by Trevor Hofmann
Cadillac Cien - An F-22 Stealth Street Fighter
With all the concepts that Cadillac has been transforming into road going production cars lately it just seems morally wrong that the Cien supercar, arguably the most exciting of the lot, is stillborn.
It's still wowing crowds, making its first Canadian appearance at the Montreal International Auto Show recently, and is a fitting icon for Cadillac's 100 year anniversary celebrations - especially considering its name is Spanish for 100. The mid-engine Cadillac is a low flying stealth fighter, with body creases as razor sharp as its purported handling. While radical compared to most of its contemporaries, the Cien embodies the very essence of Cadillac's fusion of design and technology as seen recently in its new CTS sports sedan, upcoming XLR roadster and SRX sport utility.
It also showcases the brand's future 7.5-L V12 engine, rated at 750-hp and 450 lb-ft of torque in this guise, destined for the company's next generation of large cars. A V12 in a Cadillac? Look way back and you'll find that there were more GM marques than just Cadillac to incorporate V12 power. Its flagship brand was the last of its divisions to offer a V12 way back in the 1930s, but nothing quite like the new Northstar XV12.
Expect significantly more than 500-hp from the double overhead cam, four-valve per cylinder, aluminum block and aluminum cylinder head engine. Cadillac's pioneering foresight (remember the 4-6-8 disaster of the early 80s) finally pays off in its new Displacement on Demand technology, allowing the engine to run on six cylinders when under lower loads to maximize fuel savings. It also uses a direct injection gasoline combustion system for improved engine power, better fuel economy and lower emissions. Also to reduce space and weight a new combined starter generator is incorporated.
Formula 1-inspired column-mounted electronic paddles control a 6-speed semi-automatic transmission instead of a manual gearbox. While the paddle-shifters may not see the light of day in any future Cadillac, GM is working on the all-new RWD automatic transmission specifically for the Northstar XV12 engine. It will go into production in 2005.
Its 19-inch front and 21-inch rear magnesium alloy wheels, wrapped in Michelin 245/35R19 and 335/30R21 tires respectively, only hint at what this carbon fiber monocoque chassis and carbon fiber composite bodied vehicle is capable of. An independent aluminum double wishbone suspension, front and rear, should keep the Cien planted firmly on the pavement.
Its high-tech structural materials provide a canvas to showcase Cadillac's leading edge electronic gear as well. Night Vision, HUD (heads-up display), OnStar, Stabilitrak, Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist and Communiport - which integrates the car's audio, computing, navigation and wireless communication through hands-free voice activation - are features more common in luxurious sedans and SUVs (and jet fighters) than in ultra-performance cars. But of course, this is a Cadillac first and foremost, barebones just wouldn't do.
A specially designed entertainment system is matched to the car's unique acoustic characteristics as well. Like its 2002 Cadillac LMP race car sibling the Cien incorporates digital instrumentation, including diagnostics and satellite navigation. Rearview cameras displace mirrors relaying images onto LCD screens within the cabin.
As foreboding as the exterior sheetmetal, inside the cabin dark anodized aluminum accents appear cool, collected and highly technical. The Cien's center console houses its main controls along with the Bvlgari designed clock. Carbon fiber and aluminum structural materials are lightweight while staying true to the super-tech design theme, arrayed in a vertical motif.
The Cien made a fitting debut public drive at the Le Mans 24 Hours on June 24, 2002. It led the traditional parade prior to the start of the 70th Le Mans 24 Hours, in which two Cadillac Northstar LMP 02s took part.
Production? Well at least the engine will be produced in limited numbers, about 5,000 per year. According to Thomas Stephens, Group Vice President of GM Powertrain, the new design will occupy the same space as the V8s in full-sized GM trucks and SUVs but it won't fit in the engine bay of the upcoming Cadillac XLR roadster. That's too bad, considering its V12 powered Mercedes-Benz SL competition.
What's more of a shame is that this vehicle won't be built. GM could have the halo car of halo cars in the Cien, and once again be worthy of the title 'Standard of the World'. Who knows? Maybe they will be able to achieve the quality, workmanship and superior technology to reclaim this title in future products.