2015 Cadillac Escalade Review
Bringing Back the Bling Bling
In a world where downsizing is the norm and efficiency is a huge priority, Cadillac is launching a totally redesigned Escalade.
|Engine: A 6.2L V8 delivers 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: A six-speed automatic transmission is standard across the board.
Fuel Economy: The Escalade 2WD models rated at 15 MPG city, 21 MPG highway. 4WD ESV models get 14 MPG city and 20 highway.
Price: The 2015 Escalade starts at $72,690. Four-wheel drive costs an additional $2,600 while a four-wheel drive ESV Premium model costs $86,790.
This may seem like a questionable decision given that fuel economy and environmental concerns are at the top of many customers’ minds, but full-size luxury SUVs are still an important and profitable part of the market.
The 2015 version of this gilded lily is all new right down to its very foundation. In traditional Cadillac form it promises to give well-heeled buyers a more lavish interior, additional standard content and a more refined on-road experience, all without sacrificing any of the nameplate’s traditional bravado.
Bad To Its Truck-Based Bones
Caddy’s redesigned Escalade tussles with some tough competition. Rivals include the Mercedes-Benz GL, Land Rover Range Rover, Lexus LX 570 and the long-forgotten Lincoln Navigator. This is not a segment automakers can serve with warmed-over versions of mainstream models, not if they actually want to succeed. Luxury customers expect a lot and the 2015 Escalade promises to deliver.
Ruggedness is an important consideration; many customers live active lifestyles. Accordingly this is one tough truck. Unlike many of today’s car-based crossover vehicles, it rides atop a traditional ladder frame. It’s built like a pickup and designed to take a beating. The supporting structure is fully boxed and comprised of more than 75 percent high-strength steel, something that makes hauling heavy loads or towing a gigantic boat a fuss-free affair.
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The standard-length, two-wheel drive version is rated to drag up to 8,300 pounds. If you go with an extended-length ESV model or opt for four-wheel drive that figure drops by a few hundred.
Design is always important and the latest Escalade wears a brand-new face. It’s familiar Cadillac, with a big, angular grille and signature vertical headlamps. Those LED lights feature five crystal elements apiece to direct the photon streams precisely where needed. Of course light-emitting diodes are used throughout the new Escalade, both inside and out.
Things get a little less interesting as you move down the body-side; it’s mostly flat and unadorned with an unusually upright C-Pillar. However, the visual excitement returns as you move ‘round back. The new Escalade’s taillights are uniquely designed and totally unmistakable, running from roof to bumper. Also, the back end has some interesting sculptural details. Upping the convenience factor, the glass can be opened separately from the rest of the hatch.
All that glitters is not gold; sometimes it’s a set of chrome-slathered rims. The Escalade rolls on a shiny quartet of 20-inch wheels. But if that’s too small buyers can opt for even showier 22s instead.
When it comes to interiors Cadillac has really stepped up its game in recent years. The ATS, CTS and XTS have some really well done cabins and the new Escalade benefits from their focus.
Everything is soft, squishy and exceptionally well made. The dashboard and doors are crafted of supple leather and all the panels are hand stitched. If you prod just about any surface that’s not wood or plastic it will yield to your finger like a piece of freshly kneaded dough. The quality is impressive and immersive; sitting in the driver’s seat you’re surrounded by good taste from door panel to door panel and headliner to floor mat.
The 2015 Escalade can seat either seven or eight passengers spread over three rows. The front buckets are long-haul comfortable, but the rear chairs a little less so. The middle seats aren’t too bad, though they do feel sort of small and little too low to the floor. However, the aft-most bench is like a playground tube slide: it’s a kids-only zone. Adults will not be comfortable back there for any extended length of time.
Storage is always important and the Escalade comes with a large console between the front seats. Additionally, there’s cubby hidden in the center stack behind the climate controls. Just tap a small piece of trim on the dashboard and it motors open on its own. The space is illuminated and features a USB port so you can charge your phone and nobody will ever know it’s there.
As for cargo space, the Escalade offers about 94 cubic feet of maximum volume. The ESV model has nearly 121 cubes with the back seats stowed, which, by the way, are power folding and offer a flat load surface.
Beyond all of this, traditional gauges have been replaced by a massive 12.3-inch display screen. This allows the driver to reconfigure the instruments to their liking. There are four different themes to choose from and the whole thing is part of the company’s CUE infotainment system.
CUE is standard on every model and it seems to work pretty well with no stutters or glitches, though my time with it was extremely limited. The interface is colorful and sharp looking, though I wish it offered a proper volume knob instead of a touch-sensitive slider.
Eight Cylinders + Six Gears = One Great Powertrain
Behind the Escalade’s gleaming grille is a 6.2-liter V8; the only engine offered. If you want green or earth-friendly, this truck is not for you.
This seemingly old-school pushrod-powerplant features all kinds of advanced technology including aluminum construction, direct fuel injection, cylinder deactivation and an 11.5-to-one compression ratio. The end result is an impressive-sounding 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. It’s matched to an automatic transmission with six forward speeds.
When it comes to fuel economy, the most efficient version (the standard-length Escalade with two-wheel drive) stickers at 15 MPG around town and 21 on the highway. The least thrifty variant is the extended-length ESV model equipped with four-wheel drive. They return a claimed 14 MPG city, and 20 highway. These numbers aren’t that impressive but don’t forget this vehicle can top THREE TONS, plus the numbers are class competitive, though that doesn’t make them any less terrifying.
Cadillac claims the Escalade will scamper from a standstill to 60 MPH in under six seconds. That’s an impressive figure to be certain, but the ESV four-wheel drive model I tested didn’t feel that fast. Throttle tip in was extremely soft, seemingly to facilitate smooth take offs, but of course at the expense of dull initial response.
Once underway, things improve noticeably. The Gen V V8 needs about 3,000 RPM on the clock before she really starts pulling but after that point acceleration is pretty brisk, although you’re always keenly aware of how much mass it’s lugging around.
Another benefit of this engine is refinement. It’s supremely smooth; scarcely any vibration makes it into the passenger compartment and it sounds wonderful, with a husky rumble. For smoothness, responsiveness and sound quality you can’t beat a good V8.
The transmission is just as praiseworthy. It’s ultra-refined and up-shifts are essentially imperceptible. It’s got to be one of the smoothest automatic gearboxes in the world.
Despite its body-on-frame construction, the new Escalade feels like a high-riding luxury sedan. The overall structure is super stiff and there are no unwanted jiggles or sloppiness to its ride motions; our test vehicle was also free from any squeaks or rattles. The brand’s third-generation magnetic ride control, which is standard on all models, is probably the reason why it feels so nice on the road. Likewise there’s nothing to complain about with the steering or brakes. Overall this truck drives very well.
Like any modern luxury vehicle the 2015 Escalade comes with a host of safety and convenience features. Cadillac offers three different trim levels. “Standard” is the entry-level model, though it’s still very well equipped. They come with heated and cooled front seats, a navigation system, CUE and tri-zone automatic climate control, among countless other features.
“Luxury” is the next trim on the Escalade price ladder. Beyond all of the features listed in the paragraph above these models get things like power folding second-row seats, lane-change assist, blind-spot monitoring, a sunroof and 22-inch wheels, for maximum bling.
Capping things off is the “Premium” package. It comes with things like automatic front and rear braking, adaptive cruise control, a Blu-Ray player and much more.
The 2015 Cadillac Escalade is a tremendous update to the brand’s popular luxury SUV. The new version of this heavy-hitting utility vehicle is more refined and upscale than ever, coddling passengers with a world-class cabin and entertaining drivers with a refined and vocally talented powertrain.
Of course the new Escalade is not a product for everyone; it’s frightfully thirsty and the ESV model is especially challenging to maneuver in tight quarters, plus it’s not cheap. Pricing for an entry-level two-wheel-drive version starts at $72,690; the jumbo ESV variant is three grand more. If you want four-wheel drive plan on spending an additional $2,600. A top-of-the-line four-wheel drive ESV Premium model will set you back $86,790.
The 2015 Cadillac Escalade goes on sale in North America very soon, a bit later in global markets.