Dynamically, there's plenty to rave about. The huge V-8 moves the Escalade surprisingly well with the heavy-duty six-speed automatic, and thanks to the excellent Magnetic Ride Control suspension, which gives it phenomenally good body control for such a monstrous ute, when driving the Escalade on a wide boulevard it's possible to forget about the size and mass. The engine does have GM's Active Fuel Management system, which allows it to run on just four cylinders (indicated by the 'V4' notice in the instant fuel economy display). But even when we tried to drive more mindfully it didn't seem to increase mileage by much; we averaged just 12.5 mpg in about a hundred miles of city short trips and suburban errands.
Our top-of-the-line 2011 Cadillac Escalade ESV AWD Platinum totaled more than $88k and included a number of true luxury-vehicle features like heated and cooled front seats, power-adjustable pedals, and retractable running boards—plus an excellent nav system that's quick to update and easy to operate. And the heated steering wheel was a joy to have during a cold, damp time; heated-or-chilled cupholders were a nice touch, too—although they didn't seem to have much impact on coffee in paper cups.
Coming to terms with the guzzling
All that said, the sense that we weren't getting much more than 12 miles per gallon to carry, most of the week, just one or two people around was one that lingered. Could we do the same in a vehicle that's not as obscenely large?
Actually, we have the solution for just about anyone who's considering an Escalade—including even those who tow occasionally: the Escalade Hybrid. We strongly recommend the Escalade Hybrid, as its hybrid badge isn't just a feel-good image booster; it increases the Escalade's mileage by 40 or 50 percent in real-world driving. Oddly, there's one catch: The Hybrid only comes in standard-wheelbase, not ESV, form.
And if you come to terms with the guzzling in one way or another, Super Size hasn't been any better than this.