Cadillac Green-Lights Its Swankiest Car Yet

Cadillac is shifting into a higher gear and promising to show off a new “top-end” model in the first half of 2015. The decision comes just a few months after the brand’s CTS bested its German rivals for the coveted Motor Trend Car of the Year award. After a long journey, the General Motors (GM) blue-chip brand is finally considered in range of—if not quite on par with—the best luxury rides. An even bigger, bolder offering is a way to flex those muscles.

“We have two cars—the CTS and XTS—that kind of transact in what you would call the mid-range of luxury,” Cadillac spokesman David Caldwell said this morning. “We need to shore up our credentials and make sure we compete at the top levels in terms of aspiration.” He added: “There’s a gap there.”

The decision is also a zig to the zag of the dominant German luxury brands. Recently, Cadillac’s foreign competitors have shifted down-market, offering smaller, cheaper models to get younger buyers into their family of vehicles. Both Audi’s new A3 sedan and the Mercedes CLA can be had for less than $30,000; the BMW 2 Series isn’t much more expensive.

Cadillac has slowly been heading in the other direction. Its burnished reputation and celebrated CTS have allowed the company to charge more. In North America this year, its sticker prices even bested those of Mercedes—albeit briefly.

A big, swanky Cadillac may look pretty attractive to the silver-haired Benz faithful who aren’t keen on seeing so many 20-somethings tooling around in their go-to brand. It will also look pretty attractive to Chinese executives, who love nothing more than a stretched-out, head-turning sedan with an expansive back seat. The new Cadillac will stack up most closely with the Audi A8, which starts at around $78,000 in the U.S., and the Mercedes S-Class, which costs $94,400 before any extra goodies.

Bloomberg Industries analyst Kevin Tynan said GM has been steering its Cadillac model line toward this moment for years. It introduced its midsize ATS sedan in early 2012; a year later Cadillac made its model CTS bigger and more expensive. The new car will continue that evolution. “It’s probably a point in time when they need to do it,” Tynan said. “And a well-executed halo product is always a good thing. It adds brand cachet to all of Cadillac.”

As for what it will look like, Cadillac fans are rooting for something similar to the Elmiraj, a land yacht of a concept that GM has been rolling around to drooling critics for the past year or so. The car is a foot longer than the Bentley Continental, trimmed out in Brazilian rosewood, and sports a front seat that slides forward 10 inches when the door is opened. Here’s how Jalopnik describes it: “The styling is very restrained, but it sufficiently conspires to make your car look like a turd next to it.”