Art and science, masterminded by former GM design chief Wayne Cherry and retired designer Kip Wasenko, appeared first on the 2002 CTS. It was a crisp new design language -- art -- married to new technology for Cadillac -- science.
The first-generation CTS sold well, and Cadillac migrated art and science to its other vehicles, such as the Corvette-based XLR luxury sports car, and the Escalade SUV, but with inconsistent results.
For example, Cadillac sold just more than 15,000 copies of the $86,000 XLR in six model years. But the giant Escalade SUV has been a high-profit success for Cadillac.
"You look where Cadillac was 15 years ago and it was luxury by the pound, large cars that were not very exhilarating to drive and not particularly exciting to look at," Boniface says. "And you look at what we have done in a couple of generations of product. We're competing with the best in the world, not just functionally, not just dynamically but with the design as well."
Boniface says he knew the original art and science design language had run its course by 2011, not long after he took over as Cadillac's exterior design chief.
When the ATS coupe program began in 2011, the plan was to make a smaller version of the CTS coupe, a strategy similar to what BMW does with its sedans and coupes -- same basic design language, different sizes.
But when Cadillac officials let BMW owners critique an early version of the ATS coupe, they got an earful.
"It had a very thick body side, a high tail, very large grille. We thought it was pretty cool," Boniface says. "It was like a baby CTS coupe. We took it to clinics and it got absolutely trashed. They said it looked heavy and unrefined. It's got this large grille. It looks like it's all engine. You can't see out of it.
"The critique levied at that car was so universal that we immediately came back to the studio and hacked and slashed all the visual mass we could possibly wring out of it.
"And now you see the ATS coupe, and it is an absolutely beautiful car. It's got these thin pillars, very glassy upper, thin body side. There's a case where we listened to the customers and they were right."
Now, other vehicles in Cadillac's lineup are receiving cosmetic improvements.
"The massive, angled sharp-edged chrome grille on the 2015 Cadillac Escalade is an imposing piece of automotive architecture that almost looks like it could deflect a surface-to-air missile. The grille of the ATS coupe and XTS sedan sport the same basic shape and horizontal bars, but their edges are rounded, softer, giving the car a friendlier look. And that is where Cadillac design is headed.
"It has been a long process with a lot of tinkering," says Boniface. "About six or seven years ago, we had a document that was called 'Cadillac Design Elements.' It showed the vertical light signatures, the shape of the grille and the creases on the body sides. It was very prescriptive, and it was almost instructions on how to design a Cadillac.
"We looked at that and said that ties our designers' hands a little too much."
The designers took the elements they felt were important.
"But we didn't say how you had to use them," Boniface says. "We emphasized the proportions. The proportions had to reinforce the notion that this is a driver's car, a lightweight car that is fun to drive."