The automotive equivalent of a weightlifter dressed to the nines.
– Cleveland, Ohio
The Cadillac Escalade is a book that doesn’t mind being judged by its cover – it’s got a great cover, after all. But there’s so much more to the Escalade than its facade. It’s a rolling showroom of the best luxury features you can buy. It’s also got overalls on underneath that three-piece suit and won’t be out-towed by your buddy’s half-ton pickup. And lastly, it’s a bonafide limousine, offering indulgent accommodations for up to seven one-percenters (or eight in the longer ESV version). It’s obvious why so many rookie athletes, reality TV stars, and corporate honchos love the Escalade: it makes you look important and never lets you down.
Magic magnets. The Escalade uses parent company General Motors’ Magnetic Ride Control suspension, which adjusts the shock absorbers’ damping up to 1,000 times per second to keep the ride smooth and even at all times. It works wonderfully; the Escalade feels neither tippy in turns nor floaty in a straight line, yet the ride is remarkably compliant for a truck-based SUV that rolls on tall 22-inch wheels. MRC is also a better handling solution for big vehicles like this than the complex air suspension system Mercedes uses on the GLS or the new hydraulic system on the Infiniti QX80, the reliability of which is still unknown.
Quiet confines. It’s eerie how tranquil the cabin is while the Escalade is barreling down the highway at 75 miles per hour; there’s only a whisper of wind noise and the road sounds more like berber carpet beneath the tires than concrete or asphalt. Acoustic front glass, triple-sealed doors, and Bose Active Noise Cancellation – the same features responsible for Buick’s “Quiet Tuning” – deserve the credit.
Love this engine. The Escalade’s 6.2-liter V8 engine is a marvel of power, poise, and relative efficiency. Its 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque move this monster with alacrity, as well as afford a pickup-rivaling maximum towing capacity of 8,100 pounds (8,300 for 2WD models). The four-wheel-drive model I tested is also rated at 20 miles per gallon on the highway (the 2WD version achieves 2 mpg more), but I saw even better figures on a multi-state road trip. It’s not just a big, dumb V8, either; features like direct injection, cylinder deactivation, and continuously variable valve timing make it a state-of-the-art powerplant.
Baller design. As always, styling is a matter of personal preference, but it’s hard to deny the Escalade’s sheer presence. The fourth-generation Escalade’s design is the most ostentatious yet, but not in a garish way. Rather, it looks like a piece of contemporary art that belongs in the garage of an updated mid-century modern home. Wallflowers and traditionalists should move right along.
More tech than the rest. All fullsize luxury SUVs offer an impressive list of features, but the Escalade offers a few new ones and exclusives you can’t get elsewhere. Cadillac’s new rear camera mirror – an industry exclusive – is now available for the Escalade after making its debut last year in the CT6 sedan; it’s a bit gimmicky but the wider field of view can be helpful. The Escalade also offers wireless charging for compatible smartphones, a cooling box for drinks, a built-in Blu-ray player for the three-screen rear entertainment system, an automatic rear hatch with a rear window that opens separately, and a completely hidden rear wiper.
Pricing pains. The Escalade is really expensive. Its base price is $73,395, which makes it the second-most expensive Cadillac you can buy behind the wild CTS-V super sedan. This particular Escalade 4WD Platinum retails out the door at $96,500, which is a rounding error away from six figures. There was a time when a six-figure vehicle from a domestic automaker was a laughable thought, but the Escalade’s working to change that. And its price is mid-pack among its competitors, with the Mercedes GLS and Land Rover Range Rover costing more, the Lexus LX 570 about equal, and the segment’s value leader, the Infiniti QX80, less.
Fifty shades of brown. When we reviewed last year’s model with a black interior, I thought the brown interior might look richer. I was wrong. It reminds me more of Yoo-hoo than Tuscany. And the leather on the driver’s seat is already wearing after only 3,500 miles.
Running board blues. Running boards are helpful when getting into the Escalade, and these automatic ones retract into the body to keep the lines clean. However, even when stowed, they still collected a lot of mud and snow after a week’s worth of driving. Cadillac does let you manually extend them in Park or Neutral to clean them off in a car wash, but that didn’t work well, as this image in the gallery proves.
Photos: John Neff / Motor1.com