2010 Cadillac Escalade ESV Review

Cadillac’s Escalade ESV takes the luxury SUV ‘bigger is better’ mantra very seriously

2010 Cadillac Escalade ESV Review
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On the I-635 beltway cut through posh northside sections of Dallas, we're cruising in the center lane while encased in the velvet comforts of the biggest and most luxurious SUV ever to carry a Cadillac badge: a 2010 Escalade ESV in a glitzy over-the-top Platinum edition.

FAST FACTS

1. At 222.8-inches in length, the ESV version is 21-inches longer than the standard Escalade.

2. One engine is available, a 6.2L V8 with 403-hp and 417 ft-lbs of torque now featuring Active Fuel Management to deliver a 14/22-mpg (city/hwy) rating.

3. The ESV is rated to tow up to 7,800 lbs.

4. Cargo room is 45.8 cu.-ft. behind the third row, 90 cu.-ft. behind the second and a total of 137.4 cu.-ft.

5. Pricing starts at $65,100 and tops out at $86,680 for the Platinum model.

That moniker, when applied to Cadillac's big truck, delivers an even larger beast than the full-size Escalade. Its overall length exceeds the Escalade by 21-inches, in fact, and there's about 20-inches of extra space applied lengthwise at the rear of the cavernous cabin, which contributes more legroom for riders on third-row seats and three times the cargo space behind the third seats.

SUPER-SIZED FOR ADDED CONVENIENCE

Call this one the super-sized SUV as it compares to Chevrolet's Suburban in half-ton 1500 series but with all of Escalade's lavish features plus some class-topping muscle.

It also develops the highest gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) and top trailer tow numbers. Plus, it comes with four-wheel-drive traction with GM's automatic Autotrac system with a smart electronic transfer case delivering on-demand all-wheel-drive.

And packed aboard the boxy structure you'll find every conceivable mechanical weapon for serious road combat, along with every convenience in a leather-wrapped cabin that cradles up to seven riders in the lap of luxury.

But our surprise is that the humongous ESV acts like a sprint champ. Punch the throttle and prepare yourself for a neck-snap launch because this big truck, drafting more than 222-inches in length and tipping scales to a figure approaching 5,944lbs. is charged with fire power.

THE ADDED STRENGTH OF V8 POWER

Below the square-cornered hood there lurks an aluminum-block V8 engine that displaces 6.2-liters and applies variable valve timing (VVT) to optimize camshaft timing and enrich the low-rpm torque and high-rpm horsepower. The plant produces 403-hp at 5700 rpm and torque of 417 ft-lbs at 4300 rpm. All of that muscle is translated through a six-speed automatic gearbox.

Only a handful of sporty performance cars pull so much power out of a V8, but how about an uber-lux and super-size sport-utility?

For 2010 models the ESV engine gains GM's Active Fuel Management (AFM) technology that cuts by half the number of cylinders engaged in the combustion process when full power isn’t needed. Big engines generally denote a dog-thirsty appetite for lapping up fuel, but the AFM device works as a fuel-saver and turns the huge ESV into a rather efficient vehicle.

And despite the best-in-class fuel economy (14/20-mpg city/highway), the ESV's V8 also gets high marks for towing a trailer, capping at a 7800-pound tow capacity for the 4WD version.

SERIOUSLY COMFORTABLE RIDE

The Escalade ESV rides on the GMT-900 platform, which has boxed frame rails stretching from tip to tail to forge a firm foundation. Also, there's a wide track for front and rear wheels and a relatively low center of gravity for the overriding structure, which makes the SUV quite stable in motion and, when coupled to a tuned suspension, enhances the ride quality and the vehicle's ability to move through a set of curves without much body roll.

The suspension is a coil-over-shock arrangement up front and a five-link design at the rear with coil springs. A standard Autoride rear suspension device employs continuously-variable road-sensing damping with air-leveling shock absorbers for precise control over bumps. The optional Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) variable suspension adjusts shock stiffness every millisecond for optimum road handling and comfort.

The steering system is a rack and pinion mechanism, not that common among truck-based SUVs. It brings quick and predictable response from the steering wheel.

Brakes consist of a big disc on each wheel, with linkage to a computerized anti-lock brake system (ABS), traction control system (TCS) and GM's StabiliTrak anti-skid yaw controller.

CREATURE COMFORTS ABOUND

The leather-wrapped passenger compartment of the Escalade ESV contains three tiers of seats for as many as seven riders. There's a pair of broad buckets on the front row, a second row in power fold-and-tumble buckets or split bench, plus a pair of seats on the third row which fold and may be pulled out individually like a rollaboard suitcase to maximize cargo space.

At the back of the cargo bay, a power-assisted liftgate opens and closes with the tap of a finger button.

Safety equipment onboard ranges from frontal air bags for front seats, curtain-style air bags for all three rows and new side thorax air bags added at the front seats.

For the standard Escalade ESV, a remote-control starter and rear parking assist device are included, along with leather upholstery, triple-zone climate controls, 14-way power heated front seats, adjustable pedals, power folding mirrors with heat elements, rain-sensing wipers, a roof rack and running boards, DVD navigation system with rearview camera, and a Bose 5.1 Digital Surround Sound system available to play DVD audio/video, CD audio/video, MP3 files as well as the subscription-based XM satellite radio service.

The Luxury Package brings heated/cooled front buckets, power fold-and-tumble second-tier seats, a moonroof, Side Blind Zone Alert, the MRC suspension and massive 22-inch alloy wheels.

For the ESV Platinum edition, there's more premium leatherwork stitched by hand with decorative French seams. A video screen tucks in the back of each front seat headrest and links to the on-board DVD entertainment system.

THE VERDICT

The Cadillac Escalade ESV has long been the standard by which all large-sized SUV’s are measured. Packed with creature comfort and space, it remains true to its roots and doesn’t shy away from being overly big in an increasingly small world. Because when you need it, big is better.

LOVE IT
  • Sized extra large for comfort
  • First-class appointments and style
  • Excellent storage space
LEAVE IT
  • Difficult to park in tight spaces
  • Expensive to buy and refuel
  • Somewhat dated exterior styling

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2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
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2010 Nissan Armada Platinum Review

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