Since its official reveal, many articles have been written about the 2015 Cadillac Escalade. Some have been complimentary of its distinctive styling; others say it's an outdated relic of Cadillac's self-indulgent recent past. Yet beyond these subjective assessments of Cadillac's latest SUV, is what it means for its closest rival, the Lincoln Navigator.
Ironically, Lincoln launched the Navigator before the Escalade, and Cadillac hastily whipped up a response in the first-generation model in 1999 that was virtually indistinguishable from the then-current GMC Yukon Denali. Despite being first to market, the Navigator was quickly eclipsed by the Escalade in both status and sales. Some of that margin is attributable to the Escalade's three-model strategy, which includes the long-wheelbase ESV, as well as the recently discontinued EXT sport/utility pickup. But even subtracting the sales of the EXT, the Escalade has outsold the Navigator by a substantial margin for the last 10 years.
The third-generation Navigator debuted for the 2007 model year, the same year as the outgoing Escalade. Although nearly a match to the Cadillac in terms of features, the Navigator had a much less-powerful engine than the Cadillac, and more conservative styling. It's believed the new Navigator will be revealed soon, and like the 2015 Escalade, promises to be significantly differentiated from the Ford Expedition on which it's based. The dated three-valve 5.4-liter Triton V-8 will finally be retired in favor of an engine lineup that will likely include the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 and possibly Ford's 5.0-liter V-8 used in the F-150.
Overall, Lincoln's sales and perception seem to be lagging behind Cadillac by a significant margin, and the recent introduction of the ATS sport sedan and third-generation CTS are only reinforcing Cadillac's bold, product-focused image. Some may not think such a seemingly anachronistic product as the Escalade matters, but in the context of the rest of Cadillac's current lineup, it begs the question of whether Lincoln can stand toe to toe with Cadillac as a brand, as well as the next Navigator against the Escalade. Does the next Lincoln Navigator, no matter how good it is, stand a chance against the new Escalade?