The Cadillac Escalade is a large part of the reason that we even have luxury SUVs. The pickup-based Cadillac has become iconic in what it represents as the perfect formula for the luxury ute segment. But the current Escalade is getting long in the tooth, and GM is hard at work on a replacement. The question is- how much does the Escalade need to evolve? The current generation has been around since 2007, and a lot has changed in the automotive marketplace in the way of production methods and powertrain technology. So what’s GM to do?
The Escalade is loved, in many ways, for its more traditional setup. The body-on-frame, truck-based construction provides a rugged base for a large, lavish vehicle with acres of interior space. If you look to vehicles that have moved to newer setups, like the Dodge Durango, interior space has been sacrificed for a weight-saving platform.
On the flip side, the car-like handling of the Durango is light years ahead of the Escalade. Even with all-wheel drive and a gushy suspension, the Escalade still has something of a teetering ride. A move to a more-car based platform would yield a far more comfortable ride, which would be welcomed to those who use the Escalade as a limousine.
When it comes to powertrains, there should be no debate. The Escalade deserves a V8, but also the option of either a twin-turbocharged V6 (which is not really in the GM portfolio), or a diesel V8. That standard gas V8 should be the cornerstone engine, and feature the latest in fuel saving tech. Variable valve timing, cylinder deactivation and direct injection should all be part of the equation. Additionally, regenerative breaking, and even plug-in hybrid tech should be part of the puzzle. If the Escalade wants to meet upcoming CAFE standards, it might have to incorporate every last bit of this suite of technologies.
As stated before, part of what people love about the Escalade is its traditional setup. In fact, in many ways the Escalade, and its cousins the Tahoe and Yukon, are like the sharks of the automotive world. They could go on unchanged for decades, and people would still buy them, in great numbers to boot. But environmental responsibility simply is not an inconvenience It is an important issue and the MPG standards are going to be enforced.
The next Escalade may be here as early as 2014 and it certainly will change. The only question is, just how much?