Cadillacs are supposed to be big, bold, crisply styled, and filled to the headliner with advanced luxury conveniences. You should be able to identify one from three football fields away. The Escalade does that and more, flashing bling from grille to fins. In the old days, Cadillac only had to dispatch Lincoln, but now faces global players from Europe and Asia. Is the Cadillac of SUVs up to the challenge?
Flashy Familiar Style
You could park a 1957 Cadillac Brougham next to the Escalade and be sure they’re related, though classic fins and a big chrome grille have been reinterpreted across sixty years. Up front is a satin silver grille, with buckle-size Cadillac crest, flanked by stacks of LEDs. The basic body shell is shared with the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon, but looks like Cadillac prevailed with sharp creases and elegant chrome that inscribes the A-pillar, C-pillar, and trim between. Twin LED “fins” run bumper to roof. It all looks especially fetching in Dark Adriatic Blue Metallic paint over 22-inch alloy wheels - kept clean with power-retractable steps.
Swing the doors and you’re flooded with the scent of a cologned calf that washes over Kona Brown leather seats, acres of real matte wood, and cut-and-sew dash and door coverings. It’s lush, made more so with heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, heated middle-row seats, and tri-zone automatic climate control. Rock yourself silly or lull away miles listening to the Bose audio system.
As you’re intoxicated by the aroma and accoutrement, check the electronics. Right in the middle of the dash is Cadillac’s swipe-sensitive CUE infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and 4G LTE Wi-Fi. Some think it’s distracting, but I find it easy to navigate. Drivers also enjoy a flatscreen instrument panel, head-up display, and power adjustable steering column. A power tailgate and power fold rear seats make hauling easy, but third-row passengers should check their legs at the door. Safety is enhanced with adaptive cruise, forward collision alert, front/rear auto braking, lane keep assist, blind zone alert, and around-view camera.
Big Powerful Engine
A big truck needs a powerful engine, and the Escalade gets it. Behind the flashy nose beats a 6.2-liter V8 delivering 420 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s routed to the electronic four-wheel-drive system through an eight-speed automatic transmission. While it seems like a Boeing 747 gathering speed, it runs 0-60 mph in a brisk 5.96 seconds. And, that torque comes in handy when moving up to 8,300 lbs. on the hitch. Lightly loaded and softly throttled, expect to see 15/20-MPG city/hwy.
There’s no disguising the Escalade as other than a big GM truck. That’s good because nothing sounds like a GM small-block V8 roaring to life and there’s plenty of power. Compared to some temperamental European makes, the Escalade should last like other big GM trucks. On the flip side; even with Magnetic Ride Control, it’s hard to tame those big 22” wheels and solid rear axle. Some roads will unsettle all serenity, but the mac Caddy feels like it can drive over almost anything. And, if you actually pull heavy boats, RVs, or classic cars, the Escalade behaves exactly like the big GM truck it is.
No doubt, I enjoy the Escalade – always have. But, I’d love a few changes to crest the Range Rover, Mercedes GLS, and redesigned Lincoln Navigator. The Escalade does not want for power, but at this price point, I’d not complain about an Escalade-V with the CTS-V’s 640 horsepower supercharged V8 under its wide hood. Cadillac also needs an executive package with large captain’s chairs in the middle row. Last, an independent rear suspension would do wonders for handling and ride comfort.
Beyond a certain price, an automobile is about want, not need, and so I’m not even going to attempt to justify the higher digits paid for an Escalade versus the similar Chevy Tahoe or GMC Yukon. But, I will say this: The upper end of the luxury SUV segment is a cut-throat barrage of style, power, and luxury. Think about the divine Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz GLS, and Infiniti QX80. All of them ride smoother, and can be more luxuriously equipped, but there’s only one Cadillac. For many, that’s what matters. Prices start at $73,395, but came to $91,435 as tested.
2017 Cadillac Escalade
- Seven-passenger, 4WD SUV
- Powertrain: 420hp 6.2-liter V8, 8-speed auto trans
- Suspension f/r: elect. Ind/Solid axle
- Wheels f/r: 22”/22” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Style, Performance
- 0-60 mph: 5.96s
- Fuel economy: 15/20 mpg city/hwy Assembly: Arlington, TX
- Base/as-tested price: $73,395/91,435