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With more refinement, higher-tech and a more comfortable cabin, the 2015 Cadillac Escalade takes both the Cadillac brand and the Escalade nameplate into new territory. Embodying the spirit of tasteful excess, the Escalade is unique in the marketplace for its capabilities.
This is, of course, a great thing. Some other luxury utes have faded into the woodwork, and others aren't quite up to the most extreme tasks. GM makes the Escalade precisely for the folks who want everything of everything. They tow, they trailer, they tailgate, and they do not go quietly.
Those drivers will find the Escalade to be more of everything this year. It is the Cadillac of GM SUVs, and that is no small thing. It's quieter, it's smoother, it's more attractive, and it's more fully equipped, just like GM's other upgraded SUVs and the pickup trucks that spawned them. Of all of them, the Escalade has the most substantial standard powertrain and cabin and technology upgrades, as well as some truly swanky touches.
Cadillac calls the Escalade's new lines crisp, and more sophisticated. The more firmly pressed panels are handsome, but it's the full LED lighting that creates the most effective drama, front and rear, from the vertically stacked elements on the nose to the rear LED taillights that soar up to the roof and illuminate the Cadillac wreath-and-crest logo.
The interior's a point of pride. Cut-and-sewn upholstery trims out the cabin, with leather and suede tucking neatly next to wood trim, including a fantastic open-pore treatment that looks especially handsome with a new brown hide. 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.
Power comes from a 420-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 engine that produces 460 lb-ft of torque, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. It's a strong pairing, good for 60-mph runs of about six seconds, Cadillac says. The engine now features direct injection and cylinder shutoff for better efficiency; the 2015 Escalade earns EPA ratings of up to 17 mpg combined, up about that percentage over prior versions.
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 the suspension tracks and damps better than the last Escalade, better than much of the competition. Four-wheel drive is an option, and has an quasi-all-wheel-drive mode. Meanwhile, towing capacity remains a key virtue, at 7,900 to 8,300 pounds, depending on configuration.
Interior space is slightly lower than before, but the Escalade's never been so comfortable. 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 front seats offer more than 4 inches of additional legroom, compared to the previous model, and 1.5 inches more headroom. With three rows of seating, there's at least 15 cubic feet of space behind the power-fold third row; on long-wheelbase Escalade ESV utes, there's more than twice as much space. The back two rows of seats fold down at the touch of easily accessed buttons in the cargo area--and if the cargo floor is somewhat higher (it now hides the fold-away third row), it's easier to remove heavy items from it, at something more like waist height.
The 2015 Cadillac Escalade is price from $72,690 (including a $995 destination charge), a nearly $4,000 increase in base price from 2014. Some of that boost comes in the form of additional safety gear. It comes with a front-center airbag mounted in the driver seat, 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 Blu-Ray discs--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.