2008 Cadillac Escalade

8.6
2008 Cadillac Escalade

The Basics:

The 2008 Cadillac Escalade is a luxury body-on-frame SUV that shares its running gear with the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon full-size SUVs, and like those other trucks, it comes either in standard-length form or the extended-length ESV, which is 21 inches longer overall and can seat up to 8 people.

The 2008 Cadillac Escalade EXT stands out as the world's only transforming luxury truck/SUV.

The Escalade was completely revised for 2007 and gets few changes for 2008. All versions are powered by a 403-horsepower, 6.2-liter, V-8 engine teamed with a 6-speed automatic. Both rear- and all-wheel drive are available. Cylinder-shutoff technology helps cut down on gas use, but the Cadillac SUV still earns dismal EPA ratings of 12 mpg city and either 18 or 19 mpg highway.

The engine in the 2008 Cadillac Escalade has plenty of power that makes the big wagon feel less heavy and more perky--even on steep grades fully laden. The 6-speed automatic finds the right gear decisively, with no hunting around. Brakes match the big ute's power and weight. The Escalade doesn't handle nimbly, but the ride is even-keeled no matter the road conditions.

Despite its very high, trucklike driving position, the 2008 Cadillac Escalade gets a very smooth, low, and attractively styled instrument panel that could be right out of a luxury sedan. Its seats are supportive and amply sized, and the Escalade has tons of shoulder room, thanks to a wide cockpit. In either model, second-row seats are almost as comfortable as those in the front.

 

The 2008 Cadillac Escalade's bold, macho exterior and softly styled interior make for a good combination.

A luxurious body-on-frame SUV, the 2008 Escalade adopts the platform and mechanicals of the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon full-size SUVs. It comes either in standard-length form or the extended-length ESV, which is 21 inches longer overall and can carry up to 8 passengers.

The 2008 Escalade differs from those other SUVs with a style all its own. It's toned down somewhat from the prior truck. Kelley Blue Book says it's "not quite as glitzy" as in the past. FamilyCar.com thinks it has an even bolder look" than before.

According to Cars.com, all the chrome emphasizes the Escalade's luxury status. Car and Driver, however, preferred some other more refined SUVs like the Mercedes GL and Audi Q7.

Inside the Escalade is "downright opulent," Motor Trend says, with beautiful application of aluminum and leather trim.

 

Most reviews found the Escalade to be an impressive SUV with good handling and a good sense of the right blend of truck utility and luxury trim.

Edmunds says the result is something more than a vehicle with wheels and TV screens "so large the Amish could stick them in a river to power a grain mill."

Tremendous acceleration pumps out of the Escalade's hulking 403-hp, 6.2-liter V-8. Automobile loves the sound of the Escalade's powertrain, the burbles and woofles it emits at idle. The strong 0-60 mph times of about 6.5 seconds have a penalty: fuel economy of 12 mpg city, according to the EPA.

The 6-speed automatic that puts power to the wheels can be reluctant to downshift, Kelley Blue Book says, but that can be overcome by using the steering-column-mounted manual shift mode.

Both rear- and all-wheel-drive Escalades are available. Car and Driver reports that the 2008 Cadillac Escalade tows "only 7,800 pounds"-only, they explain, because the related Chevy Suburban can tow 8,000-pounds-plus.

Remind yourself that the Escalade is a truck-based SUV and its handling comes off as very good. Motor Trend says the ride is on the firm side, but compliant enough despite huge 22-inch wheels and low-profile tires. Automobile reports more steering feel comes through a revised setup, but thinks the brakes are merely adequate, and observes the pedal is too touchy for such a large vehicle.

 

Five adults will fit well in the Escalade, but anyone sentenced to the third-row seat will have a hard time getting in place.

Between six and eight passengers in all can ride in the Escalade. Those in front have the best experience. Kelley Blue Book points out that the seats in front have good travel on their tracks, but in the second row it's a big climb behind them to get to the rear bench.

Car and Driver agrees about the third-row seat and calls it "skimpy." Other sources complement the big front seats, wide and thickly padded for comfort, and the second-row seats with their ample knee and head room.

Cargo space in the Escalade ranges from huge in standard-length models, to positively vast in the ESV edition.

There is no shortage of luxury inside the 2008 Cadillac Escalade; it "communicates luxury instantly," according to Cars.com. The quality of interior materials is high, too. Motor Trend appreciated the Escalade's handsome "blue-lighted gauges," but Kelley Blue Book, thought the "blue pointers impair readability."

Noise is an issue. Some reviewers liked the SUV's blatty exhaust note. ConsumerGuide said it "roars loudly," and contends the noise never really goes away. Kelley Blue Book thinks the sound isn't too "Cadillac-like." ConsumerGuide also points out that the Escalade suffers from an abundance of wind noise around its mirrors and windshield.

 

The NHTSA gives the Escalade its best scores for front-seat impact protection. Rollover resistance is a problem: the agency rates the SUV at three stars in that category, which is notoriously difficult for large SUVs to conquer.

All Escalades have three-row curtain airbags and front seat side airbags. OnStar telematics hardware is included as standard equipment, though GM charges a monthly fee for most of its connected services.

 

Audiophiles in particular will appreciate the 2008 Cadillac Escalade, which has a long roster of standard features and a full list of options.

All models get standard Bose audio, satellite radio, and a 6-disc CD changer, as well as power-adjustable pedals, heated power front seats, and three-zone automatic climate control. Also standard are adaptive suspension, a power tailgate, and a heater for the windshield-washer fluid.

Navigation is an option, as are ventilated front seats, 22-inch wheels, and power running boards. Rear parking sensors and a rearview camera can be fitted as well.

The Platinum model offers 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.

Buying Tips:


If you just can't get over the gas mileage, you should wait--or more appropriately, go make a deposit. Cadillac promises a Hybrid version of the Escalade for 2009, which should pose a fuel economy increase of 25 percent or more.

Other Choices:

  • 2008 Chrysler Aspen
  • 2008 INFINITI QX56
  • 2008 Lexus LX 570
  • 2008 Lincoln Navigator
  • 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL Class

Reason Why:

The Lincoln Navigator remains the Escalade's main competitor, but the Navigator has a stodgier look and feel; it forgoes a flashy appearance for more conservative details, but it rivals the Escalade in features. In performance, the Navigator comes up short; its less powerful V-8 provides just adequate performance. The Aspen offers a wide range of luxury features, but it's a half-size smaller than the Escalade yet isn't any less cumbersome to drive--or any more fuel-efficient. The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is a little more manageable, but it's not quite as roomy inside either. Both the QX56 and the LX 570 have some measure of off-road ability and their on-road handling suffers. None of these vehicles arguably has the reputation and recognition that the Escalade enjoys in some circles.

The Bottom Line:

The 2008 Cadillac Escalade is tops in performance, and it's hard to beat when you consider the weight of the 'Slade's image.

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