Cadillac Reveals Next Generation of Bling With 2015 Escalade

Just the Facts:
  • Cadillac unveiled the 2015 Cadillac Escalade today, in standard-length and extended-wheelbase ESV variants.
  • The all-new Escalade is based on the architecture of General Motors' new-generation 2014 Chevrolet and GMC full-size pickup trucks and comes standard with a 6.2-liter V8 projected to develop 420 horsepower.
  • Production for the 2015 Escalade begins in the spring at GM's assembly plant in Arlington, Texas.

NEW YORK — Cadillac may not have invented automotive bling, but for the past decade-and-a-half its Escalade SUV has come to define it, so the uncloaking of the all-new 2015 Escalade — its design journey chronicled by indie-rock photographer Autumn de Wilde — is no small event. By long establishing itself as the benchmark for bling, the Escalade is Cadillac's best argument that the brand can be hip.

Although General Motors insiders said planners for a time entertained ideas of shifting the Escalade to one of the company's large unitized-body platforms, in the end there probably was no question: the Escalade is all about doing it big — and nothing short of continuing on GM's latest (and all-new) full-size pickup-truck architecture would do justice to the scale the Escalade's established. So the fourth-generation Escalade, like all those that came before it, has the structure of pickup underneath.

The 2015 Escalade also is the third variant of new full-size SUVs to be pulled off the so-called "K2" pickup platform GM introduced for the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, joining the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon full-size SUVs that GM revealed last month.

Reflecting the fact that GM's 2015 full-size SUVs are extensions of its new-generation pickups' already careful styling evolution, Cadillac steered clear of overwrought exterior design details even for the Escalade. Not to say that the 2015 Escalade's new look isn't easily identified, but given that its overall size has only modestly increased, if one sees it only in profile and doesn't catch the distinguishing front and rear treatments, the new 'Slade surprisingly might not attract all that much attention.

But there's plenty of new design going on, with the front and rear both employing steeply stacked vertical layouts for the standard LED headlights and taillights and, of course, Cadillac's current grille design in what has to be its largest-ever execution. Caddy claims LED headlights' Total Internal Reflection design for the high-beam function is an industry first. Borrowing from other recent Cadillac surface-detailing exercises, Cadillac script and its wreath-and-crest logo are respectively etched in the headlight and taillight bezels. And like the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban and GMC Yukon, the new Escalade's tailgate is topped by an extremely prominent spoiler in order to optimize this big box's aerodynamic signature.

The Escalade didn't really need to get bigger, so that's probably why the new one basically isn't. The wheelbase for the standard-length 2015 Escalade remains the same 116 inches as the outgoing model; the ESV's wheelbase, 14 inches longer, also is identical to the current-generation Escalade ESV at 130 inches.

Add about 1.5 inches in overall length and width for the new Escalade in comparison to the outgoing model, but height has been reduced by a noticeable 1.5 inches to 74.4 inches for the Escalade and 74 inches for the Escalade ESV.

The slightly rejiggered dimensions are a boon for front-seat occupants in the 2015 Escalade, but not so much for everyone else — or cargo capacity. Despite the reduction in overall height, those in the front seat of the new Escalade enjoy an additional 1.7 inches of headroom, but second- and third-row occupants lose as much as a half-inch of headroom, depending on model. Same for legroom: the driver and front passenger luxuriate in a newfound 4 inches of leg-stretching space — 45.3 inches altogether — and second-row legroom remains essentially the same at 39 inches in the 2015 Escalade and 39.7 inches in the Escalade ESV. But those in the Escalade's third row now have 24.8 inches of legroom compared with 25.6 inches before. The third-row legroom loss in the stretched Escalade ESV is somewhat less.

Much the same is true for cargo capacity, where the 2015 Escalade's first-ever fold-down rear seat requires sacrifice for its overdue new versatility: maximum cargo room with the second- and third-row seats folded (sadly, they don't quite go totally flat) is 94.2 cubic feet for the Escalade and 120.5 cubes for the Escalade ESV. That compares with 108.9 cubic feet for the outgoing Escalade and 137.4 cubic feet for the current-generation Escalade ESV.

Those buying the new 2015 Escalade models aren't likely to carp too much about the lost cargo capacity, though, as the fold-down rear seat is practically a requirement in this class and the rest of the new Escalade's interior is swathed, Cadillac said, with a new attention to materials quality and build "precision," a term used repeatedly in describing the Escalade's interior design and manufacturing goals.

Indeed, there is a wealth of perforated leather and prominent stitching everywhere, not to mention genuine wood. The materials intersect with tight and consistent seams and an overall "wrapped" execution that appears well advanced from any of GM's past truck-based luxury SUVs.

The dash is anchored by an 8-inch center touchscreen to house the standard CUE infotainment interface, but given the proportions of the 2015 Escalade models and the trend toward ever-larger driver-machine interfaces, the 8-inch screen in the Escalade's center stack already seems undersized. More impressive is the gorgeous clarity coming from the 12.3-inch display that makes up the gauge cluster, which is replete with all the configurability and redundancy with CUE the driver could imagine. Remaining, though, is an old-school column gearshift to allow center-console room for an elegantly lidded storage bin/cupholder area.

Cadillac said all the seats in the new Escalade were designed to appear more "sculpted" and it's true: these look like luxury-car seats, not truck seats. The fronts are heated and cooled and those selecting second-row captain's chairs also will find them heated. Go for the second-row bench to make for an eight-occupant Escalade and the outboard seating positions have heat, while the backrest now reclines.

There are a couple of technology packages for the 2015 Escalade lineup that provide the expected array of electronic driver aids such as forward-collision, blind-spot monitoring and front and rear automatic braking, along with Cadillac's sublime Driver Alert Seat to deliver haptic warnings from these systems directly to one's buttocks.

And there will be more power for Cadillac's most powerful expression of bling: the 2015 Escalade and Escalade ESV are fitted with GM's new-generation EcoTec3 6.2-liter direct-injection V8 that generates 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. That's an increase of 17 hp and 43 lb-ft of torque compared with the outgoing Escalade's 6.2-liter V8 of a prior, non-direct-injection design. The only available transmission is a six-speed automatic. Power will flow to the rear wheels or through an optional all-wheel-drive transfer case.

Despite the new V8's might, towing capacity is off 100 pounds to a maximum of 8,200 pounds for the rear-drive 2015 Escalade, while the 8,000-pound max for the rear-drive Escalade ESV remains the same, the loss owing mostly to the vehicle's increased curb weight. Cadillac said the 2014 Escalade weighs 5,603 pounds in rear-drive format and 5,845 pounds in all-wheel-drive configuration — that's 76 new pounds for the two-wheel-drive Escalade and 127 pounds for the four-wheel-driver.

Wheel sizes, always a vital and attention-getting metric in this class, start at 20 inches, compared with 18 inches for the previous Escalade, while 22-inchers are optional. Front suspension is a coil-over-shock, short-long arm layout, while the rear solid axle is located by five links, with GM's Magnetic Ride Control damper standard at each corner.

The 2015 Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESV will begin production in the first quarter of 2014 at GM's assembly plant in Arlington, Texas.

Edmunds says: With subtle, new sheet metal refreshingly free of styling gimmicks, Cadillac's looking to the 2015 Escalade's all-new and upgraded interior to help it retain its role as the benchmark of bling SUVs.