A friend that was constantly trying its very best to minimize fatigue and keep its occupants coddled.
ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY – After many years of road tripping nearly every segment of vehicle, the majority of our editorial team has come to a unanimous decision. When it comes to people-hauling with luggage and camera gear, no vehicle short of a minivan is able to touch the full-size SUVs from General Motors. When the time came to lug four people and a week’s worth of baggage for a voyage down to Atlantic City, we jumped at the chance to test out the largest brute Cadillac currently has to offer. This 2017 Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum may be a bit over the top in terms of “bling” factor, but it took roughly 2,000km and many hours behind the wheel to determine its competency as the king of road trip vehicles.
From a size perspective, very few vehicles match the Escalade’s overall footprint. The ESV (which stands for “Extended Service Vehicle”) adds roughly 20 inches to the length, as this model sits at 224.3 inches from bumper to bumper. Barely fitting in a standard-sized spot, the Escalade is imposing even while parked. The large Cadillac grille is surrounded on either side by huge LED headlights, and accent lighting in the door handles and rear fascia make it immediately recognizable. The two-box SUV shape does nothing to hide the truck’s size, but it’s a look that’s handsome and garnered compliments.
At over $100,000, the expectation of the Escalade ESV is to approach the interior quality of the Range Rover (reviewed here). The seats are upholstered in Nappa leather (Tuscan Brown), and are decently comfortable, if not as throne-like as the Brit. The driving position allows a commandeering view of the road, and the power-adjustable steering wheel and pedals make finding that position easy. In front of the driver is a 12” configurable digital instrument cluster, which is easy to read even in direct sunlight. There is plenty of room for second row passengers, with an easy fold-and-tumble feature simplifying access to the third row.
One of the biggest advantages of the GM full-sizers is cargo space, and this is especially true with the extended wheelbase versions of the Escalade, Yukon, and the Chevrolet Suburban. Most larger crossovers and SUVs offer either tons of cargo room or an adequately roomy third row, but not both. Even with the generous third row upright, the Escalade ESV had plenty of space for five carry-on bags, two suitors, a large cooler, and four smaller handbags. All of this was without any stacking, so rearward visibility was not compromised. Should the need for more cargo arise, the Escalade’s third row will fold flat at the touch of buttons located inside the power-operated liftgate.
Priced at $110,680 for the ESV Platinum, this model already comes fully loaded and with everything available. There are screens located on the headrests of the front seats, along with two additional screens along the roofline, for a total of four. The 18-way powered front seats are heated, ventilated, and offer a generous massage function as well. A Surround Vision camera system gives a bird’s eye view and aids with parking, and active park assist is also on board. Other noteworthy features include a Bose sound system, refrigerator in the front center console, power retracting side running boards, 22” wheels, and rain-sensing wipers. This truck is not cheap, but the equipment list is right up there with the full-size Range Rover (reviewed here) at a significantly lower price.
Infotainment inside the Escalade is provided courtesy of Cadillac’s CUE system, which, after being at the heart of much criticism, has received a series of significant updates since its introduction in late 2012. The Escalade is still running on the last-generation system, and it has its glitches. Like other GM vehicles, the Caddy comes equipped with a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot, which was excellent for streaming music via Spotify and using the Maps application for a good chunk of the road trip. The overall learning curve and challenges with CUE can be wholly eliminated by a USB connection to your mobile phone and use of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto technology, standard on all Escalade models.
The 6.2L V8 responsible for hauling this behemoth packs 420 horsepower at 5,600RPM and 460 lb-ft. of torque at 4,100RPM, and is mated up to a slick-shifting eight-speed automatic. Power delivery is immediate, feels exactly like a good American V8 should, and will allow this large SUV to hustle to highway speeds deceptively quickly. The 5.3L V8 and six-speed combination in the Chevrolet Tahoe (reviewed here) and GMC Yukon is pretty good as well, but this combination is just as efficient and offers a lot more power. Throttle response and overall engine personality is purely authentic and a powerband like this cannot be replicated by a turbocharged V6 like in the Ford EcoBoost (reviewed here) applications.
The true excellence of the 6.2L V8 doesn’t stop at power delivery and acceleration; it goes on to prove that a vehicle weighing a zillion pounds doesn’t need to be as thirsty as a college kid on St. Patrick’s Day. GM rates this Escalade ESV at 16.1L/100km city and 11.7L/100km highway. Over this extended road trip, we were able to surpass the highway ratings and return 10.5L/100km over a steady 800km drive. Combined mileage over 2,000km and plenty of commuting at city speeds resulted in a frugal 13.1L/100km, still very impressive for the size of the Escalade. There is no idle start/stop technology here, but at highway speeds, the motor will shut down four of the eight cylinders. Premium fuel is required for optimal mileage and performance, and the tank will hold 100L of it.
Equipped with GM’s Magnetic Ride Control, damping on the Escalade is flawless, and makes for a composed and comfortable ride regardless of the road. This system is able to detect surface quality and adapt the suspension in milliseconds to ensure the best possible ride. This model is also equipped with GM’s AutoTrac two-speed transfer case and can be locked into 2WD mode. It was left in this mode for the duration of the test, which took place in August and hence had no real need for 4WD.
On-board safety for the Escalade includes StabiliTrac stability control with rollover mitigation, along with the Driver Assist Package and Driver Awareness Package. This includes collision warning with automatic braking, lane departure warning, and other features that will keep the vehicle and its occupants safe in the event of a collision. The body-on-frame nature of the truck may appear dated and have its compromises in terms of overall refinement, but the rock-solid durability ensures overall safety as well.
It may not be as refined or polished as the Range Rover, but there are very few challenges with the 2017 Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum. It offers lush materials inside including a microfiber suede headliner and exotic wood trim that could be straight out of a German luxury touring car. Magnetic Ride Control ensures ride quality is the best it gets for a full-size SUV, and the nifty power-retracting side steps add to the snazzy appeal of the Cadillac. After nearly two weeks and endless hours in gridlock within unfamiliar cities, it became evident that the Escalade did a lot more than just keep us comfortable – it became a friend that was constantly trying its very best to minimize fatigue and keep its occupants coddled.