Design Study: 2007 Cadillac Escalade

Karl Schaeffer
by Karl Schaeffer

The first generation Escalade always conjured up the image of a cubist Joan Crawford with chrome lips. In fact, it was nothing more than a melted-nosed Suburban sprayed black (ditto the Denali). The second generation didn't fare much better, dubiously distinguishing itself as some incongruent amalgam of curvy and chiseled forms, chrome-plated into a creature from Mary Shelley's deepest somnambulatory nightmare. And now, for the sports stars finding themselves bored between criminal investigations, fines and/or sentencing; pop music glitterati caught in the interim between final music-video edits; and the rest (whose leases are up), we present to you the 2007 Cadillac Escalade.

Much has been written about Cadillac adding aesthetic audacity with each successive Escalade. Oddly enough, that statement doesn't apply to the new model's front end. Flying in the face of all things big, brash and American– literally– the 'Sclade's design team have displayed a stupefying level of taste and restraint. The 'stacked' headlamps which work to such truck-like effect on Cadillac's passenger cars seems perfectly suited here on – gasp! – a truck. The Caddy's grille, though marginally larger in size, actually uses less brightwork than the previous model. Yo bro'! Where's the fun in that?

This time around, the brute looks like most of the other pieces actually fit, not as if they were tortured to fit. Most, but not all. Caddy's blingmeisters attempted to disguise the Escalade's side mirrors Chevy parts-bin origins by chroming their lower portion. It's a clever (if obvious) touch– that still doesn't justify attaching a form as smooth as a river-rock onto a shape possessing not so much as a single curve (excepting the wheels and Cadillac crest). Besides, is this kind of thinly-disguised cost-saving measure really necessary at this price point? There's no good answer to that question…

Nor is there any logical reason for the Escalade's off-road equipment. Any idea that this urban whip's headed for four-wheeling– beyond accidentally jumping a moderately high curb in the snow– is immediately dispelled by the fog lights' placement in the basement. A titular SUV, this. Forgeddaboutit. Recline the Escalade's power seats, open the windows, blast the seismic bass, and get in tune with this truck's singularity of purpose. It's nothing more than lacquered and chromed coquetry on wheels. Ladies take note.

From the side, Cadillac owes a debt of shame to Land Rover's Range Rover Sport. The superfluous front quarter-panel vents are, at best, homage; at worst, they're intellectual thievery. Meanwhile, if the Escalade's sheer mass doesn't get your immediate attention, then the wheels will– and not in an entirely positive way. In other words, the person who devises a way to make a 13.6' disc brake NOT look like tic-tacs in the mouth of 22' chrome-plated seven-spokers deserves a job over at Caddy– and a prime spot in pimp heaven.

From the 'Sclade's side and the rear, one gets an unflattering view up the big Caddy's skirt, as it begins to betray its lesser genetics. The bone-straight glass area throws the look of the whole some favors, though platform sharing militates compromise. This thing comes at you like a bull and leaves with a meow. Where's the bold design statement from the rear? Did the interns handle that end? Granted, it's a tough line to tow. Let's say the overall image has matured…

The Escalade finally merits a truly distinct interior. The cabin is a bespoke, well-arranged affair that blends a stout dash design (that Mercedes foolishly abandoned at the end of the last century) with a bit of Lexus' minimalist chic. The fake wood accents are convincingly handsome (Zebrano anyone?). But the design stumbles badly with its razzle-dazzle, flavor-of-the-week electric blue indicator needles. And the chancre of platform sharing rears its puss-filled head in a major gaffe: a manually-tilting, NON-telescoping wheel. Power liftgate and manual-tilt wheel? It's unforgivably antediluvian at the thick end of $60-large.

The 'Sclade's a steal at dollars per inch. So why is such a potentially voluminous interior put to such poor use? Why the intrusive padding, moldings and roof pillars? Noise, vibration and harshness be damned; Caddy buyers rightly expect a cavernous interior. (If it sounds like one, so be it.) Third row legroom is strictly nominal. In fact, Cadillac might want to consider ditching the rear chairs entirely and take the Range Rover high-road (metaphorically, of course): accepting that four people travel in style. Anyone else is just… luggage. If Louis Vuitton ain't stitched across your rear, you DON'T want to be in the rear.

All in all, the new Cadillac Escalade is, without a doubt, the most visually forceful, convincing and desirable product from Cadillac in decades– which either says a great deal about GM's ability to build a good springboard sport/ute platform, or Cadillac's wholehearted abandonment of what made it famous in the first place.

Karl Schaeffer
Karl Schaeffer

More by Karl Schaeffer

Join the conversation
  • VoGhost Key phrase: "The EV market has grown." Yup, EV sales are up yet again, contrary to what nearly every article on the topic has been claiming. It's almost as if the press gets 30% of ad revenues from oil companies and legacy ICE OEMs.
  • Leonard Ostrander Daniel J, you are making the assertion. It's up to you to produce the evidence.
  • VoGhost I remember all those years when the brilliant TTAC commenters told me over and over how easy it was for legacy automakers to switch to making EVs, and that Tesla was due to be crushed by them in just a few months.
  • D "smaller vehicles" - sorry, that's way too much common sense! Americans won't go along because clever marketing convinced us our egos need big@ss trucks, which give auto manufacturers the profit margin they want, and everybody feels vulnerable now unless they too have a huge vehicle. Lower speed limits could help, but no politician wants to push that losing policy. We'll just go on building more lanes and driving faster and faster behind our vehicle's tinted privacy glass. Visions of Slim Pickens riding a big black jacked up truck out of a B-52.
  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys dudes off the rails on drugs and full of hate and retribution. so is musky.