With the Ultra-Luxury Celestiq, Cadillac Tries to Regain Its Mojo

cadillac celestiq
With Celestiq, Cadillac Tries to Regain Its MojoCadillac
  • Despite currently building some of their most enthusiast-focused vehicles ever (V-Series, Blackwing) with many fine attributes, Cadillac has lost the most precious and fragile attribute of all: prestige.

  • Cadillac’s upcoming Celestiq ultra-luxury sedan could remedy this with a compelling fastback design, groundbreaking technology, and starting price over $300,000.

  • This isn’t the first time Cadillac has leaned toward the uber-exclusive end of the market. The 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham was a limited-production flagship that at the time was the most expensive car sold in America.

There was a time in this country when the name Cadillac had almost universal respect, and that owning one—or the thought of owning one—was a goal for many Americans, a clear and conspicuous symbol of success.


This was a time when to be called “the Cadillac of...” whatever meant being the best of, or of the highest quality. For the three decades after World War II, no car captured the imagination and aspirations of so many Americans as did Cadillac. Anyone born after this period cannot fully appreciate the grip on the American psyche that these cars had.

Which is another way of saying that this is no longer true. Despite currently building some of their most enthusiast-focused vehicles ever (V-Series, Blackwing) with many fine attributes, Cadillac has lost the most precious and fragile attribute of all: prestige.

The new Celestiq is an attempt to remedy this. It’s the most expensive car Cadillac has ever produced, starting at over $300,000. And with less than 300 hand-built per year, you will not see this car coming and going, if you see it at all.

Exclusivity is guaranteed, which is critical if you’re going to play in this stratosphere of the market. So it's not surprising that it will be highly customizable, with potential owners being able to specify numerous trim materials and exterior details.

Befitting a car that is being touted as the new Cadillac flagship, it mostly sets a new design direction for the brand. The front and rear graphics were introduced by the Lyriq EV crossover, which is a bit of a disappointment given the new face of Cadillac was introduced in a lower, mainstream model.

cadillac celestiq
Cadillac Celestiq.Cadillac

But the side view is very distinctive, with a clear fastback profile that is not only unique to Cadillac, but also any sedan that would be considered its competition. Yet its proportions don’t shout that it’s an EV—it could easily be a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sleek sedan with internal combustion.

The new Rolls-Royce EV, the Spectre, is also conventionally proportioned (and better for it?). But the Celestiq is in no way a conventional-looking vehicle. You could almost call it avant-garde. It will be polarizing, which ultimately will be a good thing even at the risk of finding disfavor among some. Others will love it.

2024 roll royce spectre
Rolls-Royce Spectre EV.Rolls Royce

Cadillac did not take the easy route here. Though the final dimensions have not been released yet, the car is big—at least 216 inches long, longer than a standard Escalade full-size SUV.

So the Celestiq should score on two measures that have been fundamental in the best Cadillacs of the past: It will have presence, by size and proportions, and it’s a bit flashy, with extroverted styling that makes no attempt to go unnoticed.

It will be around this point that fans of the brand (or those old enough to remember it) will recall that Cadillac has done something very similar in the past. In 1957, Cadillac launched the Eldorado Brougham, its limited-production, exceedingly expensive flagship.

The styling, inspired by several Cadillac show cars of the era, was somewhat predictive of future design with its quad headlamps—the first US car to make them standard—but at the same time was firmly rooted in the era of Cadillac ques like tail fins and “Dagmars”—conical bumper extensions, to put it politely—in front.

It did feature some unique touches like the stainless-steel roof and forward opening (“suicide”) rear doors. Being some three inches lower than the standard Cadillac sedans, it possessed a leaner, more athletic stance that helped separate it from the other vehicles.

cadillac celestiq
1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham.Cadillac

Cadillac sold 400 units in ‘57 and a little over 300 the following year. And despite being the most expensive car sold in America at just over $13,000, more than a Rolls-Royce of the period, General Motors reportedly lost money on each car. That likely won’t be the case with the Celestiq, as $13,000 in today’s money is just under $140,000, suggesting a more robust business case this time around and illustrating just how expensive cars have gotten.

In 1957, Cadillac was the undisputed choice in luxury cars and did not need the Eldorado Brougham to reinforce its image. But in 1956, Ford initiated the Continental Division to produce the Continental Mark II, its $10,000 ultra luxury challenge to Cadillac. The Eldorado Brougham was its response.

1957 cadillac eldorado brougham
1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham.Bring a Trailer

Today, of course, is different and, looking back, it could be argued that GM has not always been the best guardian of Cadillac, striving for volume versus exclusivity, sacrificing quality, making poor product choices (compact Cimarron), and ending up with a default “flagship” it never intended to build in the first place, the truck-based Escalade.

Perhaps the Celestiq will help change this. There are those at GM who still remember what the brand meant, or they would never have attempted a car like this. And if they’ve got it right, in the near future you may hear people refer to the Celestiq as the Cadillac of Cadillacs.

dave rand design consultant apr 2023
Tom Murphy

Dave Rand (pictured right) is the former executive director of Global Advanced Design for General Motors.