Cadillac CEO Sounds Off About Next Escalade

It’ll still be body-on-frame, but Cadillac wants Euro-levels of soft luxe. Can you really have both?

Cadillac Escalade

One reviewer called the Cadillac Escalade “lipstick on a pig,” referring to its giant brougham carriage laid atop a pickup truck chassis. Escalade buyers obviously consider it “one charming motherfucking pig,” ignoring such aspersions to make the Baller Status SUV the brand’s second-best-selling vehicle and its most profitable by far. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press Cadillac CEO Johan de Nysschen said the future of his champion draught horse is to stick with the plebian, body-on-frame underpinnings but go upscale with the accommodations. You can read that as the ’Slade becoming more spendy and more profitable.

The ex-Audi honcho insists that, “The Escalade must become more sophisticated and technically advanced, more detail oriented.” That evolution would edge it nearer to the soft-touch courtliness the market perceives in European luxury rivals, at the same time retaining the single dominating trait the big SUV has over nearly all of those Euro counterparts: powerhouse charisma. Only the likewise-ancient Mercedes G-Class can match it for force of personality, only the Range Rover is superior at communicating status.

The average transaction price for the ESV model in November of 2015 was $85,028, more than $30K above the CTS sedan. Right now the Escalade price chart tops out with the ESV Platinum in 4-wheel-drive guise for $95,945, but a model cracking the $100,000 barrier before options looks like a certainty. Recent rumors suggest a V-badged performance model is on the way, bruising downtown streets with a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 tuned to produce more than 600 horsepower. Cadillac has hinted elsewhere at a super-lux variant, one that might want to take lessons from Range Rover’s supersonic progression from a single model costing $84,950 to a range of iterations cresting at $244,500.

One potential pitfall: The rest of the Cadillac brand is aiming for luxury modernity, which is the antithesis of a truck-based SUV. The conundrum isn’t lost on de Nysschen, who has posed the Escalade challenge as, “How do you balance the desire to bring it into alignment with where we’re taking the brand and the equally intense desire not to screw up a good thing?”