How Cadillac engineers made the Escalade-V work

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Last week, Cadillac unleashed many details and specifications of the Escalade-V on the world. This 6,300-pound hot-rod SUV has a 6.2-liter LT4 supercharged V8 that puts out 682 horsepower and 653 lb-ft of torque, and promises to do 0-60 in less than 4.4 seconds thanks to full-time four-wheel drive. It is the most powerful road car Cadillac has ever made.

How did GM manage to make it all work together? To find out, I sat down with two key engineers who have worked on the Escalade-V since development began in 2018: Howard Smith, performance variant manager at Cadillac, and Charlie Allen, an engine design systems manager at Escalade-V .

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You may have assumed that the 6.2-liter supercharged V8 under the hood of the Escalade-V is the same engine that the raw Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, but that’s not quite the case. Remember, the high-performance Escalade gets 14 horses more (and six lb-ft less torque) than Caddy’s top-dog muscle sedan.

The biggest difference is the supercharger. The Escalade gets a 2.65-liter Eaton TVS R2650 belt-driven leaf blower, similar but not identical to the one in the 750 hp C7 Corvette ZR1. The Escalade-V’s supercharger is nearly a full liter larger than the 1.7-litre unit in the CT5-V Blackwing, and features larger charge air coolers (compared to the CT5) in the lid.

The Escalade-V also gets an electronically controlled bypass valve to improve drivability with the larger supercharger. Allen explains that this bypass valve, infinitely adjustable and controlled by the ECU, more precisely controls the pressurized air entering the engine, providing a smoother driving experience.

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The bigger supercharger isn’t just about more power, although that’s a nice side benefit. As Allen explains, the Escalade’s design allows for more restrictive intake and exhaust routing – there’s no gaping hood on the Escalade-V, and the sheer length of this thing means the exhaust has to travel a long way to reach the muffler to come.

While the CT5-V Blackwing delivers more peak torque, the supercharged Escalade delivers that grunt in a way that’s more accessible to an SUV driver.

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“The Escalade-V engine makes about 80 percent of its peak torque at just 2,000 rpm,” said Allen. “​​That great low-speed torque really makes for a fun driving experience for the driver.”

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A unique accessory drive layout (which required minor changes to the block itself) and a new oil sump and exhaust manifolds make the Escalade-V’s LT4 unique from previous versions, all in the name of the package.

Of course, that power is useless if you can’t get it on the ground. The 10-speed automatic has been beefed up to handle the Escalade-V’s torque, and the transfer case gets a larger output bearing at the front. Some powertrain components come directly from GM’s heavy-duty pickup trucks, though engineers did not specify exactly which parts they were referring to.

There were many challenges in making a vehicle like this work. According to Smith, the hardest part was finding a way to make 682 horsepower and 653 lb-ft of torque manageable, especially at launch.

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Engineers had to do a lot of work to make sure this behemoth could turn the corner. They made changes to tighten up the Magnetic Ride 4.0 electronic dampers and steering response. The chassis modifications were designed to counter pitch and roll when cornering and give the Escalade-V more body control on hard launches. The new SUV has three driving modes: Tour, Sport and V-Mode, with increasing aggressiveness.

Exhaust noise was a major priority for the engineering team. They really wanted it to sound like a performance vehicle. That meant some pretty big changes to the stock Escalade’s exhaust. Engineers changed the exhaust manifolds, dual catalytic converters and quadruple exhaust tips. The truck also comes with dual exhaust valves, allowing for quiet and loud modes so your neighbors and loved ones don’t hate you in the morning.

“The first time you hear the exhaust note in sport mode it puts a big smile on your face,” said Allen. “Just like I did.”

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