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. 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” alloy wheels.
Swing the doors and you’re flooded with the scent of a gay man’s Paris apartment. Rich leather cologne 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 to the Bose audio system.
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.
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 and bad. There’s nothing like a GM small-block V8 roaring to life and there’s plenty of power. I suspect it will be rather durable. On the flip side, even with Magnetic Ride Control can’t tame those big wheels and solid rear axle. But, if you actually pull heavy boats, RVs, or classic cars, the Escalade’s big truck roots shine brightly.
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.
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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