Here’s How Cadillac Could Actually Make a Mercedes G-Wagen Fighter
The Escalade could use a new stablemate. Why not make it a super luxurious 4×4 that can really wheel?
The Mercedes G-Wagen exists more or less in a segment on its own. A rugged, relatively compact 4x4 with ultra-luxury features, the Land Rover Defender is arguably its closest rival. As far as American machinery goes, there's simply no true competition. The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is probably the best we've got, at least on paper, but it struggles to exist in the same cultural arena as the Mercedes. Indeed, there's arguably only one brand that can come close to having the same image as the aforementioned German automaker in the United States: Cadillac.
Yes, I think Cadillac should make a G-Wagen competitor, and there are actually a lot of good reasons to do it. It's ambitious, no doubt, but the payoff could be immense. Cadillac's image is rapidly improving thanks to impressive vehicles like the Blackwing twins, the Lyriq, and the monolithic Escalade. There has never been a better time to hit a home run, and a baby Escalade with off-roading chops might just do the trick. Yes, it's risky, but maybe I can convince you (and Cadillac) that it's worth it.
First, the basics need to be addressed. The Cadillac G-Wagen will have to ride on a new platform or a revised version of an existing one. This is tough. It's tempting to go the Bronco route and put the truck on a modified version of the brand's mid-size pickup platform—in this case, the Chevy Colorado. For Ford, that doesn't necessarily hurt the Bronco's image, but it might hurt this car's.
A platform with fully independent suspension is probably the way to go in terms of sophistication, and I think that's what we have to do here, even though the EQG has a solid rear axle. Perhaps suspension components can be taken from an existing GM product, like the Hummer EV or something along those lines. Saying the truck has "Hummer suspension" would be a smart and totally on-brand move. In the end, I think using either a modified platform or making a new one are both solid options, though we know the former would be way cheaper.
Whatever platform is used, a paltry V6 isn't fitting for such a premium vehicle. The 6.2-liter is the obvious choice for an engine, but any small block could theoretically find a home in the bay. The 5.3-liter is a candidate, but I can't help but wish for a supercharged 6.2L like the new Escalade V has.
When Cadillac is done perfecting this platform, the rest of GM's brands can join in on the fun. Throw a 3.6-liter V6 under the hood and design the truck's body to be extra adaptable like the Tahoe and Suburban's; give us the legit Bronco competitor we all want from GM while you're at it. The 3.6L could be joined by the 5.3L in Chevy guise—perhaps the 6.2 when the truck becomes a GMC—and the Detroit automaker would instantly have a stable of off-roaders poised to take on the Bronco, using a lot of parts bin stuff it already has lying around.
What to name these vehicles, though? Can't use Blazer right? Wrong. Rename the current Blazer the Blazer Activ or something along those lines, or name this new truck the Blazer HD. For GMC, they haven't blown up the Jimmy name yet so that might be an option. Something similar to "Terrain" could also be in order.
As far as Cadillac goes, it's a tough call. The brand seems insistent on ending every one of its car's names with "iq," and I'm not sure if that's really appropriate for something with this image. I'm thinking along the lines of "Rubicon," like some famous off-road trail in the United States. You could also work with the name of a place that has an air of adventure and classy overtones; perhaps "Elmiraj" is a good name to swipe from an old Caddy concept car.
Maybe the name's not so important in the grand scheme of things. What is important is how this truck is positioned and designed. This G-Wagen competitor should look like a shortened off-road Escalade, and it should be put in advertisements and press materials alongside it. It should also be revealed first before the GMC and Chevy versions. There are three big reasons to do it that way.
The first reason is that all of the following vehicles released on this platform will be seen as a watered-down version of the Cadillac truck, as opposed to the Caddy being a tarted-up Chevy. This not only boosts the Cadillac brand but makes the cheaper Chevy seem more desirable. You can guess which one I'd buy.
The second reason to do this is that once the Cadillac is revealed, the following Chevy and GMC versions have all the time in the world to gather hype. Speculation from the press would come in droves—ask me how I know. What specialized trims will the Chevy version have? What will the interior of the GMC version look like? Will there be a range-topping Denali model? How will it compare to the Bronco?
The third and final reason is that a Cadillac G-Wagen will be seen as an underdog challenge to Mercedes, not General Motors making a direct response to Ford when it comes time for the Chevy off-roader. Caddy wouldn't be taking a shot at an existing domestic competitor that's already been hyped to the moon. Instead, the new Chevy would be seen as a logical extension of a more expensive vehicle built on the same platform. If it wished, GM could lean into that slightly more luxurious image by stressing the reliability of the 3.6-liter V6 and the tried and true small block Chevy versus Ford's 2.7-liter EcoBoost, which is having teething issues.
None of this is mentioning how hot SUVs are right now, or the revitalized brand image the Hummer EV has created for GMC.
So is a Cadillac G-Wagen a good idea? I think in the context of GM's lineup, it is. It's time to capitalize on the incredible brand value the Escalade has created for Cadillac with another body-on-frame truck. I'm not sure about the company's standings with CAFE and how this ties into fleetwide emissions, but some manner of electrification for one or all of the versions of the vehicle might help address that. Thanks to GM's existing investment in its Ultium architecture, that might not be too hard to manage, either. The fact of the matter is, America now has a legitimate shot at challenging Europe on luxury and performance. Cadillac could very well be the company to lead the way, and who wouldn't take a proper new Blazer as an added bonus?
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