The Cadillac Ciel Concept has taken the automotive world by surprise today by making its world premiere in Monterey, California.

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Named after the French word for ‘sky’, the Ciel (pronounced ‘C-L’) is a four-seat luxury convertible designed to show the world the potential of the brand’s evolving ‘Art & Science’ philosophy.

Cadillac global design director, Clay Dean, said the Ciel emulated the great touring cars of the past, while exuding “a modern flair that projects Cadillac’s vision for the future”.

“Large, expressive luxury is innate to Cadillac and the Ciel recalls that heritage, while suggesting where the brand can go in the future," Mr Dean said.

“Cadillac is demonstrating that the bandwidth of the Art & Science philosophy is wide, indeed – and we're going to make it even wider.

“Authentic luxury is driven by experiences, not just products, and Ciel is about the experience of the journey … the romance of the drive.”

Cadillac says Ciel Concept is powered by a 317kW/583Nm twin-turbocharged version of General Motors’ 3.6-litre direct-injection V6 engine, and teamed with a lithium-ion battery hybrid system. No further powertrain details have been revealed so far.

Developed at GM Design’s North Hollywood Design Centre with Niki Smart at the head of the exterior team and Gael Buzyn in charge of the interior, the Ciel was apparently designed for coastal drives and sunsets.

The long, low body features four doors, and as the rear doors are hinged at the back, the Concept opens up completely, without being interrupted by B-pillars.

The headlights and taillights are long, thin and swept back, while the grille and side panels take on a rounder appearance, in what may hint at a new direction for the brand.

The polished aluminium windscreen frame is a nod to open-top sports cars of the past, and also serves as an important structural element of the vehicle.

The Ciel rides on 22-inch brushed nickel/milled billet aluminium wheels that conceal carbon ceramic brakes – indicating the convertible’s performance potential.

Inside, the Ciel is finished in a number of premium materials, ranging from nickel-plated trim and machined aluminium to hand-tipped leather and Italian Olive wood. Cadillac says the wood used in the Ciel Concept was painstakingly prepared from the body of a single fallen tree.

The union of modern technology with old-world charm continues throughout the cabin. Among the tech highlights is a connectivity portal for each occupant, allowing them to do anything from upload photos to make dinner reservations; inductive charging and full Bluetooth connectivity for mobile devices; and transparent instrument gauges with analogue and digital readouts and an information hierarchy.

Another nice touch is the passenger blankets, which can be pulled out and later retracted automatically, along with the sun lotion and aromatherapy scents in the armrests.

"There is authentic craftsmanship in the way the exterior and interior elements meld, much like a vintage wooden boat," Mr Buzyn said."It is romantic, not only in its form, but the materials – nothing smells as good as real wood and leather. It blends together for a rewarding feeling of uncompromising luxury."

The Cadillac Ciel Concept was not at all what we were expecting from the Michigan-based manufacturer. Are you besotted, or befuddled? Let us know in the comments section below.

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