ON SALE: Now
BASE PRICE: $57,280
POWERTRAIN: 6.2-liter, 403-hp, 417-lb-ft V8; awd, six-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT: 5774 lbs
0 TO 60 MPH: 6.5 seconds (mfr.)
FUEL MILEAGE (EPA COMBINED/AW OBSERVED): 15.38/14.39 mpg
However, as much as the Escalade shines in this spotlight, Cadillac says the rich and famous make up a mere 2 percent of Escalade owners; its bread-and-butter buyers haul kids and groceries, pull trailers and pile on highway miles. They are ordinary folk.
It does succeed. In our unscientific yet thoroughly real-world test, this third-generation 'Sclade stands out no matter where it traverses: grocery getting, nights out under bright city lights, cross-state highway runs and slogs through foot-deep mud. We did it all to prove this truck is a truck, even though it wears 22-inch chrome wheels and has plush leather seats and a rear-seat entertainment system.
The Escalade has all the other hardware expected (and then some) in a full-size luxury ute: full-time all-wheel drive with a new locking rear differential; more responsive rack-and-pinion steering replaces the recirculating-ball setup; coilover front shocks and Road Sensing Suspension (with variable shock valving); and four-wheel discs beefed up to bring a bigger Escalade ESV (due in May, followed by the EXT model in June) to a halt.
Inside the Escalade ladles on comfort and quiet. Engineers stiffened the chassis, paid extra attention to panel fits, emphasized sound-deadening materials and used hydraulic engine mounts to isolate the thrum to the cabin.
At a boutique grocery the jet-black Escalade stands out as a big and bold oasis in a sea of look-alike luxury utes. On the open road the SUV is an able highway runner, with loads of V8 power and torque. It clearly matches experiences with other luxury utes, while showing itself to be much worthier than the previous-generation model.
"It handled all the mud we could throw at it," beamed Charlie Mann, owner of Hunters Creek Club in Metamora, Michigan. Mann led our excursion into two-tracks and rutted hunting trails off the plotted roads shown on the eight-inch navigation screen (though, thankfully, the unnamed ponds and creeks did appear).
If marketing man Schiavone does his work right, the Escalade will pop up in a range of urban and suburban environments... but he won't discourage those who want to go off-road.
"It's a beautiful vehicle capable of doing many things," Schiavone says. "Can people take it off-road? Absolutely. But that's for the owner to decide."
Should you decide to take the road less traveled, know that along with the bling, the new Escalade does a bang-up job off the beaten path as well.
Everyman's EscaladeNot everyone wants—or needs—General Motors' bejeweled top-of-the-line Cadillac Escalade full-size sport/utility vehicle. At the denim end of the scale is the value-oriented 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe (and sister GMC Yukon—see "GM's Ray of Sunshine," March 13), with pricing that starts $19,000 below the base Escalade.
Tahoe comes with a smaller 5.3-liter V8, matched to a four-speed automatic. Unlike the Cadillac, the Chevy truck's powerplant is equipped with fuel-saving cylinder-deactivation technology that cuts the engine to four cylinders when all eight aren't needed.
Though Tahoe's option list is rich enough to easily drive this SUV past the $50,000 mark, Chevy expects most buyers will opt for the middling Tahoe, which at $44,000 offers a nice mix of comfort (heated leather first- and second-row seats, tri-zone temperature control, remote start and XM radio) with a load of functionality (power-adjustable pedals, rear park assist, power folding second row, power liftgate, locking rear differential, third-row seating).
Tahoe isn't intended to be an Escalade, and we're betting that is exactly the way most buyers want it.