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Going Above and Beyond the Escalade: Why Cadillac Should Aim Higher

Cadillac CEO Johan de Nysschen recently stated the next Cadillac flagship will not be a sedan. With past flagship models like the Allanté and XLR, a two-seater would be a reasonable assumption and basing a flagship off the Chevrolet Corvette would be a natural choice.

After all, the XLR was Corvette-based so could that formula work again? Possibly, but there would be one very large hurdle to overcome: while the XLR-V based at over $100,000, a cheaper Corvette Z06 was faster. Some may remember reports of those at Bowling Green and Chevrolet not being happy with the idea of the XLR being faster than the Corvette and in the end, the XLR wasn’t. The Allanté and XLR were also only produced for one generation each before being dropped so a successful track record with two-seat Cadillacs has not been demonstrated.

The last time I checked, the rich were still getting richer and SUV/CUV sales were still increasing. So a different approach to Cadillac’s flagship could be in a growing segment with an SUV/CUV positioned above the Escalade. With competition such as the Porsche Cayenne, Range Rover Autobiography and Bentley Bentayga, I believe Cadillac could fit in but not with a remixed Escalade. Body-on-frame construction and overhead valve engines would need to be replaced with sophisticated engineering and lightweighting techniques and multi-valve turbo powerplants.

As the flagship Cadillac, this SUV would need to be well engineered and would need the best interior crafted by Cadillac yet.

The Engineering Side

One the engineering side, the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu features lightweighting of various assemblies helping to make it among the lightest in the mid-size sedan class. The Cadillac CT6 continues lightweighting and introduces cleverly designed mixed material construction. For the flagship, I could see some innovations in carbon fiber being introduced that increase rigidity and help realize weight reduction over metal parts.

For power and given the competition, the flagship SUV would need lofty performance and handling. It would need to make you laugh with child-like joy when you put your foot to the floor. Cadillac’s 404-hp 3.0L twin-turbo V6 could easily be a base powerplant and if one must absolutely make it to Louis Vuitton before closing, I could see the CTS-V’s supercharged 6.2L V8 being the preferred choice or perhaps the upcoming V8 if it is sufficiently powerful.

One of the most glaring issues I see with the Escalade is when looking into the cargo area from behind. This particular angle highlights its common ancestry with the Yukon/Tahoe/Suburban and the only thing that looks expensive is the dash way up in front. This same view looking into a Range Rover Autobiography shows surfaces that are sculpted and not just assembled. Glide your fingers over the leather headliner and you will be amazed and maybe even feel guilty at its softness. It is this viewpoint that demonstrates the difference between taking a more common car and optioning it up versus a high end car that was designed to be there from the start. It is this difference, the feeling of being special, that Cadillac would need to nail from the beginning.

SUVs and CUVs Are The Bright Side

With sedan sales declining, personal luxury coupes long dead and sports cars crowding an increasingly competitive market, the only real bright spot is in SUVs and CUVs. In many ways, the Escalade is symbolic of old Cadillac with its separate frame, overhead valve engine and a few cheap interior bits. A methodically designed and crafted flagship SUV could be the ultimate expression of where Cadillac is going--an expression started with cars like the ATS-V, CTS-V and CT6. And in a segment that’s still expanding, this seems like a no-brainer.

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