The Cadillac Escalade is a full-size SUV built on a pickup truck platform. Large and luxurious, it can haul up to eight people or tow trailers up to 8,000 pounds. It’s rear-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive available.
Escalade carries over to 2017 unchanged; 22-inch wheels are new for 2017.
Also new for 2017 Escalade models is a rearview vision device, a high-resolution screen showing the image sent by a tailgate camera. It cuts the blindspot from the thick roof pillars. Another new option for 2017 Escalade models is automatic parking: Push a button and it parks itself.
Subtlety is not a virtue in the eight-seat Escalade. It straddles the line between tasteful and excessive, its style evident in every beveled edge.
Escalade shares its structure and much of its running gear with the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon, which take their running gear from the Chevrolet Silverado platform, including the stiff solid rear axle. Cadillac refines the platform. It’s got to be the fanciest truck in the world.
Escalade ESV is an extended wheelbase model based on the Chevy Suburban and Yukon XL. ESV is 20 inches longer than the standard Escalade, for a total length of 204 inches. That’s 17 feet.
The Escalade needs a monster motor to move its three tons. That would be GM’s 6.2-liter V8, here making 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. It can tow 8300 pounds with confidence, and Cadillac says it will drive this massive SUV from a standing start to 60 miles per hour in six seconds, impressive performance.
Even with the solid rear axle, the standard Magnetic Ride Control dampers give the Escalade a ride that’s nearly as good as its competitors. Not so with handling, however, as the Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz GL-Class are more poised and nimble in curves.
With its direction injection and cylinder shutoff the 2017 Escalade rates an EPA-estimated 15/22 mpg City/Highway, or 17 mpg Combined, with rear-wheel drive.
The government hasn’t been crash tested the Escalade, but the Tahoe and Yukon get five stars for front and side impact, and three stars for rollover. Standard safety equipment includes an innovative front-center airbag that protects front-seat occupants thrown toward the center of the car when it gets T-boned.
The Escalade ($73,395) comes standard with rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is available. Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Platinum ($94,795) models are available.
Automatic emergency braking is standard on the Luxury model for 2017. Except on the base model, there’s an available Driver Assist package that includes adaptive cruise control and front and rear automatic braking. A Driver Awareness package adds a lane departure warning system that can tug the three-ton SUV back into its lane if the system thinks it’s necessary.
The Escalade’s profile is identical to the Tahoe, and the Escalade ESV’s profile is identical to the Suburban.
Vertical LED headlamps and taillamps look sophisticated and crisp, and illuminate the Cadillac logo on the grille.
The cabin is warmly sculpted, unlike the sharply creased exterior. Even the base model drips with leather, its plastic and padded surfaces a cut above the Tahoe and Yukon. The Escalade Premium model is downright decadent, with more aromatic leather (Kona brown is beautiful) and wood than we’ve seen this side of a Rolls Royce.
The standard heated and cooled seats are nicely padded, with available suede trim, and it’s quieter than it used to be, thanks to pounds of sound deadening and Bose active noise cancellation.
The dashboard is dominated by Cadillac’s tablet-like CUE infotainment system, with a 12.3-inch touchscreen moved by voice, capacitive touch or swipe gestures. CUE includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, as well as a Bose Centerpoint 2.0 audio system. Its digital gauges can be configured in four themes.
OnStar 4G LTE connectivity is standard, with a WiFi antenna for hotspot capability. A head-up display is available, as is rear seat entertainment with one or two screens.
The second- and third-row seats fold flat at the touch of a button, although the second row has to be raised by hand. The second row’s heated individual bucket seats are narrow and the padding is thin.
The cargo floor is high, because of that solid rear axle, but sometimes that’s easier on the back when you’re loading heavy things. There’s 15.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, 39.3 cubic feet with the ESV, having a wheelbase that’s longer by 14 inches. With the third row folded it’s 51.6 and 76.7 cubic feet, and with both rows down it’s a vast 94.2 and 120.9 cubic feet.
There’s also stellar storage for small things. The center console bin can hold a laptop, and there are many cubbies.
The big V8 is smooth, sonorous and fast, and the eight-speed automatic transmission is silky, but the unsophisticated truck chassis inhibits the ride and handling. However it’s helped along by Magnetic Ride Control dampers that use magnetic fluid to adjust stiffness between two modes, Tour and Sport.
A full-size truck, Escalade is rated to tow up to 8,300 pounds, more than Range Rover, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz.
The Cadillac Escalade seats up to eight, has a strong powertrain and available all-wheel drive, and can tow trailers in the sub-8000-pound range.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.