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Climbing into the new 2007 Cadillac Escalade, I get the feeling that I am seriously underdressed. No gold chains, no diamond stud in my ear. And my raggy jeans definitely would not pass muster on MTV.
the first ’Slade hit the streets, back in 1999, this massive SUV has proven the
product of choice among rappers and rock stars. And if the looks we got tooling
To be honest, I never quite understood the appeal of the original Escalade. It was a quick fix, little more than bolting a Cadillac wreath-and-crest onto a GMC Yukon Denali, and didn’t really come together. The second and third-generation models were progressively better. The new version is, without question, the best yet. Though it does suffer from a few notable flaws, the 2007 Escalade is arguably the best full-size domestic ute on the market.
Visually, it finally fits into the
new look of Cadillac. Sure, the new Escalade shares its platform, known
internally as the GMT900, with the likes of the
Recognizing mounting concerns about fuel economy, GM engineers put a lot of emphasis on aerodynamics. Such things as the steeply raked windshield help reduce wind drag about 11 percent, according to Cadillac, and though 13 mpg city/17 highway might not sound like much, those are good numbers for a vehicle of this size and heft.
subscribeCadillac also focused on noise and
vibration and with one exception, we give the new SUV high grades. Our
particular tester developed an annoying whistle once we hit 50 mph. We isolated
it to the driver’s mirror; there was no problem on the passenger side. Other
test vehicles did not experience this problem, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed
this is an early snag that Caddy will quickly correct.
Best in showy
The Escalade gets a new interior as well, and it is, in our opinion, the best in the entire Cadillac lineup. Though there’s still a little bit of that chintzy black plastic in the center stack, the overall look is refined and elegant, just the right mix of wood and chrome to give meaning to the Cadillac badge in the center of the steering wheel.
The instrument panel has been moved forward and down a bit, improving visibility. The gauges are tastefully refined without being gimmicky. The clock, however, is absolutely useless in daylight. It’s angled just right to ensure it’s always in glare. There’s a huge, widescreen video display that serves as the heart of the Escalade’s electronics, including its navigation system and Bose audio.
What’s missing is a Bluetooth hands-free phone link. With a growing number of states banning the use of handheld cellphones, this technology is not only convenient, but essential. Yes, you can opt for the OnStar system instead, but we’re not fond of that feature, at least not for making cellphone calls. We’ll stick with our little Palm Treo — at least once Caddy finally adds Bluetooth, most likely next year.
Gary White, the man in charge of General Motors’ full-size trucks, doesn’t deny the delay, though he does defend it, insisting his goal was to make the Escalade (and its sibling SUVs) the best trucks possible in terms of ride, handling, performance, and towing.
But Bluetooth is just one of several features you have reason to expect from a luxury vehicle, whether car or truck, but which are absent on the Escalade. Another is express, or power-up, windows. You’ll find that feature in even a mid-level Hyundai, but not the Escalade, at least until next year. The ’Slade could also use a power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel. Indeed, there’s no telescoping feature at all. Instead, you have to settle for power-adjustable pedals.
That said, our complaints were few
indeed. Heading east from downtown
That 6.2-liter V-8 is notable in several ways. It’s the first time a big, mass-market OHV engine has been equipped with variable valve timing. And in 2008, GM will add its new displacement-on-demand technology, which allows one bank of cylinders to shut off when power demand is light. That should boost fuel economy by several mpg.
We purposely chose a test vehicle with the optional 22-inch wheels, rather than the standard 18s. These are the largest factory-spec wheels ever offered, at least since the days of wooden spoke wheels. Caddy has priced them at $2295, a heck of a deal considering dealers typically get as much as $6000 for aftermarket wheels of this size. More than half of all early buyers are ticking the box for the 22s.
I normally try to avoid wheels bigger than 20 inches. Anything larger is usually suitable for nothing rougher than slow, boulevard cruising. But if you hadn’t been told, you’d probably not even notice with the new Escalade. Cadillac engineers have done a great job tuning the suspension, and even with the big wheels – which add about 6.5 pounds of unsprung mass at each corner – the new ‘Slade’s ride is surprisingly comfortable.
And handling remains unexpectedly taut for a vehicle weighing in at nearly 5700 pounds. Flogging this beast around a corner, our seat-of-the-pants test told us the ’07 is the most predictable and nimble of the American full-size utes. Give credit to the Cadillac Stabilitrak systems, an electronic suspension that is the fastest and most responsive on the market.
The ute also features some great brakes, a much-needed improvement. There are largely rotors and calipers, and the pedal feel is both firmer and far more linear than those in the last Escalade. That fits the mantra for the GMT900 development team, “Lives bigger, drives smaller.”
The interior is downright cavernous, with three rows of seats standard. You can opt for seven or eight-passenger configurations, but don’t expect to stick good friends in the back row. If it’s a long drive, they might not be too happy, once they’re pried out. The seats up front, however, were incredibly comfortable, with just enough bolstering to keep you in place on tight turns.
Credit for many of the improvements in the Escalade goes to the underlying GMT900 frame. It’s not only stiffer, but also boasts a much larger crush zone. The new SUV was also designed to reduce the likelihood of injuries to those in a passenger car it might strike. Caddy’s new SUV may not have quite as many safety bells and whistles as some of the imports, but with its rollover mitigation program and rollover airbags, it has made some significant strides.
There’s been a lot of debate over
the timing of the Escalade’s launch. Along with GM’s other full-size SUVs, it
hits market at a time when fuel prices hover near record levels. GM’s car czar,
Bob Lutz, has said he expects the
But those who expected big problems need look at the sales numbers. So far, the automaker’s new SUVs are scoring big with consumers, and based on our initial experience, we expect the Escalade to do at least as well, if not better. It clearly has the bling to get those dealer cash registers going ka-ching. While there are a few problems we’d like to see Cadillac address, the new Escalade is about as good as a full-size SUV gets.
Base price: $57,280
Engine: 6.2-liter V-8, 375 hp/430 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, all-wheel
Length x width x height: 202.5 x 79.0 x 74.3 in
Wheelbase: 116.0 in
Curb weight: 5665 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 13/17 mpg
Standard safety features: Dual front airbags; three-row curtain airbags; daytime running lights; anti-lock brakes; traction and stability control with rollover mitigation; OnStar; tire pressure monitoring
Major standard features: Power windows, locks and mirrors; heated leather power seats; tri-zone automatic climate control; power adjustable pedals; tilt steering wheel; Bose AM/FM/XM/six-disc, in-dash CD changer; rain-sensing wipers
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles