Executive Design Director Andrew Smith on the Cadillac Escala Concept

The Cadillac Escala concept, which made its debut on the Concept Car Lawn at the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, derives its name from the Latin word scāla, meaning ‘ladder’. It’s yet another step towards the not-too-distant future as the luxury car company looks to progress its design language.

As the third installment in the luxury brand’s Pebble Beach concept car trilogy, which featured the Ciel (2011) and the Elmiraj (2013), the Cadillac Escala is a bit closer to a production version of a halo product for the company.

Unlike the aforementioned concept cars, however, the Escala was designed at GM’s main Cadillac studio in Warren, not at the company’s Advanced Design Center in Hollywood, California.

“The designs work so hard on production [programs] that we felt it was right for them to have a bit of fun too,” Cadillac Executive Design Director Andrew Smith told us at the Escala concept launch.

Cadillac Escala concept sketch

An evolution of Cadillac’s successful Art & Science design language, which is now more than a decade old, the Escala’s exterior design evolves the brand’s signature vertical head and taillamps as well as its refined surface treatments.

Though the front face features characteristic design elements – such as the shape of its large grille – the DRG has been made to look more contemporary and aggressive, thanks in part to deep recesses in the surrounding forms and the addition of thin, technically precise horizontal lamps.

Cadillac Escala concept reveal (2016)

The profile of the car, largely devoid of extraneous design elements, lets the surfaces do the talking, with just three main lines pulling the forms rearward along the bodyside and tapering in at the top of the cabin. Only a few chrome accents highlight the DLO and rocker panel, just aft of the large, 22-inch front wheels.

Cadillac Escala concept sketch

Roughly 152mm longer than the CT6 sedan with which it shares its platform, the Escala is a four-door sedan with a rear liftback – similar in concept to what we’ve seen from Audi in the A7. The liftgate is flanked by an evolution of Cadillac’s vertical lamps, which were inspired by the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado and feature LEDs as well as OLED technology.

The interior is where Cadillac’s design team has made the biggest forward strides. The IP consists of three large OLED screens that blend the instrument cluster and center HMI unit functions, covered in leather, stitched and embossed. This is surrounded by multiple parquet wood pieces, a beautiful nod to detail and old-world craftsmanship.

Cadillac Escala concept interior sketch

The cabin is split into two distinctly different environments: the front is geared more towards performance luxury while the rear is more cosseting, with large seats and screens that recess into the front headrests and center armrest. The color contrast is well gauged, but the contrast is more in the materials used.

Consisting largely of leather and aluminum up front, the Cadillac Escala interior also includes American Walnut wood and wool at the rear, to give the rear passengers more of a feeling of comfort. The aluminum inserts in the door panels at the front blend into the wood elements at the rear, with a technical pattern to highlight the transition.

Cadillac Escala concept interior sketch

Overall, I was quite impressed by the Cadillac Escala concept when I saw it in person. The vehicle’s stance and detailing is very much on-brand, and it’s a suitable evolution of the company’s design language as it looks to make the next step in a successful chapter of its design history.

Watch the video above to hear Andrew Smith explain the design of the Cadillac Escala concept in more detail.


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