2015 Cadillac Escalade vs. 2015 Lincoln Navigator

Battle of Luxurious Dinosaurs

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2015 Cadillac Escalade vs. 2015 Lincoln Navigator

Not so long ago, lumbering body-on-frame SUVs roamed the streets with an unquenchable thirst for gasoline and chrome.

Amongst these prehistoric beasts, the Cadillac Escalade was Tyrannosaurus Rex, perched atop a throne made of motoring luxury, space and excess. For 2015 there is an all-new ‘Slade looking to continue its reign as King of the big American luxury SUV.

But there’s always been one key rival trying to overthrow the Escalade since 1997, the Lincoln Navigator. It too has received substantial updates for the 2015 model, but are they enough to dethrone the Escalade?

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Similarities Abound, Differences Poke Through

On the surface the Escalade and Navigator are fairly similar. Both can be had in two body styles, as either the smaller Navigator and Escalade, or the larger Navigator L and Escalade ESV. The two SUVs can seat up to eight passengers, come with DVD entertainment systems, two or four wheel drive and 460 lb-ft. or torque.

But the way that torque number is achieved by very different means. While the Cadillac continues to use a big 6.2-liter V8, Lincoln installed the widely popular 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 in the Navigator. Even though the torque ratings between the two engines are the same, the Navigator’s is available at lower RPM. On the road, this low-end torque advantage is noticeable as the Navigator pulls effortlessly at any speed, even with an extra 200 lbs. to carry around compared to the Escalade.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Cadillac Escalade Review

Once speeds climb, the 40 extra horsepower produced by the Escalade’s V8 begins to be felt. And when it comes to sound there’s no contest; the 6.2-liter is much more pleasant to the ears. If you plan to tow though, the Lincoln has a distinct advantage because rear-wheel drive models are rated to tow 9,000 lbs., or almost 1,000 lbs. more than the Cadillac.

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Fuel economy is pretty close between the two as well. Official ratings are pegged at 14 MPG city and 21 MPG highway for an all-wheel drive regular length Escalade. By comparison, the all-wheel drive standard length Navigator drops one mile per gallon on the highway, but gains one in city driving. When we did a real-world fuel cycle loop, the cylinder deactivation on the Escalade helped secure it a slightly more attractive 15.6 MPG average compared to the Lincoln’s 15.2 MPG. And, that was with the larger Escalade ESV against a regular wheelbase Navigator. Had the two SUVs been the same length, we figure the observed fuel economy gap would have increased.

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Comfort and Space

For driver and passenger comfort, the Navigator holds the edge. The front seats are plusher and the suspension swallows road imperfections better than an asphalt scraper. The Cadillac isn’t exactly a rough ride, but it can’t match the Navigator’s smoothness, even when the adjustable magnetic ride control suspension is set to Tour mode. On the other hand, the Escalade is more responsive and handles better, but these are as far from performance vehicles as you can get so it’s sort of a moot point.

Despite the vehicle’s similar size, the Navigator offers more space in most places. The rear cargo area, with 18.1 cubic feet for regular wheelbase models and 42.6 cubic feet for long wheelbase ones, is larger than their equivalent Escalade counterparts. And then there’s third-row seat comfort. The Lincoln’s aren’t just more spacious, also more comfortable as well. Anyone stuck sitting in the Escalade’s third row for a long ride will probably be pretty cranky because they offer all the comfort of a wood bench. But the second-row seats, which will see much more use, do hold a slight advantage over the Navigator.

Compare Specs

2015 Cadillac Escalade
vs
2015 Lincoln Navigator
Vehicle 2015 Cadillac Escalade Advantage 2015 Lincoln Navigator
Engine 6.2-liter V8 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6
Horsepower 420 Escalade 380
Torque460 460
Transmission Six-speed Automatic -– Six-Speed Automatic
Fuel Economy (US) 14 MPG City, 21 MPG Highway Escalade 15 MPG City, 20 MPG Highway
Fuel Economy (Canadian) 16.8 L/100 km city, 11.7 L/100 km hwy Escalade 16.2 L/100 km city, 11.8 L/100 km hwy
Cargo Space 15.2 cu. ft. Navigator 18.1 cu. ft.
Second-Row Legroom 39 inches 39.1 inches
Third-Row Legroom 24.8 inches Navigator 37.7 inches
Starting Price (U.S.) $73,965 Navigator $62,495
As-Tested Price (U.S.)$89,755 Navigator $75,890
Starting Price (Canadian) $83,245 Navigator $76,960
As-Tested Price (Canadian) $99,910Navigator $86,560

Cutting Edge vs. Familiar  

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The differences in design – both interior and exterior – are much more clearly defined. Even though both SUVs wear new exterior styling for 2015, the Navigator’s refresh didn’t dramatically alter its look and in our eyes. In other words, it already looks dated, especially beside the cutting-edge Escalade.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Lincoln Navigator Review

Inside the styling of the two SUVs becomes a matter of personal taste, but there are some design elements we question in the Navigator like how high the dashboard hump is in front of the passenger and how the cheap door-mounted tweeter covers made it into the production model.

Locked in a close battle so far, the Escalade pulls ahead when in the technology department. Features like lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control that are optional on the Escalade are nowhere to be found on the Navigator. The Cadillac also feels more like a high-end SUV flagship product thanks to high-tech features like the digital gauge cluster and the heads-up display. If you live in a colder climate, it’s also important to note the Escalade comes with a heated steering wheel as standard equipment, unlike the Navigator.

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The Verdict:

Of course getting more in the Escalade will also cost more. Base models start at $73,965 after destination charges while an Escalade Premium 4WD comes in at $89,755 as equipped for this comparison. That’s quite a bit more than the Navigator that begins $62,495 and arrived for this test at $75,890 as equipped.

So that raises an important question: is the Escalade worth an $11,000 to $14,000 price premium? In our minds, the answer is yes. The Navigator may be cheaper, but it feels old and we can’t help but wonder if grabbing a slightly used model is a better option. The Escalade, on the other hand, looks and feels like a new, modern take on the mammoth luxury SUV. At least for now, GM still builds the grandCaddy of body-on-frame family transportation.

2015 Cadillac Escalade

2015 Lincoln Navigator

  • ZX-10R

    Bravo. Well written and I agree. You are definitely paying more for the “newness”.

  • johnls39 .

    Excellent review.

  • laserwizard

    Truly bogus review – Lincoln has never stated the Navigator is all new – the Cadihack is being passed off as just that. The real apples to apples test will be when the NEW Navigator comes online in 2016. The Cadihack is truly just last year’s version with a mild refresh – all of the hard points are exactly the same and what was curved on the old model is now straightened out. This is not new despite what Cadihack says. Lincoln basically just reskinned their old model in front and rear and really has not stated it did more.

  • BIRLOT

    Lincoln Navigaytor’s rivals is the Yukon Denali

  • Kvally

    Great review. Goes to show that Lincoln is a little long in the tooth and needs a rebranding to match the worldwide appeal of Cadillac.

  • craigcole

    That EcoBoost V6 is a beast. The low-end torque it cranks out is unreal.

  • MNSnowBoy

    Ground clearance wasn’t mentioned. This is an SUV review; it’s pertinent. Some of us still live in in Snow Country. From the looks of it, the Navigator has more available clearance to the tires, which is not the same as ground clearance, but there will clearly be less damage to the lower front bumper from the Navigator when running into those piles the snow plows leave across street intersections. I’d probably like one of those coming off-lease.