Next-gen Escalade to keep the bling, brawn in Caddy lineup

MIKE COLIAS-August 28 2012

Expect modestly better fuel economy on the next-gen Escalade, but don’t expect GM to water down the glitz or girth to chase a few mpg. Pictured is the 2013 model.

DETROIT — Cadillac is rolling out its lightest car ever, the ATS compact. Next year it will launch a sporty plug-in hybrid coupe, the ELR.

But before you begin thinking that the brand historically known for floaty boats and tailfins had lost its go-big roots, there’s this: We’ll see the next-generation Escalade within the next 12 months.

That’s per Caddy marketing chief Don Butler, implying that the redesigned big SUV will debut at an auto show within the next year. It’s not expected in showrooms until late 2013.

Given Cadillac’s methodical march toward nimble performance, a la the German makes, the Escalade’s big bling and body-on-frame brawn might seem incongruous. It’s not.

Cadillac drivers love to make a statement — whether in a chrome-laden gas guzzler or a sleek extended-range electric. With the brand’s fast-expanding lineup, there soon will be more room under the Cadillac tent for divergent tastes.

“If someone wants to make a technological statement and associate with a company that’s environmentally responsible, then the ELR will be perfect for them,” Butler says. “But if somebody wants a no-compromises, biggest, most comfortable, baddest looking vehicle on the road, then we’ll have that for them as well.”

Expect modestly better fuel economy on the next-gen Escalade — it’s likely to get an eight-speed transmission, for example. But don’t expect GM to water down the glitz or girth to chase a few mpg.

Industry sources expect it to remain on GM’s truck and SUV platform, which would run counter to the trend of most automakers ditching body-on-frame SUVs for unibody platforms. Remaining on a rugged truck platform should only add to the Escalade’s halo status.

You can bet on this, too: The Escalade will remain one of GM’s most profitable vehicles.

“That’s a market we created,” Butler says of the big SUV segment. “I can’t wait till the next one comes out. We’ll reclaim our rightful place.”

You can be sure that Cadillac’s 950 dealers feel the same way.

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