Today, the Cadillac models getting all the headlines are the ATS and CTS, but the seeds for Cadillac's product renaissance were planted more than a decade ago and, arguably, predate even the first-generation CTS in 2003. The first Cadillac to give us a taste of the Art and Science theme to come was the 2001 Escalade. The front-end treatment may have looked different, but many other details, inside and out, were virtually indistinguishable from the more mainstream Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon. GM's premium brand is finally taking product differentiation seriously with the 2015 Cadillac Escalade. While still sharing most of its mechanical hardware with its blue-collar cousins, in terms of style, there's no mistaking it's a Cadillac, inside or out.

Dashing Style

It was telling that the first photo of the 2015 Escalade released to the media was the interior, showing the front seat area, dashboard, and new steering wheel. Illustrating how serious GM is at positioning Cadillac as a premium brand, gone is the truck-clone steering-wheel design, something the Escalade has been saddled with since its debut, with only the center badge distinguishing it from Chevy or GMC models. No more. The new steering wheel design has much more in common with the XTS, CTS, and ATS in style than with the Yukon or Tahoe. And while the 2015 Escalade retains its column-mounted shifter, the rest of the dashboard is a clearly differentiated break from the Chevrolet and GMC models. While the 2015 Tahoe and Yukon models employ knobs in the center stack for audio and climate functions, the Escalade's dash has no knobs. Whether such a bold move is wise remains to be seen, seeing as Ford is adding knobs and buttons back in to its models equipped with MyFord Touch, but it certainly imparts a clean, premium appearance. For the first time, and also like the new Tahoe and Yukon, the Escalade gets a push-button start system.

Keeping It Real

At a time when many vehicles, including many so-called "premium" models have moved to using synthetic woodgrain trim, the 2015 Escalade uses real wood trim. The release was somewhat vague on whether or not the authentic cellulose would be standard or optional, but at least you can get the real deal. Cadillac also frequently mentioned the "cut-and-sewn" detailing , which can be seen on the dashboard, door panels, center console, and seats.

Talking Tech

One of the hallmarks of contemporary luxury brands is technology, and plenty of it, and Cadillac made sure to load the Escalade with lots of bells and whistles. All 2015 Escalades get GM's fast-acting Magnetic Ride Control, full LED exterior lighting, and CUE, Cadillac's multimedia touchscreen interface, as standard equipment. The 2015 Escalade also follows in the footsteps of Jaguar and other luxury brands with a reconfigurable 12.3-inch horizontal gauge cluster. Optional active safety features include forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and GM's exclusive Safety Alert Seat as part of the Driver Awareness package. A Driver Assist package adds full speed range-adaptive cruise control, automatic braking and automatic seatbelt tightening. A full-color head-up display is optional.

Family Ties

Although the side profile and door openings show a resemblance to the 2015 Tahoe and Yukon, the front and rear are distinctly different. The grille is probably one of the largest and most imposing in Escalade history, and that's saying something. Naturally, the traditional wreath and crest is front and center in the grille. The front lighting also strongly resembles that of the 2014 CTS, with a continuous vertical line of LED running and directional lights on the outboard of the clusters, bisected by the bumper. Around back, the Escalade is the only one of the 2015 GM full-size SUVs to get bumper-to-roof continuous taillights, giving it a distinctive rear appearance as well. Standard rolling stock is 20-inch wheels and tires, with 22-inchers optional.

More Power, More Efficiency

As expected, the 2015 Escalade comes equipped with GM's new direct-injected L86 6.2-liter V-8, shared with the GMC Yukon Denali, and optional on the Silverado High Country and Sierra Denali. Like in those models, it produces 420 hp and 460 lb-ft, an increase of 17 hp and 43 lb-ft over the outgoing port-injected 6.2. Official mpg figures were not released specifically for the Escalade, but fuel economy for that engine in the trucks was announced at 14/20 for 2WD models and 15/21 for 4WD. Expect figures for the Escalade to be similar, if not the same, which would represent improvements of 1 mpg city and 2 mpg highway, respectively. Efficiency is further enhanced with electric power assist steering, replacing last year's hydraulic system. The 2015 Escalade is also equipped with Bose active noise cancellation, although just enough of the 6.2's rumble should come through to reassure you of its prodigious power. Towing capacity ranges from 8200 lb on a 2WD short-wheelbase model, to 7700 for the ESV 4WD. As with the outgoing model, the Escalade still has a solid rear axle, favored by many for its ruggedness and simplicity.

Like the outgoing model, as well as the Tahoe and Yukon, the new Escalade is built at GM's Arlington, Texas, facility, which, coincidentally, is one of the top markets for full-size SUVs in the U.S. Pricing was not announced for the 2015 model, but expect an increase over today's starting MSRP of $64,740.


2015 Cadillac Escalade/ESV
BASE PRICE $66,000 (est)
LAYOUT Front-engine, 2WD/4WD, 6-8 pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 6.2L/420-hp/460-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
WHEELBASE 116.0/130.0 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 203.9/224.3 x 80.5 x 74.4 in
CURB WEIGHT 5603-6086 lb (mfr)
TOWING CAPACITY 7700-8200 lb
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 14-15/20-21 mpg (est)
ON SALE IN U.S. Spring 2014