Since the introduction of the second-generation model 15 years ago, the Cadillac Escalade has been the definitive vehicle for making a big statement. Sure, since its introduction, the Chrysler 300C and Range Rover have made their share of fans among automotive extroverts, but for sheer presence, the "Slade" has been hard to beat. Despite its popularity among a select group of customers, it has also received steady, unrelenting criticism for its similarity to its platform-mates, the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon. With the 2015 Cadillac Escalade, the big Caddy is finally getting its due, and distinctive styling details inside and out that promise to please even its pickiest customers.
Up in Your Grille
The grille has always been the one area where the Escalade has clearly differentiated itself from its corporate cousins, with a bold grille design and vertical headlights. While the 2015 model is clearly an evolutionary step from its predecessor, it has a sharper-edged style, with a chiseled grille with three horizontal slats, and the wreath and crest medallion in the middle. The center crease that runs the length of the hood down to the lower bumper is more pronounced, as are the edges of the hood. The signature vertical headlights return, this time sweeping up onto the fender, echoing the style of the CTS and ATS sedans. Also similar in style to the Cadillac cars, a strip of LED lights goes from the outboard edge of the headlights down to the lower bumper, bisected by a small section of the front bumper. The 2015 Escalade also has a pronounced beltline that runs from the front fender and headlight all the way back to the rear of the vehicle, just above the door handle.
Baby Got Back
As noted, the Escalade has always had a distinctive front end, but the rear view has not been as recognizable. The rear of the 2007-2014 model still shared its overall shape and design with the Tahoe and Yukon, with identically shaped taillight openings, although the Escalade did have full-LED taillights where its stablemates made do with incandescent bulbs. For 2015, the differentiation goes beyond just the means of illumination, with a a bumper-to-roof LED taillight strip for the brake lights and directional signals, giving the rear end of the 2015 model a neo-gothic look that's a bold homage to the brand's traditional vertical taillights. The roof spoiler incorporating the high-mounted brake light is also more pronounced, reflecting the more chiseled look of the 2015 model.
Taking It Inside
The most significant changes for the 2015 Escalade were on the inside, with Cadillac's big SUV finally making a clean break from its truckish roots. Aside from the column-mounted shifter, there's little to reveal that you're seated in an SUV as opposed to a flagship sedan. The steering wheel design finally has more in common with Cadillac's other car models than the Tahoe and Yukon, with a style lifted almost intact from the XTS sedan. Beyond just the steering wheel, the interior of the 2015 model simply shows a lot more styling detail. Unlike the exterior, the interior has significantly more curves than the 2014 model, and richer materials throughout, including available real wood trim. Cadillac stressed the "cut and sewn" quality of the 2015 interior, which is evident throughout the upholstered sections of the interior. The 2015 Escalade also adopts the CUE multimedia interface, and follows the footsteps of Jaguar and other upscale brands with a 12.3-inch reconfigurable gauge display. The center stack also goes totally knob-less for 2015, giving the console a sleek, futuristic look, but we have to wonder about the functionality after Ford announcing it will actually add buttons and knobs back in to its future MyFord Touch systems. For the first time, the Escalade will also get push-button start for 2015.
We've always been fans of the Escalade's full-size style, but at the same time, were ambivalent about its obvious similarity to the cheaper Yukon and Tahoe. While the 2015 model clearly shares some DNA with its Chevy and GMC counterparts, its clearly different in the areas that matter most, namely the interior, and from the front and back. We give the 2015 Cadillac Escalade an enthusiastic thumbs-up. What do you think?