The Cadillac Escala concept came close to production with help from the Chevy Tahoe


When it comes to flagships, Cadillac has never been short of concepts – the Sixteen, Ciel and Elmiraj all loom large like dreams carried over from Cadillac’s recent past. The Celestiq EV is finally going to be the brand’s chosen halo vehicle after nearly two decades of stillborn high-ends, but some of these concepts have made it further than you might think. In fact, the gorgeous 2016 Cadillac Escala sedan concept has come a long way in development, said Celestiq chief engineer Tony Roma. The reader in an enlightening conversation during Monterey Car Week.

How far? A production-targeted transmission and price were fleshed out, with the former involving a V8 and hybrid assist from the Chevrolet Tahoe.

But first, the thing that won’t surprise you is that the production Escala car would have had a V8 like the concept did. Not just any V8 and not only a V8, however. It was to be a plug-in hybrid, and it “was going to have the 4.2,” Roma told me, referring to Cadillac’s twin-turbo Blackwing V8 that the automaker built in very small numbers.

The Blackwing V8, also known as the LTA, was only ever installed in two versions of the low-volume CT6. After being produced for only a few years, it suffered an unremarkable death alongside this large sedan. The impressive engine would have seen more life in the Escala, and its high output of 550 horsepower had to be supplemented by electric power. A “bloated” version of the ill-received Chevy Tahoe Hybrid electrified two-mode transmission was reportedly installed behind the Blackwing V8. The combination would have given the car a total output of around 650 horsepower. Roma also noted that the battery would have been around six kilowatt hours, as opposed to the Tahoe’s meager 1.53 kWh unit.

The price would have put the Escala head-to-head with the Mercedes S-Class in the low six figures. All-wheel drive had become standard through a conventional transfer case setup, as opposed to an electrified front axle. About 10 miles of quiet electric driving were projected. All of this development was strictly digital, however. No Blackwing-powered PHEV Escala prototype has ever been road tested.

And that’s probably for the best. The S-Class is the king of its segment and pursuing it with a plug-in hybrid made possible by Tahoe technology probably wouldn’t have gone down well. Additionally, Roma noted that hybrids “will only ever be transitional technologies.” Pinning a flagship car on a hybrid drivetrain that’s doomed didn’t seem right. It was the industry’s push for fully battery-electric vehicles that ultimately killed the Escala and finally brought Caddy’s chosen flagship in the form of the ultra-luxury Celestiq.

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