In the USA, several names are synonymous with the automotive industry, including such brands as Ford, Chevrolet, and Cadillac. But, while the company founded by Henry Ford still manages to top the sales charts in America, the luxury division of General Motors is struggling to reclaim the glory of its past.
There may be numerous reasons for this. Chief among possible reasons is that the American manufacturer has always tried to provide a premium experience without the corresponding price tag, which means that it may take a few short cuts to keep pricing low, and some would suggest that this includes using lower quality materials in the cabin. However, since European brands like Mercedes-Benz and BMW have gained a larger foothold in the States, we have gotten a taste of what true, uncompromising luxury is, and there is no going back.
Naturally, there will still be those that want to see how the other half lives, but who sadly lack the funds to get the full experience. Where Cadillac once satisfied this need, there is now a lot of new competition from the Asian market in the form of Infiniti, Lexus, and Genesis. And since the non-premium parent companies of these brands have begun dominating sales in the US, these luxury vehicles know exactly how to meet the needs of the masses without breaking the bank.
Flagship or sinking ship?
To try to counter this distressing trend, Cadillac is working to improve the quality of its more popular nameplates. This means moving away from the sedans and coupes that are the trademark of American muscle and instead focusing on the SUV and crossover segments, which have exploded in popularity in recent years.
But, rather than stick to small but practical configurations akin to the Mazda CX-5 or Honda CR-V, the company has decided to work on the big, opulent Escalade. This prestigious juggernaut is available with either a standard or extended wheelbase, with each offering gargantuan portions of passenger and cargo space. But appealing to the growing trend towards improved utility isn’t enough to win the hearts of wealthier consumers, since Mercedes and BMW have their GLS and X7, respectively.
The American carmaker now knows that it can’t cut corners anymore, which is why the Escalade is more on par with the starting MSRP of these rivals. The base model will set you back a hefty $75k or so, while opting for the top-tier models sees this figure rise to over $100k. Thanks to the 2021 redesign, though, the full-size luxury SUV might actually be more luxurious in comparison to its European competitors.
Now, the flagship SUV ensures that only the best quality materials are used inside the cabin, and that no corners are cut in the name of saving a buck. The sheer number of tech features available also puts rivals to shame, with 38 inches of OLED screen adorning the dash. Where once it was the last resort of buyers who simply needed something with more size than they could find from the European catalog, it now holds its own on every front.
Moving with the times
While the largest and most powerful vehicle in the brand’s garage may appeal to those with a taste for old-world luxury, many modern buyers are taking a more long-term approach to their purchases. Gasoline is losing its appeal as resources dwindle, with experts estimating that we will run out by 2060. It is also the least efficient fuel source, with the worst miles per gallon achieved in terms of fuel economy. Diesel, while offering better mileage, is also a limited resource and remains unpopular State-side.
The hybrid engine was a stepping stone, but it was just the beginning of the journey. Many automakers, including the more prestigious brands, have now committed themselves to change over to alternative forms of power. Thus, research and development of the electric and hydrogen powertrain has advanced exponentially. We are already seeing the benefits in terms of fuel economy, with many EVs returning combined figures of well over 100 mpg in comparison to their combustion-powered cousins.
However, this upgrade to galvanic powertrains has affected performance, too. You no longer have to choose between raw power and efficiency. The latest offerings from Tesla and Porsche prove that you can have it all, and now every luxury brand is on a mission to create something similar to get a slice of the next big American pie.
Cadillac’s entrant in this hot and upcoming market is the Lyriq. Set to debut in 2023, it will be the brand’s first fully electric car, or, in this case, electric crossover. Yes, in true American style, the manufacturer has decided to stick with what it knows will sell. Since it is still two years out, not all that much information has been released, but we do know what it looks like, so we know it will be a hit in terms of aesthetics.
Though not as bold and aggressive as the Escalade, the new SUV draws on the futuristic styling cues that set EVs apart from the hoi polloi of automobiles. Sharper LED lights and the lack of a traditional grille make it unmistakable as anything other than an electric vehicle, but it’s the interior that really sets it apart from needlessly flashy competitors.
The cabin is simple but refined, with fewer buttons and controls than you might expect from an ultra-modern car. Instead, it gets an enormous 33-inch display in the place of the usual gauges, conveying all the information you’ll ever need, from car health and safety features all the way through to infotainment and creature comfort functions. While we do not know exactly how much power the electric motors will produce, the company has announced that we can expect a range of around 300 miles.
With how quickly this market is growing, and how hard so many brands are working to get a foothold, it will be interesting to see if Cadillac can make a name for itself in the new world order as it once did in the old. But, if the reinvigoration of the Escalade is any indication of what is possible, we may be pleasantly surprised.