At one point in time, the Cadillac Escalade was a status symbol. It was the go-to ride for rappers, actors, celebrities and socialites. It seemed to be the perfect mixture of big, brash and beautiful to match their usually enormous egos and as a result, the Escalade seems to have always been associated with some sort of bad behavior.
As USA Today points out, Paris Hilton was once busted for cocaine possession in an Escalade on the Las Vegas Strip. Tiger Woods was driving one when his then wife attacked him with a golf club and if you really need proof the Escalade and controversy sometimes go hand in hand, Toronto’s shamed crack-smoking mayor, Rob Ford, has one as his personal ride of choice.
With the third-generation 2015 Escalade, which went on sale last month, Cadillac is leaving the Escalade’s somewhat rebellious image in the past in pursuit of a more wholesome one. The full-size SUV has left its glitzy chrome trim in the parts bin and replaced it with more mature-looking brush metal. It’s also a little more fuel efficient.
“In its heyday, when we were selling 60,000 a year, people bought them because they were in fashion,” Todd Brown, Cadillac’s Escalade marketing manager told USA Today. “But the world changed.”
Brown says the majority of Escalade customers are now middle-age families who see the vehicle as a “family space.”
The 2015 Escalade features a more upscale interior, thanks to Cadillac’s new ‘cut and sew’ treatment, with hand sewn leather and authentic wood trim. The 6.2-liter engine is more powerful, but also more environmentally friendly thanks to features like direct injection, continuously variable valve timing and active engine management, which will allows it to run on only four-cylinders when all eight are not needed. For short wheel base models, EPA estimated fuel economy figures are 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway for a combined rating of 17 mpg. Cadillac hopes these features will help retain previous buyers and attract new ones of all demographics.
The Escalade attracts Cadillac’s youngest buyers, at an average of 54 and its most wealthy, with an average household income of $200,000. Customers shopping for full-size SUVs are “very (market) segment loyal, not as brand loyal,” Brown says. As the outgoing Escalade got a bit long-in-tooth, some owners switched to competing models such as the Mercedes-Benz GL.
As for the actors, rappers and athletes that helped give the Escalade the celebrity-endorsed image it has, Cadillac says they wouldn’t mind retaining them, but aren’t going out of their way to attract them.
“We are absolutely not chasing it,” Brown told USA Today.