The Escalade makes driving around town just as simple as eating up mileage out on the open highway.
Pop culture has an interesting way of influencing the current generation. This can refer to anything from music to fashion, and even the automobile industry. For well over a decade now, Cadillac’s Escalade has been referred to in modern rap and hip hop as one of the most “in” vehicles to own. Along with its siblings from the GM stable, it received a full overhaul for the 2015 model year, and we spent some time with an extended-wheelbase ESV back then. I was eager to get behind the wheel of this 2016 Cadillac Escalade Platinum and see how the short wheelbase body style would get along with my commute for a week.
Despite having been through four generations between its 1999 introduction and this 2016 model year test vehicle, the Escalade has been unmistakable for anything else. In fact, the largest Cadillac’s front fascia is so iconic and well-known that GM fans have been known to graft the clip onto Chevrolet Suburbans and GMC Yukons. The current model gets the most modern take yet, implementing the infamous Cadillac grille with gorgeous LED lighting. This LED theme appears throughout the vehicle, with a neat strip across the running boards as well as full LED rear lighting. The side profile is similar to that of other full-size GM SUVs, with a unique Cadillac rear.
On the road, the Escalade drives exactly as you would expect a 204”-long SUV to drive. It’s akin to piloting a military-grade tank, with the solidity and rigidity of an aircraft carrier. Ride comfort is second to none, and Cadillac’s Magnetic Ride Control does an impeccable job of keeping the Escalade composed. It’s perfectly in its element on longer highway runs, where the electrically assisted steering ensures minimal overcorrection as the truck glides along the road. Unlike some rivals, the Escalade doesn’t feel like it shrinks with speed – it constantly reminds you that you’re piloting a large, cushy SUV.
“Piloting” is an accurate way to describe the feeling one gets from commandeering this large Cadillac down the highway. GM’s 6.2L V8 makes a throaty, authoritative noise as soon as you fire it up, but quiets right down for those long, comfortable drives. When you step on it though, the 420 horsepower peaks at 5,600RPM, and you immediately notice the 460 lb-ft of torque at 4,100RPM. It sounds and feels just like ‘Murica. The eight-speed automatic transmission is smooth shifting and makes the Escalade feel considerably lighter than its 5,500lb weight would lead you to believe.
Even more surprising than the power numbers is the power delivery. The Escalade makes driving around town just as simple as eating up mileage out on the open highway. Throttle response is buttery smooth – modern Cadillacs are very good at making the drive as effortless as possible. There is a good amount of heft to the throttle and brakes, but there is enough brake feel to make it seem natural and not assisted. The Escalade hauls itself to a stop perfectly, and if the driver hasn’t seen an impending obstacle, radar sensors will automatically apply the brakes and stop the vehicle before an accident occurs.
Handling is remarkable for a vehicle of this size. The Escalade’s steering is pretty responsive and the big kahuna changes direction like nobody’s business. As expected, there is four-wheel-drive with high and low ranges, but I chose to leave it in 2WD mode for the majority of my week. I did have the truck through one serious snowstorm, and even without winter tires equipped on our tester, the Escalade was more than competent. If anything, this is a sport-utility that makes a cold Canadian winter feel like child’s play.
As excited as I was to spend a week with one of my favourite sport utility vehicles, I was not looking forward to the fuel bill. Thankfully, GM has implemented a series of features to maximize fuel efficiency. Firstly, the eight-speed transmission goes a long way by keeping revs low at highway speeds. Additionally, the Active Fuel Management system shuts off four of the cylinders when possible, keeping the Escalade in “V4” mode. After a week’s worth of driving, I averaged 14.2L/100km, with highway numbers as low as 10.9L/100km. The 98L fuel tank takes 91-octane premium, and ensures a decent range before having to refuel.
The vast majority of the Escalade’s powertrain setup can be had on the “lesser” Yukon and Tahoe models. One of the things that makes the Cadillac model special is the impeccable attention to detail on the interior. Every panel that isn’t upholstered in Nappa leather, wood, or piano black faux-wood is wrapped in beautiful suede. Most of the switchgear will appear familiar for anyone used to newer Cadillacs, but the Escalade certainly feels the part of an upscale SUV, a rival to the best of the best. The seats are heated, ventilated, and have a useful massage feature with numerous settings – this truck is truly a worthy road trip companion.
Pricing for the Escalade starts at $83,670 for the base model, and $103,270 for the Platinum model tested here. Noteworthy features on the Platinum model includes 22” wheels, a rear seat entertainment system, a refrigerated console, unique exotic wood finish, leather-wrapped dashboard and suede headliner, a driver assist package, and heads-up display. The rear seats can be folded up or down at the touch of a button, which is particularly useful, not to mention the power liftgage. Our car topped out at $103,740 after checking off a few simple option boxes.
Luxurious as it may be, the Escalade doesn’t let you forget for one second that it is based on the same old formula that bases the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado. Its Cadillac touches and unique sense of style don’t do much to differentiate its underpinnings from other GM siblings. As such, it still feels very obviously body-on-frame, and behaves like a truck. Certainly a refined and comfortable truck, but perhaps not six-figures worth. Then again, that might just be my own perception, because the Escalade sells like hotcakes across North America, and its family parts bin sharing means repair costs are affordable.
I’m a V8 junkie at heart, so the 2016 Cadillac Escalade Platinum earned itself a podium finish as one of my favourite SUVs of all time. Perhaps it’s not as soft as some of its rivals, but I’ll be damned if the exhaust note, high-and-mighty seating position, and showy looks don’t earn it a home in hundreds of thousands of households. Whether it’s taking a large family on a road trip with plenty of gear, or venturing a bit off the beaten path to a remote cottage, the Escalade will surely be up for taking on the task. No matter what the occasion, this big Cadillac keeps occupants safe and sound, comfortable, and entertained for however long the drive might be. It just might be time for the phrase “are we there yet?” to finally go the way of the dodo bird.