2015 Cadillac Escalade learns new tech tricks, keeps old-school feel

/ Updated: October 8, 2013 10:22 AM PDT
2015 Cadillac Escalade

Cadillac's lineup has undergone a pretty radical transformation in the last decade. Its vehicles have gotten lighter, more sporty, and, well, more like the German competition. However, one Cadillac model has largely remained unchanged since the turn of the century: the big, boxy Escalade.

Today, the 2015 Cadillac Escalade was uncovered at a New York event and, at first glance, it doesn't appear that much has changed.

Big, boxy Escalade
Frankly, I didn't think that the Escalade's profile could get any more boxy than the previous generation, but this new model somehow manages to look even more squared off and sharp around the edges. The Car Tech staff is a bit split over the new look. Personally, I almost like the Escalade's unapologetic massiveness.

It's based on the same platform that underpins the recently announced 2015 GMC Yukon and the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, which means that it uses a truckish, body-over-frame construction and a very upright and squared-off design. Some will lament GM's decision to not switch to a more carlike unibody, but for many, the whole point of the Escalade is to be big and imposing. (And I'm sure that armored car customizers will appreciate the beefy, truck underpinnings.)

The Escalade's new grille and headlamps remind me of the ATS and the upcoming CTS sedans, making use of the automaker's Art and Science design language. The headlamps are vertically oriented and wrap over the edge of the hood before tapering and blending into vehicle's shoulders. Of course, the forward light clusters are filled to the brim with LEDs for illumination and indication.

Walk around back and you'll also find the automaker's now-trademark vertical LED taillamps that run up the D-pillar in a thin column. Front and back, inside and out, illumination is all LED now. I don't think you'll find an incandescent anywhere on this 2015 model.

The Escalade will be available in standard and ESV trim levels, the latter featuring a wheelbase stretched 14 inches and an elongated chassis for improved leg room in the second and third rows, which are already increased over the previous generation, as well as increased space for cargo. Despite still looking like a giant black box with a Cadillac grille on the front of it, the 2015 Escalade will also feature improved aerodynamics over the previous generations. That helps the SUV to be both a bit more efficient at highway speeds, but also a bit quieter when on the move. Active noise-cancellation technology also helps to quiet the vehicle's cabin with the aid of the Bose audio system's speakers.

Meanwhile, GM's third-generation magnetic ride control helps keep the ride as smooth as possible when the suspension needs to soak up a bump, but firm when the vehicle needs to corner. This feature has been made standard for the 2015 model.

V-8 power, improved efficiency
Where the Escalade's platform mates can be had with a 5.3-liter, 350 horsepower V-8, the Caddy will only be available with the larger 6.2-liter, V-8 that delivers 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. That engine will make use of continuously variable valve timing, direct injection, and cylinder deactivation technologies in an attempt to make this big boy as fuel efficient as possible, though efficiency improvements and final fuel economy have not yet been officially stated.

Though also not explicitly stated, the 2015 Escalade will likely use the same six-speed automatic transmission that you'll find in the Yukon. On its way the road, torque will be split and sent to either the rear wheels or an all-wheel drive system, depending on the spec chosen.

Safety tech
The 2015 Escalade will also be stepping its safety game up to be in-line with the rest of Cadillac's lineup with the addition of new radar-based safety systems. There's adaptive cruise control with full speed range, which can bring the vehicle to a complete stop when traffic slows to stop and go; it shares its forward sensor with the forward collision alert system that notifies an inattentive driver when a front collision is imminent. Lane departure warning, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot monitoring also join the feature mix.

One of the features that Cadillac is most proud of for this generation of vehicles is the Safety Alert Seat, which sets motors in the seat cushion vibrating to alert the driver of potential crashing hazards. The vibrations are directional, so if you drift over the lane dividing line on the left or right side of the vehicle, the vibrating motors will buzz under the left or right thigh, respectively, of the driver. I'll have to try that one out before I'm sold on its effectiveness.

Convenience and CUE
The 2015 Escalade will join the ranks of vehicles equipped with hands-free power lift gates. Like the system found in Ford vehicles, the driver needs only to approach the rear of the vehicle with the keyless entry fob in pocket and kick a foot beneath the rear bumper to cause the lift gate to open or close -- which is great for those times when you're loading or unloading the vehicle with your hands full.

2015 Cadillac Escalade
Not much mention was made of the CUE infotainment and navigation system, leading us to believe that not much has changed. GM

In the cabin, the Escalade features a 12-inch LCD instrument cluster that is driver-reconfigurable and customizable. Up in the driver's field of view, there's also an optional full-color head-up display.

Over in the center of the dashboard, you'll find Cadillac's 8-inch CUE infotainment and navigation system, which we've tested in the 2013 Cadillac ATS sedan. You'll want to check out our full review of that vehicle for the skinny on what to expect, as well as our likes and dislikes.

Old Caddy
Cadillac isn't the same brand that it was 10 or 15 years ago. Between CTS, ATS, and upcoming ELR, the automaker feels lighter, faster, and more youthful. Yet, despite the claimed improvements in efficiency and upgraded safety and cabin tech, something about the gigantic Escalade still feels very "Old Caddy" to me. Fans of the Escalade will appreciate the automaker's sticking with the original message and not "ruining" its former flagship, but if you already think the giant luxury SUV is a relic of the past, there's nothing in the 2015 Escalade that will convince you that it's anything but an old dog that's learned a few cool new tricks.

The 2015 Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESV will go into production in early 2014, hitting dealerships soon after. Pricing has not yet been announced.

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2015 Cadillac Escalade

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