Eric Clough, Director of Cadillac Interior Design, knows a thing or two about cars and a lot about interiors. So, after taking the new 2015 Escalade model for a spin, Life+Times chatted with the design expert on the aesthetic of the car, as well as its exceptional sound system.
Life+Times: The new 2015 interior features cut-and-sewn and wrapped materials. What was the over-arching feel of the interior that you wanted to achieve?
Eric Clough:The Escalade is an iconic product for the Cadillac lineup. The goal for the interior was to bring it to a super-premium level with superb craftsmanship and exquisite layering of details. It was important that we selected materials that were authentic and very rich to the hand in colors that complement these rich materials – very strong, deep, bold colors. Cut-and-sew is truly the top of the line and the best execution there is in the automotive world. Cadillac’s cut-and-sew interior process combines advanced technology with precise hand craftsmanship where components like the instrument panel, center console and door panels are trimmed in leather and other premium materials. They are precision cut, sewn together and cover the interior parts in a way that highlights their design lines and creates a tactile experience tailored to refined tastes.
L+T: Compared to previous models, what makes the 2015 Escalade different? What makes it unique?
EC:When first introduced in 1998, Escalade represented a bold expansion of the Cadillac portfolio. Almost a luxury brand unto itself, Escalade introduced a unique combination of proportion, comfort and style. Each successive incarnation has advanced that formula. This fourth-generation model introduces new elements: dramatic presence and performance, technology and a growing emphasis on exquisite quality and craftsmanship. The Escalade interior offers several different luxury personas – each accented by a different species of genuine wood – pulled from mid-century modern design aesthetics. There is a Jet Black interior with a strong Lineate wood for a classic expression of luxury. The light Shale interior features American Walnut burl for the customer seeking a light airy luxurious environment. Customers that want to be a bit more expressive, upscale feel to their interior may gravitate to the Kona Brown paired with open-pore Elm Cluster wood. It evokes a feeling of rich, high-end furniture with the subtle color variation as you look across the leather seats. We kept the finish on the open pore wood light so every bit of the natural beauty of the material comes through with all the individual knots and lines. At Cadillac, making an emotional connection and a unique statement are both essential to the luxury experience.
L+T: Specifically to the interior of the car, were there any reference points that you used? Were you inspired by any specific artists, architects or color palettes, etc?
EC:For inspiration, we often look to other design disciplines. We look at fashion design, the interior home design industry – furniture, product design, architecture – to get inspired by the materials, construction and details that we are seeing there. We also look within Cadillac to the colors, materials and the elements that are important to the brand. We choose materials that are very authentic and really highlight that element of the vehicle. For details like stitching and piping, we find inspiration in luxury handbags and shoes, from details on furniture and other high-end leather products that use a lot of detail to highlight their craftsmanship.
L+T: The seats were engineered to be more comfortable and sculpted in appearance. Specifically, what changes were made?
EC:The seats are all new and more comfortable than their predecessors. They also have a touch more lateral support, keeping you in place while cornering and reducing fatigue on longer drives. But the biggest difference is in the detailing. The new seats are more sculptural, and the sew pattern reinforces the shapes, from the chevron-shaped center section to the stepped shoulder supports. They are a pleasure to see and touch and are very harmonious with the rest of the interior.
L+T: The new interior is dramatically quieter, too, thanks to a stronger new body structure, new and enhanced acoustic material, and Bose Active Noise Cancellation technology. Tell me a little bit about the sound system?
EC:The Bose 16-speaker Centerpoint surround sound system provides an immersive sound experience. The technology actively monitors and measures undesirable cabin noise and sends a canceling frequency through the speakers. Proprietary technologies and 16 strategically placed speakers create a concert-like experience throughout the cabin. Five custom-tuned speakers placed across the instrument panel and front doors, combined with Bose Advanced Staging Technology, help reproduce expansive, crystal-clear sound precision and clarity. Along with the five forward speakers, there are one-inch tweeters in each mirror patch and each rear door, 5.25-inch speakers in each rear door, 2.5-inch Twiddler speakers in each D-pillar, 6×9-inch woofers in each front door, and a 5.25-inch Richbass woofer housed under the front-center console. Further enhancing the experience within the Escalade’s cabin is Bose Centerpoint 2.0 signal processing technology, which enables a surround sound experience across all rows and SurroundStage signal processing circuitry, which compensates for off-center vehicle seating to create a 360-degree sound for every occupant.
L+T: The overarching exterior design is completely new, yet still recognizable. What changes were made to the appearance?
EC:When we design Cadillacs, we do it to create an engaging visual experience. We break this experience down into what we call “first, second and third read.” First read–impression from several feet away. For Escalade, the character of the forms inside and out all communicate it is truly a truck, with the refinement and elegance of the Cadillac form vocabulary. Taking inspiration from Cadillac’s lighting heritage and monolithic cityscape structures, signature vertical lighting, front and rear is another. Second read–next to the vehicle. The Escalade exterior features crisp, more sophisticated surfacing – sectioning of the body designed to catch the natural light and surroundings in a very flattering way. And headlamps, each of the five rectangular parabolas appear to float within the lamp; separated with real metal accents, giving each lens look of fine-cut crystal. Third read–details you appreciate over time. Examples of third read details include the intricate grille textures and the restrained use of bright work – the latter just enough to offer a jewelry like presence without being heavy handed.
L+T: The idea of intuitive technology is something that is key to the 2015 model. Can you tell me how the new technology functions within the vehicle?
EC:The artistic integration of technology is essential to Cadillac’s Art and Science design philosophy. The improvement in the Escalade interior technology is dramatic. CUE is really the entire user interface – a combination of center display, climate control, steering wheel controls, reconfigurable 12” gauge cluster, and head up display – all working together as one integrated system. The head up display and full speed range adaptive cruise control (keeps a constant distance from the vehicle ahead) really change the long distance driving experience by reducing fatigue and driver workload. I drove one 14 hour nearly non-stop stretch in mine and felt great afterward. Cadillac User Experience – CUE – is a highly advanced in-vehicle hub for all information and entertainment from up to 10 Bluetooth mobile devices, USBs, SD cards and MP3 players. Entertainment, navigation and communication are all available in one interface. Designed to be unique for each driver, CUE’s vibrant colors, piano-black faceplate, precision-milled buttons, create a look unmistakably Cadillac and work together in a distinctive, modern design. For the tech savvy, it’s a full suite of infotainment, navigation and communication tools that keep them full connected. Non-technophiles appreciate the remarkably simple, intuitive and accessible way they interact with CUE.
L+T: I’m curious to know a little bit about the driving performance and how it has improved?
EC:Escalade performance advances with an all-new, more powerful and more efficient 6.2L V-8 engine rated at an SAE-certified 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque – a nearly five-percent increase in horsepower and 10-percent more torque. The greater torque delivers an enhanced feeling of power on demand and greater confidence when trailering. The new 6.2L features state-of-the-art technologies, including direct injection, Active Fuel Management – also known as cylinder deactivation – continuously variable valve timing and an advanced combustion system, designed to make the most of power, torque and efficiency across the rpm band. More precisely controlled combustion enables Escalade to run with a higher compression ratio, which delivers greater power and greater efficiency. Escalade’s performance is channeled to a more sophisticated chassis and suspension system, engineered for a greater feeling of solidity and a quieter, smoother ride. A fully boxed frame – composed of more than 75 percent high-strength steel – is the foundation for its ride quality.