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The 2015 Cadillac Escalade (GM).
In a converted industrial space with arched brick ceilings in lower Manhattan, Cadillac unveiled its all-new Escalade to a crowd of young people and journalists. Photographs of Cadillac designers and craftsmen taken by Autumn de Wilde, a noted photographer in the fashion and music worlds, hung on a side wall, lit up as if at an art gallery. Bodies swayed and heads bobbed to music from hip hop band Far East Movement, which performed after the reveal.

This isn't the typical General Motors press conference. The vibe of the room is young and hip, marking a huge contrast to the sedate image GM's luxury arm used to project as a brand favored among retirees.

The centerpiece of the whole affair, the 2015 Cadillac Escalade, also showed youthful flair. It follows the ATS, CTS and XTS sedans in getting a complete makeover with a more sophisticated look and loads of advanced technology. Its clean lines, glossy chrome and well-appointed interior make it clear that Cadillac is serious about upholding its corporate tagline to become "The Standard of the World."

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The previous three generations of Cadillac's full-size sport utility vehicle were little more than mildly dressed-up clones of the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon. This new one has a look all its own, both inside and out. And although it is still striking, with the sharp creases and angles the brand has become known for, there is something softer about it, too.

"First of all, the outside had to be iconic and had to say, 'I am an Escalade.' So we did that," David Leone, executive chief engineer of performance luxury vehicles, said in a one-on-one interview after the Escalade was unveiled. "It's still bold, but it's more refined. All the chrome is now what we call Galvano or satin chrome. There's very little brightened chrome on the exterior or interior of the vehicle. It's more sophisticated, more refined."

The side body curves subtly between hard edges. The interior smells of fragrant leather with seams and stitching that are precise and artful. There are suede inserts on the doors and dashboard. Elm wood trim is matte finished instead of lacquered. It all feels modern and fresh.

The same goes for the exterior, which is adorned with more than 100 LEDs in the signature vertical headlights and tail lights.

Like before, the 2015 Escalade comes in two sizes, regular and an extended ESV version, which is 20 inches longer and offers 60 percent more cargo space behind the third row of seats. Lots of effort went into making the interior quieter and widening the rear door opening to make getting in and out of the back seat easier. The second and third rows also now fold flat to create an even loading surface.

Compared to the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon, which were also recently revamped, the 2015 Escalade offers more technology, features and luxury. It comes with rear- or four-wheel drive and gets a new 6.2-liter V8 engine that puts out 420 horsepower. The transmission is a six-speed automatic.

GM's advanced adjustable suspension, called Magnetic Ride Control, comes standard. The GMC Yukon Denali also offers it, but it doesn't have two settings-Touring and Sport-like the Escalade does.

The Chevy and GMC trucks also don't get the Escalade's hands-free rear liftgate or Cadillac's CUE system, which eschews traditional buttons and knobs on the center console in favor of a capacitive touchscreen. Advanced safety features unique to the Cadillac Escalade include an optional Safety Alert Seat that vibrates to warn of impending collisions.

Fuel economy numbers haven't been released yet, but Leone expects it to be about 10 percent better in both city and highway driving. The current Escalade with rear-wheel drive gets an estimated 14 miles per gallon city and 18 miles per gallon highway.

The 2015 Cadillac Escalade goes on sale in spring 2014. Pricing hasn't been announced, but it should be close to the current model, which starts at $63,745.



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