Next-gen Escalade gets Escala touches

February 10, 2020 12:00 AM 8 HOURS AGO
Next-gen Escalade gets Escala touches
HANNAH LUTZ

The fifth-generation Escalade has a posh new interior inspired by the Escala concept car and highlighted by a curving OLED display spanning more than half of the dashboard. The full-size SUV gets a host of advanced technology, including Super Cruise.

Inspiration for the next generation of Cadillac’s flagship SUV came from a sedan the brand showed almost four years ago as a concept.

Interior designers for the 2021 Cadillac Escalade took heavy cues from the Escala, which debuted at the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. On the outside, new headlights also mirror the Escala, veering from the vertical orientation on recent Cadillac models.

Putting the design of a sedan into a large SUV seems contradictory, said Phil Kucera, Cadillac’s interior design manager. But in the luxury segment, a “thick instrument panel is not what [customers] were looking for,” he said. “They have luxury cars, and they wanted that luxury inside their luxury truck as well. They want that thick heft in the exterior, but they want a little bit more elegance on the inside.”

The Escalade has led the full-size SUV segment for 16 of the last 20 years, and designers wanted to reflect on the four previous generations. They asked themselves: “How did it become a phenomenon? We feel like it’s almost its own brand,” said Therese Pinazzo, Cadillac’s design program manager.

The headlights on the 2021 Cadillac Escalade mirror those of the Escala concept, veering slightly from the vertical orientation on recent Cadillacs.
From a distance, the Escalade stays true to its commanding roots, but a closer look reveals new details. “There’s subtle changes and nuance that make it much more sophisticated than in the past,” Pinazzo said. Because the Escalade is “already larger than life, it’s OK for us to get into those details and create this effect … where you come upon it and you’re starting to read new layers and nuance that we’ve not done before.”

With competitors including the Lincoln Navigator pushing the design and tech envelope, Cadillac felt it had to make bold choices to maintain its leadership.

The end product contains a good balance between new and familiar, IHS Markit analyst Stephanie Brinley said at the reveal in Los Angeles last week. “They did not play it safe. They gave it what it needed to have,” Brinley said. That includes more advanced technology, a more luxurious interior and a modernized exterior, she said.

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The Escalade is one of the widest passenger vehicles on the road, at 81 inches, and the design team wanted to exaggerate that even more in the interior by stretching everything on the instrument panel across the car. A wide, curving OLED display adorns the dashboard so drivers can keep their eyes on the road more easily as they scan back and forth rather than over and down.

“When you look at this thing from a top view, it has driver-oriented curvature,” Kucera said. “So the whole screen sweeps around you.”

Laurence Iliff contributed to this report.

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