When Cadillac introduced their full-size luxury SUV to the marketplace in 1999, it became an instant attraction for connoisseurs of all things grand and opulent. It garnered the attention and met the demands of urban lifestyles curators to soccer moms to business executives with aplomb. Aptly positioned, the Escalade’s stature is neither too large nor too intimidating, and is the key attribute for its success in a country where the size of your Kingdom matters most. In fact, the majestic SUV is perfectly positioned for the King and his horsemen to ride in, or alongside with power, grace and good fortune.
Not so long ago, SUVs were simply large vehicles riding on truck platforms and provided their owners with only mechanical benefits in the form of utility. Today represents a new era of automotive engineering where style, safety, entertainment, comfort and performance are equally important as hauling and storage capacity. Customers demand their SUVs to drive fluid like performance cars, offer stellar driver accoutrements and amenities, and speak the language of love whereas the attraction of their imperial product is as captivating as the luxury homes they dwell in. No problem, as all of these attributes are present in the 4th generation 2015 Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESV. In fact, if an exclusive, full-size SUV with luxury appurtenances suited for your lifestyle is the goal, then the solution is none other than an Escalade. It’s the consummate vehicle for transporting up to 8 passengers in style and ultimate comfort; especially if you opt for the Escalade ESV which offers a 14-inch longer wheelbase and roughly 20-inches of additional length.
To experience the bravado and hype of the latest Escalade, we headed to South Carolina to enjoy a mini vacation at the luxuriant Inn at Palmetto Bluff. Its beautiful acreage, large colonial homes and nature-enhanced landscape provided a glimpse of what luxury living was like in the 1800s. Insert the new Escalade and the equation becomes complete. For the latest model, the popular SUV received an entirely updated and rich interior, performance and engine upgrades, as well as advanced safety techniques to go along with its refreshed design. The dominant exterior is earmarked by the 5-bar Galvano chrome grille; vertical LED headlamps and taillamps; chrome-accented side assist steps; heated, power-adjustable and power-folding outside mirrors; a hands-free, power-programmable liftgate; liftgate spoiler; and capless fueling. The base 20” chromed aluminum rims are classic while optional 22” aluminum wheels provide a bit more zest and fill up the vehicle’s large wheel wells. “Cadillac’s ongoing growth provides the ideal stage for the all-new Escalade to take a major step forward,” said Uwe Ellinghaus, chief marketing officer, Global Cadillac. “Escalade has always had a bold character, differentiating itself from other luxury SUVs. Now, Escalade adds more sophistication, with advanced technology and hand-tailored craftsmanship.”
The southern morning and afternoon were quite picturesque for a full day of driving. South Carolina’s flat and straight country roads were perfect for acceleration purposes but provided little for us to experience the third generation Magnetic Ride Control which works like magic on the 2015 GMC Denali I had tested weeks prior. This suspension technology helps the vehicle adapt to varying road conditions, using an electrically charged ferrofluid to control untoward vehicle motions. With an advanced Electric Variable-Assist Power Steering System, a stiffer frame constructed from mostly high tensile-strength steels, and better handling tires, the sizeable Escalade no longer rides like a boat on water in comparison to its predecessor. I precisely recall a delayed steering response from some of these vehicles. You could lightly turn the steering wheel right or left and the vehicle would still be traveling straight. Not any more! Steer right and the SUV immediately turns right.
Acceleration is just right for the size and weight of the SUV. Though it would have been good to see how the Escalade operates when towing its max of 8,300 lbs (8,100 lbs for Escalade ESV). It’s powered by a re-tooled 6.2-liter FlexFuel V8 engine with 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque which helps it achieve a 0 to 60 mph time of 6 seconds. Direct Injection and Active Fuel Management transforms the massive power plant into a respectable and efficient engine. Either 2WD or AWD are offered to go along with GM’s Hydra-Matic 6-speed automatic transmission.
Step inside the new Escalade and take in a new breath of fresh air. The interior is what you would expect from a Mercedes-Benz or Land Rover. No more cheap-looking componentry and faux materials. Real wood and premium leather commingles harmoniously with ambient lighting and digital displays for one of the most sophisticated SUV cabins available in the auto industry. It didn’t matter if we drove all week, I felt as comfortable as if I were in my advanced home entertainment room. Especially with the 12.3” reconfigurable instrument cluster and the 8” touchscreen multi-media interface and entertainment center by way of CUE (Cadillac User Experience) telematics, innovation which brings intelligence to the interior. CUE incorporates OnStar with Automatic Crash Response, navigation, weather reports, Bluetooth, climate control, USB ports, and my favorite, Pandora Internet radio. The weather button is detailed and precise and lists temperature hourly, daily or by each 36-hour period just like your Weather Channel phone app. OnStar will also feature 4G LTE and a Wi-Fi hotspot in future models. CUE does need a bit of work such as a faster processor to make it a bit more user friendly. And we’re still mystified as to why GM continues to go with a roof mounted DVD package which is not only a relic, but takes space away for a potential sky roof. For your audio pleasure, the phenomenal 16-speaker Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound system is one of the best in the industry and will leave you with an opera hall experience. “An exceptional level of craftsmanship is found in the 2015 Escalade, and it all centers on the premium, layered materials and extensive use of cut-and-sew live stitching – the way fine furniture is produced,” said Eric Clough, director of design, Cadillac Interiors.
And like the European brands, Cadillac provides more technology by way of the Driver Awareness Package and a Driver Assist Package which enhance your vehicle with a front-seat center airbag that deploys upward to keep passengers from hitting each other in a crash, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning System, Safety Alert Seat, Front and Rear Automatic Braking, Automatic Collision Preparation and Automatic Safety Belt Tightening and much more. Currently ready for shipping, expect pricing to begin at $72,690 for a 2WD Escalade and up to $86,790 for a 4WD Escalade ESV Premium.