After years of teases and rumors, the big Cadillac sedan is finally here—in concept form. We saw hints of what a no-holds-barred big Cadillac could be in the Ciel and Elmiraj concepts, but deep down, we always knew that the car that could actually get built would be a proper luxury sedan. Fans have howled about a supposed “Omega-chassis” S-Class fighter waiting in the wings, and we’re not talking about the not-quite-big-enough CT6. This, the Cadillac Escala concept, is the big, bold Cadillac we’ve been waiting for.
What the Escala is, though, is a demonstration vehicle and a vivid preview of things to come. Nearly everything you see on the Escala, from its styling to its powertrain to its technology, is in development for the next generation of Cadillacs, and that’s good news indeed.
Starting at the heart, the Escala is powered by a prototype 4.2-liter, twin-turbo V-8 that Cadillac has finally confirmed is under development for production. Cadillac won’t say anything more, but we have it on good authority this is a dual-overhead cam engine, not another Chevy small-block. We would venture to guess it’s attached to GM’s all-new 10-speed automatic transmission en route to the rear wheels. We know for sure that it’s equipped with GM’s Active Fuel Management system, which allows it to run on four cylinders under light loads to save fuel.
Whatever it is, it’s nestled in Cadillac’s latest Omega architecture and was built not in a concept studio but in a production studio. It’s no CT6 in a body kit, though. The Escala stretches 210.6 inches long, 6.5 inches longer than the CT6, and rides on a 127.1-inch wheelbase, 4.7 inches longer than the CT6’s. That last number is key, as it gives the Escala the longest in the class. Longer than S-Class, 7 Series, A8L, and XJ LWB. In fact, it’s only 1.5 inches shorter in wheelbase than the Bentley Mulsanne. If you want longer, you’ll need a Maybach or a Rolls. It’ll also likely be tough to find lighter or better handling, given what we know about the production Omega platform.
Not only is it properly large on the outside, but it’s also properly luxurious on the inside. Up front, the traditional gauge cluster and center stack have been blown up and replaced with a pair of long, overlapping, curved OLED screens developed with Samsung. Nearly as important, the much-maligned CUE system has been torpedoed and replaced with a rotary controller. Borrowing a cue from Rolls-Royce, the controller has been embedded with an old Cadillac icon, the “Flying Goddess” mascot that appeared on the hoods of Cadillacs from the 1920s to the 1950s.
In an intriguing departure from the luxury norm, the interior of the Escala is not dressed entirely in leather. Rather, much of the dash, door panels, seats, and cargo area are wrapped in fabric similar to the kind used for high-end suits. The backs of the front seats hold iPad-like entertainment screens controlled by another tablet stored between the seats. Farther back is the Escala’s big trick: a liftback trunk like the Audi A7’s. It, too, is wrapped in designer suit-type fabric and loaded with custom-fitted luggage.
Moving outward, we find the new face and tail of Cadillac. As the brand continues to evolve its signature angular look, this more aggressive styling will come to dominate. It’s highlighted by OLED lighting, which, like much of the car’s technology, is coming soon to production cars. The Escala rides on appropriately scaled 22-inch wheels.
Critics, ourselves included, have maintained for years that in order to reclaim its “Standard of the World” mantra, Cadillac needs to take on the modern standard bearers in Germany. Escalades are quintessentially American, but to prove to the world it’s back, Cadillac needs a proper world-beating luxury sedan. The Escala isn’t it—yet—but we hope it will be. Even if it isn’t, it’s a promising indication that something like it someday could be.