First, it was the Ciel. Then came the Elmiraj. Now, the Escala.
In recent years, Cadillac made the Monterey Car Week their platform to entice us towards the next design movement for the brand. General Motors' luxury brand chose this venue where the most elite enthusiasts, owners and vehicles meet in one of the world's nexus for the finest machinery. It is an appropriate destination to show the direction of Cadillac's next look.
It is one thing to entice us with a concept. Once the concept is engrained into the public's psyche, the company is asked to deliver. This is not an exact science or a game, but rather a cover for what comes next. For Cadillac, the expectations are high when these concepts show up on our social media feeds or news pages.
Granted, Cadillac's chief Johan de Nysschen has been given mixed reviews upon his arrival at GM from Infiniti. The criticism has been based on what he has done elsewhere, instead of what is doing at Cadillac. Perhaps de Nysschen is aware of the expectations of this brand – the longtime pinnacle of American motoring, the Standard of the World – to seek delivery of enticing new concepts directing us towards its future.
Like the Ciel and Elmiraj before it, the Escala is stunning. Some have said that it did make as bold of a statement as the previous two concepts. I beg to differ. It might not be a bold, in-your-face, outrageously sculpted concept, but it points out to a single idea. It could be the segue to something that is missing in the current Cadillac lineup – the flagship.
It is an audacious conclusion, but the talk is there. Cadillac knows it needs a car to match the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series, Audi A8 and Jaguar XJ. However, Cadillac has its eyes on encroaching the more exclusive marques – including Mercedes-Maybach, Aston Martin, Bentley and Rolls-Royce. There is not a precedent regarding higher aspirations, since Cadillac and Rolls-Royce were cross-shopped by upper echelon car customers as late as the 1970s.
How have the Cadillac concepts influenced brand design? Though we did not receive a four-door convertible, elements of the Ciel were seen on the latest CTS. Key attributes of the Elmiraj were also seen on vehicles ranging from the ATS-V, the CTS-V and the CT6. Yet, we did not receive a large coupe from the latter concept, which could have competed against the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe and the BMW 6-Series.
The design of the Escala concept is seen on a grander scale. The people at Cadillac continue to talk about having a product slotted above the CT6 – a flagship sedan. To gain traction as one, there needs to be a balance of traditional elements of the brand with new touches that will entice global audiences.
Without looking at dimensions and other specifications, the appearance of it being a flagship is undeniable.
As stated, Cadillac concepts have influenced current product trends. This is the why the crowds arrive on the Monterey Peninsula to see what they have come up with. It may be something worth looking at if it somehow goes into production.
Here lies the problem: Is the Escala a preview of a potential flagship product? Or, is it a car that would be seen as a design exercise for the next generation of Cadillac models?
If it is indeed a flagship model, one needs to take a hard look at the CT6 and XTS. They are large sedans that would fit perfectly against the upcoming Lincoln Continental and Kia K900, however the Cadillac must make a decision on whether to sell two vehicles that reside in the same space. Logic would win, stating that the CT6 would effectively replace the XTS, but stick within the confines of the "lower flagship" segment.
This would create a flagship along the lines of the Escala – a CT7 or CT8, perhaps? This car should be simply turbocharged V6s with a perfectly engineered V8 – maybe the naturally aspirated 6.2 liter V8 from the Corvette Stingray and Camaro SS? A V8 flagship would be more suitable for the S-Class/7-Series/XJ/Lexus LS/Genesis G90 crowd – even as it as brash as any Small Block V8 would be.
Instead of just design, Cadillac may want to look at developing another exclusive V8 engine for the Escala/CT8. Otherwise, how many luxury car buyers would want to spend $100,000 on a naturally aspirated Corvette-powered Cadillac flagship sedan?
If the Escala is viewed the same way as the Ciel and Elmiaj as design clues, then imagine what the next generation vehicles could look like? Slimmer headlamps coupe lead the way using compact LED technology, but what about the additional running LED lamps current Cadillacs use? The grille will be prominent with a more dense texture, but could that be the standard, even as the V Series uses on their models? What about the set-back and encased "fin" taillights? It was used before, though could they also be implemented across the board.
Though the Escala was presented as a sedan, how will these design elements see their way on the SUV lineup?
The Cadillac Escala raises more questions than answers. That is really par for the course for design concepts. The litany of chants to build it normally goes to deaf ears at a manufacturer or brand. If they do build it, it better be world beating for what it will end up with. One tinge of disappointment will curse this vehicle before it arrives in showroom.
We'll leave that in de Nysschen's court for now.