By on June 12, 2010

We’ve been pretty hard on Cadillac’s decision to replace its aging DTS/STS “flagships” with the stretched-Epsilon XTS, shown in concept form at this year’s NYIAS. We reckon Cadillac needs a true S-Class competitor (as opposed to a glorified Buick LaCrosse) to be taken seriously as a world-class luxury brand… and it turns out that Ed Whitacre agrees. C&D reports:

Cadillac fans will be thrilled to hear that Ed Whitacre himself has instructed the brand to build a true, full-size flagship above both the CTS and the upcoming XTS. The car has not been clearly defined yet. The Zeta platform (Holden Commodore, Chevrolet Camaro, etc.) is heavy and dated, and therefore the flagship is more likely be built on a stretched version of the CTS’s Sigma platform.

Needless to say, we’ll be asking Cadillac’s flacks about this at next week’s CTS Coupe launch. In the meantime, this has some serious implications for Cadillac’s product planning. Is the XTS going ahead anyway? Will the lineup be, in ascending order: ATS, CTS, XTS, Sigma-based Flagship? Is Sigma up to snuff for a true full-sized luxury sedan? So much speculation, so little time…

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34 Comments on “Wild-Ass Rumor Of The Weekend: “Real” RWD Cadillac Flagship After All?...”

  • avatar

    Hmmm, this is a good example of, ahem, “subjective” styling. (Are the oversize wheels supposed to compensate for some shortcoming of the driver?)

  • avatar

    It’s bound to be a real big shortcoming if he needs a sixteen cylinder engine to cover it up.

    That’s the C16 showcar from nearly a decade back.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Sounds like a job for GM China. They’ve already done well updating products such as the Cadillac SLS, prior-gen Buick Lacrosse, and the upcoming GL8 replacement.

  • avatar

    They really ought to save there money and scrap the XTS. Front drive re-badged luxury cars really do not have that good of a track record. There are a few exceptions.

    I think that Cadillac is seen as a brand that rebadges cheaper cars by many people. They need to avoid this practice like the plague to improve their image.

    I would guess that if this rumor is true, the car would not look like the above picture. It will be something smaller similar to the S class or 7 series. It should be priced about 10,000 cheaper than either of those cars.

    • 0 avatar

      They need the XTS to compete with the new Taurus. Doing my semi-monthly review of the local ford dealers trade in lot (while they are closed), was amazed at the number of camry’s, avalon’s and lexus sitting there (also alot of saturns). The owner who wondered over (I take my 3 year old with me as a cover) said that the camry’s and saturns are being traded for fusions, the avalons for the FWD Tauruses and the lexus for the SHO (and I am seeing more and more tauruses, mostly middle trim or SHO). He is also moving more Transit Connects than he ever imagined he would (would not be surprised to see camper conversions in the near future, he said customers are asking for the ones with windows and back seats)

  • avatar

    I agree with Richard. There’s likely even a platform being used in Buick China right now that would work for a Caddy flagship. Heck if GM won’t give us Chinese Buicks as Buicks, give them to us as Cadillacs.

    I still hold out faint hope that GM would have the guts to move Cadillac back up into the rarefied Rolls Royce class of car it was up until the 1960s. Remember the story TTAC did about a potential ATS Caddy? Something the size of a BMW 3 series? I mentioned that to my girlfriend who was raised in a family of GM owners but knows very little about cars. Her response: “What the hell do you need a Cadillac that small for? Aren’t Cadillacs supposed to be big and luxurious?” My response, “Volume, Baby, sales volume.” (BTW to her a first gen Seville is a “tank.”)

    BTW styling wise I never cared for the Cadillac Sixteen concept car. The 16 cylinder engine on the other hand is a different matter.

    • 0 avatar

      When you say “first gen Seville” are you referring to the 1975 Seville? Wasn’t that just a thinly disguised Chevy Nova? I doubt she was referring to the 1956-60 Eldorado Seville. The only Seville that I would consider a “Tank” is the K body 1993-2004 Seville with a 300 hp Northstar in its nose… to me it was the ‘first gen Seville worth driving’ not trying to sound fresh, just wondering.

  • avatar

    At this moment GM might be able to create an S-class competitor, the question is at what price? The original CTS platform was very expensive and spending so much money on it meant starving other brands like Oldsmobile and Pontiac. Building a platform and a new car for such a high end segment will be much more expensive and some of the remaining brands’ existence could be put at risk (GMC?).
    Also, not to forget, the first generation CTS was not even close to the competition. Cadillac will need a few generations to get experience (which they don’t have now) and to built trust and success.
    Again, all this is possible, need to look not farther than the history of Lexus’ LS series, everything comes down to cost and persistency.

  • avatar

    I think that if Cadillac did build a production version of the Sixteen it would still be more than radical enough to be a flagship. And really, if you’re going to tout yourself as a world class luxury brand you do have to have the ‘attachments’ to build some freakishly beautiful monster that gives the proletariat something to aspire to, and causes the greenies and the nattering nannie state nabobs of negativity to sob themselves to sleep. To hell with focus groups, stop building cars that on paper we should allegedly want more than a lexus, a Beemer, or a Benz, and build a car people will lust for. I can see a commercial with big Ed in a voicover; ‘here’s our new Cadillac; is your ego big enough?”

  • avatar

    They need to nix the XTS idea altogether. It was nothing more than a replacement for the aging (but still surprisingly pleasant) DTS, in fact they should have just called it a new DTS concept.

    Odd that they would say Holden’s Zeta architecture is “dated”, considering Sigma debuted under the original CTS at the beginning of the last decade. Zeta remains GM’s newest and most modern RWD platform.

    As late as 2007 GM was still working on a RWD Cadillac flagship based on Zeta. It was to be a platform mate of the next RWD Zeta Impala and Camaro, all assembled at Oshawa with Holden’s blessed driving dynamics. That plan was frozen.

    It’s possible Big Ed saw it and ordered the dust be blown off it and work resumed. It’s also possible they will start over from scratch and do what they can with Sigma.

    If I were Ed I would leverage Zeta and finish work on the RWD Impala and Cadillac flagship. I would also sell the Holden-based Buick Park Avenue the Chinese enjoy to compliment the upcoming Caprice. I would also produce the next generation Northstar that was under development.

  • avatar

    Seriously, I would be far more impressed with GM if they could produce a compact class car that scores as well as (or if I dare get ambitious here, even better than) the Japanese brands in objective performance competence, and quality, and reliability. Furthermore, if they could do so at a profit and match or even beat them on price? (Wow, am I really hallucinating now.)
    I also seriously suspect that it is much less challenging to develop a bloated luxo-whatever patrician class car, than a top notch compact car.

    • 0 avatar

      No, GM would rather spend a lot of money “proving” that they can’t build a good small car but only a bad small car or a mediocre one (Vega, Chevette, Cavalier, Citation, Saturn). That or just resell somebody else’s mediocre small car (Aveo, any Geo except for the Prizm/Corolla).

  • avatar

    I think Cadillac will have a very difficult time trying to sell an S class competitor. I don’t think any buyers in that segment consider Cadillac to be a real competitor (i.e BMW 7, Lexus 460 buyers). Cadillac has been off the radar in this segment for so long I just don’t see one vehicle no matter how competitive it is making a difference and attracting these buyers.

    IMO what Cadillac really needs is viable STS/DTS replacements forget about an S class model competitor.

    • 0 avatar

      OK, let’s look at the alternatives:

      1. Cadillac goes with the idea that it’s going to be difficult to build an S-class competitor. With that in mind, the accountants get hold of the idea and kill it. End of story. Cadillac continues to be a pathetic luxury class wannabe.

      2. Cadillac says to hell with it, and builds something that would be insulting to call it an S or 7-class competitor. They’re doing better. Way better. At a somewhat smaller price. A flat out and out return to the days when American cars ruled. Maybe it sells. Maybe it doesn’t. If it sells, Cadillac starts to become a force to be reckoned with (again). If it doesn’t, we’re back to alternative #1, but at least they tried.

      Right now Cadillac NEEDS a line of competent, competing cars to the other entry level and mid-level luxury lines (including a better STS), headed by an absolute damn-the-torpedoes-screw-you-this-is-the-best luxury car available on the market. Let the lower lines make the profit, the top car’s only job is to re-make Cadillac. I’m talking a Continental Mark II for the 2010’s.

      And no, it’s not going to put Cadillac back on the radar in a model year. But you’ve GOT to start somewhere . . . . . . . .

    • 0 avatar

      IMO an S class competitor if there’s going to be one should be after the STS/DTS replacements not before them. Cadillac is so sorely lacking competitive desirable vehicles in the STS/DTS segment they are squandering away their existing customer base and certainly not attracting any new buyers. To me it doesn’t make any economic sense to put the development dollars into a segment they don’t currently sell in just to have a halo car that may or may not sell (and I’m betting heavily it won’t sell). GM can not afford it. A good example is the late XLR which was competitive but not in a segment they were selling cars in previous to it, the car didn’t sell. It was a halo car that did Cadillac no good. I think if a manufacturer is going to build a halo car they need to have all their other bases covered first. If they do they will be profiting from those vehicles to pay for the development of the halo car.

      Another example that comes to mind is when the Lexus 430 (I think that’s what it was called originally) was first introduced it was a competitor to the E class and 5 series not the S class and 7 series but today I think most view the 460 as an S class/7 series competitor (even though they attract very different buyers in large). Lexus proved you didn’t need a halo car to very handily succeed and that was with a newly established brand whereas Cadillac is obviously a very established brand.

    • 0 avatar

      Syke is so on target here. This should not be an S class clone (the current Deville/DTS was basically a FWD S class clone when introduced in 2000, take a look at a 2000 vintage S class). It should be a halo car in the American idiom. Maybe not quite as off the scale as the Mark II was in its time. I keep coming back to the 1966 Fleetwood Brougham as a model of what this car should be, what image it should have, and what price and production level should be aimed for. While the car should not be a retro copy of a ’66, it should have the same kind of stately elegance (i.e., no steeply sloped windshields and rear windows, no rising beltlines and abbreviated decklids), and to the greatest extent conceivable under current NHTSA regs use the same kind and quality of interior materials found in the ’66 (no plastic!). Maybe not as long as a ’66 Fleetwood. I’m thinking more like the 1977 platform which could be shortened 6-9 inches in the overhangs (NOT the wheelbase) without looking chopped off, with the right styling.

  • avatar

    Um, let’s see it says “likely to be built on a stretched version of the CTS’s Sigma platform”. Excuse me, isn’t that what the current STS is, a stretched version of the (old) CTS’s platform? And why does (only) China get a stretched wheelbase version of this, when rear seat legroom is one of the biggest complaints with the current STS?

    Cadillac should build the XTS (call it DTS, or for Pete’s sake, go back to Deville) AND build the stretched “SLS”, call it Fleetwood, I’m getting sick of all these alphanumeric names on domestic brands, they are never going to have international appeal anyway, just give ’em a great name with a storied past.

    ATS = Cadillac Calais, CTS = Cadillac Seville. XTS(DTS) = Cadillac Deville, SLS = Cadillac Fleetwood.

    Yes, I know that “Calais” was an Oldsmobile model, but it was first used by Cadillac as entry level trim line below the Deville.

    • 0 avatar

      Definitely have to agree with you regarding the alphanumerics. This pathetic aping of BMW and Mercedes has got to stop, by both Cadillac and Lincoln. If you’re going to succeed or fail, at least do it on American terms, not pathetically aping the Europeans.

  • avatar


    Totally agree, Cadillac and Lincoln will NEVER be BMW/Mercedes, let’s celebrate the “American” quality that was was exhibited in their heyday. I wish Lincoln would bring back Continental (MKS?), their current MK “blah” naming system is unmemorable and confusing. I for one am constantly confusing MKS, X and Z. To add insult to injury, they were originally to be refered to as “Mark” S, X or whatever, at least that would have been somewhat disctinctive. But some genius at Ford (probably Fields) decided they would be MK instead of Mark. Big mistake IMO.

    Frankly, the domestics aren’t the only ones who should reconsider names, think about the Acura Legend or Integra. What great names, only to be replaced by the pathetic “RL” or “TSX”. Yuck.

  • avatar

    A Cadillac sedan that is in-between the BMW 5 and 7 or the Mercedes E and S would be perfect. The CTS is between the BMW 3 and 5 – so this seems to be a Cadillac tactic – don’t introduce a car that is an exact competitor – but “divide” and conquer. It might be okay initially to use a GM V8 but eventually it would need to have a premium V8.
    I agree with the comments on the alphabetic names – don’t use them. You’ll never outdo BMW or Mercedes with their alphanumeric terminology. Use some good real names.

    • 0 avatar

      Names like maybe deVille, Fleetwood, or Seville that people are already familiar with? Especially the demographic income/age segment they want to sell to.

  • avatar

    Seems like a minor deal, but I agree with the monikers being traditional names not this alphabet soup that seems so prevalent today. Probably just showing my age but XTS and the updated MKZ or the forthcoming UCK.6 just have no meaning after generations of Fleetwood, Deville, Wildcat, Electra, Galaxie, etc.

  • avatar

    It sounds like we’re all in agreement about the random three letter car names. Since we’re blue-skying ideas, why not build the Cien show car from several years back and stuff a V16 in that? Can you say Audi R8 hunter?

    While I would agree that Cadillac needs to improve it’s game, I don’t know how well something akin to a Maybach would really do in the market. Consider the tightening CAFE standards, and the lack of a suitable chassis. I would argue the LS series V8s ARE world class, but declassé for the luxo snobs.

  • avatar

    Blame the Germans for alphanumeric soup names, along with having only three interior color options anymore–beige, black, or tan. And while I’m at it, the death of the column shifter. Everybody wants to be BMW since the ’80s, even if they don’t play the role well!

    GM has, to their credit, started to reverse the bland interior color trend, at least with the newer and upcoming Chevys.

  • avatar

    Whitacre’s decision gives GM the opportunity to build a an real Cadillac for the first time in 25 years. For better or worse, the definition of “Cadillac” in the public’s mind is “Big; Flashy; American”. The iconic Cadillac is the 1959 Fleetwood.

    Make it bigger than any other luxury car (at least 222 inches long with a wheelbase of at least 133 inches). Give it a 30 cubic foot trunk. Give it 4 power sliding doors. Give it the ride of a Citroen DS21, even if you have to give up some handling. Use a big pushrod V8 to keep the costs down. Make a front bench seat optional, with comfortable seating for 6 big people. And, make sure the styling makes people gasp and go, “wow”.

  • avatar

    What, I wondered, would or should this car be?

    What’s the last Cadillac that I could think of that embodied the fundamentals of Cadillac, perfectly executed? When I think fondly of a Cadillac, which models do I respect?

    Easy. I spent an hour reading about the 1965-1966 models after reading this article.

    Ed, GM, and Cadillac: you need to go out and buy/borrow/rent half a dozen models from 1965 and 1966. Then, arrange them randomly in the middle of the lead design studio. Arrange the desks/workstations of your design team in a circle around these cars, facing in, so that no matter how they look up they see one of these cars from any angle.

    Lock the doors, send for take out, and come back in a week.

    You will have your car.

  • avatar

    I used to own a 1966 Fleetwood 60 Special Sedan (133″ wheelbase). It was the biggest car intended to be driven by its owner that was ever built. It had a huge interior and a huge trunk. It even had (vestigial) tail fins. Still, I think that it was too conservative in its styling to be the archetypal Cadillac. Lincoln is “big, conservative; American” (if it is anything–today it is nothing). Cadillac has to be “big; flashy; American”.

  • avatar

    After reading the comments, I would like to say that what Cadillac needs to build is a Cadillac. Quit worrying about the Japanese and Germans. Big, powerful, Rear Wheel Drive, Large Powerful V8, technically advanced sedan. Interesting and a bit imposing. Like they made them in the 60’s. Call it the Fleetwood Brougham. Its really not that hard. The Esclalade proved there is a market for such things. Just lets not put it on a Suburban/Tahoe platform this time GM.

    After that we need a big, brash coupe. Called ELDORADO. Keep it FWD – It’s been an Eldo thing since the 60’s so we’ll let that slide.

    “CTS Coupe, I was driven in an Eldorado, I’ve driven an Eldorado, I’ve owned an Eldorado. CTS Coupe, you are NO ELDORADO”

  • avatar

    The only reason Lexus sells so many junior editions is because of the big LS. Everybody knows that the big Lexus is a serious luxury car, and Toyota has done a masterful job of allowing the aura of superiority ooze into the smaller versions.

    The current crop of Cadillacs has some decent contenders for the junior Lexi, but it will never work without a REAL Cadillac. I agree with many of the comments that it should be a big, classic American luxury car. A powerful, torquey V8, rear drive, and a big, bold size. It should ooze quality from every pore. It should be called a Fleetwood. It should sell for $65K. It has to be a car that will make its owner proud of it and will make non-owners desire it.

  • avatar

    I must disagree with many of the commenters here, who seem to want a Sixties Cadillac as the company flagship.

    First of all, I think that the “European” formula is simply the de facto standard for a flagship. RWD or AWD, a V-8 and perhaps a bigger engine, comfortable with some pretensions toward handling prowess, and a standard and LWB model. The A8/7-Series/S-Class formula is simply how it’s done. Every generation of the Lexus LS has inched closer to that, and each generation has been better received as a legitimate contender to the German offerings. You can preserve styling elements, brand characteristics, and even handling/comfort biases, but the idea remains the same. An outsized car with a wafting suspension will be scorned by the automotive press as a dinosaur, and that does matter.

    Additionally, global tastes matter. Cadillac can’t just be a US brand. GM wants Cadillac to be a force in Europe and beyond. Europe has little appetite for monstrous cars with vast trunks and theatrical styling. Distinctive but not cartoonish is the idea — the A8 is probably the most extroverted of the segment. Above all, the car has to fit the roads.

    I don’t see how “big, flashy, and American” can cut it. You’d wind up with a chromier Lincoln Town Car, since the Town Car is the essense of the big American luxury car: hugely spacious, soft, and cossetting. Does anyone really want such a thing?

    Beyond that, there are other practical considerations, not the least of which are environmental issues. If Cadillac built a modern-day Fleetwood Sixty Special/Brougham, with a huge trunk, etc., it would be heavy and bulky, get poor fuel economy, and look completely tone-deaf. A V-16 engine is out of the question; even a V-12 is an iffy proposition. A blown V-8 as the top engine might be best.

    I really hope Cadillac does build such a car. I want the company to get its mojo back, but it’s got to get it right — the CTS hits the spot well, but another STS also-ran won’t cut it.

  • avatar

    Were Cadillac to produce a car that even had the appearance captured above, they could put money in the bank.

    Natch, it ain’t gonna happen.

    The disconnect is the issue. That the average citizen doesn’t notice is the reason we are losing our pre-eminence.

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