Escalading to the 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee


Engine: 6.2 L V8, 420 HP, 460 lb-ft.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (US): 14 MPG city, 21 MPG highway, 15.8 MPG observed
Fuel economy (CDN): 16.2 L/100 km city, 11.4 L/100 km highway, 14.9 L/100 km observed average
Price (US): Escalade starts at $73,965 after destination charges, Escalade Premium 4WD $86,815 as tested

It’s said that the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Well, this is also true of plans cobbled together by automotive journalists.

It was time once again for the yearly pilgrimage to Detroit for the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Living within a four-hour proximity to the motor city, as usual our plan was to drive to the show. Not only does this allow us to avoid touchy-feely TSA agents, but it’s a chance to annoy each other bond as a team and evaluate a vehicle over a longer driving distance than normal.

As the Road Test Editor, I was tasked with finding an appropriate steed for our travels. With a staff of five plus two videographers, we needed something that could handle the load. Knowing we’d probably require a second vehicle, I decided to book the main AutoGuide shuttle that could carry at least five people. I thought the Cadillac Escalade would be a perfect choice, fresh off its luxury SUV comparison win.

After a few inquiries, a 2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV was confirmed and team AutoGuide was all set to roll to Detroit in style. It would be perfect. With ample seating space, a full Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system and kicking stereo, this would be an epic road trip.

Then things began to unravel.

It Falls Apart (No, Not the Escalade)

It all started when we realized how busy the night before the show would actually be. You see, manufacturers love revealing vehicles the night before the show to try to steal headlines before NAIAS even starts. We had no fewer than six events to attend that Sunday night, so we needed more cars. In the end, we took four vehicles on our road trip to ensure everyone could get to and from the events of Sunday and Monday night.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Cadillac Escalade Review

That meant the team of seven people would be split up and spread amongst the various vehicles. In the end it would be just me and Feature Editor Sami Haj-Assaad in the super ‘Slade, which actually ended up being a good thing since the Escalade I picked up was not an ESV after all, but rather a regular length Premium four-wheel drive model. With a tiny 24.8 inches of third row legroom that limits cargo capacity to 15.2 cubic feet when the seats are up, it was a good thing that we didn’t end up with five passengers.

Not one to be deterred, I was still dead-set on making the Escalade a rolling party all the way down to Detroit and back, even if there would be only two people on board. Plus, we would have all the space in the world after lowering the third row of seats to create an ultra-spacious four-seat luxury cruiser.

Near Meltdown

Step one for the partymobile was to set up my Playstation 3 to the vehicle’s entertainment screen. Since we had the Premium Escalade with the single flip down screen, there was only an older-style single video/dual audio input (yellow, red and white aux). Not to worry, I still had an appropriate cable I used to hook up my PS2 through a VCR in the old picture tube TV days. Did I ever mention I’m old?

In my typical shoot first, ask questions later style, I plugged the PS3 into the 110V three-prong power port and hooked it up to the vehicle’s entertainment system. To my dismay, the screen was constantly scrolling a line of fuzz and after five minutes of use, the PS3 cut out and turned off.

After a little online research, it turns out my original ‘fat’ PS3 is a greedy power hog that requires over 200 watts of electricity when playing a game. This is too much for in-car 110v power outlets. Thankfully the Cadillac engineers knew idiots like me would over-exert the vehicle’s power capacity and programmed the Escalade’s 110V plug to cut out to avoid a $95,000 meltdown.

Proven Highway Cruiser

With no mobile gaming, Sami and I cruised to Detroit using the Escalade’s Bose stereo system – sampling a collection of satellite radio tunes from Backspin, 90s on 9 and Utopia. Did I mention we’re old?

As has always been the case, the Escalade is a great highway cruiser. It eats up mile after mile of freeway and is quite easy to control for its size. The magnetic selective ride control suspension delivered a smooth comfortable ride that hides the Escalade’s body on frame roots. After driving for four straight, I arrived at my destination with minimal fatigue and no pain.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Cadillac Escalade Debut Emphasizes Cabin Quality

With 420 HP and 460 lb-ft. of torque on tap from a 6.2-liter V8, power isn’t an issue for the big Caddy, even at highway speeds. Being an early 2015 model, my tester still came equipped with the six-speed. Despite the majority of my driving time spent on the highway, the Escalade didn’t switch over to the V4 mode very frequently and that adversely affected fuel consumption. Officially rated at 14 MPG city and 21 MPG highway, my 600-mile average was just 15.8 MPG.

Winter Rubber and Proximity Sensors

It didn’t help that the temperature hovered around five degrees Fahrenheit during the drive. These temperatures also didn’t do any favors for the all-season 285/45R22 tires. Once, from a 20 MPH roll, I was able to break the rear tires loose while entered the freeway. Then, one the first night, a surprise snowstorm hit that had the Escalade slipping and sliding in the white stuff.

Although the all-wheel drive and stability control systems worked well to keep the SUV on the road, I noticed a decrease in grip during those conditions because the Escalade’s 5,840-lb. curb weight and wide tires make it prone to sliding in snow without proper winter tires.

While on the topic of size and weight, although the Escalade is easy to drive on city streets and highways, its size becomes painfully apparent when it’s time to park. Thank goodness for full proximity sensors to keep the shiny sheet metal off of the concrete slabs.

Things I Liked, Things I Didn’t

After several hours behind the wheel of the Escalade, I grew to love the customizable gauge cluster. Combined with the head up display and CUE infotainment screen, I had all the information I could possibly want in front of me at all times.

My only real gripes with the mammoth SUV aside from price and fuel consumption had to do with a glove box that refused to open without some tugging and tapping and a center storage bin lid that rested a quarter inch off of the base and would rattle if no pressure was applied to it.

The Verdict

If hundreds of miles need to be eaten up while transporting several people and their cargo, the 2015 Cadillac Escalade is a willing partner. Although I didn’t get to test the vehicle quite as I had planned, two more passengers and their luggage would have fit easily. For those who aren’t willing to take a minivan or three-row crossover on such a trip, be joyful the mammoth Escalade SUV still exists.

Discuss this story on our Cadillac Escalade forum


  • Smooth ride
  • Spacious interior
  • Comfortable seats
  • Good stereo


  • Fuel economy
  • Price
  • Some interior fitments
Mike Schlee
Mike Schlee

A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.

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 1 comment
  • Johnls39 . Johnls39 . on Jan 23, 2015

    Gotta say, that Escalade still looks sharp in-spite of all that snow and slush on it.