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Cadillac’s Ciel V6 Convertible is paired lithium-ion battery

Cadillac’s quest to compete with German luxury makes first took it smaller. With the unveiling of the Ciel convertible concept, the brand is thinking big again.

Cadillac revealed the Ciel hybrid Thursday night at Pebble Beach, ahead of Sunday’s Concours d’Elegance car show. If General Motors decides to build it, the Ciel could be the largest car in Cadillac’s confirmed future lineup.

The four-seat Ciel has a 3.6-liter direct-injection V6 engine paired with a lithium-ion battery. Its doors are French-style, opening in opposite directions without a B-pillar to show off the interior’s Italian olive wood, machined aluminum and hand-tipped leather.

“Large, expressive luxury is innate to Cadillac, and the Ciel recalls that heritage, while suggesting where the brand can go in the future,” said Clay Dean, Cadillac’s global design director, in a statement.

Cadillac has stripped down to only the midsize CTS family, the Escalade SUV and the smaller SRX crossover. But the brand plans a stretch of launches that starts next year with a compact sedan code-named ATS and the XTS large sedan. An extended-range electric car, the ELR, will launch as early as 2013, powered by the same battery-generator combination as the Chevrolet Volt. Developers are also working on a big, rear-wheel drive flagship to compete with the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

The Ciel is 4 inches shorter and 3 inches narrower than the recently discontinued DTS sedan, which was Cadillac’s largest car. It’s only two-tenths of an inch longer than the concept version of the XTS revealed at the 2010 Detroit auto show. But the Ciel is almost three inches wider than the XTS concept.

Ciel, French for “sky,” carries a double meaning. There’s the reference to the convertible design, but the name also suggests that the sky’s the limit, as far as GM is concerned, if Caddy can pull off a turnaround. That likely depends on tapping into more than just the U.S. market – though it remains the largest luxury market in the world. The Ciel, whether in convertible or hard top form, would also target China, now the world’s largest automotive market – and a place where increasingly affluent buyers have shown a predilection for large, lavishly equipped cars.

“We didn’t want to be nostalgic; we need to look to the future,”Dean insists, though it’s hard to miss the retro touches, including the vestigial fins, noted by GM styling director Welburn, which recall Caddies of the early to mid-‘60s, however, and not the excessively finned 1959 Cadillac Eldorado.

The Ciel show car also borrows a bit from Caddy’s traditional competitor, Lincoln, with the long, somewhat slab-sided shape split by both traditional front and rear “suicide” doors.  Modern motorists might recognize the look from the Lincoln Continental convertible used on the HBO TV series, Entourage. In fact, were the Ciel to go into production it would be the first four-door convertible since that Lincoln left production close to a half century ago.

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