How The Cadillac Escala Concept Morphed Into The Celestiq: Exclusive27
The Cadillac Escala concept that was unveiled at the August 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance represented the luxury marque at a critical fork in the road.
The CT8 program that preceded it and which, to a certain extent, represented a production version of it, had frustratingly sat in clay model form in Cadillac’s Exterior Design Studio since 2014. First, the car was to be built in North America and China. Then China only, and then neither, as the global sedan market collapsed just as Cadillac was ready to compete with most of the world’s best.
What was the frustrated but still amped up team to do? They had two choices. Either give up on the program and set their sights lower, or figure out how to turn disadvantage into advantage by setting their sights higher. Fortunately for Cadillac, they chose the latter, and the Escala concept became an ultra-expensive, limited production vehicle program whose success would be measured not by the profit that it generated but the prestige that it conferred upon the brand.
It was a smart and opportunistic move on Cadillac’s part – the now small, unconventional program able to fly mostly under GM’s corporate radar. The Escala would be hand-built in the Warren Tech Center, and not be build down to a typical program’s material cost allocation, but instead up to an incredibly high standard of quality and craftsmanship. Much of this was new for Cadillac and thus required new knowledge and skills. In particular, Design Quality, which was an integral part of Global Design, along with a host of capable suppliers that would to ensure small radiuses, minimal gaps, flush surfaces, precise forms and resplendent finishes.
Coinciding with and greatly helping the Escala program was GM Powertrain’s then-upcoming 4.2L Twin-Turbo V8 LTA, otherwise known as the Blackwing engine. Again, new technologies and processes would need to be mastered, even down to the engine’s sound, with the goal of making it melodic rather than muting it. Competitors’ engine sounds would be evaluated, targets would be set and progress would be tracked just like traditional vehicle program elements.
The Escala never did reach production, GM’s global transition to EVs forcing yet another program pivot, with Cadillac earmarked as “the tip of the spear.” Instead, the Escala program would morph into the Cadillac Celestiq. That this vehicle will launch in 2024 model year, instead of several years later, is testament to the years of progress that the Cadillac team made in preparing for its big opportunity, and it all started with a determination to aim higher.
As a reminder, the 2024 Cadillac Celestiq rides on the GM BEV3 platform and uses a 111-kWh battery pack to power an advanced AWD drivetrain. Total output is a GM-estimated 600 horsepower and 640 pound-feet of torque, yielding a 0-60 acceleration of 3.8 seconds. Assembly of the new flagship is expected to begin in December 2023. Availability will be by waitlist only. Pricing will start north of $300,000 USD.
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Morphed, devolved, imploded, whatever word you want to use, the Escala is WAY prettier and more practical than what they ended up with.
I agree. The Escala was a much better design with sleek flowing lines.
Burlapp says we need to think of sedans as the new coupes, so think of the Escala & Celestiq as exotic sports cars with 4 seats and doors, not as Rolls Royce or S Class competitors. I think it could be a mistake, making the roof so low, as it discourages older people and head of state/captains of industry types from buying one. Not terribly dignified to arrive at an event and have to climb out of your car. But they did make it instantly distinctive, which is the most important thing for the few people who might buy it and for the halo effect it’s supposed to have on everyone else who sees one. That’s why the weird back end doesn’t bother me–much.
When I looked at the Escala, it seemed to be attractive option. With the Celestiq, the blind spots at the B pillar are going to really diminish the owners enjoyment of the car. That is, of course, unless they’re in the backseat, in which case who cares? At 300k there are many other options like RR and B.
The Escala morphed into the CT5, not the Celestiq.
The Escala morphed into the second generation CT6, sadly, China only.
From a program standpoint, escala directly morphed into Celestiq. You must be talking about design.
The Ciel and Escala is where the Celestiq should’ve gone design wise. The Celestiq is hard to look at. After the new car buying frenzy hype is over, we shall see where demand lands.
Very impressed by the Escala but find the Celestiq more intriguing.
The Escala is a beautiful design…there is not a bad line anywhere. If produced and marked it would have been very successful.
By comparison the Celestiq is UGLY.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying the Celestiq is ugly without seeing it in the flesh, however, I agree with you that the Escala is a beautiful design (Even the name “Escala” is a richer name and better than Celestiq). I can’t believe the Escala has been around since 2016 and no one in upper management ever said “build that car!” I guess It’s a much different GM than the days of Mitchell and Jordan who without them the world never would’ve had a Toronado, Riviera and Eldorado.
Escala was good, but not groundbreaking in any regard. The more you look at the CELESTIQ – the more you see that its groundbreaking, sinking into a deep hole of design mediocrity. This is EDSEL level folks, The designer should have been fired along with management that okays this albatross of design. The interior dash is not spectacular either. For 300k that car should be George Jetson level.
I understand Cadillac needs a controversial car that makes a statement. I’m just not sure the ultra wealthy will run out to buy any Cadillac. Also, side tail lamps are too much and just over the top.
Lincoln isn’t my brand but they are selling competitively which in and of itself is an accomplishment. If Cadillac is now for the 1% why can’t Buick move up market? Give it a reskinned CT6
The first 18 months production is sold out I believe, so apparently some of the Ultra Wealthy like it.
Just because there is one $300K Cadillac doesn’t mean all Cadillacs will be.
As for a Buick CT6, unless it’s imported from China it isn’t gonna happen. Setting up production in the US (again) to buold one product on an exclusive platform would cost hundreds of millions and the cars price would have to be prohibitively high.
Megeebee: You hit the problem on it’s head. They won’t bring a Buick version of a CT6 here for just that one car. So make the CT6 and a Buick version here. Now you have 2. If they were smart, they would even give Chevy a way less fancy version of it and call it Impala or Caprice. Now you would have 3.
Same with the Malibu line. They are still only selling at about 55% capacity now, so why not give Buick a version of the Malibu too? Same for the CT4/CT5. Give Buick a version of them. I think all brands got hit so hard about cookie cutter cars from the 1980’s that they are now too scared to produce too many models off one platform. I say that’s wrong and they just need to do a better job of making that Malibu into a Buick. But the rest is less important as long as it’s a good platform to start. On top of that, it seems that EV’s will give more flexibility here allowing them to do more specific designs around the same platform. Let’s just hope that give us more sedans in the future.
What makes you think a CT6 would sell any better now than a few years ago? Especially looking at the nex-gen design. And why would a Buick version do any better? And adding a Chevy? What would Chevy do with a large expensive luxury sedan?Combined the 3 wouldn’t pay for the cost of production. Again, setting up production here would take years and cost hundreds of millions. Spending that much to offer old fashioned throw-backs would be silly.
I don’t have the answer to that. All I can say is that they are offering all these stupid SUV/CUV’s and most of them can’t hit 100K per year. So how many of those large sedans would they need to sell combined in order to make it worth it? How much is that extra customer base worth, the ones that are buying from other brands? How much is that lost referrals and lost future sales worth? IMO, if they offered 3 large sedans from Chevy, Buick and Cadillac to retain some of those loyal GM customers and gain more down the road, it’s worth the investment.
Look at it like this. Many restaurants have menu offerings to bring people in the door, but they are loss leaders. Those restaurants don’t really want to or like to have them on the menu, but it’s up to them to turn that loss leader product/customer into a profitable one. After all, is that restaurant better off having some customers come in from those loss leader items rather than never get them in the door in the first place? Likewise, GM is leaving too many customers outside the dealerships while allowing other brands to cannibalize those lost sales.
The Escala still looks fresher after 10 years, and more refined than the Celestiq now. So, you can buy a $300,000 hand built Celestiq any way you want it. I want mine to look like an Escala!
An up to date Escala as a traditional Cadillac large luxury sedan can work. Heck they wouldnt have to do much with the beautiful lines that prototype had.
For 300k, I damn sure wouldn’t spend it on this. Just spent 100k on Corvette. If they were the same price, I’d have 3 Vettes.
There is no doubting that the Escala was an outstanding looking design and I too feel that the Celestiq should have been the Escala design, but maybe just a little bigger. Although the Celestiq isn’t something I’d buy if I had that much to spend, I will say that I am super excited to see one in person. It may just be a car that looks amazing in person??
Anyhow, this is just wishful thinking. But what about the possibility of Cadillac producing the escala in EV form as a lower priced sibling to the Celestiq? You know, maybe a $200,000 version along side the $300,000 + Celectiq. Or better yet, bring it out now as the US version of the CT6.
Hi, Dan, you and I have butted heads before, but I consider most of your comments in line with mine. And I have to disagree here. Imo if you have a custom Escala priced at $200,000 Why would you pay for a custom Celectq at a higher price. If GM needed an electric Halo Car, they should have chopped off the D pillar back to the bumper on the Celestiq and use the back 1/4 of the Escala.
No matter to me if we butted heads in the past. I always enjoy a great debate as long as it stays civil and I feel that makes the world a better place. Heck, I have some big disagreements on here with some others, but I still read their comments and give them an up-vote when they deserve it. Plus, I don’t pay much attention to or care about the votes. I just really enjoy commenting and reading them even if I don’t agree.
I actually agree with you here. I’d much rather see the Escala brought to life here (and assembled here) with that name. Make it the size of the CT6. Offer it in ICE and EV. And best of all, start the price (ICE) well below the $100K mark. That would be my preference. I guess what I was saying is that the Escala with EV and more upscale than what the CT6 was would make (under Cadillac’s theory of selling $300K + Celestiq’s) a nice step for the ultra-wealthy buyers who may be turned off by the Celestiq.
Escala is beautiful, the Celestiq looks like a space pod. Where’s Bob Lutz? Cadillac is rudderless.
Bleh, you sure the two are related? Why couldn’t the Celistiq be the Escala in design? Like an obese, bearded woman, there’s nothing attractive about the Celistiq, yeeeeshhhh….
Only GM can go from excellent styling (Escala) to an AMC Pacer lookalike (Celestiq).
It would be nice if Escala could be built slotted above CT5. This would make a stunning addition to the sedan lineup. Plus Escala could be the “bridge” from CT5 to Celestiq.