CARMEL, Calif. -- Cadillac is hinting at the future top end of its lineup with a grand coupe concept unveiled here today.
The rear-wheel-drive, two-door coupe, called Elmiraj, explores "new dimensions for Cadillac's ongoing expansion," General Motors said in a statement. Sporting a streamlined length of 205 inches, it's 3 inches longer than the XTS, the front-wheel drive sedan that is now the biggest car in Cadillac's lineup.
The Elmiraj is built on the same architecture as "an ongoing Cadillac vehicle development project slated for future production," GM said. That's likely a reference to a large rwd sedan that sources have said GM is developing for the top of its lineup to compete with the Mercedes-Benz S class, BMW 7 series and other top-end sedans from luxury rivals.
Stamped on the car's large grille is a new Cadillac emblem that ditches the classic laurel wreath and leaves a streamlined version of the shield. The wreath has adorned the brand's cars off and on since the brand's founding more than a century ago. Sources have said that the modified badge could appear on production cars as early as 2015, but a Cadillac spokesman has said that no decision has been made.
"This design idea for a revised crest reflects the fact that Cadillac's unmistakable symbol has evolved dozens of times through history to mark new eras or design achievements," GM's statement says.
GM said the coupe is not a thinly veiled version of a future production car, as many concepts are, but instead is intended to provide a glimpse at the future design direction for the top end of Cadillac's portfolio.
"Elmiraj provides a look inside the Cadillac Studio on how we envision performance and luxury for the next generation of luxury drivers," Bob Ferguson, senior vice president, Global Cadillac, said in a statement.
It suggests, though, that GM will consider a coupe variant of that future big sedan, which sources have said should arrive sometime in 2015. Automotive News reported in June that GM recently scrapped plans for a range-topping sedan that would have been based on the big rwd sedan's architecture.
GM officials wouldn't discuss details of the future production car on which the Elmiraj is based. But the company's statement said the architecture being developed "expands the brand's commitment to lightweight rwd performance" exemplified in the ATS compact sedan launched last year and the redesigned CTS mid-sized sedan due out this fall.
The Elmiraj shares some design cues with the well-received Ciel open-air grand-touring car that Cadillac showed two years ago at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Both cars feature long wheel bases and unfettered body sides, without the creases that mark many luxury sedans today.
There are plenty of elements of Cadillac's "art and science" design theme, including vertical headlamps and tail lamps. But the overall design is less bold and angular than seen on recent entries like the XTS.
"This concept is the second chapter, following the Ciel Concept, of our exploration of the personas of true luxury," Clay Dean, GM's executive director of advanced design, said in a statement. "It's an expression of the confidence and poise you feel driving a high-performance car, which we feel is an essential element of top-level luxury."
GM said the car is powered by a 4.5-liter twin turbocharged V-8 delivering 500 hp. GM said the motor uses the underpinnings of new twin turbo V-6 that powers Cadillac's upcoming 420-hp 2014 CTS Vsport model.
That model is among the 10 new or redesigned vehicles Cadillac plans to introduce by mid-2015 as it rebuilds its lineup following GM's bankruptcy.
GM also wants to more than triple Cadillac sales in China by that year, to 100,000 units, and to jump-start the brand in Europe, where sales have long sputtered.
In the U.S., the brand has been riding a strong sales rebound this year. Through July, Cadillac's U.S. sales were up 30 percent from a year earlier, a growth rate among brands second only to Porsche's (up 31 percent).