Mountain Wheels: New Cadillac Escalade revels in all of the superlatives
Special to the Daily
2015 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium
MSRP: $84,070; as tested, $89,360
Powertrain: 420-HP 6.2-liter V8, eight-speed automatic transmission
EPA figures: 17 combined mpg (15 city, 21 highway)
The 2015 Cadillac Escalade might be the ultimate American automobile, in every conceivable positive and negative way.
Long, brash, unapologetic, futuristically stylish and yet old fashioned at the same time, classy and modern in a way that is totally unlike its classy and modern European SUV contemporaries. A rolling contradiction.
But there are just some basics that are hard to get around on the Escalade, despite all that prestige and in-your-face style and upgraded power. Those stem from its enviable but somewhat ignoble spot at the top of the domestic auto food chain.
Parked on its biggest available footwear, a set of factory-fresh 22-inch wheels, Escalade’s ride is more than just a little brutal. Thanks to Cadillac’s updated magnetic ride control system, there is an option for an even more intensely rigid ride, but in standard setup you’ll still be asking yourself exactly how far removed the Escalade is from its Silverado cousins.
The 6.2-liter V-8, generating 21 highway miles per gallon, has now got 420 horsepower and 460 foot-pounds of torque, but if you opt to use it softly — silly you — you’ll swear you’re getting an underwhelming response, especially as it sashays through an eight-speed transmission.
Conversely, if you feel like seeing what Corvette-worthy power feels like when it’s attached to a 5,800-plus-pound tower of bejeweled headlights and chrome, you’ll be both impressively frightened by the explosively loud results (0-60 in less than six seconds) and you’ll notice the green expressions on your passengers’ faces as they cope with the nausea the results if you do much more than keep it in a drag-strip-straight line. There is a whole lot of vehicle here to move around.
And the level of unassuming opulence on the inside — the heavy use of textured wood, the overpowering aroma of the yards of leather and, of course, the ever-polarizing CUE entertainment and navigation system — will either thrill you to death or strike you as more than a little over the top.
But let’s assume you’re on Team Cadillac, a proud America-firster who’s seeking a domestic creation to rival a Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, an Audi Q7 or a giant Lexus-ized Land Cruiser, and your need for capacity, class statement and all-season, all-terrain mobility makes a nearly $90,000 (as tested), still very trucky Yankee SUV your first choice.
In that case, and especially if you’ve been an Escalade fan in the past, the 2015 model is indeed a huge improvement, a dynamic and brilliant jewel, and a representation of all that is grandiose and gracious.
Even without ordering the super-gigantic, 20-inch-longer ESV variation, you still get a comfortable third-row bench, two gigantic second-row captain’s chairs worthy of a leathery basement man cave and an actual tennis court-sized patch of hand-stitched leather everywhere else.
Its brutal horizontal shards of sheet metal and glass are as intense as anything concocted by a Cubist painter, and the locomotive-styled front grille is as tall as it is broad, and twice as shiny. Even the side mirrors are weirdly elegant.
It is so massive, so heavy to steer and so outrageous that it deserves all the reputation it has received. So there, puny cars. Cadillac wins. You could buy a Yukon Denali or even a Chevy Tahoe and get much of the same deal for less, but you want a Cadillac in your driveway. That is how it goes.
And then you start to pile on the fancy stuff, just to add to the delirium. There is, of course, the OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi setup, streaming speedy data to more than a half-dozen onboard devices packed by your entire posse. There’s also a new cordless recharging pad for select cell phones on top of the Weber grill-sized center console box, another gift seemingly from the future.
Bose has rolled out a new Centerpoint audio system in this model and it achieves much of what you find in the European cars’ 20-speaker, $7,000 option systems, included as a standard offering.
And unless you are already 9 feet tall, you’ll appreciate the powered running boards. Anyone with a heart will dig the roar and rumble of the exhaust, which is certainly more macho than some Cadillac product of days past.
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