A proper premium SUV | My particular tester is essentially the most loaded-up Escalade one can spec out in the Canadian market.
The Cadillac Escalade has been a staple amongst the youth I’ve grown up around. It’s been featured in hundreds of hip-hop and rap videos, and has developed a reputation for being a vehicle that represents “baller status”. In normal English, the media has portrayed the Escalade to be the choice SUV for young people with money. Unfortunately, while typically any exposure is good exposure, I’ve always been a bit bothered by this stereotype. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Escalade for other reasons; it represents the ultimate in American luxury motoring. It’s the ideal road trip vehicle for more than five people, and it has always looked properly awesome. Given I’d never actually spent a decent amount of time with one, I booked a week with the 2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV to see if it lived up to the hype I’d created in my head.
I live in a condominium in the heart of downtown Toronto. While the Escalade ESV (the ESV model is the extended wheelbase) did fit comfortably into my parking spot, the city is not the ideal home for it. We decided to think outside the box – we took a road trip to visit the old Packard plant in Detroit, Michigan, to do some video/photography and be able to truly appreciate the road trip manners of the Escalade. Five DoubleClutch.ca staff members, a trunk full of camera gear, and we were off.
I took the first shift driving; we topped up the massive fuel tank and headed westbound on Highway 401. Even with a full load on board, the Escalade has no shortage of power. The 6.2L V8 now puts out 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. It’s not as light on its feet as the Cadillac CTS Vsport with identical horsepower numbers, but highway on-ramps are certainly pleasurable with the throaty roar of the V8. This engine makes do with the 6-speed automatic transmission, and cylinder deactivation helps conserve fuel at consistent highway speeds.
Even with the optional 22″ chrome wheels, ride quality on the big Cadillac feels completely uncompromised. The Magnetic Ride Control makes for a particularly smooth highway ride, without being too isolated. Of course, the Escalade ESV’s sheer size makes it a bit cumbersome to maneuver in the city, but long hauls feel significantly shorter because of the ride. The technological advances the Escalade packs ensure that it’s one of the quietest vehicles on the market today; conversations can be had in the interior without any need to raise voices. It’s almost unbelievable, really, but this is something that GM has been focusing on for a while now.
My particular tester is essentially the most loaded-up Escalade one can spec out in the Canadian market. Tested at just under $100,000, this truck is fitted with four-wheel-drive, the aforementioned extended wheelbase, and all the gizmos needed for the full luxury SUV experience. Starting with (but not limited to) a power sunroof, power retractable side steps, a full leather interior, rear-entertainment with dual screens and a Blu-Ray player, a digital instrument cluster, and the corporate CUE infotainment unit, the Escalade ESV Premium is loaded to the gills. One of the token styling cues that has become an industry standard is the implementation of LED lighting throughout the vehicle. Cadillac has joined the game and there are classy LEDs all around the Escalade, inside and out.
The last time we did a road trip to Detroit as a team, it was for the North American International Auto Show back in January. On that trip, we took the new Acura MDX, and it proved to be a great companion. However, for the amount of luggage that comes with five people, we continuously wished that we had more trunk space behind the third row (especially considering that one seat in the third row was actually being occupied). With the Escalade ESV, there’s almost space for a fourth row – the cargo area is positively huge and has enough space for as much camera gear as you can imagine. Fun fact: the third row folds flat and retracts itself with the push of a button.
One question that kept coming up by our readers on social media throughout the test week with the Escalade was with regards to fuel economy. No, this 8-passenger, V8, full-size luxury SUV is not efficient… if efficiency is what you’re after, perhaps consider an Audi Q7 TDI or a Mercedes-Benz GL Bluetec. These are also fine options, but lack the curb appeal and sheer presence of the Cadillac. Over the course of the Detroit trip, we averaged 11.2L/100km running on premium fuel. Driving around the city, I observed numbers close to the 14-15L/100km range, but that’s a lot better than I expected. The 11.2L/100k number is even better than Cadillac’s highway estimate.
The Escalade may share its platform and a huge number of internals with its siblings, the Chevrolet Suburban/Tahoe and the GMC Yukon, but it feels eons more advanced. The ride is significantly more controlled, the amount of attention it gets is unmatched, and its more premium interior makes for a far superior overall experience. Our entire team fell in love with this truck over the week that we had it, and it even transformed one team member’s former hatred for the Escalade into a desire to own one. I personally am still not sold on the CUE infotainment system; I think it needs a few more development tweaks to be better, but this wouldn’t stop me from owning one of the greatest luxury SUVs to come out of America.
2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV Gallery