Cadillac Debuts Urban Luxury Concept in Los Angeles

By Charles Krome

Last night, during a 10th anniversary celebration of GM’s North Hollywood Advanced Design Center, Cadillac premiered its latest show vehicle, the unimaginatively named Urban Luxury Concept. The big news here is the car’s small size, which has some folks thinking the ULC is nothing more than Cadillac’s answer for the Aston Martin Cygnet. Yet a closer look at the car’s dimensions—and innovative interior—reveals a package that would be much more livable than that tarted-up Toyota iQ.

GM claims the ULC is “comparable in size to popular city cars found in Paris, Shanghai and London,” but the Caddy is in fact significantly longer than the Cygnet/iQ or the more well-known Smart fortwo. The former is about 120 inches in length, and the latter is just over 106 inches long; the ULC stretches 151 inches and makes the most of that extra room with a high-tech approach to its interior instrumentation. Nearly all of the traditional gauges and whatnot have been eliminated in favor of touch-pad screens and projector-based readouts, allowing the ULC to hold four people in something approaching comfort.

In a particularly interesting move, there are two touch pads, one on either side of the steering wheel, and the right-hand one stays hidden most of the time. When it is deployed, a passenger can detach it from the car and use it as a personal digital device with access to both the Internet and the ULC’s audio/communications system. Consider it a CadPad.

Another notable nod to potential real-world buyers is an Orbit Baby SmartHub built into the back of the passenger seat. When the seatback is folded flat, the SmartHub acts like a docking station for infant carriers and baby seats.

Cadillac also pulled off the difficult task of successfully applying its signature Art & Science design language to the car’s small dimensions. This is especially obvious from the side, where the arch of the roof line blends nearly seamlessly into the car’s hood. Many vehicles of this size try to maintain a visual separation between the two, with the result being the kind of overly friendly pug face seen on the Smart. I’m also going to give thumbs up to the ULC’s scissor doors.

Seeing this cue on anything outside of the Lamborghini Countach usually makes me uneasy, but the doors really fit in well with the vehicle’s use of planes and angles (another Art & Science hallmark). Plus, they also make sense in terms of the car’s purported mission, allowing for easier occupant access in tighter parking spaces.

The powertrain would rely on what seems to be a scaled-down version of the eAssist setup to be offered on the 2012 Buick LaCrosse, here featuring a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine with “electric assist technology,” stop/start engine functionality, regenerative braking and a dry dual-clutch transmission. In theory, it would all add up to 56 mpg city and 65 mpg highway.

As for the car itself, that all adds up to a nice exercise in developing a small fuel-efficient Cadillac that might actually be able to survive outside of the lab. But that being said, it’s certainly no Cadillac Converj.

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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1 Comment

  1. Here’s the rub. If Cadillac is to be truly successful it needs to be able to move beyond being a North American brand and make a vehicle that appeals to a broader audience and that is markets in Asia and Europe.

    Audi (A1), Benz (A Class, Smart), BMW (Mega City, Mini) all have urban luxury vehicles coming to or on the market today.

    I think that without a city vehicle like this it cannot hope to propagate the brand world wide. Just as the XTS is a necessary form factor for a Luxury brand, so is the City Car in the 21st Century.

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