The Escalade is the one vehicle that certainly won’t be at home at the new Cadillac House in New York City.
This hulking, powerful and luxurious SUV (sport-utility vehicle) may be Caddy’s priciest, most profitable and most recognizable vehicle, but it’s not the future.
The future of Cadillac is not a pickup-based truck that shares much under the skin with models from General Motors’ Chevrolet and GMC brands.
The future of Cadillac is not to be found in the automotive equivalent of Donald Trump – gaudy and proud of it.
And so you surely won’t see the Escalade get much play in Cadillac House, what Caddy officials call “a physical manifestation of the brand’s cultural world.” That’s a 12,000 square foot “world” filled with ideas and allusions to creative daring. The House has been developed in partnerships between Caddy, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and Visionaire, an art and culture magazine. It allows you and me to see and breathe what General Motors wants Cadillac to be within the next decade.
“From concerts to interactive art installations to fashion retail space, Cadillac House is designed as a meeting place where innovators, creators and the curious can find inspiration – and one another,” says Cadillac.
But not Escalades.
The blinged-out ‘Slade is a contradiction and a conundrum. It is a symbol of Caddy’s past, but also a Caddy that commands top dollar and remains popular with a certain slice of import buyers who continue to turn their noses up at some of the other very fine vehicles Cadillac has been launching – the CT6, ATS and CTS cars and the coming XT5 luxury crossover.
In that bunch, the ‘Slade is a BIG orphan. Caddy brand chief Johan de Nysschen has laid out a performance mission for Cadillac that is at odds with what the Escalade represents. The ‘Slade stands alone as a beast, not a beauty.
Caddy officials have made it quite clear that the Escalade does not set the direction for the Cadillac brand. But it makes a lot of money and its buyers are the youngest Cadillac has for any of its product lines.
So here’s the problem: “How do you balance the desire to bring it (the Escalade) into alignment with where we’re taking the brand and the equally intense desire not to screw up a good thing?” de Nysschen tells Automotive News.
Good and fair question, and I pondered it on a recent road trip in a 2016 Escalade. Confession: my $107,715 tester – a Platinum 4×4 ‘Slade with more technology than an aircraft carrier.
Sitting up high, tucked into a La-Z-Boy-like, leather-clad driver’s seat, with a view of everything all ahead and around me and a 420-horsepower direct-injection V-8 under the hood (mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox), the kilometres melted away.
Nudge the throttle and this truck comes alive – 0-100 km/hour in about six seconds. Not bad for a truck boasting a base 8,100-pound tow rating which bests rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz GL550 (7,800 pounds), Lexus LX 570 (7,000 pounds) and Land Rover Range Rover (7,716 pounds). And not bad for a truck rated at 11.2 litres/km on the highway (16.0 in the city) demanding regular gas).
I know, I know – this Caddy is a dinosaur rolling on 22-inch chrome-accented aluminum wheels. But it’s one with Magnetic Ride Control to smooth out the ride; with 4G LTE connectivity (Wi-Fit hotspot) and CUE (Cadillac User Experience), a touch-screen/swipe-capable interface that is wonderfully easy to use. There is also voice recognition if you choose.
Apple CarPlay? Yes, you can integrate your iPhone. Sound? Bose Centerpoint Surround with 16 speakers. At 120 km/hour, you are in a concert hall – the audio is that clear and crisp and pure.
Oh, yes there is the driving part. The ‘Slade is amazingly stable thanks to its planted stance. Surround Vision lets you see 360 degrees through CUE’s colour display. Lane Keep Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and automatic braking wipe away much of the stress of driving. Set the cruise, and the Caddy keeps its distance from vehicles in front, even in corners.
I know the exterior design is over the top – from the full-height rear LED lights to the chrome accented side-assist steps, to the illuminated door handles and all the chrome bits here, there and everywhere. For what it’s worth, the cabin with its real wood, ambient lighting and suede accents is very tasteful.
The Escalade, then, is an enormous guilty pleasure, one that even Cadillac knows must eventually give way to something very different and more in keeping with the times. I know it must go, as do de Nysschen and his crew.
We’ll miss it.
2016 CADILLAC ESCALADE PLATINUM 4X4
THE LOOK: The ‘Slade is a massive box with shiny wheels and plenty of bling. Unmistakable, but not pretty.
THE DRIVE: You find yourself in a truck capable of soaking up the road. High-tech features make long road trips pretty much stress-free. You would be surprised as how well this beast can carve a corner.
THE NUTS AND BOLTS: There is just no end to the technology here. Still, under it all is a pickup truck. That’s the truth of it.
THE CABIN/STORAGE: The cargo hold has room for a small car. Dotted throughout you’ll find storage spaces to swallow up all your goodies. Of course the cabin and lots of leg, head and shoulder room.
THE BRAND: Caddy remains a work in progress for GM. Most buyers are older, however. The 10-year-plan at Caddy is to evolve into a stylish, brave, performance brand.
WHY BUYS? The youngest of Caddy buyers overall – around 55 years of age.
Engine: 6.2-litre V-8 (420 hp/460 lb-ft of torque).
Transmission: eight-speed automatic.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 16.0 city/12.2 highway using regular fuel.
Comparables: Mercedes-Benz GL550, Lexus LX 570, Land Rover Range Rover.