You know what I mean. It’s got great bone structure, it looks fantastic on the outside, [insert suggestive interior joke here], but it clearly craves attention. It’s flashy and a little bit trashy — and it’s perfectly okay with that.
To test out the 2013 Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum, I enlisted the aid of two pals: my husband, who rides a Vespa, and our friend Peter, who owns a Honda Civic. If the Escalade could bring these two around to its way of thinking, I’d know I had a winner on my hands.
When I pulled up to my house, my husband was waiting on the front steps. He saw me in the driver’s seat and peered up and down the street, as if to say, “What will the neighbors think?” (To which I’d reply: “It’s 10:00 on a Saturday morning in the heart of the gay ghetto. The neighbors are asleep or at brunch. Or both.”)
Still, I understood his concerns. On our block, the award for Most Upscale Car either goes to our own Jeep or a 1970something hearse that an artist has converted into an ironic pimpmobile. The boxy Escalade ESV — tricked out in White Diamond paint and measuring 21 inches longer than a run-of-the-mill Escalade — was about the same length as the hearse, but its 22-inch chromed aluminum wheels made it stand out like a bead-covered college kid in town for his first Mardi Gras.
When Peter caught sight of us, he laughed long and loud. He stumbled back in the house to drag his groggy roommate out to look at the Escalade. He had the same reaction when the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile was last in town. Not such a promising response, I thought.
But from my teaching days, I knew all too well that you have to give folks time to adapt. In class, it took about 30 minutes before the newness of an exercise wore off and students began taking it seriously.
And that’s exactly what happened. To ensure we had plenty of quality time in the Escalade, I planned a full-day excursion to an outlet mall (which seemed like the natural habitat of the Escalade), and then to a late lunch/early dinner at a secluded restaurant out on the bayou. My colleagues had nothing to do but sit back and soak it all in.
By the time we reached the mall, they’d become quite comfortable in the Escalade’s cozy leather seats. My husband and Peter fired up the DVD player and stretched out in the third row to watch John Waters’ classic Desperate Living (an odd choice, but the first disc within reach as I walked out the door). The zoned AC meant that I could keep the front area toasty warm, while they chilled out in the back — literally. I even made use of the heated front seat, which I rarely get to do down here in Louisiana.
Then: shopping. Lots of it. Without going into embarrassing detail, I’ll just say that I will never want for ankle socks, apple corers, or aftershave ever again. I have the receipts to prove it.
Back to the car we went. I opened the smooth power liftgate, and we tossed an unholy number of shopping bags in the giant-sized cargo area. (Seriously, I’ve seen smaller kindergartens.) The day had warmed up by then, so I cracked open the Escalade’s sunroof to let in a little air for the hour-long drive to the restaurant.
Even when we hit bumpy stretches of road, the Escalade’s ride remained silky smooth. That’s likely because of the SUV’s Magnetic Ride Control, which reportedly “reads” the road every single millisecond, and when it detects a problem, requires only about five milliseconds to address it.
There was plenty of power to get us there, too, thanks to the Escalade’s 6.2-liter V8 engine, which churns out an impressive 403 hp. I didn’t get the chance to push the SUV to its limits, due to an unusually high number of highway patrolmen on the roads, but the pack of tigers purring under the hood made the Escalade’s potential obvious.
After several plates of hushpuppies, coleslaw, and more oysters than any of us knew what to do with, we headed home. While my two traveling companions napped, I tried to pick out a few of the Escalade’s flaws.
I’ll admit that in design terms, it’s not as sleek and angular as the rest of the Cadillac lineup. In fact, it’s a little ungainly, and the thought of parking it on a daily basis was enough to make my head spin. But folks who can afford the Escalade’s base price of $82,545 can probably shell out for a decent-sized parking space, too.
I had a few quibbles with the interior, too. It was beyond plush and comfortable, but there were a handful of touches that felt a tad fusty — not fussy, but fusty. I have a hard time seeing burled wood without thinking of cars my grandfather used to own. He would’ve liked the analog clock in the dash, too, which seemed deeply out of place, given the rest of the Escalade’s onboard tech.
Speaking of tech, the SUV’s navigation system gave me fits. It was very good at finding us on the road, but every time I tried to set directions, it would flip the map upside down, so that south was at the top, and north was at the bottom. Funny how flipping a map on its head can be completely disorienting, even when it’s showing roads that you travel every day.
And of course, I’m obligated to mention the Escalade’s fuel economy, which clocks in around 14 mpg city and 18 mpg highway. (Thankfully, the SUV comes with a 31-gallon tank.) If I were to spring for one of these babies, I’d consider the hybrid model, which gets a more respectable 20 city/23 highway.
In sum, the Escalade is a great vehicle if you’re a big traveler and/or schlepper and you want to motor around in style and comfort. True, it’s not for the timid — shy and retiring types might be better suited for the Escalade’s more demure cousin, the GMC Acadia. But you only live once, and there’s nothing wrong with living it up while you’re here.
That said, rumor has it that the Escalade’s Kardashian qualities may soon going the way of the dodo: GM’s North American president Mark Reuss has revealed that the next-generation Escalade will be “much less ostentatious“. Get your flash while you can.
2013 Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum
Pricing: From $82,545
Fuel economy: 14 mpg city/ 18 mpg hwy
Engine: Vortec 6.2-liter V8 with flex-fuel capability
Transmission: Rear-wheel drive, six-speed automatic (AWD available)
Passenger capacity: Eight
Assembly: Arlington, Texas