The presence of this Cadillac Escalade cannot be denied. It’s big, it’s brash, it sucks down fuel like a 747 and is like a first-class jet on the inside. The Escalade gets wide, soft, heated-and-cooled leather seats, unfinished woodgrain trim and shiny accents all over. The CUE (Cadillac User Experience) entertainment system is improving over the somewhat-difficult-to-navigate early versions, and the faux suede headliner with cutout for the sunroof looks cool, too. The second row of seats has a lot of space, but the third row is more cramped than you might expect — fairly common for a truck-based SUV. Visibility is great, which is important when piloting this behemoth.
I’ll never complain about GM’s 6.2-liter V8. It has plenty of power to move this enormous ute around and sounds good doing it. The transmission is tuned for efficiency, though — it shifts early and often if you’re not pushing the pedal down far. The V8 has cylinder shutdown too, which saves fuel by deactivating half the engine during part-throttle operation — it’s noted with a little “V4” logo in the dash.
Throttle response is good, as expected from a big V8 with no turbochargers. The Escalade isn’t so fast that it lurches off the line — even when you floor it, it’s not fast-fast, it just moves along smoothly and quickly. The brakes take a surprising amount of effort to haul this thing down, though. Several times I had to add pressure at the last moment because I thought I was going to end up blowing through a red light.
Part of that is due to simple mass: The Escalade is heavy and lets you know it. It feels heavy in the steering, in the throttle and especially the brakes. I don’t mind the weight in the steering wheel, but you’ll want to pass on tight parking lots. At speed, there are no problems.
The suspension soaks up almost everything so there’s no need to dodge potholes or road imperfections; even though the wheels are big and blingy, it has enough tire on it so you don’t have to really worry about scuffing something up. I don’t know if I’d go full off-road with it — barring the zombie apocalypse — but some light trails, sand or mud wouldn’t be a problem.
A base 2017 Cadillac Escalade is about $74,000; this Platinum trim is up at $95K with everything included. The Mercedes GLS starts at $69K, so it is a tad bit cheaper while still getting three rows. The Escalade’s most direct competitor, the Lincoln Navigator Reserve, runs about $78K comparably equipped, though with an EcoBoost V6 and not nearly as opulent an interior.
–Jake Lingeman, road test editor
Base Price: $95,790
As Tested Price: $96,500
Drivetrain: 6.2-liter OHV V8, 4WD eight-speed automatic
Output: 420 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 460 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm
Curb Weight: 5,784 lb
Fuel Economy: 15/20/17 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Options: Red passion tintocat ($500); chrome exhaust tip ($135); wheel lock kit ($75)
Pros: Visibility, comfort and tech
Cons: Hard to maneuver at slow speeds