CADILLAC TO THE MAX
By Casey Williams
The Escalade is well-established as the ultimate SUV — so much so that it’s the only Cadillac with a non-ambiguously-lettered nomenclature. It summarily displaced Range Rover as the preferred over-luxuriated truck for Hollywood stars, corporate elite, and anybody else wishing to drive a capable and stylish wagon. Well into its second generation, minor complaints about the Escalade’s interior trim quality are slashed with one word: Platinum. This is Cadillac to the MAX.
Exterior styling is instantly recognizable, but is even more impressive with a CTS-style grille, power running boards that ride flush with the body undersides, bright LED headlamps, LED taillights, and enough sheetmetal from which to rivet your own ship. Front fender vents and 22″ chrome wheels bring on the bling. And in case anybody wonders who makes this truck, Cadillac placed enormous “Wreath and Crest” logos on the grille and power-operated liftgate.
Grabbing the big chrome door handles or pressing the liftgate button on the key fob grants access to the most exclusive interior to grace a Cadillac since the ’57 Brougham. There’s nothing fake. Trees and cows died, and aluminum was mined, for this space. The doors, dashboard, and center console are covered in French-stitched leather. Aluminum panels gird the center dash and console. A tap on the Olive and Ash wood planks on the dashboard and doors confirm they’re real. Super soft Tehama Aniline Leather upholsters the first and second row captain’s chairs. Everything you see, touch, and smell is cabin class.
Cadillac serves up enough electronics to manage a Jupiter mission. Navigation, tri-zone auto climate control, universal home remote, rear audio controls, 6-disc changer, XM Satellite Radio, traffic congestion warning, blind spot indicators, and heated power-fold mirrors are all here. I counted five LCD screens; there’s one in the dash, two in the backs of the front headrests, and two more that flip down from the ceiling for both rows of rear seats. Phones connect with Bluetooth; an USB port is provided to easily sync your iPod with the vehicle’s own controls.
Sybaritic comfort is provided by a power-heated steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals, heated and cooled front seats, heated middle row seats, and heated/cooled cupholders – perfect for keeping your frappe cold or your latte hot. A remote starter is great in the winter. Bose speakers with 5.1 Surround Sound make violins sing. To match the best cars in the world, though, Escalades should come with radar adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and active warnings for impending front impacts.
As with the interior, there’s nothing pretend under the hood. A 6.2-litre GM small block V8 makes 403-HP, 417 lb.-ft. of torque, and a throaty exhaust rumble. It connects to the wheels through a crisp six-speed automatic transmission, fully automated all-wheel-drive system, and locking rear differential. Variable displacement that shuts off four cylinders during low-power situations conserves at least some fuel, although you’ll see 12/19-MPG city/hwy.
There’s no problem getting this rolling estate to blow past slow-moving sport coupes on the open interstate, in pounding rain, going through the mountains, with trailer attached. Just be careful. Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, Magnetic Ride Control (adjusts the suspension in real time), and electronic stability control can only do so much.
If you must pull a 30-ft. Airstream, mini-yacht, or horse trailer, it is a comforting reminder that the Escalade is based on GM’s full-size SUV platform, which includes the Chevy Suburban and GMC Yukon. Our test vehicle is rated to pull 7,800 lbs. I’m not sure who would abuse a flagship luxury wagon by running through streams and ramble, but the Escalade is up to the challenge if its owner is up to the expense. It is a real truck and can be used as one if you like. Getting to the lodge will be no problem.
I nearly drove 5,943-lbs. of Escalade through a Saturn SL2 and Toyota Corolla when both, apparently involved in cell phone jabber, slammed on their brakes in the left lane of a 65 mph highway, in pouring rain, before swerving into a turn lane. I slammed on the brakes, ABS activated, stability control grabbed the SUV, I swerved the truck into the middle of the lanes, and proceeded around the brainless wonders. The big truck can really move when it needs to. I’m glad I didn’t test the 5-star crash ratings!
Fully laden with life’s luxuries and wonders, the Escalade came to $87,630 (breathe). If you want to travel in three comfy rows of sweet leather, trailer attached, and surrounded by top technology, there is no better choice. Escalade Platinum should finally meet the refined expectations of high-end buyers.
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