MSRP from $71,695
Whether you call it luxury or view it as bling, the new 2015 Cadillac Escalade offers more of the same values it's known for--and adds even more luxury features to the fourth generation of GM's largest, priciest, and most imposing sport-utility vehicle.
Whether ordered as a conventional SUV or the extended Escalade ESV model with eight seas, Cadillac's 2015 Escalade sticks with V-8 power, albeit now marginally more fuel-efficient than before. It also keeps the swathes of visible chrome, but upgrades to handcrafted and much higher-end interior materials and finishes. And for the first time, it offers Cadillac's CUE infotainment system, operated from a large centrally-mounted touchscreen display in the dash.
The standard Escalade is 204 inches inches long, and the extended Escalade ESV is 224 inches--or just shy of 19 feet--in length. The standard model has 51.6 cubic feet of luggage space with the rear seat up; the ESV increases that to 76.5 cubic feet. Towing capacity is 7,700 to 8,200 pounds, depending on configuration.
Looked at from the outside, the new 2015 Escalade is not only big but bold. Cadillac calls its new lines "crisp" and more sophisticated, led off once again by full LED lighting front and rear. At the rear, LED taillights reach vertically up to the roof and illuminate the Cadillac wreath-and-crest logo. LEDs even illuminate the door handles of the Premium model. The low beams use five crystal lenses and LEDs, with the high beams shining through four vertically stacked lenses.
Underneath, the latest Escalade remains what it's always been: a large sport-utility vehicle that shares much of its basic structure and running gear with the more plebian Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban and the GMC Yukon. The new model makes its greatest strides in improving both the materials and technology, with the goal of bringing them up to the international luxury standards found in the rest of the Cadillac lineup--albeit in a uniquely American vehicle type.
The 2015 Escalade boasts tighter panel tolerances than other of GM's trucks, and the door fit into body openings, rather than over them. The hood and tailgate are aluminum, and all Escalades use active grille shutters to reduce drag at speed--all in the service of greater fuel efficiency for this large and heavy vehicle (the most luxurious ESV model weighs 3 tons). The standard wheels are 20 inches, with a 22-inch available as an option.
The standard engine is a 420-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 engine that produces 460 lb-ft of torque, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The engine now features direct injection and cylinder shutoff for better efficiency; the 2015 Escalade is expected to be more fuel-efficient than its predecessors, though neither Cadillac nor the EPA has released fuel-economy ratings yet.
As in previous generations, the 2015 Escalade comes in rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive versions. Its running gear is derived from that of GM's full-size pickup truck line, so it's one of few large luxury SUVs with a solid rear axle. That said, the big truck now has the brand's Magnetic Ride Control as standard, and Cadillac says the suspension adjusts to react to suspension input faster than any other suspension system in the industry. The system can be set to a Tour or Sport mode, depending on driver preference.
It's the interior of the new Escalade that Cadillac is most proud of. Cut-and-sewn upholstery and trim materials, several different options for accents in real wood, suede accents, and specially engineered seats are designed to separate the big luxury truck from lesser siblings much more sharply than in the past. The front seats offer more than 4 inches of additional legroom, compared to the previous model, and 1.5 inches more headroom.
From the front seats--which are heated and cooled as standard--the centerpiece of the dashboard is Cadillac's tablet-like CUE touchscreen system, which can be activated by voice, capacitive touch and swipe gestures. In front of the driver, a 12.3-inch display offers a cluster of digital gauges--which the driver can reconfigure into one of four themes. A head-up display that projects selected information over the hood is optional.
In the rear, the second row of seats reclines if it's a bench, or two heated bucket seats can be fitted as an alternative. Both the second- and third-row seats fold flat, which gives the ESV version 121 cubic feet of cargo capacity, and a load bay that appears almost as long as a pickup truck's. Cargo loading is made easier by a hands-free tailgate with adjustable settings for height.
And the Escalade benefits from a great deal of work on sound deadening, That includes not only a stronger body vast quantities of acoustic insulation material, and triple-sealed doors but also active noise cancellation technology from Bose that counters and eliminates certain predictable noise patterns from the mechanical parts of the vehicle.
The 2015 Escalade has been fitted with a host of new safety features rarely seen on trucks. It comes with a Front-Seat Center airbag, which is designed to protect front-seat occupants thrown toward the center of the vehicle by a side impact on the other side of the vehicle. It offers automatic braking, which first warns the driver of impending collisions via signals from short-range radar (for higher speeds) and ultrasonic sensors at lower speeds.
On Luxury and Premium trim levels, Lane-Change Alert, Side Blind-Zone Alert, and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert systems are all standard. A package of driver-awareness features includes forward-collision warnings, lane-departure warnings, and a safety-alert seat system--which vibrates to warn the driver of a possible accident threat on one side of the vehicle or the other. Beyond that, the Drive Assist bundle adds fully adaptive cruise control, collision preparation, automatic seat-belt tightening, and front and rear automatic braking.
As well as the head-up display for the driver, other options include a rear entertainment system that plays BluRay DVDs--on a single 9-inch screen that descends from the roof on the standard Escalade, and on two separate 9-inch screens on the longer ESV model.
The 2015 Cadillac Escalade is fitted with several security features that discourage attempted thefts. Those include an intrusion sensor, several sensors to detect glass breaking, and an inclination sensor. Those systems can shut down the vehicle control systems to prevent it starting or moving, and they trigger the alarm system too. All Escalades also come with GM's OnStar system as standard.
The 2015 Cadillac Escalade is built at a GM plant in Arlington, Texas. Production will start in Spring 2014, with the first vehicles to reach dealers several weeks later
- Bold new styling
- Roomier, more useful interior
- Focus on technology and infotainment
- Highly capable V-8 powertrain
- Still very large, and likely very thirsty at the pump
- Boldness can be taken for brashness by some
- No hybrid or diesel options announced