When Cadillac reached out just lately with a suggestion to check out the brand new 2021 Escalade for a day, I eagerly responded within the affirmative. I wished to check out the newest model of the automaker’s partially autonomous driver help system, Tremendous Cruise, in addition to all the opposite high-tech bells and whistles (augmented actuality? 38 inches of OLED display?) that Cadillac was stuffing into its flagship SUV.
As a substitute, I bought one of the irritating driving experiences I’ve ever had. I don’t take into account myself a timid driver, however being behind the wheel of this 6,000-lb behemoth gave me high-grade, flop-sweat-inducing anxiousness. I’ve by no means ridden on the again of an elephant earlier than, however driving the 2021 Escalade could also be as shut as I’ll get.
Phrases can not describe how gargantuan the brand new Escalade is, so numbers should suffice. The 2021 Escalade is sort of 18 ft lengthy bumper to bumper, and virtually six-and-a-half ft tall. This represents a development spurt from the earlier mannequin 12 months, together with an extra 4 inches to the wheelbase (the gap between the entrance and rear wheels), 2.6 inches to the general size, and a couple of.4 inches taller when it comes to total peak. Or, as Cadillac’s personal advertising and marketing supplies boast, “the biggest and longest Escalade ever.”
Sitting within the driver’s seat, it’s straightforward to really feel disconnected from the surface world — largely as a result of you’ll be able to’t see lots of it. The grille was like a sheer cliffside, obstructing my view a number of ft out in entrance of the wheels. A complete kindergarten class may very well be lined up in entrance of this automobile and I wouldn’t see them.
This isn’t hyperbole. Final 12 months, a neighborhood tv station measured the entrance blind zones of many widespread autos, from household sedans and minivans to giant SUVs and full-size pickup vans. The Escalade had the biggest entrance blind spot of 10 ft, two inches, with the motive force sitting in a pure, relaxed place. It took 13 kids seated in a line in entrance of the Escalade earlier than the motive force might see the tops of their heads.
I tweeted out an image of my three-year-old son standing subsequent to the Escalade as an example how harmful this blind spot may very well be. Reactions ranged from flabbergasted (“That ratio of grill peak to windshield peak is insane,” one tweet learn. “Made to kill.”) to individuals sharing their very own harmful shut encounters with oblivious Escalade drivers.
I’m testing out the 2021 Cadillac Escalade this week, and that i can’t recover from how dangerously enormous this automobile is. That is so pointless. pic.twitter.com/dS7UrB0cC1
— Andrew J. Hawkins (@andyjayhawk) October 13, 2020
My preliminary curiosity in take a look at driving the brand new Escalade was to check out the newest model of Tremendous Cruise, the partially autonomous, “palms free” driver help system. Cadillac has just lately rolled out an enhanced model of Tremendous Cruise that features automated lane altering, and I used to be desperate to see the way it has improved and the way it measured up towards Tesla’s Autopilot and different superior driver help techniques.
However the Enhanced Tremendous Cruise received’t be displaying up within the Escalade till 2021. And my colleague Sean O’Kane has already gone over the Escalade’s 38-inch OLED show with a fine-toothed comb. In order that leaves me to put in writing in regards to the driving expertise — and that’s tied inextricably to the bloated dimension of this automobile.
I don’t imply to choose on Cadillac right here, as a result of this can be a drawback that’s endemic to your complete auto trade. This development in colossal automobile sizes — notably the very tall, sq. entrance finish discovered on most giant SUVs and vans — is testing the restrictions of our infrastructure. Whereas driving the Escalade, I felt as if I might barely keep in my very own lane. The huge width (6.75 ft, not together with the mirrors) had me in a chilly sweat whereas driving on slender, two-lane suburban roads. The Escalade additionally might barely slot in my driveway, which wasn’t a complete shock. As USA At the moment just lately reported, SUVs and pickups are getting so giant that they’re struggling to suit into some residence and parking garages and public parking areas.
There’s a clear correlation between automobile design and the latest spike in pedestrian deaths. Whereas the individuals driving SUVs are barely safer (1.6 p.c lower in SUV occupant deaths in 2018, based on the Nationwide Freeway Visitors Security Administration), the variety of pedestrians killed by these drivers has skyrocketed by 81 p.c within the final decade, based on a report launched final 12 months by the Insurance coverage Institute for Freeway Security.
That’s largely due to the best way SUVs are designed: bigger our bodies and better carriages imply pedestrians usually tend to undergo lethal blows to the top and torso. Greater clearances imply victims usually tend to get trapped beneath a dashing SUV as an alternative of pushed onto the hood or off to the facet. Velocity can also be an element as a result of SUVs have extra horsepower than a typical sedan. A latest investigation by USA At the moment and the Detroit Free Press discovered that the rising reputation of SUVs accounts for the alarming rise in pedestrian deaths.
To Cadillac’s credit score, the Escalade is full of the newest in security know-how. A number of cameras embedded across the automobile are used to create a digital overhead picture of the Escalade when both in drive or reverse at low speeds. This view is projected onto the display within the middle console, giving the motive force a extra full image of their environment than what is definitely accessible from the entrance seat. Haptic sensors within the driver’s seat will vibrate when there’s a pedestrian crossing in entrance or behind the automobile, or if there’s a automotive behind you once you’re pulling out of a parking spot.
These are vital options to have in a automobile this huge, however they’re additionally simply workarounds. Once you want a set of high-definition cameras and different costly sensors to soundly drive to the grocery retailer, there could be one thing inherently unsuitable together with your design. Producers know that a majority of these autos are extra harmful to pedestrians and cyclists, however they maintain making them as a result of individuals maintain shopping for them. Cadillac says it’s responding to buyer calls for for extra inside house and cargo room. Tremendous-sizing its autos helps it promote extra SUVs to extra individuals.
“Our clients actually get pleasure from and demand that house for his or her passengers and for themselves,” stated Rob Hunwick, Cadillac’s exterior designer, in a latest name with reporters. “So rising the automobile felt very applicable to accommodate our specific clients and to hopefully achieve extra.”
I requested David Schiavone, Cadillac Escalade product supervisor, why the Escalade’s entrance blind spot particularly was so egregious. “For me, that is new,” he responded. “Your remark catches me a little bit off guard. Is it as a result of they’re so tall within the entrance?” After I outlined what I meant by entrance blind spot, Schiavone replied by ticking by an inventory of all of the alert techniques and security cameras, together with entrance pedestrian braking, 360-degree cameras, and evening imaginative and prescient. Once more, these are all commendable options, however they wouldn’t be essential in a automobile with a safer total design.
Just lately, Common Motors (Cadillac’s mum or dad firm) introduced it could section out US automotive manufacturing, specializing in SUVs and pickups. And who might blame them? That’s the place their revenue margins are highest, and that’s what Individuals are shopping for.
However GM has additionally stated it’s pushing for a future with “zero crashes, zero emissions, and 0 congestion.” How does the Escalade stack up towards that ethos? Large SUVs are two to a few occasions extra more likely to kill somebody throughout a crash. Relating to local weather change, SUVs are the second largest explanation for the worldwide rise in carbon dioxide emissions over the previous decade. And visitors congestion is basically a geometry drawback: the broader the physique of the automobile, the higher share of street they occupy.
The 2021 Cadillac Escalade is more likely to win accolades for its “luxurious” and “swagger.” It will likely be praised for its “world-class inside” and dedication to offering its clients with essentially the most cargo house in its class. However beneath all that, the Escalade continues to be an outsized, gas-guzzling SUV in a rustic with far too lots of these on the street already.