2010 Cadillac Escalade Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
August 25, 2009

The 2010 Cadillac Escalade is big, brawny, and very thirsty; yet with segment-leading performance and unrivaled style, the Escalade is hard to beat.

TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven the 2010 Cadillac Escalade on city streets and highway trips, and bring their insight to this Bottom Line. Then to bring you additional information, TheCarConnection.com looked to a wide range of sources to bring you additional viewpoints on the Cadillac Escalade.

The 2010 Cadillac Escalade comes in two guises, including standard or extended length. The extended-length variant provides a 21-inch increase in size with seating capacity for up to eight adults. The Escalade shares its platform and mechanical layout with the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs.

For 2010, the Escalade’s 6.2-liter, V-8 engine returns and is still capable of burning E85 fuel. The Escalade also retains the Magnetic Ride Control feature, which helps absorb the bumps and jolts that go with having 22-inch wheel/tire combinations. Once again the Escalade will be available as either a rear- or all-wheel-drive model; also returning will be the terrible fuel consumption—despite being partnered with a six-speed automatic transmission and Active Fuel Management to help reduce fuel use during cruising or coasting, the Escalade still gets dismal fuel economy figures of 12 mpg city across the entire lineup and either 18 or 19 mpg highway, depending on the model. Real-world city driving can easily result in single-digit mileage numbers, as TheCarConnection.com editors have observed in the past.

The poor fuel economy is a result of the enormous engine and the even more intimidating size of the Escalade itself. Even on steep inclines with full loads, the engine powering the 2010 Cadillac Escalade provides plenty of power to make the big, heavy wagon feel perky, while the six-speed automatic transmission has no problem sorting out the right gear when it's needed. Stopping power is provided by large, powerful brakes, and although the Escalade isn't the most nimble vehicle on the road, it's one of the best of the biggest truck-based SUVs; the ride remains even-keeled and absorbent on the road, and the interior stays impressively silent except for a bit of engine noise.

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On the inside, the Escalade is virtually unbeatable for elbow and shoulder room thanks to its wide cabin. Seats are among the most ample and supportive of any vehicle we've seen, and in both models, the second row is nearly as comfortable as the first. In the ESV, the third row is quite roomy, though a bit difficult to access. Despite its high, trucklike driving position, the 2010 Cadillac Escalade is graced with an attractive instrument panel that wouldn’t look out of place in a luxury sedan.

Head-curtain side airbags covering all three rows are standard on the 2010 Cadillac Escalade, as are front side airbags; new for 2010 are standard side thorax airbags. The StabiliTrak stability control system includes rollover mitigation to help avoid situations that might lead to a rollover. On that note, the Escalade gets a low three-star rating for rollover likelihood from the federal government (largely for its high center of mass), but the Escalade earns top five-star ratings in the tests for frontal and side crash protection, and the 2010 model now features a revised door design to further improve side-crash protection.

Equipment carried over from the 2009 model includes a power-tilting steering wheel, express-up power windows for the front row, a new light Cashmere/Cocoa interior color combination, and rear-seat audio jacks standard on all models. Other features include an eight-inch touch-screen navigation system, a Bose 5.1 Digital Surround Sound system, cooled front seats, and power-actuated running boards. The maximum tow rating is 7,800 pounds when properly equipped.

Features especially cater to the executives and VIPs who, it seems, all need a 'Slade in their stable. The center console is wide enough to set a laptop on, and the 2009 Cadillac Escalade includes standard heated power seats, tri-zone climate control, power-adjustable pedals, and a magnificent-sounding Bose system. New features for 2010 include a locking steering column, a USB port in the center console that can play stored audio files, and a new battery-saver mode that helps preserve battery life. There is also a clock as standard in all models, rather than just the Platinum-edition Escalade, and a new exterior color named Silver Lining replaces Quick Silver and Blue Chip.

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2010 Cadillac Escalade

Styling

This is not the vehicle for those on the low-down; the 2010 Cadillac Escalade is still one of the flashiest SUVs on the road.

According to reviewers from across the Web, the plush interior of the 2010 Cadillac Escalade is matched to a macho, flashy exterior that turns heads and makes for a winning combination.

The 2010 Cadillac Escalade is available in either standard or extended-length variants; the latter provides a 21-inch increase in length and has seating capacity for up to eight adults. The Escalade shares its platform and mechanical layout with the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs.

Despite sharing the same platform and mechanicals, the 2010 Cadillac Escalade is substantially different from either the Tahoe or the Yukon thanks to its unique style. The Escalade has been toned down from the first-generation model, but FamilyCar.com points out the Escalade’s “bigger grille, seven layers of chrome accents and just-for-show ‘vent ports’ on the front fenders gave the vehicle an even bolder look than its predecessor." Kelley Blue Book assures you that even though this particular Cadillac is "not quite as glitzy in this iteration as the last, the audacious Escalade continues to get you noticed," and Motor Trend elaborates that the new Escalade “indeed looks fresh, yet it's still instantly recognizable…the subtle alterations and finer detailing bring about a more handsome facade in addition to aerodynamic benefits."

Car and Driver, meanwhile, prefers "its more refined competitors like the Mercedes GL450/550 or Audi Q7," but according to Cars.com, the "chrome applications throughout emphasize the vehicle's luxury status."

A reviewer at the Kansas City Star finds that Cadillac applies "so much chrome that it was hard for me not to blush while I was driving it.” And while Motor Trend pegs the new cockpit as “downright opulent,” with “soft leather” and aluminum trim merging “beautifully,” Automobile Magazine thinks the style, down to the “illegible analog clock,” is less than ideal.

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2010 Cadillac Escalade

Performance

When it comes to power and handling, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade is one of the best-performing full-size SUVs on the market.

Cadillac turns the Escalade into something “so much more than just a rolling canvas for tacky gold badges, customized paint jobs, TV screens and wheels so large the Amish could stick them in a river to power a grain mill," Edmunds says. Road tests from a variety of sources find the 2010 Cadillac to be a powerful, fine-handling SUV that does its best to forget its truck roots—except when it comes to fuel economy.

The Escalade’s massive 6.2-liter V-8 engine puts out 403 hp and 417 pound-feet of torque. According to Edmunds, this provides "tremendous acceleration" for a behemoth tipping the scale at around 2.75 tons. Motor Trend clocks the Escalade’s 0-60 mph run at “only 6.5 seconds…for a full-size SUV that weighs just south of 5800 pounds, those are impressive numbers, to say the least.” For 2010, the Escalade’s V-8 is capable of burning E85 fuel and features Active Fuel Management. Though the Escalade’s V-8 has technology to shut off cylinders when under light engine loads, it still only musters 12/19 mpg at best, and can hit the single digits for fuel economy in city driving. As for the soundtrack, Automobile Magazine thinks the Escalade is “blessed with one of the best exhaust notes in the business, one that woofles and burbles at idle.”

According to Kelley Blue Book, the 2010 Escalade’s six-speed automatic transmission exhibits an unfortunate "reluctance to downshift for passing" from time to time. This tendency could conceivably be overcome through judicious use of the manual shift mode—which in the Escalade is accomplished through pushing “+” and “-” buttons located on the steering column.

The 2010 Escalade is once again available with optional all-wheel drive. Last year, Car and Driver reported that the Escalade suffered from "reduced towing capacity” of only 7,800 pounds; for 2010, the towing capacity rises to 8,100 pounds for the all-wheel-drive model and a hefty 8,300 pounds for the rear-wheel-drive variant.

As for handling, Automobile Magazine says “there's more steering feel through the Escalade-specific rack-and-pinion system, and there's newfound feedback when the truck is loaded in a corner,” though “the four-wheel disc brakes are adequate—if saddled with an annoyingly touchy pedal feel.” Handling is a strong suit of the Escalade so long as you remember it’s a truck and not a luxury sedan. Motor Trend concurs, stating that “the Escalade's adaptive suspension delivers a ride that resides more on the firm rather than soft side of the spectrum, but it still comes across as compliant, notable considering the enormous 22-inch wheels and 45-series tires.”

Expect a smooth ride on good surfaces, although minor bumps will get through, especially with the larger-diameter tires and wheels. Editors of TheCarConnection.com are impressed with the Escalade’s handling. It's certainly not as nimble as a dedicated sports car, but the steering feel is more pleasing and precise than with previous Escalades. Acceleration is strong, and automatic-transmission shifts are impressively smooth, though gear selection itself can be a touch confusing for the automatic transmission.

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2010 Cadillac Escalade

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Cadillac Escalade could use a little more refinement, but it's comfortable and reasonably quiet, and the materials are top-notch.

Although some engine noise intrudes on the high-end experience, the 2010 Cadillac Escalade is comfortable for up to five adults, but accessing third-row seats can be difficult.

Kelley Blue Book says the seats “have sculpted backs to enhance interior space, and both the recline and seat-track travel are quite generous,” and adds that it is “a rather high climb into the passenger compartment.” The power-folding second-row seats are comfortable to sit in, but accessing the third-row seats can be like running an obstacle course. Car and Driver deems the third-row space “skimpy,” but other sources praise the amount of real-world room in the back. Thus, cargo room behind the seats can be expansive or merely adequate depending on whether you opt for the Escalade in its standard guise or as the long-wheelbase ESV.

The quality of the materials in the 2010 Cadillac Escalade is high, and there's no shortage of luxury. Cars.com says the Escalade "communicates luxury instantly," while Automobile Magazine reports that, with “the exception of bristly carpet and cheap-feeling upper dashboard material, the three-row interior's soft-touch surfaces and finely damped switches are a step or two above what you'd find in a Tahoe or a GMC Yukon." Kelley Blue Book considers some of the gauges illegible as the “blue pointers impair readability.” Motor Trend, however, appreciates the Escalade’s tightly manufactured “1mm interior gaps” and its handsome “blue-lighted gauges,” as well as its large “eight-inch nav screen.”

Both engine and exhaust noise are issues for some reviewers. Performance publications tend to like the Escalade’s exhaust note, but ConsumerGuide says the engine "roars loudly during rapid acceleration," while the "exhaust note is nearly always heard." Kelley Blue Book agrees, calling the engine noise not exactly "Cadillac-like." In this case it depends on individual preference, though with the Escalade's brash style a bit of audible exhaust note may go well with its appearance. ConsumerGuide also observes sounds from "wind rush" once the speedometer hits 65 mph.

To TheCarConnection.com’s editors, comfort and quality are where the 2010 Escalade excels. The Escalade is virtually unbeatable for elbow and shoulder room because of its wide cabin. Seats are among the most ample and supportive of any vehicle available. In both models, the second row is nearly as comfortable as the first, and in the ESV, the third row is quite roomy, though a bit difficult to access. And despite its high, trucklike driving position, the 2010 Cadillac Escalade is graced with an attractive instrument panel that wouldn’t look out of place in a luxury sedan.

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2010 Cadillac Escalade

Safety

The 2010 Cadillac Escalade offers superior protection; however, rollover ratings aren't as stellar.

The 2010 Cadillac Escalade earns a top rating for the protection of front-seat occupants in the event of a head-on collision, and performs admirably in other crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The 2009 Escalade’s StabiliTrak stability control system includes rollover mitigation, to help avoid situations that might lead to a rollover. The SUV, however, receives a low three-star rating for rollover likelihood from the federal government (largely for its high center of mass), but the Escalade has previously earned top five-star ratings in the tests for frontal and side crash protection. Head-curtain side airbags covering all three rows are standard on the 2010 Cadillac Escalade, as are front side airbags. According to Cars.com, there are new front-seat side-impact airbags as standard for 2010 models. Edmunds reports that the OnStar communication and emergency notification system is included as one of the 2010 Cadillac Escalade's standard features.

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2010 Cadillac Escalade

Features

The 2010 Escalade can be had with a number of high-tech, impressive options along with its long list of standard features.

A long list of optional equipment and standard safety features accompany the 2010 Cadillac Escalade. Some of the many standouts include XM Satellite Radio with NavTraffic real-time traffic advisement, a power-tilting steering wheel, express-up power windows for the front row, rear-seat audio jacks (standard on all models), and Magnetic Ride Control partnered with all 22-inch wheel/tire combinations.

According to Edmunds, the base Cadillac Escalade includes "a power liftgate, an adaptive suspension, park assist and even a heated windshield washer fluid feature" (a godsend for anyone who has had to spend time scraping ice off glass surfaces on cold mornings), "a Bose surround sound audio system with ten speakers, and an in-dash six-CD changer" as standard equipment. It also includes standard heated power seats, tri-zone climate control, and power-adjustable pedals.

To further enhance your experience, an eight-inch touch-screen navigation system, cooled front seats, and power-actuated running boards are available. Rear parking assist is offered, along with a rearview camera; both are incorporated into a package that includes Cadillac's navigation system. Jalopnik adds that the new Escalade Platinum edition "will be the one of the first vehicles to offer Light Emitting Diode (LED) headlamps." LED lamps last 20 times longer than halogen bulbs and burn at a much cooler temperature.

J.D. Power reports that the Platinum model will also include two DVD monitors in a rear-seat entertainment system, with each screen measuring eight inches. This system will include two-channel wireless headphones, auxiliary audio and video inputs, and even a remote game plug-in—which should keep the kids busy and quiet on long road trips. Cars.com notes that for the 2010 Escalade there is a new "USB port for connecting a portable music player to the audio system" and "the clock from prior Platinum trims is now standard across the lineup."

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