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Concept Car of the Week: Cadillac Sixteen (2003)

Fri, 01 Feb 2013 00:00:00 -0800

Many premium brands struggle to keep their heritage of crafts and aesthetics up to date without often falling into obvious retro references. With a rich tradition of innovation, Cadillac tackled this difficult task in 2003 by creating the stunning Sixteen concept.

Its caricature-like proportions exaggerate all the luxury car design codes. From the never-ending hood and the cartoonish dash-to-axle ratio to the proud front grill and gigantic 24 inches wheels, every detail exudes opulent power and elegance.

Cut like a gem, the Sixteen follows Cadillac's "art and science" design philosophy and previewed its future design direction, with cars like the CTS and XTS showing strong references to the magnificent concept.

The very clean body, which combines subtly crowned surfaces with crisp edges, is ornamented by just the right amount of detailing. Its timeless design would still wow the crowds if presented at a motorshow today.

The dramatic hood deploys its two wings hinged around a center spine to reveal the heart of the beauty: a unique 32-valve 13.6-liter V16, developing an estimated 1,000bhp.

The V16 was one of Cadillac's trademarks in the ‘30s and this was the first time the brand produced this type of engine since 1939. This one featured fuel saving on-demand technology shutting up to 12 of its cylinders depending on the weight of the chauffeur's right foot. Both the engine and the engine bay are stunning to look at and beautifully detailed.

Unfortunately, the passengers are not treated quite as well as the powertrain. The interior is a pretty underwhelming place compared to the exterior. It features some interesting detailing such as the carved crystal logo and the center-mounted Bvlgari clock but that is not enough for what is supposed to be Cadillac's finest ever creation. Finished in an old-school beige leather and dark wood trim it looks neat, but it isn't much more exciting than any midrange sedan of that era.

Strong rumors about a possible production model have been continuing ever since its unveiling, but until that (unlikely) decision is made neither the ageing Mayback nor the uninspired Bugatti 16C Galibier seems able to destabilize Rolls-Royce and its excellent Phantom as the ultimate expression of modern luxury.


Length 5,673 mm
Width 2,029 mm
Height 1,391 mm
Weight 2,268 kg
Engine V16, 13.6cc
Power 1,000 bhp
Transmission Four-speed automatic

Your author, Flavien Dachet, is a UK-based, French-born car designer. You may know him as the purveyor of KarzNshit, a photo blog that if isn't already in your bookmarks, certainly should be.


By Flavien Dachet