By KEVIN WEAKS
All three full-size SUVs get updates in 2020
Call it the class of 2021, with the emphasis on class. The next generation of General Motors’ full-size SUVs — the 2021 Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon, and Chevrolet Suburban — all will launch next year.
The timing of the rollout, of course, will be affected by the six-week UAW strike that ended with the ratification of a new four-year labor contract, but GM CEO Mary Barra recently confirmed the new versions of the profitable trio will come to market in 2020.
The revamped big SUVs are much anticipated. Cadillac sales in 2018 were 154,702, capping three years of declines for the brand in the U.S. Ever since Lincoln put out its new Navigator, which is no longer a gussied-up Ford Expedition, expectations have been high for the competing 2021 Cadillac Escalade. GM executives have promised the fifth-generation car will be worth the wait, reports Trucktrend.com.
Chevrolet sold 60,633 Suburbans in 2018, an above-average year for the big hauler, and GMC’s Yukon sold 74,678 units, proving that a luxury four-wheeler can still draw buyers. The low price of gasoline hasn’t hurt, either.
“These large, body-on-frame, three-row SUVs are critical to GM’s bottom line, and their profits help fund the high-tech electric and autonomous vehicle development that’s already under way,” says one online truck reviewer. “They are also crucial, because of their iconic nature they help define their brands.”
The blinged-up Escalade became the company’s flagship at a time when other brands had large sedans in that role. The Escalade also made Cadillac cool, despite being co-opted by hip hoppers and swells too rich to drive a Buick. Now the brand needs an injection of that cool as it struggles to rebuild its portfolio and reputation.
GM acknowledged criticism that the styling of the smaller three-row Cadillac XT6 crossover was rather bland when compared to its flashy Lincoln Aviator counterpart, but decided that the new Escalade warranted higher priority and the resources that come with it.
That said, the giant grille on the 2021 Escalade, as revealed in internet spy shots, shows a family resemblance to the new CT4 and CT5 sedans. The skinny is the Escalade’s exterior will be more dramatic than the XT6 and that interior design and materials will be dramatically improved over its smaller brother.
For 2021 GM will offer more than one powertrain, including an updated version of the 6.2-liter V-8 that’s already in the flagship Escalade. Performance or “V” versions of the Escalade are expected to have a version of GM’s 6.2-liter supercharged small block V-8.
A 10-speed automatic transmission will probably become standard across the line, replacing the current six-speed unit on most of the base models. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel may appear for the first time in the Escalade. And the Escalade will also have Cadillac’s Super Cruise, the hands-free cruise control system for highway driving.
What’s more, GM has designated Cadillac as their leading brand for electrification. Barra said GM, overall, will spend more on vehicles with electric powertrains than combustion engines over the next five years with the goal of being the automotive leader in electric vehicles. The 2020 Escalade is priced from $75,195 to more than $98,000.
Meanwhile the current version of America’s favorite family truckster, the Chevrolet Suburban, is one of the largest and longest full-size SUVs money can buy, which makes it great for hauling around lots of people and their stuff. The Suburban has been around for a while, so it’s due for a replacement next year.
The Suburban comes in one model, which is virtually the same size as the optionally extended Escalade ESV, sharing a 130-inch wheelbase and 224-inch overall length. The big Chevy offers more interior room than the Nissan Armada and the Toyota Sequoia, as well as more high-tech gadgets. It features a 5.3L V8 engine that offers up to 8,300 lbs. of maximum towing capability while offering 22 MPG highway. For those looking for a little extra muscle, Suburban Premier offers a powerful 6.2L V8. The 2020 model is priced from $52,095 to $75,000, The Chevrolet Suburban seats between seven and nine people. The standard setup is for eight, with front bucket seats and second- and third-row benches. An optional front-row bench seat increases seating to eight, and available second-row captain’s chairs decrease seating to seven.
The Chevrolet Tahoe, by the way, is basically the short-wheelbase version of the Suburban and costs about $2,800 less.
The GMC Yukon is another General Motors large SUV. Its standard body style is comparable to the Tahoe in size and space, while the Yukon XL is almost a carbon copy of the Suburban. With a starting price of $52,400, the spiffier 2020 Yukon XL is more expensive than the relatively plain Suburban, though you could pay less ($49,600) for the shorter base model. In both configurations, the Yukon shares the same powertrain choices as the Suburban, and it has similar features, interior quality, and handling capabilities.
In its standard configuration, the Yukon seats eight people on cloth upholstery. An available front-row bench seat raises the seating capacity to nine, while optional second-row captain’s chairs reduce it to seven. Leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and heated second-row seats are options.
The 2020 Yukon has a starting MSRP of $50,600, and the extended-wheelbase XL variant is available for $2,800 more. Those figures make it below average for a large SUV. The top-tier Yukon Denali and Yukon Denali XL start at $66,700 and $69,500, respectively. Edmunds.com says the Yukon occupies what little space there is between the related Chevrolet Tahoe and the Cadillac Escalade and has more features than the Tahoe.
The 2020 GMC Yukon has two powertrain choices. The base engine is a 5.3-liter V8 that produces 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The optional powertrain consists of a 6.2-liter V8, which makes 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, and a responsive 10-speed automatic transmission.
2021 SUVS WILL BE ALL NEW
There will be regular and stretched versions of the Escalade, Yukon and Suburban. The launch will be complicated with downtime at the plants in the first quarter of next year to retool for vehicles that have been changed significantly from their predecessors, says Trucktrend.com.
Confirmation of the rollout of the big SUVs came during GM’s third-quarter earnings call with investors. According to Reuters, in addition to some possible tweaks to launch timing — the new Chevy Corvette might also launch a bit later than planned — the six-week strike will cost GM almost $3 billion in lost earnings over the course of the year, with the first $1 billion in losses already in the books.
Hoping to make that up with dazzling new product, the new large SUVs will be completely redesigned inside and out and likely offer more passenger and cargo room along with an improved suspension. Even though they aren’t exactly lagging behind in terms of technology, with an available Wi-Fi hotspot and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, look for more gadgets and connectivity features to be included.
The company’s Arlington, Texas, plant assembles the Cadillac Escalade, the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban as well as the GMC Yukon. More than 300,000 units were produced there in 2018.
(Contact Kevin Weaks at email@example.com)