Last week I mentioned a bit of news from Cadillac and promised I would return to that when the car had been revealed. That happened. Here is my response.
As you might recall the teaser photo drew our attention to the spangly OLED technology which is going to grace Cadillacs in future. I expected the follow-up news to deal with a new exterior form-language for Cadillac. Much of the commentary dealt with that, with less on the interior. Previous Cadillac show cars at Pebble Beach included the well-received Ciel of 2011 and the Elmiraj coupe from 2013 and people expected something more production-ready. They discussed that too.
While the Escala’s exterior design is notable for its balance of the new and the believable, the aspect that caught my attention was a detail related to the interior. The muted colours of pale blue-grey and cream with dark grey accents underplay the comfortable forms and the fabric choice: after what seems like a long absence, wool is making a reappearance. According to fool.com the cloth fabric is “inspired by suiting material used by Cadillac’s partners in the fashion industry”. Cadillac say that as well. It does not seem to be used on all the seat faces but on panels and doors, more at the rear than the front. TTAC describes it as hand-made, aren’t show cars all hand-made? In the front the seats faces are what looks like pale hide and on the doors the main material is the blue-grey fabric. In the rear the pale hide dominates on the doors and the seats themselves are mostly finished in grey fabric. Compare the front and back photos. It’s quite clever since you don’t notice that the front and rear seats are different until close scrutiny (I had a “wow” moment when I realized that). That difference in colour use supports the idea of front and rear passengers having different needs and wanting different experiences. The feeling you get from the interior is of Alvar Aalto meeting Parker Knoll in 1965. Yet it’s not overtly retro.
Note the wool fabric is woven and not a velour or felt-type material. The colour and the weave lend the material a contemporary and technical feel. Its main attribute will be the felt warmth compared to cotton-synthetic blends. The next step might be to show this same fabric with brighter colours. Wool takes dyes very well and its structure means the fabrics have a deep rich saturation to them. What would this material look like in a Buick or Opel?
Cadillac’s website doesn’t say very much about the materials other than noting the fashion link and that “the fabric provides a new level of hand-applied craftsmanship and colour, unique in today’s auto interior landscape”. Missing from the interior mix is very much wood – it’s there in discrete strips- while brightwork is used in places in manner reminiscent of high-quality luggage – not a bad material reference for a car interior which much be made to look luxurious and resist wear. Dark wood – often polished – has been a reference point since Lincoln’s concept cars of the 00’s. Switching away from this dark, rich look brings what might be seen as a Scandinavian lightness to the interior. This interior saves the wood for a smaller expanse, right along the driver’s line of sight.
A note on the exterior: the fastback format is major break for Cadillac but Rolls have gone down this route along with Audi and BMW. Chrome is a perennial favourite topic here. The Escala has a meaningful zigging garnish behind the front wheel which draws attention to the tapering pontoon form on the bodyside. It also stresses the axle-to-dash ratio in a good way. Some styling elements of the Escala will appear in 2019 on the CT5.
I don’t expect Cadillac will be able to execute this standard of finish on a production car but the point is that it might show braver firms what can be done with fabric and colours. Having seen some 70’s Fords and Opel’s with their upper-spec fabric interiors it seems to me that cloths are due for a re-appraisal, especially as technology in textiles has improved so much to the advantage of its handling and durability.