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Wednesday 29th November

The Cadillac Celestiq gives luxo-barges a good name

The spirit of American excess, revived to do more with less

Published: 19 Oct 2022

This is the production-spec Cadillac Celestiq. And, just one sentence in, there are already a few things we feel we need to clear up. Firstly, it’s hardly a production car: each Celestiq will be entirely hand-built, utterly customised and almost Gatsby-esque in its extravagance. And secondly, that rather puts us in mind of another car manufacturer who also just got through designing and developing an electric luxury car. So we’re going to do our best get through this entire article without name-checking the monogrammed elephant in the room.

And if we’re going to stay on target, it’s only reasonable we start with the immense, elongated shape you see in these pictures. Given that our name does not start with ‘Marcello’ and end with ‘Gandini’, we’ll reserve absolute judgment, only mentioning that there’s something about the Celestiq’s form – likely that bit jutting out from the rear – that throws off the whole effect somehow.

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With that said, it’s quite an effect to throw off: a huge, fastback, Kamm-tailed four-door riding on the wheelbase of your average school bus, with both its panels formed and wheels forged from aluminium with definite intent. Well, it’s built in America, so we suppose it’s aluminum, but we expect the practical effect to be broadly similar.

Now, when we said ‘formed with intent’, that wasn’t a case of parroting a press release – Caddy’s actually been a bit canny with how the Celestiq is built. In a nutshell? Casting huge, complex pieces of aluminium. Six pieces of cast aluminium are all it takes to build the entire underbody of the Celestiq, instead of 30 or 40 times as many regular stamped parts that it’d take for an average car.

Using fewer, larger pieces cuts down on how much welding and bonding is required to build the Celestiq. That cuts down on energy and liquid epoxy use – good news for the people building the cars and the environment.

Building this way also means better structural rigidity, which then allows the suspension to be more compliant while still maintaining body control. For extra rigidity, the shell of the Celestiq’s 111kWh battery pack forms a ’structural element’, much like the supercars and motorbikes that use the engine or gearbox casing as a stressed member.

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As we’ve come to expect from EV car designs, that means the Celestiq’s underpinnings form the familiar EV ‘skateboard’, with the battery mass between the axles and an electric motor on the centreline of the front and rear axles. Amazing how easy packaging can be when you throw out most of the moving parts.

Cadillac hasn’t pegged down official power and torque numbers just yet, but the ballpark is about 600bhp and 640lb ft, which feels like twice as much as is necessary. And that, in turn, feels like we’ve just cottoned on to the entire concept behind ‘luxury’. In any case, expect a four-second dash from a standstill to ‘sorry, officer’. As for top speed, Cadillac hasn’t listed one, but the similarly powerful, 2.3-tonne Porsche Taycan GTS is limited to 155mph, so it’s really a case of which number Caddy wants to pick.

On the handling front, it’s not hard to tell which way the Celestiq leans. Literally, it’s unlikely to lean all that much – five-link adaptive air suspension front and rear, with magnetic ride control, active rear steering and active roll control will probably see to that. But it’s clear to tell the big Caddy is – in the grand Cadillac tradition – all about comfort. Even the tyres are apparently ‘ride-focused’, which is something we managed to achieve running at 18PSI, but which Cadillac has likely put more thought into.

Inside, you’ll be unsurprised to find more screens than a cinema and the kind of connectivity that really does make it feel like we’re propelling ourselves towards some kind of sci-fi scenario, like Her, or The Matrix... or Existenz, if anyone except us actually saw that film. But the centrepiece of the whole interior is a) technically the exterior, but b) absolutely the huge, smart-glass roof. It’s apparently the ‘biggest piece of automotive glass in the world’, can reflect infrared to keep cabin temperatures comfortable in direct sunlight and has four independent electrochromic sections to allow each passenger to make their seat as light or dark as they please.

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But just in case they still feel like piping up and complaining, there’s a 38-speaker system from AKG. And having used AKG headphones for a couple of decades now, there’s a decent chunk of curiosity to see what having 19 times the number of speakers can achieve.

It’s a curiosity that’ll have to sit on the backburner for a while – the Celestiq won’t go into production until the end of 2023. And even then, it’ll be a custom-order job where each whim, decision and flight of fancy takes the buyer further away from the $300,000 base price. Which sounds a lot like the Roll...

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