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An interview with Michael Stapleton, Cadillac design director

By Trevor Dorchies on January 3, 2014 3:37 PM
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We recently had a chance to sit and chat about the 2015 Cadillac Escalade with the man responsible for designing what you see above. Michael Stapleton, Cadillac design director and the rest of the Escalade design team focused on the little things while also making sure the latest variation's interior oozed craftsmanship. We also picked up some other information along the way and we even get to the bottom of why the column shifter lives on for the 2015 model year. 

What would you say is the biggest difference between the third- and fourth-generation Escalade? 

"The Escalade was introduced as a pretty bold move back in 1998. Really we're just trying to build on that bold move. When you look at the surfacing, that's where I feel you're getting this bold, new feel from Escalade. It's kind of a new look, a new futuristic look at Cadillac but still obviously fits within the brand."

We agree, just looking at the front end, it fits in with the latest examples from the brand like the XTS and CTS. 

"Without a doubt it's the boldest grille we've ever done on an Escalade." 

Did you have any trouble getting this new grille to fit in with your vision of the Escalade?

"Because it's such a big vehicle, it carries that grille with ease. When you look at it, from far away it's this bold statement but if you walk up to it, there's a lot of subtlety and beauty in those surfaces and I think that's what really ties it in with the rest of the surfacing on the side of the vehicle and this accentuation of form that's happening." 

Also: Compact Cars at a glance

Any secret styling tweaks or design cues that people may miss at first? 

"You know, the headlamps and tail lamps are spectacular. All LED, so it's an all-LED headlamp and then, of course, the signature vertical (light bar). And then if you walk to the back, the Cadillac script is embedded in each one of the tail lamps. All of the attention that has gone into the smaller parts really is spectacular." 

As for the interior, what would you say was the biggest departure styling-wise or the most welcomed addition? 

"If you look at this car compared to the last (model), the craftsmanship definitely jumps out. Obviously it's a beautiful design, a nice flowing design that flows right into the console. There's a lot of strength in this interior as it encompasses the CUE (Cadillac's navigation and infotainment system). But the craftsmanship is really where the main focus has been so once we had the theme, we really worked at getting the right materials in the right spot and then getting the right interfaces all the way down to where the seams go, how the seams fold, where the stiches lie and you see that in the subtleties like the suede inside of the console."

"Even with the wood (accents) themselves, we got a different family, for each family color we've got a different species of wood. They picked a specific species with a specific grain for each one of the wood (trims) in the interior. There are three families of wood in all."

2014 Compact SUVs at a glance

What's your favorite feature on the 2015 Escalade? 

"I love the console, it sits rather high giving you a protected feeling and the functionality within the console is really quite nice. Overall though, just the general beauty of this interior is really nice and the subtle hints of wood contrast the piano black next to the CUE system."

We have to ask, were there any alternatives explored or was it column shifter from the start?

"The column shifter is something people often talk about as being a negative and even the customer sometimes talks about it being a negative but when you look at the trade-offs for overall interior spaciousness, it's the right place to put the shifter in this car. If you put the shifter in the console, it takes up space; it takes up valuable real estate. So you're giving up real estate in an area that you need to use for your water, for storage, for your phone, for all the things you're carrying in your car versus a column-mounted shifter where it's kind of out of the way." 

Were there any features that you thought had to be in the Escalade and then made it through the entire design process? 

"If we looked at the sketch, from initial sketch to where we are today, the amazing thing about this interior is that the final product really, really looks just like the sketch. All the detail, the way the hood wraps over, the wood underneath, the wood that rolls into the console, it really is a true interpretation of the sketch."

The 2015 Cadillac Escalade is set to hit dealership showrooms next spring so expect pricing and EPA numbers to be released around the same time.

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Audi Q1 compact SUV confirmed for 2016

 

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