With the help of indie rock photographer Autumn de Wilde, Cadillac pulled the considerably large covers off its all-new Escalade SUV on Monday evening in New York City.
A luxury version of the full-size Chevrolet Suburban that General Motors unveiled in September, the fourth-generation Escalade seats seven or eight and will be available in two-wheel or all-wheel-drive. It will go on sale next spring.
When it does, Cadillac is hoping it will see similar sales success as the rest of its lineup has in 2013. Sales at GM's fancy division are up about 29% through September compared with the same period last year.
The automaker is looking to get another boost soon from the larger and thoroughly redesigned CTS sedan that's aimed at rivals such as the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes E-Class.
"Cadillac's growth provides the ideal stage for the all-new Escalade to take a major leap forward," said Bob Ferguson, senior vice president at Cadillac. "The 2015 Escalade is completely new and elevated in design and technology, inside and out. The clear objective is to once again assume the leadership position among luxury SUVs."
To do so, Cadillac will need to lure buyers away from competitors such as Audi's Q7 and the Lexus LX 570 with upgrades in fuel efficiency, styling, luxury, and technology, said Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at kbb.com.
"But if it's just a Suburban with really big chrome wheels and giant Cadillac badges (the two most distinctive traits of past models) it will likely be ignored by premium SUV buyers," Brauer said. "These buyers are more sophisticated in 2014. They expect their SUVs to keep pace."
Cadillac sold more than 366,000 units since the Escalade was introduced in the 2008 model year, with sales peaking in 2006 at 37,535. Since then, its popularity has faded; so far the automaker has sold less than 8,300 Escalades in 2013.
On paper, the 2015 Escalade looks to address many of the key areas buyers care about.
V-8 power is standard, coming in the form of a more efficient 6.2-liter engine that produces 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. Like many of GM's new V-8 engines, this one comes with various fuel-saving technologies, such as direct-injection and cylinder deactivation under light loads.
All Escalades will come with a six-speed automatic transmission.
The redesign is a thorough one, with both the inside and outside of the Escalade getting a new look. Outside, the front is relatively similar to its predecessor, though it now features full LED lighting and a slightly more pronounced grille.
The side of the SUV features more aggressive edges, while the rear is dominated by LED taillights that run from the top of the bumper to the top of the rear window.
Inside, the Escalade now gets Cadillac's much-maligned CUE 12.3-inch touch-screen infotainment system. Such a system has found its way into Cadillac's sedan lineup of ATS, CTS, and XTS to the consternation of critics and buyers alike.
As was the case with the previous generation, the 2015 model will come in two sizes; regular, and extra large (officially dubbed ESV). The ESV model is 20 inches longer, giving third-row passengers an extra 10 inches of legroom, and boosting cargo room by about 60%.
On hand for the world debut in New York were portraits that Cadillac commissioned De Wilde to shoot. For the event, the photographer known for shooting musicians such as Beck, the White Stripes, Fiona Apple and Wilco, instead trained her lens on both the new Escalade and the people who designed and built it.
"The images she created highlight the sophistication, luxury, and iconic nature of the Escalade in an expression different than that of traditional automotive photography," Cadillac said in a statement.
Fans of the SUV will be able to see the real thing at November's L.A. Auto Show, when GM will bring the Cadillac, GMC, and Chevy versions of its full-size SUVs for display.