It is safe to say that the Cadillac Escalade has become an American luxury icon, and whether you agree or not, it's easy to see why, as the Escalade is way quicker and more responsive than you'd expect for such a big, heavy vehicle, with an interior that feels lavish, and very comfortable with amazing details going into every corner and angle of the cabin.
Recently we had the opportunity of test driving this large ute for several days in almost all different types of road and weather conditions and the more we drove it, the more we wanted to drive it... It is without a doubt, the ultimate in full-size luxury SUVs - capable of towing trailers of up to 8,300 lbs. and comfortably seating seven in its most popular configuration. It's a stylish truck, with a bold and sculpted look, and a great rumbly muscle-car exhaust note, equipped with a powerful 6.2-liter V-8 engine with Active Fuel Management, which shuts off half the engine's cylinders in certain conditions in order to reduce fuel consumption and puts out 403 ponnies with 417 pound-feet of torque, that can propel this full-size sports utility vehicle from 0 to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds, even though it weighs almost 6,000 pounds. It's also Flex-Fuel capable, meaning that it can run on up to 85% ethanol-gasoline mix. An abundance of low-end torque (great for towing) is key to that, along with a six-speed automatic transmission that performs as a willing companion.
The Escalade comes in two different sizes; the standard Escalade and extended-length Escalade ESV which is one foot longer than the standard Escalade which basically means that it will not turn and park as easily as the shorter version, but the plus side to the ESV is the more legroom for the third row, along with more space behind it. Access to the third row is improved as well and both versions get a fold-and-tumble second row.
Escalade and Escalade ESV are offered in Luxury, Premium and Platinum editions. The Platinum models get a long list of exclusive equipment, including Magnetic Ride Control (which helps further improve both ride and handling), distinctive LED headlamps, Airline leather with contrasting stitching, special leather surfaces with French-stitched seams and special wood and aluminum trim. The standard Escalade cabin is nearly as lavish, with Ebony and Cashmere interior surfaces, white LED lighting, heated-and-cooled front seats and a heated steering wheel.
Additional high-tech safety features offered on the Escalade include Side Blind Zone Alert, which sounds an audible and visual alert if there are objects detected in the blind zones. OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation allows the driver to download directions from an operator-assisted call center directly to the navigation system, while XM NavTraffic enables live traffic updates.
Safety features on all Escalade models include anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes with EBD and Brake Assist; and StabiliTrak electronic stability control with rollover sensing. Passive safety features include front seat belts with pretensioners and load-limiters, dual front airbags, side airbags for outboard front seats, and side-curtain airbags that span all three rows of seats.
The latest-generation OnStar system, with a one-year Directions and Connections service plan, includes the Advanced Automatic Crash Notification system, making crash data available to emergency services so they can potentially dispatch the appropriate life-saving personnel and equipment to crash scenes faster. If the vehicle is in a crash that activates an airbag, the OnStar system automatically notifies an OnStar Advisor, who will check on the occupants and summon emergency help. OnStar also can assist authorities in locating a vehicle if it is reported stolen or is off a paved road but still in contact with the satellites.
The Escalade cabin is roomy and luxurious and every attention to details went into the making of this amazing ute. The mix of soft, padded materials, genuine aluminum accents, chrome details and convincing faux wood combines with soft leather seats was very impressive indeed, and the Platinum version we tested had all of the upgraded goodies which made it even more impressive.
The driver is presented with clear, bright gauges, LED-backlit with white markings and blue pointers on a black background. Between the speedometer and tachometer is an information display that cycles through several menus via buttons on the steering wheel.
The Escalade comes standard with a 10-speaker (eight-speaker on EXT) stereo that features a six-disc changer that plays CDs and audio DVDs. Bose designed the speaker system, outfitting the vehicle with 5.1 Surround Sound, an eight-channel amplifier and a subwoofer. XM satellite radio comes standard.
A rear-seat entertainment system is available, utilizing a flip-down eight-inch screen that folds down from overhead. The DVD driver itself is mounted in front, but does not play the movie in the front seats. Rear-seat passengers can listen to the audio portion of their DVDs via all 10 speakers in the vehicle, the rear speakers only, or infrared wireless headsets. Order DVD entertainment in the ESV and you get a second eight-inch screen for the third seat, as well as an additional set of headphones. On Platinum models each front-seat headrest houses a DVD screen and each can be controlled independently.
Interior storage space is abundant. The glove box is large and the space under the armrest of the multi-level center console takes advantage of the wide cabin. Additional storage is found in pockets in the doors. The Escalade has four 12-volt power points, including one near the tailgate (the EXT gets three) as well an impressive amount of cupholders.
Cargo space behind the 50/50-split third row in the Escalade is on par with other luxury SUVs with three rows of seats -- loading cargo requires a 32-inch lift to the load floor, where tie-down hooks ease securing the load. A power liftgate is standard on Escalade and ESV. Overall, this luxury SUV is surprisingly agile given its mass. The steering is light and reasonably precise, despite having a live-axle rear suspension (as opposed to an independent rear suspension like that on the Navigator), the Escalade manages bumps very well, thanks to its three-ton mass and the road-sensing Autoride system.
Magnetic Ride Control uses a variety of sensors to measure road surface and vehicle parameters 1,000 times per second and adjust the shock damping accordingly. That adjustment is done magnetically, changing the thickness of the shock fluid (that's filled with tiny magnetic particles) for maximum control of the shock. This system has been used advantageously on expensive imports and the Corvette for a few years, and is often paired on the Escalade with the 22-inch wheels.
We were surprised by the ride, its dynamics, performance, ease of handling in almost every road surface and weather condition, but we were also very impressed at the Escalade's handling of corners and tight turns... it was remarkable indeed.
If you are in the market for a full sized SUV, the Escalade is very much worthy of you looking into!