Cadillac Escalade Evolution: Bring On The Bling

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Cadillac turns the Escalade into a disco ball with adaptive dampers

We briefly discussed in the last entry in our ‘CadillacEscalade Evolution’ series that the second-gen Escalade could be seen as the carthat sowed the seeds that grew into the Cadillac we know today. Admittedly, we are a bit biased in saying this, but we reckon it’s an interesting point to bring up. However, it’s important to point out that, when the second-generation Escalade went out of production in 2006, we were still a good few years away from seeing Cadillac at the top of its game.

The result of that was there were a few more car models togo until Cadillac found its current day stride. And one of the cars it used toreach that pace was, yet again, an Escalade. Given the successful formula that Cadillac had found with its first two SUVs, it’s unsurprising that the core of that popular recipe remained largely unchanged on the third-generation model. Standard models came with rear-wheel drive (with the option to upgrade to all-wheel drive) multiple body styles were offered, eight seats were installed in most models, power came from a pushrod V8 and so on.

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Likewise, the interior, though obviously refreshed to meet 2006 standards, stuck with what furnished prior Escalade cabins. Some of the plastic quality was perhaps questionable in places, but all-in-all the cabin was finished to the level you’d expect from a big SUV that cost the thick end of $50,000 – with the big, comfy leather seats being a particular highlight. All in all, it seems Cadillac took it fairly safe with the third-generation Escalade. After all, why make drastic changes to something that already had a popular following?

But Cadillac did push the Escalade in ways that would end up charting the course that the still-a-glint-in-GM’s-eye fourth-generation model would pursue. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the styling direction. Whereas the proportions on the previous car were very squared-off and boxy, the third-generation Cadillac Escalade adopted a far sharper, cleaner shape, complete with angular headlight arrangements, bluff body panels and subtly flared wheel arches. This Escalade was also the first that truly embraced the chrome trim features that would go on to feature prominently on future Cadillac models.

Everything from the imposing grille and the vents in the front fendersto the huge alloy wheels, side window surrounds and even the arms thatsupported the wing mirrors were all caked in the shiny stuff – if magpies weregear heads, they’d easily be huge fans of the third-gen Cadillac Escalade. Such bold design cues certainly split opinion, but it helped pave the way for the bold, classy, imposing, almost Art Deco-esque design language that aesthetically sets Cadillac apart from its more staid and sensible rivals. In other ways, though, Cadillac wasn’t quite as successful with its sprinkling of radical tweaks to the third-gen Escalade.

For example, this incarnation of the bold SUV was the first Escalade to be fitted with a hybrid drive system: in this application, a 6.0-liter V8 joined with a pair of electric motor. The powertrain itself was pretty impressive in paper – at higher speeds and light throttle loads, for instance, the cylinder deactivation tech would shut down one bank of the V8’s cylinders, and the electric motors could (assuming there was enough juice in the batteries) propel the huge car on their own up to 25 mph. However, fuel economy wasn’t really that impressive (a measly 21 mpg on the combined cycle), and the regular Cadillac Escalade was more powerful yet substantially cheaper and not that much more expensive to fill up in the long run.

No surprise, then, that Cadillac quietly discontinued the Escalade Hybrid in 2013; a mere four years after it first went on sale. Overall, though, the third-generation Cadillac Escalade firmly established the model as one of the best luxury SUVs on the market (even in the face of stiff competition from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Land Rover). Understandably, then, Cadillac was quite keen on further reinforcing that premium reputation with the next Escalade.

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