Tonight, at the beginning of a weekend of festivities to tantalize automotive enthusiasts and aficionados, Cadillac instead showed off a glimpse of reality: the Escala four-door coupe concept. It wasn't behind a flat-white background, but at a futuristic yet modern home nestled in the hills that Cadillac president Johan De Nysschen introduced the Escala as a "point of inflection" for the brand.
Keen observers will note that "Escala" is nearly "Escalade," but any similarity between the two vehicles ends there. De Nysschen noted that the four-door is meant to "relentlessly drive this brand back to its place at the pinnacle of premium."
"Nothing less will do," de Nysschen said.
The Escala is neither as bold as some recent Cadillacs to take the stage, nor as brash. From a distance, it has a wide, muscular stance wrapped in a tailored suit. Up close, it almost resembles a four-door Camaro — perhaps a nod to the work of former Holden design chief and incoming General Motors director of design, Michael Simcoe. De Nysschen described the Escala project as an "opportunity for designers to flex their creative muscle." The Escala seems to have a footprint mirroring that of a Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class, but it feels wider and smaller at the same time.
Is the shape derivative? Perhaps, but the Escala's design is less a reflection of a future, incognito Cadillac, and more of a chance for the brand to show off the details that might soon become icons. The Escala's shape may not be earth-shatteringly different, but the truth is in its details. The mirrors are as thin as designer spectacles. The C-pillar offers an opportunity to show off Cadillac's latest take on the Hoffmeister kink. A glass roof adds visual airiness. And a simple "GM DESIGN" badge sits below the side doors, in deference to the stylists who labored to make the Escala different.
The most defining element of the concept is the way it utilizes light. There isn't anything blinding about its lighting, but that means you can focus on the shape and appreciate the ambience. The depth of the LED tail lights adds visual length to the Escala and shows where Cadillac's designers placed the most importance. It's contrast and beauty at once. Brushed aluminum meets glass and plastic, for a symphonic red explosion of lines. Gorgeous.
The simplicity of the exterior design is a reflection of the Escala's interior, which is a statement of mid-century modernism. Yes, you can focus on the curved OLED screens wrapped in leather, but the seats and dashboard in mixed cloth and leather are the true highlight. The vibe is that of comfort and luxury at once. Just look at the wood pattern inside, which is said to mimic that of a Cadillac wreath and crest.
And it signals a new era at Cadillac that what's under the hood was a tangential detail: a 4.2-liter twin-turbo V8 with cylinder deactivation, which is said to hint at future powertrain for production Cadillacs. It's also gentle confirmation of a twin-turbo V8 that might someday see duty in the CT6. According to de Nysschen, who presented ebulliently in the cool of the evening, a V8 is "absolutely worthy of a car of this caliber."
So, don't expect the Escala to be an immediate part of Cadillac's revamped strategy for establishing itself as a luxury marque, but a glimpse of something entirely new. Think of it as a statement about the changing nature of luxury, and a signal that Cadillac is moving from Art & Science to, well, art. More like this one, please.