Vital Stats

Engine:
6.2L V8
Power:
420 HP / 460 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Auto
0-60 Time:
5.9 Seconds
Drivetrain:
Four-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
5,870 LBS (est.)
Seating:
2+2+3
Cargo:
94.2 CU-FT
MPG:
14 City / 21 HWY
Base Price:
$71,695
Cadillac has been an interesting story in the auto industry over the past several years. Its comeback bid may be well over a decade old, but it's only recently that the Wreath and Crest has transformed from the auto industry's retirement home into its hot new thing. Today's Cadillac is a powerful marque working to instill passionate design, sound driving dynamics and cutting-edge technology into each model it builds, with vehicles like the ATS and redesigned CTS leading the charge.

Now, its latest model has arrived. This fourth-generation Escalade is among the most important new Cadillacs since the division's renaissance kicked into high gear. It's the brand's de facto flagship, and the first vehicle many young people think of when hearing the name "Cadillac." In the past, the Escalade was the chosen vehicle of the rich, flashy and famous. It's suffered over the past few years, though, particularly as new and more luxurious competitors have come to the fore.

With this latest redesign, General Motors is aiming to retake the spotlight as purveyors of the market's premier luxury SUV. To find out if it's been successful, I ventured down to the South Carolina Lowcountry to test the all-new 2015 Escalade.
2015 Cadillac Escalade2015 Cadillac Escalade2015 Cadillac Escalade

This new model is loaded to the gills with advanced tech. Actually, that's a lie, Cadillac has ditched the third-generation model's side gills, and the new Escalade is a cleaner design for it. Underhood, you won't find just a simple 6.2-liter Ecotec3 V8, you'll find a direct-injected engine, with variable valve timing and Active Fuel Management, the latter of which allows the Escalade to run on just four of its eight cylinders to improve fuel economy.

EPA estimates sit at 14 mpg in the city, 21 mpg on the highway and 16 mpg combined.

GM's new small block produces 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, 17 more horses and 43 more lb-ft than its predecessor. 60 miles per hour now arrives in under six seconds – quite an accomplishment in a 5,900-pound SUV. Meanwhile, this is the most fuel-efficient Escalade since the Hybrid model was discontinued, thanks not only to the features mentioned above, but also active grille shutters and other aerodynamic tweaks. In my short-wheelbase, four-wheel-drive tester, EPA estimates sit at 14 miles per gallon in the city, 21 mpg on the highway and 16 mpg combined.

The suspension now boasts the always-excellent MagneRide magnetorheological active damping system as part of its coilover front and five-link rear setup. The Escalade's rear track has been widened by nearly two inches in a bid to offer a more stable ride – it works – and shear-style body mounts have been fitted to increase stiffness and reduce noise, vibration and harshness. 20-inch wheels come standard, with 22s optional, and thanks to the standard adaptive system, the ride quality doesn't suffer because of the big hoops.

2015 Cadillac Escalade

There are a number of features that have been fitted to the cabin to improve the Escalade's sense of refinement, not least of which is Bose Active Noise Cancelling, a wondrous technology that basically erases engine noise while idling and at speed. Combined with additional sound-deadening material, the aforementioned stiffer body and some clever aerodynamic tricks, this new Escalade's cabin is supremely quiet.

Cadillac has left the options sheet rather light, opting to offer a lot of kit as standard on the Escalade's three trim levels.

As for actual equipment, Cadillac has left the options sheet rather light, opting to offer a lot of kit as standard on the Escalade's three trim levels. For example, heated and cooled seats are now fitted to every Escalade, as is a heated steering wheel. The same goes for power-folding third row seats. There's only one stereo, a 16-speaker Bose Centerpoint surround system, while LED headlights and taillights are standard across the range. Even Cadillac's excellent 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster is standard.

That's not to say that the top two trims, Luxury and Premium, are without their own goodies. Moving up adds a head-up display, as well as a huge suite of driver-assistance features and a new security package, the latter of which which can allegedly block slim-jims. (Like GM's other previous fullsize SUVs, the Escalade has always been a top pick among thieves). Adaptive cruise control is included on the top-end Premium trim, as is automatic braking, automatic seatbelt tightening, and a rear-seat entertainment system with a nine-inch screen and a Blu-Ray player. The latter is also optional on the mid-range Luxury trim.

2015 Cadillac Escalade2015 Cadillac Escalade2015 Cadillac Escalade2015 Cadillac Escalade

Long a weak point of the last-generation Escalade, the new model's interior is nothing short of a massive improvement. Real wood is paired with – and contrasted against – real metal, Alcantara and supple hand-stitched leather. This is an interior worthy of an $84,000 sticker, one I had no problem spending an extended amount of time in. Leather is the cabin's dominant material, with small streaks of wood and spans of faux suede. As it is on the rest of Cadillac's range, the CUE infotainment system is surrounded by piano black trim. Fit and finish is truly excellent, especially around the center console lids, which conceal change trays and cupholders. And these high-quality materials are all standard – what you see in these images is fitted to every Escalade.

EPA passenger volume is up from 108.9 cubic feet in this standard-wheelbase model to 120.8.

What's most impressive about this cabin is that Cadillac has swathed such a large space in such fine trimmings. The new model's interior is significantly larger, with EPA passenger volume up from 108.9 cubic feet in this standard-wheelbase model to 120.8. As for how that actually feels, I had no complaints in either the first or second row buckets. My tester's third row was a bit cramped for this six-foot, one-inch occupant, so if you're planning on stowing adults in the third row on a regular basis, I'd recommend going with the extra 20 inches of wheelbase and nearly ten inches of third-row legroom provided by the Escalade ESV. The pickup-bodied Escalade EXT was discontinued in 2013, and shows no signs of making a reappearance in this new generation.

Getting into and out of the first two rows is a breeze, with excellent ingress and egress. The 12-way power front seats offer a wide range of adjustability; finding one's ideal driving position is easy. I prefer to sit as low as is practical in most vehicles, and the Escalade's huge range of adjustments makes that possible. The seats themselves are thoroughly supportive and comfortable, a welcome improvement over the old Escalade's largely flat-cushioned furniture. The tilt-telescopic steering wheel, meanwhile, enjoys a similarly large range of motion. It's possible to drop the tiller right in the driver's lap, should they be so inclined. Outward visibility is quite good, befitting of such a large vehicle with a cavernous greenhouse.

2015 Cadillac Escalade2015 Cadillac Escalade2015 Cadillac Escalade2015 Cadillac Escalade

Cadillac says its latest Art and Science design displays "evolution with an edge." To me, the difference between the 2014 model and and this new one is like comparing an off-the-rack Brooks Brothers suit to a made-to-measure item from Tom Ford. It's a sharp, crisp look at both ends, with the nose set off by a tall, imposing front fascia highlighted by a wide, eggcrate grille. The thin, LED-adorned headlights contribute quite nicely to the Escalade's visual width, tying this SUV more closely to its ATS, CTS and XTS brethren.

The difference between the 2014 model and and this new one is like comparing an off-the-rack Brooks Brothers suit to a tailored item from Tom Ford.

In back, the design is dominated by tall, thin LED taillights running from bumper to roof. This almost Volvo-like execution allows the big SUV to further stand out from the pack – especially at night – and jibes nicely as a new interpretation of Cadillac's historically slim and vertical taillamps. What's more, to my eyes, these taillights manage to present the Escalade as a slimmer, smaller vehicle than it really is. Taking a page from the playbook of the new Land Rover Range Rover, the Escalade's profile is highlighted, particularly on darker paint schemes, by a thin silver trim strip that runs along the doors between the front and rear wheel wells.

As I mentioned, the new Escalade is capable of hitting 60 mph in just a shade under six seconds. That's properly quick – particularly for a vehicle of this sort – but metrics only tell part of the story. This Caddy's weight doesn't feel like a hindrance thanks to the accessible torque of its 6.2-liter V8. Off the line, it surges forward with a royal bellow from its discreet exhaust outlets, while at freeways speeds, there's enough grunt to make passing maneuvers a cinch. Dip into its linear throttle, and the power arrives in smooth, predictable doses.

2015 Cadillac Escalade2015 Cadillac Escalade2015 Cadillac Escalade

Normally with this sort of vehicle, this is where I'd start to talk about towing. Unfortunately, Cadillac didn't have anything for me to haul, although I can say that my standard-length, four-wheel-drive tester is rated to handle 8,100 pounds, just like the 2014 model.

The six-speed auto isn't bad, but there are better gearboxes in this end of the market.

The small-block's cylinder deactivation technology, meanwhile, is nearly imperceptible. Establish a steady cruising speed without much throttle input and the Escalade will happily deactivate half its cylinders, while all eight can be awakened with an extra toe on the accelerator. I had no issue maintaining four-cylinder mode for an extended period, and enjoyed watching the average fuel economy slowly improve.

Managing the power to the optional four-wheel-drive system is the same Hydra-Matic six-speed auto from last year's model. While I didn't have any qualms with this gearbox on my drive, it's a bit surprising not to see a more sophisticated transmission with a higher gear count. I had the same reaction when the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra fullsize pickups debuted with the same gearbox, trucks with which the Escalade shares quite a bit. Compared to something like ZF's ubiquitous eight-speed automatic, the Caddy's six-speed is slower to upshift and less willing to downshift, with more hunting for the appropriate gear. This isn't to say that the six-speed auto is bad – it's not – but there are better gearboxes in this end of the market.

We suspect that GM just couldn't get its supplier timetables worked out – witness today's announcement that the Corvette Stingray will get a new eight-speed automatic after first launching last year with a six-speed unit. It's probably only a matter of time before the Escalade gets the gearbox it deserves.

2015 Cadillac Escalade

Thanks to its excellent MagneRide system, this is both the best handling and most comfortable Escalade that GM has ever put on the road. The system offers up two modes, Sport and Tour. Despite their names, both are very much oriented towards overall comfort, with Sport offering up a slightly stiffer, more aggressively damped driving experience.

I've never been particularly impressed by Bose's Active Noise Cancelling systems in the past, but after driving the Escalade, I'm a believer.

It's a very well-behaved setup. While more than a few luxury SUVs offer soft rides to handle rough roads well, such smoothness often comes at the cost of controlled damping at higher speeds. This can mean excessive vertical motion and porpoising in dynamic situations, a development that hurts driver confidence. That's not an issue in this Escalade. The ride is pinned down and composed on both smooth surfaces and rougher roads. Excess vertical motion is nary an issue, as the dampers adapt nicely to the road conditions ironing out imperfections.

Even though this is a very comfortable SUV, Cadillac hasn't sacrificed handling ability. Surprisingly, this new GMT K2XL chassis handles like a much smaller vehicle. In Tour mode, roll, squat and dive come on progressively, only becoming really noticeable when aggressively working the wheel in a way that most people would never attempt with a vehicle like this. Tackle a bend at speed, and this 5,900-pounder charges through flatter than you'd imagine possible, feeling composed throughout. Switch to Sport, and it just gets better, with less roll coming at the expense of a slightly firmer ride.

2015 Cadillac Escalade2015 Cadillac Escalade

Besides being smooth, the Escalade's ride is remarkably quiet. I've never been particularly impressed by Bose's Active Noise Cancelling systems in the past, but after driving the Escalade, I'm a believer. At idle, the engine is silent. It's so quiet that I thought there was a stop/start system at work – there isn't. At cruising speed, the active noise cancellation works in tandem with triple door seals and acoustic-laminated glass to quash any unpleasant drivetrain and road noise, only letting the good stuff reach occupants' ears. There's a very, very minor buzz when traveling in four-cylinder mode, but it requires running without the stereo or climate control systems to hear it. It's a similar story when kicking into V8 mode.

EPAS is in its element in the big Escalade, helping it feel sharper when steering through turns.

Tire roar, even from the 285/45R22 Bridgestone Dueler H/L tires of my tester, is well controlled, while suspension noise only proved to be an issue when I happened to nail a particularly brutal imperfection at speed (the real test of the Escalade's ride comfort will come on the Polar Vortex-devastated roads of the Midwest). Cadillac's habit of fitting smaller side mirrors also pays off in the Escalade, as there's little to no wind noise, though they don't necessarily help rearward visibility.

Cadillac has opted for electric power-assisted steering in the 2015 Escalade, ditching the old model's hydraulic system. Believe it or not, EPAS is in its element in the big Escalade, helping it feel sharper when steering through the turns. Weight comes on naturally, although as is the case with most EPAS systems, there's very little feedback.

2015 Cadillac Escalade

Bringing something this big and heavy to a halt is the task of 13-inch front and 13.6-inch rear vented disc brakes. The Escalade can be brought to a stop quite easily and repeatably, but the brake pedal itself isn't very linear, feeling stiff upon tip-in, only to soften and become easier to modulate as more effort is applied.

The Cadillac Escalade is once again a vehicle that cannot and will not be ignored.

As I mentioned earlier, Cadillac has made improving fuel economy a priority for the latest Escalade. With technologies like cylinder deactivation, direct injection, electric power steering and active grille shutters at its disposal, I had no issue returning very near the Escalade's 21-mpg highway rating.

Not surprisingly, all this goodness comes at a price. GM has effected a significant bump to the Escalade's base price, moving from the $67,970 (not counting $995 in destination charges) for a rear-drive, short-wheelbase 2014 Escalade to $71,695 for the 2015 model (you can view the complete breakdown on Escalade pricing here). My tester, meanwhile, was a top-flight Premium model. With the short-wheelbase body and four-wheel drive, its starting price was $83,790, including destination. The only option fitted to the vehicle I drove was $600-worth of 22-inch seven-spoke "ultra-bright finish" wheels. Putting this silver beast on the road as shown would cost $84,390.

The Escalade is back, in a way that it's never been before. This is a vehicle that can and will challenge the very best in the full-size luxury SUV segment, but unlike in the past where its badge and brash styling did the talking, it'll be driving dynamics, technology and a beautifully appointed cabin that will have customers signing on the dotted line. Quite simply, the Cadillac Escalade is once again a vehicle that cannot and will not be ignored.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 194 Comments
      Mark
      • 8 Months Ago
      This very well could be the first-ever Escalade review that doesn't use the word "bling."
      EJD1984
      • 8 Months Ago
      I just wish GM would have done a little bit extra investment and have developed an independent-rear-suspension for the Escalade. Maybe if Cadillac does a V-Series (supercharged 6.2) the IRS from the upcoming LTS/Elmiraj could be adapted.
        carguy1701
        • 8 Months Ago
        @EJD1984
        American Axle (one of GM's suppliers) actually DID develop an IRS for the GMT900 SUV platform, but it was never used. That said, the solid axle will not camber under heavy loads like an IRS will, so I'm guessing that's their rationale for still using it. Also, the Omega car is unibody, this is BOF.
          JaredN
          • 8 Months Ago
          @carguy1701
          I'm guessing their rationale is simply cost.
          Denster
          • 8 Months Ago
          @carguy1701
          It's rather puzzling, with the extensive amount of re-engineering that went into this platform, why they didn't switch to IRS. I'm not buying the cost factor, as the Camaro features IRS at a $25K price point. The profit margins on these SUVs is enormous. Cost aside, BOF with a solid rear axle is extremely inefficient packaging. IRS would likely have brought true fold-flat seating and significant improvement in ride and handling.
          Karfreek
          • 8 Months Ago
          @carguy1701
          With GM pricing IRS probably would have pushed the MSRP over $100,000...
          carguy1701
          • 8 Months Ago
          @carguy1701
          That too.
          carguy1701
          • 8 Months Ago
          @carguy1701
          Denster: I'm sure they had their reasons, though I too would like to know what they were.
      Basil Exposition
      • 8 Months Ago
      I wonder what Caddy's plan is for their logo. The latest CTS was released with the new widened crest sans-wreath. My local dealer got all new signage reflecting that change too. Now this latest release is back to the original wreath and crest. What's the deal?
        John
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Basil Exposition
        They are switching everything to that awful new, stretched, no-wreath crest, but the tooling for the Escalade was already complete. It will start appearing each time they come out with a new model or refresh.
      John
      • 8 Months Ago
      I'm puzzled by why the bottom of the hatch opening is a good bit lower than the floor inside. There are even rub strips on the edge, which seem pointless as any cargo will never touch them, but be hoisted onto the higher internal floor instead. Is the outgoing model like this as well?
        JaredN
        • 8 Months Ago
        @John
        No. The outgoing model did not have fold-flat rear seats. Instead, the rear seats had to be removed from the vehicle to get full cargo capacity in the rear. Since GM decided not to give the Tahoekonlade an independent rear suspension, the could not give the truck a conventional fold-flat rear seat (like in the Ford Expedition or Toyota Sequoia). So instead, they came up with this crappy solution of having the seats fold flat, but 4 inches above the vehicle floor. The rear hatch goes down to the vehicle floor. Toyota did the same thing with the third row seats in the 2014 4Runner and GX460, both of which also have a solid rear axle.
          John
          • 8 Months Ago
          @JaredN
          Ohhhh. That's unfortunate. It seems like they tried to slip this by as something that "no one will notice," but in practice, I can see it being annoying. When loading a box into most any truck or wagon of this type, it is natural to rest it on the bumper and hatch opening, and then slide the rest in. It probably would have been better to limit the opening to the same height, as this sort of fudge on something so basic could easily irritate people.
          PatTheCarNut
          • 8 Months Ago
          @JaredN
          Typical GM half assed "engineering"
          PatTheCarNut
          • 8 Months Ago
          @JaredN
          This is EXACTLY my problem with GM....it's like do it RIGHT! or don't do it!
        Denster
        • 8 Months Ago
        @John
        Because the seats are not truly flat folding. They cheated by raising the floor of the rear cargo area to give the "illusion" of fold-slat seating
      Afi Keita James
      • 8 Months Ago
      The Late tony soprano aka james gandolfini RIP would be proud of this.
      PatTheCarNut
      • 8 Months Ago
      Autoblog, please fix this comment section. Unless you are TRYING to run people off out of frustration, and if that's the case... job well done!. Keep up the good work! :-) I know, I shouldn't expect so much from America On~Line
      StevieQueen
      • 8 Months Ago
      I'm looking forward to test driving one. Had a 2009, liked it but the interior quality was cheapy. Bought a 2012 ML350, better inside quality but the seats are hard as rocks. The Escalade was way more comfy. Had ZERO issues with the 09 Escalade besides squeaky center consol. Driving an Escalade on 22s makes you feel regal, driving a MB SUV makes you feel like a soccer mom. Nothing against soccer moms but I have a penis.
      viggen
      • 8 Months Ago
      Autoblog, are you bought and paid for by GM? Thought so... The new Escalade is nothing more than a warmed-over version of the previous model -- unsophisticated, un-nuanced styling, marginal interior quality and pie-plate logo. Lame. Compare to similarly-priced Range Rover and Range Rover Sport and Escalade looks even worse by comparison...
        Karfreek
        • 8 Months Ago
        @viggen
        The gearshift lever dates back to a 1999 Silverado; what a joke on an $85,000 "Premium luxury truck". Even a $25,000 Chrysler 200 has a gear selection knob. (Yes, I am poking fun at the way out of date 6-speed auto)
        sloanm101
        • 8 Months Ago
        @viggen
        Did you even read the article? As mentioned in the article above, the author mentioned that the previous gen had a horribly, cheap interior -- I see no bias-ism. Also, have you even owned a Land Rover? Most likely you haven't; for, if you had owned one, you would of noticed the cost incurred trying to keep one running and working properly. A Land Cruiser would of been a more appropriate comparison; for the Escalade and Land Cruiser can actually reach and surpass a 100,000 miles, cheaply and with minimal repairs.
          viggen
          • 8 Months Ago
          @sloanm101
          Improvement isn't enough -- most of GM's vehicles are dramatically "improved" over previous generations -- unfortunately, that doesn't mean they're competitive, given the bar is always being raised. Re: quality, I was talking about quality of design, attention to thoughtful detail, quality of materials -- the Escalade remains old-school. Last, yes, I have owned a LR Disco and an RR Sport among many other vehicles. I consider myself fortunate that my experience with LR and RR were trouble-free and I'm not disputing Cadillac's likely superior reliability -- but then again, LR/RR never chose killing customers over a $1.50 replacement part either...
      jayvelliot
      • 8 Months Ago
      Say what you want guys....this thing is a vast improvement from the current generation and these are going to sell like hot cakes...
        Karfreek
        • 8 Months Ago
        @jayvelliot
        Lease like hot cakes...
          Bernard
          • 8 Months Ago
          @Karfreek
          The haters are out in full force today. Go back to driving your Corolla, us men are talking luxury here.
      Paul
      • 8 Months Ago
      Very Un-Impressive for $85K ... only a 6 speed tranny. Got to be kidding me. GM & Cadillac come up Short again. This is NOT good value for the money. Much better off buying a 13 or 14 certified for about $50K. Pocket the $35K and laugh all the way to the bank.
        sloanm101
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Paul
        I agree, in regards to the 6-speed transmission. Apparently, GM and Ford are working on a 10-speed tranny for their trucks and SUVs, but, if my memory recalls correctly, ZF transmission announced that an extra gear over a 9-speed transmission would result in a marginal loss in efficiency. Correct me If I'm wrong, anyone?
          Joe Liebig
          • 8 Months Ago
          @sloanm101
          VW said the same. 9 gears it is. However, with speed limits as low as 65 in many states, how do you ever need more than 4 gears?
          Karfreek
          • 8 Months Ago
          @sloanm101
          Sloanm101 - you are right. ZF said 9-speeds was it.
      Karfreek
      • 8 Months Ago
      You cant even call it an overpriced Tahoe because the Tahoe itself is overpriced...
      JP
      • 8 Months Ago
      This thing couldn't get out of its own way.
    • Load More Comments