For the longest of times, the Cadillac Escalade has been the definitive full-size SUV, earning accolades and customers alike for the American automaker. This year, Cadillac celebrates 20 years of continuous production of the iconic SUV.
The Cadillac Escalade made its first public appearance at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in August 1998. It quickly became a cultural phenomenon and set benchmarks for the full-size luxury SUV segment. The Escalade soon went on to dominate its segment in the U.S., leading total sales since 2014 and for 15 of the last 20 years. In fact, consumers have spent more than $3 billion or more each year on the Escalade since its 2015 redesign. Total sales now stand at more than three-quarters of a million in the U.S., and 836,000 cumulative global sales, including the ESV, EXT, and Hybrid variants.
The Cadillac Escalade was launched in the Middle East in 2000, instantly hitting it off with customers due to its commanding presence, powerful drivetrains, and spacious, luxurious interiors. The full-size SUV accounts for nearly half of Cadillac's total sales in the Middle East for 2017. “Over the past 20 years, the Escalade has prevailed not only as a highly regarded full-size luxury SUV, but also as a cultural icon that is synonymous with style and sophistication,” said Steve Carlisle, Cadillac president. “From the highway to the big screen, the Escalade has been embraced by drivers and fans around the world.”
The Escalade arrived at a time when the luxury SUV segment was in a nascent phase. It quickly established itself as the segment's premier choice, channeling Cadillac's signature design, technology, and performance in an all-new proportion. Buyers quickly grew an affection for the SUV's spaciousness, capability, and presence. “That combination immediately struck a chord,” said Carlisle. “It introduced Cadillac to an entirely new generation of luxury customers via popular culture and changed perceptions of what the brand could offer.”
The introduction of the second generation of the model in 2002 led to a massive 35 percent leap in sale worldwide, followed by a 55 percent increment the very next year. The year 2003 also saw the versatile Escalade EXT enter serial production. By its fifth anniversary in 2004, global sales of the full-size had ballooned to an impressive 230 percent, backed by which the Escalade changed the definition of luxury vehicles.
The big Caddy also boasts of a list of firsts like full-LED headlamps (2009), LED high-beam headlamps and taillamps with total internal reflection (2015), Magnetic Ride Control (2009), a hybrid system which offered a 50 percent improvement in urban fuel economy (2009, EPA-rated), and the first front-center airbag in a luxury SUV along with the first haptic Safety Alert Seat (2015).
Finally, how do you decide if the Escalade is indeed worthy of all it promises? Look no further than the list of awards it has earned over the years. J.D. Power awarded the Escalade with “Highest Ranked Large Premium SUV in Initial Quality” five times in 2010-2013 consecutively and in 2018. Escalade variants have ranked highest eight times in their respective categories in the J.D. Power Automotive Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study: 2001, 2002 (Standard and EXT), 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, and more recently in 2017. The full-size luxury SUV also scored the highest in dependability studies by J.D. power in 2005, 2006, and 2014.
The first Escalade that rolled off the production ramp on February 8, 1998 with VIN number 001 in Arlington, Texas is now a proud resident of the GM Heritage Center. The 2019 Escalade boasts 65 percent more horsepower and 52 percent improved EPA-rated fuel economy than the first-generation 1998 model. No wonder why it is still the definitive product that customers always prioritize while shopping for a premium full-size SUV.