At the launch of the long-awaited redesign of the 2015 Escalade earlier this week in Manhattan, Cadillac pulled out all the stops to put America’s best-selling luxury SUV back on the design leaderboard: cocktails, red carpets, ultraglam documentary-style portrait photography by culture maven Autumn de Wilde lining the walls, Donald Trump in the front row and hip-hop quartet Far East Movement prepped to take over the after-party; the various factions of the Escalade market were all in one room, waiting for Bob Ferguson, Senior Vice President of Cadillac, to take the stage.
In an age where eco-efficient but roomy vehicles such as the Fiat 500L, Mini Paceman and Range Rover Evoque have stolen market share, it was a surprise for some that GM prepped new versions of its SUV line, culminating in the Suburban and Tahoe unveils last month and the Escalade this week. However naysayers may react, there will always be a market for large, multipassenger luxury vehicles in America from celebrities, VIPs, Hampton families on road trips and business tycoons on Wall Street. The concept behind the Escalade was simple: a luxurious, capable performance SUV that took no shortcuts and stood out in the crowd.
With the 2015 Escalade, Cadillac has delivered this yet again, and then some.
Gone is the chrome that dominated the previous generation, replaced with slick, clean lines that fall entirely within the Art and Science design language we’ve been seeing in Cadillac’s recent debuts such as the suave Elmiraj Concept and the 2013 ATS. Ferguson elaborated on the design progression the fourth-gen flagship brings to the brand: “The 2015 Escalade is completely new and elevated in design and technology inside and out. The clear objective is to once again assume the leadership position among luxury SUVs.”
Under the hood, the 2015’s EcoTec3 6.2-liter V8 with direct fuel injection offers 420 horses of power with 460 pound-feet of torque through its six-speed auto transmission. Offered in the standard and extended ESV editions (almost two feet of additional length), the Escalade will be available in both two- and four-wheel drive for those looking to get adventurous. Coupled with Cadillac’s Magnetic Ride Control, the world’s fastest-reacting suspension system, this vehicle is in an excellent place for driver-controlled performance. Unfortunately, we doubt the EXT truck variant is on the books for the future, though we have fond memories of a pile of Playmates posing in one upon its launch back in the day.
Where Cadillac has taken the biggest steps forward with this vehicle, however, is in the design, materials and technology of the cabin. Starting with the 12.3” CUE infotainment system (that we really enjoyed in the ATS), sitting in the front seat feels remarkably different compared to its predecessor. The level of craftsmanship that has gone into the vehicle, from the quality and trim of the leathers wrapping the body-hugging seats to the real wood veneers that gleam in the ambient lighting, is evident. The technology integration is seamless, with every conceivable amenity at the touch of a finger.
The new Escalade’s bold front fascia and sweeping hood lines carry through the sculpted body panels (with LED-embedded handles) to the discreet but refined back end. An impressive change comes with a new interpretation of Caddy’s classic vertical light signature: the front and taillights have been replaced with gorgeous slim LEDs that give the vehicle an instantly recognizable stance. The vertically stacked crystal high beam systems are another technological achievement as the industry’s first total internal reflection LED high beam.
As a whole, the new Escalade hasn’t lost any of its presence with these redesigns but instead has catapulted into a territory long occupied by Mercedes-Benz and BMW as a vehicle of understated intensity. In short order, the Escalade has become far more sophisticated than one could have imagined—and we absolutely love it. Long live the American luxury SUV.
Available next year; visit www.cadillac.com for more details.