Glitz. Power. Comfort. The all-new 2015 Cadillac Escalade embodies these characteristics with aplomb. Cadillac has added more of the features consumers want in a large luxury SUV—premium interior feel, better performance, and new technology. This design marks the Escalade’s fourth generation and it has come a long way in 16 years. But Cadillac has been very vocal about making moves to distance itself from its GM siblings, and with many changes and upgrades it’s time to put it to the test.
The exterior design of the 2015 Escalade has undergone some extensive changes, but remains instantly recognizable. Its commanding presence is unlike anything else in the segment. Full LED lighting in the front and rear creates clean cut vertical light which has become the brand’s signature. Lightweight aluminum hood and liftgate panels have been used to in an effort to shed some weight. Subtleties like the illuminated door handles (part of the premium package) also play a fundamental role in the overall design. The doors are now inlaid and fit into the body side openings instead of over top of the body. This has enhanced the overall quietness of the interior and aerodynamics. Power folding sidesteps are appear when you open the door but don’t ruin the look on the road.
As you close the triple-sealed doors, you’re enveloped in brilliant luxury. Cadillac has designed this Escalade with the idea of it being one of the class’s most luxurious cabins. As a whole, they nailed it – surpassing competition like the Lincoln Navigator we tested earlier this year. On closer inspection, some of the finer details were a bit questionable. The prominent accent wood trim pieces around the console had fitment that was less than precise. Designers made comfort a priority for the all-new Escalade. The seats make use of dual-firmness foam that makes even the longest rides comfortable, with the added benefit of reducing long-term wear. The second row reclines for relaxation or folds flat for cargo storage. In conjunction with the flat-folding third row, the Escalade boasts an immense interior storage volume. However, with the third row up, storage space is miniscule. Drivers who need 7-passenger luxury accommodations and cargo volume will need to step up to the longer Escalade ESV.
The latest version of Cadillac User Experience (CUE) comes standard in the Escalade. A host of tweaks and updates are indentured to make it more intuitive and easier to use while driving. We spent most of our time using voice recognition instead of switching radio stations manually. It is, by far, one of the best voice recognition systems we’ve used. CUE uses proximity sensors as a way to keep the display less cluttered by hiding most options when a hand isn’t near the screen. A new Bose audio system, which was designed exclusively for the Escalade, has 16 speakers to fill the cavernous leather-and-wood-lined interior with sound. Exclusively for the driver, the Escalade gets the same gauge cluster screen and layout we first experienced in the CTS VSport.
Cadillac has incorporated the best technology they have to offer in the new Escalade, and that includes Magnetic Ride Control. It’s the world’s fastest reacting suspension system, providing better driving performance to the full size SUV. Two driving modes, touring and sport, provide two very distinct driving profiles. When using sport mode, the Escalade handles exceptionally well given its size and less-than-dynamic stance. Touring mode provides a more relaxed ride, something more fitting of a luxury limo like this Escalade. The only letdown of the entire driving experience was the long pedal travel and soft bite of the brakes. There’s a lot of mass behind the big chrome grille and we’d like to have more confidence that we can stop it when the time comes.
Cadillac sourced the 6.2-liter V8 producing 420 hp with 460 lb-ft of torque and eight-speed transmission – the same setup we tested in the GMC Sierra Denali – delivering an EPA-estimated 21 mpg on the highway (15 city). It’s more efficient than both the Mercedes-Benz GL550 and Lexus LX570 thanks to cylinder deactivation. The Escalade is capable of running to 60 mph in under 6 seconds. That’s surprisingly fast given how smooth it feels. The Lincoln Navigator’s twin-turbo V6 feels faster, but that big rig clocks in at 6.2 seconds to 60. There’s no replacement for displacement in this market.
Think of the 2015 Cadillac Escalade as your everyday limo—no matter if you’re driving or being driven, you’ll enjoy it either way. And like the best of limos, your arrival tends to be a bit of an occasion. No stone was left unturned during this complete redesign; precision and premium quality is found throughout most the Escalade. Impressive features abound—striking exterior LED lighting, a booming Bose sound system, Magnetic Ride Control, and real wood combined with premium cut-and-sewn materials. We enjoyed our time with the Escalade. But prepare yourself to be gawked at—it’s an impressive ride that does not go unnoticed.
|2014 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium
|Kona Brown s w/ Jet Black Accents||$2,000|
|Power Retractable Assist Steps||$1,695|
|22″ Dual 7-Spoke Aluminum Wheels||$600|
|As Tested MSRP||$89,360|