacs of the 1970s or earlier, and speaks of fwd which does not reflect a prestigious car. Even on a Ciel-style flagship the front axle should be placed further forward.


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