Cadillac Escalade – beyond hip-hop to the boardroom

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

What has made the Cadillac Escalade so popular with professional athletes, hip-hop stars and other celebrity millionaires has been ramped up a notch in the all-new 2007 version.

Cadillac officials know they sell infinitely more Escalades to doctors, lawyers and businessmen than the high-profile set, but they also know that the “bling-bling” publicity generated by sports stars and music entertainers has been priceless.

Therefore, the new truck has more of the bling factor than the pervious iteration while offering a more upscale experience for anyone wishing to drive high-riding American-made luxury.

We think Cadillac has succeeded in creating more of everything that has sold the Escalade over the past seven years to the chosen few as well as the well-heeled masses from the flyover states. Virtually everything from mechanicals, exterior styling and interior details has been upgraded. It’s hard to ask more from a new model.

We drove an Escalade for an extended two-week evaluation, and the more we drove it the more addictive it became — until the gas needle came perilously close to empty and the high-test pump with its $3.25-a-gallon price loomed ominously.

While the Escalade remains about the same size as the previous model — 202-inches long with a 116-inch wheelbase vs. 199/116 for ’06 — it has superior performance thanks to a new drivetrain.

Now propelling all Escalades is a 6.2-liter all-aluminum engine generating 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission.

Smooth shifts and muscular performance are now the order of the day when behind the wheel of the big Caddy. This is a giant leap from the previous truck’s 6.0-liter 345-horsepower V-8 mated to General Motors’ venerable four-speed shifter.

Hit the accelerator and the big leather-and-wood-clad brute leaps forward as the big engine gulps black gold. Measured by a stopwatch, the nearly three-ton truck can finish off a 0-to-60 run in 6.5 seconds. That will send a rush of adrenaline to the brain.

The damage at the premium gas pump for this performance exuberance is really not an issue for those who pony up more than 60 grand for an Escalade, but just for the record the government EPA rating is 13 mpg city and 19 mpg highway using the old standard. It gets worse with the new measurement standard.

Active Fuel Management, GM’s term for cylinder deactivation when the engine is not under stress, is not yet available. When available later that feature, found on GM’s 5.3-liter V-8, will probably take highway mileage up a notch.

Quick acceleration isn’t everything for those folks who pull toys. They won’t be disappointed to learn that the Escalade has a 7,700-pound tow rating, just slightly less than the previous model.

The upgrades, as noted above, don’t stop with the drivetrain.

Once behind the wheel, you will discover the new Escalade is easier to drive and handle.
Increased frame stiffness — Cadillac says the truck has 49 percent more torsional rigidity — together with a new suspension setup and rack and pinion steering that replaces the old re-circulating ball system gives the Escalade better handling characteristics and a smoother ride.

A smile may cross your face as you ask yourself -- is this a truck-based SUV? Pinch me - it feels more like a luxury sedan because inside you will find breath-taking improvements with higher-quality materials, tight gap tolerances and an upgraded design that can be argued as the best in the SUV kingdom.

The wood encrusted center stack flows from the top of the dashboard, housing soft-touch audio and climate controls. Instantly noticeable are the double-stitched leather seats and the blue-needled electroluminescent gauges.

The optional navigation screen is large and we found it easy to use. In fact, Cadillac has done a good job simplifying controls through the touch-screen system. A rear view backup camera comes with the NAV setup.

There is ample leg and head room for the driver and front-seat passenger and getting an optimum driving position is helped by standard power adjustable pedals.

But in an apparent effort to cut costs, the steering wheel does not telescope and has just three manual tilt settings. A vehicle in this luxury price category should have both power tilt and telescoping features. Shame on Cadillac.

It is also notable that only the driver’s window has one-touch down and none of the windows have one-touch up. A $20,000 sedan we recently tested had one-touch up and down on all four windows. Guys – Escalade is luxury – get with the program. Putting another couple of bucks on the sticker for this stuff isn’t going to scare anyone away.

But perhaps these oversights will be forgiven (but not likely) as your hindquarters cool on a hot day with the optional (heated and) cooled front seats, and on a chilly day when you quickly feel the warmth of the heated steering wheel in your hand.

Second-row seating in the two captain’s chairs is first class with excellent head and leg room, heated seats and separate climate and audio controls. But like the pervious Escalade, the third row is tight for adults and best left for children.

The second-row seats have a power fold-up feature making access to the third row a snap. This feature also creates a big storage area. But the third row seat, while folding down, does not fold flat and has to be muscled out of the truck to gain a level load floor.

Some of the new-found bling comes in the 5.1 Bose digital surround system’s bass response, which can have aging ears crying out for plugs. The system includes DVD, CD, MP3 and satellite radio capabilities.

Another obvious bling treatment is the optional 22-inch chrome aluminum wheels. A Cadillac representative told us that so many people were purchasing after-market wheels, that it was a no-brainer to make them available at the showroom — at an option price of $2,995.

Cadillac has made several safety features standard including stability control with rollover sensors; four-wheel antilock disc brakes; side curtain airbags for all three rows; a tire-pressure monitoring system and the OnStar system.

The Escalade starts at $54,920 in two-wheel drive and $57,280 with all-wheel drive including destination charge. Our test vehicle was loaded with extras including navigation and a rear entertainment system for a rich total of $66,110.

From its oversized Cadillac grille to its acres of chrome to its huge gleaming wheels, the new Escalade has the bling factor covered. But more than that, it has gained leadership in the luxury sport utility segment.


Base price, $54,920; as driven, $66,110

Engine: 6.2-liter V-8

Horsepower: 403 @ 5,700 rpm

Torque: 417 pound-feet @ 4,400 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Seating: 2/2/3

Turning circle: 39 feet

Towing capacity: 7,700 pounds

Maximum payload: 1,435 pounds

Luggage capacity: 16.9 cubic feet

Wheelbase: 116 inches

Length: 202.5 inches

Curb weight: 5,793 pounds

Fuel capacity: 26 gallons (premium)

EPA mileage: 19 highway, 13 city

0-60: 6.3 seconds (Car and Driver)

Also consider: Lincoln Navigator, Land Rover Range Rover, Lexus LX470

The Good:

• Powerful V-8 engine mated to new 6-speed transmission.
• Upscale interior befitting a luxury sport utility.

The Bad:

• Have your Master Card ready at all times to feed this big boy’s appetite.
• Third-row seat has to be muscled out to gain a flat load floor.

The Ugly:

• Cheap accountants that denied one touch down and up windows and power tilt and telescope steering wheel.