The Cadillac Escalade has never lacked for attention. Launched as a rush response to the Lincoln Navigator's success in the booming SUV years of the '90s, the Escalade became the definition of automotive bling. And while buyers have slowly forsaken the carbon-belching trucks of Detroit, the Escalade has held its audience steady in the post-recession years.
Today, Cadillac unveiled the all-new 2015 edition, based on the bones of General Motors' new full-size SUVs, and if anything, Cadillac has made the Escalade more of a rolling luxury throne than ever, from the tailfin-descended taillamps to its 10-LED headlamps that shine bright like a diamond.
Using the chassis pieces of the new Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon, the new Escalade borrows the 420-hp V-8 shared with the Chevy Corvette Stingray and its six-speed automatic. There are a few other mechanical trick pieces — the Magnetic Ride Control for better body damping, and cylinder deactivation for some kind of unspecified fuel economy improvement — but the Escalade has never been a vehicle bought by anyone seeing performance or even driving agility. Despite a few additional aluminum pieces, the new Cadillac weighs more than the outgoing model, with the ESV long-wheelbase edition topping three tons.
Where Cadillac spent its energies was the interior. The seats offer hand-sewn leather that appears as overstuffed as Guy Fieri's Thanksgiving turkey. The dash combines Cadillac's touch-screen CUE system with real wood trim bits. The second-row bucket seats have their own heat; and thanks to smarter packaging, the third row folds flat rather than needing tools to come out. There's a Katy Perry-level of LED lighting in the car — five LEDs in each headlamp for low beams and four for high beams, with the Cadillac crest emblazoned in the lenses, along with LEDs powering the tallest tail lamps to grace a Cadillac since Frank Sinatra ruled the radio waves.
Anyone who clamors for Cadillac to build a flagship sedan to compete against the likes of the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-Series would do well to realize that as far as American customers care, the Escalade is the top of Cadillac's line. Pricing wasn't announced, but given the current range runs from $63,000 to nearly $90,000 with options, all signs point to Cadillac maintaining that spread when the SUVs roll forth from the Arlington, Texas, factory. Call it a sign of conspicuous consumption, or the triumph of commerce over environmental concerns. Just don't call it a comeback.