It’s easy to forget that General Motors is an engineering powerhouse. The company is infamous for industrial-grade cheesiness and unmitigated cost-cutting, so its groundbreaking, game-changing stuff often debuts on forgettable products that fail to showcase the company’s ingenuity. In the rare case that GM manages to overcome its worst instincts and fit its incredible technology on a truly compelling product, it produces a world-beating vehicle. The 2021 Cadillac Escalade is one such example.
I can’t say I was expecting it. That Cadillac used to be the Standard of the World sounds more like a cruel punchline than an accurate fact. Despite being the flagship of GM’s fleet, Cadillac often feels lost at sea; the company has a vast arsenal of research and development talent, but seemingly no real clue where to point it. Nearly 20 years ago the company launched the first production magnetorheological damper, a truly revolutionary technology that would go on to appear in Ferraris, Audis, Shelby Mustangs, and Corvettes. But it launched on the Cadillac STS, a car so wholly forgettable that I had to Google it to make sure I was getting the visuals right.
This helped kickstart the company’s performance kick, during which it caught up to the chassis tuning and powertrain prowess of the golden age of BMW. When it arrived at the top of its self-created Everest, Cadillac realized that no one really cared. The cars still had cheap interiors and the same stigma. Besides, sedans were dying, and the folks who wanted BMWs kept buying BMWs. So instead of buying the vehicles built with the wrong goals, Cadillac buyers opted for cars like the XT5, which seemed to be built with no real goals at all. The lone exception to this entire plotline was the Escalade. For the full story, check out this article from Road & Track.