2021 Cadillac Escalade: Now We Know When It Will Debut
CEO Mary Barra says the big luxury SUV reaches a new level of design and tech.
General Motors can't wait to show the world the fifth-generation, 2021 Cadillac Escalade, and they won't have much of a delay before pulling the sheet: The world premiere is set for February 4 in Los Angeles in the lead-up to the Oscars. As part of the debut, you can expect to see celebrities roll up to the red carpet on Oscar night in shiny new '21 Escalades, as well as four minutes of commercials promoting the all-new luxury SUV.
As for the new Escalade itself, GM CEO Mary Barra is a personal fan. "It's kind of in a class all to itself and that's why I'm so excited for people to see how we've taken Escalade to the next level," she said in an interview. The technology and styling will make the Escalade an even more significant vehicle in a segment where GM is already strong."
Cadillac President Steve Carlisle says the Escalade will end 2019 as the top seller in its segment by a wide margin, even though the current generation is ending its run. The competition is strong, especially the new Lincoln Navigator, but can the new Escalade (rendered by our artist here in white) blow it out of the water? "I'm very confident about the next generation of Escalade. Let me just put it that way," says Barra. She says the Escalade is "a vehicle somewhat unique into itself. Yes, there are many competitors coming into the segment, but I think Escalade has a special place and will again exceed people's expectations with the next model," she says. "It's iconic."
Spy shots have revealed a giant grille with a family resemblance to the new CT4 and CT5 sedans. There are promises that the interior design and materials will be dramatically improved. There will be more than one powertrain, including an updated version of the 6.2-liter V-8. Early plans to give the Escalade the 4.2-liter twin-turbocharged Blackwing V-8 engine were shelved. Performance or V-badged versions of the Escalade are expected to use a version of GM's 6.2-liter supercharged small-block V-8, and there will be paddle shifters for the first time in the Escalade (at least on some models).
The SUV was developed on GM's large T1 truck program that underpins light- and heavy-duty pickups for Chevrolet and GMC as well as full-size SUVs for Chevy, GMC, and Cadillac. Now that we have seen the 2021 Chevy Suburban and Tahoe, we know the utility vehicles receive a new independent rear suspension to improve ride and handling and optimize interior space by providing a flat floor and more room for people and cargo. The Escalade will also have Cadillac's Super Cruise technology, the hands-free semi-automated driving system for highway journeys. Super Cruise will come out a few months after launch, but still within the 2021 model year.
When Super Cruise is added to the Escalade and the 2021 models of the CT4 and CT5, it will be able to do more, such as perform lane changes, and the number of miles of highway on which it is mapped for use continues to grow, says Carlisle. The improvements are in both hardware and software.
As Cadillac goes full electric over the next decade, there will be a battery-powered large SUV similar in size to the Escalade but built on GM's new electric architecture. It is still a few years out, and the "electric Escalade" may in fact get a different name—a real one and not an alphanumeric, Carlisle says. Barra would not provide further details on the electric vehicle. "We've said we believe in an all-electric future, but beyond that I'm not going to comment."
As Escalade leads the Cadillac portfolio, how important is the CT6 as a flagship sedan in a truck world? Cadillac is redefining its lineup and what constitutes a flagship, Barra says. The CT6 retains importance, largely due to its tech, the Blackwing engine, and Super Cruise. "I've never seen a feature on a car have so much customer interest," says Barra of Super Cruise. "Over 90 percent of customers are saying, 'I either wouldn't buy another car without this or I would strongly prefer it.' Rarely do you have that strong of a reaction."
The CT6 remains strong in China, where it's also built. Asked if the CT6 could become a China-only product in the future, Barra said she continues to evaluate what the market wants and needs and what makes sense over the long term. For now, there are orders to be filled and enough inventory to sell the CT6 through the end of 2020 in the U.S. GM will stop building the recently refreshed CT6 in the Hamtramck plant next month. GM could decide to shift assembly to another plant, such as Lansing Grand River that makes the CT4 and CT5 sedans. "We can look at what makes sense," Barra says.