2011 Cadillac Escalade Buyer's Guide
Cadillac had planned to replace the rear-drive STS and front-drive DTS with one flagship, codenamed DT7. But in late summer that project was put on hold for one year. GM reportedly delayed funding the program just as Cadillac finished design work on the sedan.
Here's where the GM's cash crunch, the nuked economy, and concerns over the next-generation CAFE laws have coalesced into a perfect storm: The DT7 is precisely the sort of flagship car Cadillac needs to be considered a legitimate player in the luxury segment, a car that should play with Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS 460, and-yes-Hyundai's astounding new Genesis sedan. GM will be watching the national/global zeitgeist to determine whether building a new, large sedan makes better sense in late 2009 than it does in late 2008.
If GM spikes the project-plans were scrapped for a large Chevy sedan using the same architecture but on a shorter-wheelbase employing totally different sheetmetal and interior trim, and cheaper suspension components, which would have helped the business case-there's a lower-cost alternative: Design new sheetmetal for the stretch-wheelbase STS currently built for the Chinese market. In either scenario, likely engines will include the gas direct-injection 3.6 V-6 and the 4.5-liter turbodiesel V-8.
RIVALS: Mercedes-Benz S-Class; BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS 460, Hyundai Genesis
2014 Cadillac Escalade Illustration
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GM's full-size truck and SUV programs are on indefinite hold. But that hasn't stopped GM from thinking about the next-generation Escalade. This is, after all, the nameplate that unexpectedly kick-started Cadillac's renaissance; it would be foolish to walk away from the brand equity. Besides, even if gas prices remain high, Escalade is one of the few GM nameplates whose customers are wealthy enough for relatively poor gas mileage not to be a deal-breaker.
One of the key questions Cadillac product planners have been wrestling with is whether the Escalade needs to be truck-based. One proposal for the next-gen Escalade used the Lambda platform that underpins Enclave/Acadia/Outlook/Traverse, but turned the engine 90 degrees, placing it longitudinally for rear-drive dash-to-axle styling. This proved too costly a tear-up of the chassis from the A-pillar forward, although it could become part of the design of the next-generation Lambdas, which should launch some time in 2013-2014 model years.
More likely, the next-gen Escalade will be switched to the existing Lambda platform, which will accept a transverse-mounted small-block V-8 under the hood (the Enclave almost got one). The rear-drive dash-to-axle stance that's so critical in defining a luxury sedan seems less important in SUVs, but that doesn't mean it's a straightforward program.
The problem with Lambda for Cadillac is the structural steel under the skin would have to be re-engineered to give the Escalade a more formal roofline-and more vertical D-pillars-than any of the current Lambdas. The car also would need a less aggressively rising beltline and a new tailgate aperture. Those important stylistic issues-things that would ensure a Lambda Escalade is instantly perceived as a Cadillac-are not cheap.
So the three scenarios under discussion are to keep building the truck-based Escalade, replace it with a Lambda Escalade, or sell both. If Cadillac goes with Lambda, that doesn't mean the death of the EXT. Remember the Zeta-based GMC Denali XT concept?