It’s been more than a decade since Cadillac set out to rebuild its once trend-setting credentials with the introduction of the edgy Art & Science design language. Since the debut of the first generation CTS sedan, it’s been tweaking the theme but as General Motors’ luxury brand gets set for what it’s calling an “unprecedented” product blitz, it seems we’re in for another major design makeover.
But if anyone was expecting an equally radical new look, it seems that Caddy is going in a different, more buttoned-down direction. The new Cadillac Escala Concept making its debut ahead of this weekend’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance won’t get lost in the crowd, but it’s certainly not the bold showstoppers of other recent Caddy concepts, like the Elmiraj Coupe Concept that was unveiled in Pebble Beach three years ago.
The concept “marks an inflection point” for Cadillac, said its President Johan de Nysschen, who declared the Escala, “the next design chapter” for the brand, and promised key elements of the show car “will be incorporated in every one of our new products over the next five years.”
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Long, low and wide, the coupe-like Escala sedan concept softens the sharp edges of the original Art & Science design language. For the past decade, Caddy has been harkening back to its days of dominance, a time when fins were all the rage. But Escala balances angular vertical elements, such as the LED lamps on the flagship CT6 sedan, with horizontal features – most notably the slit LED headlamps.
Nearly as big as the brand’s classic ‘60s-era behemoths, the goal of the Escala design team was to come up with “a chauffeur-driven Cadillac (that) you’d want to drive yourself,” explained Andrew Smith, the marque’s global styling chief.
Inside, the Escala is lavished in leather and what Smith called a “wood wave of American walnut.” Luxury designers have been tinkering with new materials to better differentiate their products; Maserati, for example, has teamed up with fashion house Zegna to offer silk inserts on models such as the new Levante SUV. With Escala, Cadillac integrates a wool textile “inspired by men’s fashion,” Smith said.
As you’d expect of a concept vehicle that could move Cadillac up a notch, the Escala – Spanish for “scale” – is loaded with various high-tech features, including all manner of video screens, large and small. The taillights blend increasingly common LEDs with next-gen OLED technology.
One of the show car’s more trick features requires opening up the trunk. It’s load floor rises up so motorists don’t have to reach in for their luggage.
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Cadillac introduced the Escala Thursday night, just hours after Mercedes-Benz unveiled a new Maybach coupe concept. But while the German show car featured a high-performance electric drivetrain, Caddy opted for a prototype twin-turbo V-8.
Cadillac has been taking a number of major steps, as de Nysschen put it Thursday night, to “relentlessly drive this brand back to its place at the pinnacle of premium.”
A car like the Escala would certainly seem to have its place and, as he wrapped up the evening presentation, the brand boss anticipated what was sure to be the first question he would face from the assembled media. Unfortunately, for those who’d like to put themselves behind the wheel of the show car, the answer is not likely to be pleasing.
“The concept is not an announcement of a production car,” de Nysschen cautioned, though he quickly added that it is “an indication of what we’re thinking about.”
In a subsequent conversation with TheDetroitBureau.com, the South African-born executive said “You’ll see many of the design cues” return in a new production model due sometime in late 2018.
Then came another possible disappointment. That production model won’t be the eagerly anticipated Cadillac CT8, a sedan meant to push even more up-market than the recently launched CT6. It will, instead be a replacement for an existing Caddy sedan, the timing suggesting it would be a complete makeover of the current CTS.
The new flagship hasn’t been dropped, de Nysschen continued, but as Caddy gets its priorities in order, it’s been pushed back a few years, likely to around 2020 or 2021.
And what about the twin-turbo V-8 – an engine TheDetroitBureau.com first revealed last November? It appears to have been pushed back a couple years, as well, reflecting shifting priorities and the limits of parent General Motors’ resources.
It’s still in the works, however, and will make it into production “by the end of the lifecycle of the current CT6,” said de Nysschen, or, at worst, around the launch of the second-generation sedan.
(Long-rumored mid-engine Corvette may soon become a reality. Click Here for more.)