2006 Cadillac Escalade Expert Review:Autoblog
Take an Escalade, super-size it to Suburban length and throw every conceivable option at it and you would have the Escalade ESV Platinum. I call this a limo for personal use. We've got three DVD screens: two in the roof for each row of passengers and GM's new navigation system up front for the driver. This 'Slade has it going on.
Outside, the Platinum gets a discrete nameplate branded on the tailgate and large 20-inch 9 spoke chrome wheels. Inside is where the options have been piled on. First thing I noticed were the matching his and hers Cadillac coffee mugs designed to fit perfectly in the heated and cooled cup holder. Yes, no more letting that venti latté get cold or the soda warm. The rich leather seats give your bottom and back the same attention as the mugs. Heated and cooled bucket seats for both the first and second rows of passengers are standard on the Platinum. What am I saying, everything is standard on the Platinum.
I’ll get to put the DVD navigation system to the test this weekend, since I have a trip on Saturday and I don’t know where I’m going. The touch screen is also used for access to the six-disc in dash changer. I talk more about that tomorrow. Third row passengers are not treated like second-class citizens in this truck. Since it is Suburban sized, the third row has decent leg room and there is a good amount of space behind them. There is a DVD screen just for the third row and the truck has three-zone cooling/heating. All seats come with their own wireless headphones to listen to DVD movies quietly while the first row can listen to XM radio in peace.
This tricked out Escalade ESV comes at a price, $70,675 with destination, but as I said, there are no options. That’s the base price for a Platinum, if you want to call that “base.” We’ll talk up the interior tomorrow.
I'm thinking about moving the Xbox to the second row of the Escalade. My living room couches don't have an air-conditioned setting, but these seats do. And the leather feels just right to get super comfortable in. Today the Garage is inundated with pictures, but that's just because there's so much to do inside the ESV Platinum.
The gauges and the “just for show” analog clock (which appears to be the price of admission for a “luxury” vehicle these days) get their design and type face from watch-maker Bvlgari. The Buick-loving jeweler has since broken his ties with GM, so don’t look name dropping in the next Escalade. The gauge faces are pleasant to look at but the staggered numbers (0, 20, 40, 60) has you searching a little longer to confirm your speed after eying a 5-O.
It’s hard to cover the amount of features inside for the driver. You’ve got power pedals, multiple position power seats and lumbar, power folding mirrors with tilt for backing up and back up assist, heated and cooled seats and cup holders and a talking navigation system.
This is the first time I have gotten some seat time with GM’s new system. The display and touch screen is excellent for XM Radio navigation and information and so far has been a pretty intuitive system to use. My wife fiddled around with the actual navigation settings (and the XM Radio stations) and we suddenly had a pleasant female voice telling us how to get to New York City, though all I wanted to do is go home. This weekend I will spend more time with the nav system for review next week.
The dashboard and center stack share a lot of their shape with all of GM’s full-size trucks, like the GMC Sierra we tested a few weeks back, which is to say it’s square. In the Escalade, so much wood, leather and gadgets surround you, the resemblance is hardly noticeable while driving. I think that’s been the Escalade’s secret.
The Platinum edition includes a DVD screen for the second row and one for the third row plus four wireless headphones. The movie’s audio can also be routed to the excellent Bose system (bonus points for anyone who can guess the movie I’m watching).
The second row of seats fold forward and have a flat load floor extender that spans the distance from the seat-back to the third row area, which makes loading longer objects easier. The seat-back in the third row folds down, but to get a truly flat load floor the seat needs to be removed. I went to the motions, which is only three steps, but the seat is pretty heavy and would be a lot easier to do with two people.
The ESV puts a good amount of space behind the third row for gear, unlike the regular wheelbase Escalade. You can easily take six passengers in all their DVD watching glory and still have room for their stuff. Now for the weekend excursion. Wait, that’s a Ford.
2005 Escalade ESV Platinum: Day 1
We've had some unseasonable weather that sidelined my usual day-3 "style" post, though most of you already know what the Escalade looks like. Plus I used yesterday to talk up GM's new navigation system that worked like a charm without having to plant my nose is a user's manual for hours to learn how to program. In fact, I didn't have to glance at the booklet at all. The navigation system can help us get to our destination but how does this land-yacht drive while getting there?
The secret to the Suburban/Yukon XL/Escalade ESV success is based on one thing: You have no idea that you are driving anything this big until you look in the rearview and see all that space behind you. Docking procedures are only needed when navigating tight spots, otherwise the big truck platform disguises its size from the driver.
The Escalade delivers a smoother ride than its Chevy and GMC counterparts (and some live-rear axel competition) thanks to the Road Sensing Suspension system that reads the road ahead and tunes the damping every few milliseconds. You don’t know it’s happening, but you can feel a difference.
Here’s the point where the Escalade could be checked off some shopping lists. The full-time all-wheel drive is competent for on road driving though most conditions, giving the ESV, and all Escalades, a confident ride. But if heavy off-road driving or deep snow is in your repertoire, then maybe a full 4x4 truck like the Range Rover is more tailored for you.
The Escalade is chock full of other goodies that are becoming more mainstream like stability control, all-speed traction control and ultrasonic rear parking assist. Steering feel is light, which helps build the illusion of driving a smaller vehicle.
The big Vortec 6000 V-8 with 345 horsepower and 380 lb ft of torque feels good under the gas pedal giving the ESV a 0-60 time of 9.0 seconds, not to bad for a truck with 5900 pounds to haul around. Speaking of hauling, the ESV Platinum can tow 7300 pounds, while the standard ESV can pull 500 pounds more.
The four-speed automatic doesn’t strain or search for gears thanks to the plentiful powerband of the 6.0-liter. A six-speed auto could help with gas mileage. The ESV, with almost all city driving is averaging about 14 mpg. EPA estimates are 13 city, 17 highway. It’s enough to make fuel misers cringe, but is respectable for a truck of this size.
The Escalade proved to be a powerful, comfortable boulevard cruiser only dropping the “small-truck” façade while negotiating tight maneuvers.
At the $70,000 price point, you pretty much have your selection of what kind of luxury SUV to accessorize your life with. The Cadillac Escalade brought the ailing brand back into vogue and its look is unmistakable. The model offers the largest selection of body styles: regular, pickup (EXT) or extra-large (ESV) and the most recognizable SUV look next to the Hummer. So why spend 70 large on the Caddy?
The dashboard is not going to win a design award. The Navigator is more art deco; the Range Rover is more “tech” and the Infiniti QX56 and Lexus LX 470 have more style. But the multiple surfaces, colors and textures plus the amount of amenities keep the Escalade from looking like a dashboard stolen from a work truck. If you want a dashboard design that looks like it just came out of Architecture Digest, the Escalade won’t make the list.
If you’re looking for comfortable seating (14-way power seats and power pedals), heated and cooled in four seating positions and as many luxuries as you can swing a 20-inch rim at, the Escalade is worth your time to at least sit in to see if the design (or lack of) could win you over.
The ESV wins out with the abundance of space available versus the competition adding 22 more inches than the standard Escalade. With the third row up, there is plenty of room behind for a trip to the store or luggage for a trip. The truck loses out to others that use trick systems to fold the third row flat. The seat folds but needs to be removed to create a flat load floor.
The all-wheel drive, Road Sensing Suspension and StabiliTrak tied to the powerful 6.0-liter V-8 gives the truck a comfortable, confident ride, which goes head-to-head with other contenders.
The Escalade ESV Platinum coddles the rear passengers almost as much as the front row. Twin 7-inch DVD screens, plenty of legroom and three-zone heating and cooling makes the second and third row almost more desirable than the driver. Airbags are only located for front row passengers. There is no roof rail side curtain airbag on the option list.
Cadillac also throws in a year’s worth of Virtual Advisor by OnStar. Virtual Advisor can provide location-based weather reports, news and sports updates, stock quotes, movie listings and TV listings.
Come for the exterior style and stay for the comfort. The Escalade ESV Platinum definitely fills out its luxury SUV duties with looks that will either draw you in, or send you packing looking for a low-key ride. In the world of super-luxo cruisers, isn’t letting people know you’ve arrived part of fun?
New Car Test Drive
Big in every way.
Escalade is a big SUV, big in the way Cadillacs were once known for being big, when the Division built big cars with big performance and big flash. Big now means trucks (which don't have to meet the same strict fuel-economy standards as cars), flash has become bling, but the old Cadillac is back, with more power, more torque, and more dazzle-per-square inch than ever before. In its maximum-length incarnation, Escalade matches exactly the wheelbase of Caddy's famous '59 finned fantasy; while exceeding its weight by more than 1000 pounds.
The Escalade nameplate includes three dramatically different though distinctly similar models: The standard Escalade is a full-size sport utility, the same size as the Chevy Tahoe. The Escalade ESV is a Suburban-sized model. The Escalade EXT is Cadillac's interpretation of the Chevy Avalanche, a brilliantly executed sport utility truck that quickly converts from a pickup with an eight-foot bed to a five-passenger luxury vehicle. All three feature a high-performance 6.0-liter V8 and all-wheel drive.
Built on GM's superb full-size truck platform, the 2006 Escalade, ESV, and EXT are fine trucks and make excellent tow vehicles. At the same time, they're roomy, luxuriously appointed vehicles that can haul family or friends or business associates in comfort. The 6.0-liter V8 supplies serious power for quick acceleration when needed along with strong torque for towing. On the road, all three Escalades are smooth and stable, nicer in ride than a Tahoe or Suburban but taut and well-controlled by full-size SUV standards for surprisingly good handling.
Cadillac made Escalade more appealing starting with the 2005 models, with richer interior appointments, a redesigned satellite-navigation option; and dual electric cooling fans and an upgraded (160-amp) alternator for better air-conditioner performance. During the model year the 6.0-liter V8 became the standard engine for all Escalades. With an all-new Escalade due for model year 2007, no additional changes have been made for 2006.
The standard Escalade is available in three distinct configurations, and though they differ in appearance and packaging, they share interiors and are mechanically the same.
The plenty-full-sized Escalade is offered with two-wheel drive ($53,850) or all-wheel drive ($56,405). All-wheel-drive is standard on the extended-wheelbase Escalade ESV ($58,805); and on the clever Escalade EXT ($53,335) which, like the Chevrolet Avalanche, converts from a four-door, five-seater pickup with a short bed to a two-seater with a long bed. A high-output 6.0-liter V8 engine and four-speed automatic transmission are now standard on all models.
Cadillac is usually the first division to get GM's cutting-edge technology, and all the Escalade models come loaded with the latest: StabiliTrak electronic stability control, computer-controlled road-sensing suspension (RSS), and Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist (with lights and a warning beeper).
The list of standard luxuries is as long as the Escalade itself: Nuance leather seats with burl walnut interior trim; power heated 14-way adjustable front seats; Bose Acoustimass audio system with six-disc CD changer; XM Satellite Radio; rear seat audio controls with earphones; removable lightweight third-row seats; Heavy Duty Trailering Package.
Also standard is the OnStar communications system with Personal Calling, which allows drivers to make hands-free, voice-activated personal calls; and Virtual Advisor, which provides headlines, sports scores, weather, and personalized stock quotes (All 2006 Cadillac buyers receive a 12-month complimentary subscription to Virtual Advisor.) OnStar's latest (Gen 6) technology enhances hands-free capabilities.
The list of options is short and includes a rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($1,295), touch-screen navigation integrated into the audio system ($2,145), a power glass sunroof ($1,550), and chromed wheels in 17-inch ($795) and 20-inch ($2,995) sizes. The Select Edition package ($3,490) combines the sunroof and navigation with 17-inch chrome wheels. EXT buyers may choose a powered soft tonneau cover ($1,000).
And as this is the last year for this generation of Escalade, Cadillac is offering a Collector's Edition, which became available during the '05 model year for standard-length Escalades with 4WD. It combines a unique grille, ebony interior trim, and 20-inch chrome wheels; the price depends on whether you also order the Select Edition ($2,300) or not ($3.095).
ESV buyers may choose the Platinum Edition ($11,370), which includes (among other things) an ebony and shale dash; shale leather seating surfaces and pleated door-panel bolsters; a floor console with heated and cooled cupholders; independent heated and cooled seat cushions and seatbacks; color-keyed wood-and-leather-wrapped steering wheel with chrome accents; 20-inch, nine-spoke chromed aluminum wheels; and floor mats all around embroidered with the Cadillac wreath.
Though they differ in body style, the Cadillac Escalade, ESV, and EXT share drivetrains, chassis architecture and styling cues. All are built on GM's full-size truck platform and share much in common with their counterparts from Chevrolet and GMC.
These are big vehicles. Stretching 221.4 inches, the EXT and ESV are 2 inches longer than a Suburban, placing them among the longest vehicles on the road. Likewise, the Escalade is 2 inches longer than the Tahoe, the former measuring 198.9 inches. In terms of length, a Lincoln Navigator falls between Escalade and ESV (measuring 207.5 inches).
If their size gives them presence, their bold styling pushes the Escalades over the top. When it debuted in 2002, the Escalade was the first production vehicle to embody Cadillac's progressive new styling, with sharp, chiseled, vertical lines, and a grille inspired by the Evoq concept car. It was the first new vehicle to reflect Cadillac's 'art and science' philosophy, aimed at blending forward-thinking technology with expressive design. Now, Cadillac has a full stable of edgy new designs, including the CTS, STS, and XLR, exciting cars that represent nothing less than a renaissance at Cadillac.
Escalade's front end is massive and looks it, with a big satin-nickel plastic grille and vertical halogen headlight clusters that measure 16 by 12 inches. High intensity discharge (HID) headlamps with chrome bezels reflect a jewel-like appearance, and are integrated with rectangular parking lamps and turn signals. The vehicle's front fascia incorporates recessed tow hooks and rectangular fog lamps.
A simplified wreath-and-crest insignia designed to symbolize the new Cadillac appears on the grille and liftgate. Chrome trim emblazons the nameplate, running boards and roof rack. Big 17-inch forged alloy wheels with seven short, wide spokes carry P265/70R17 Goodyear all-season radials. These standard wheels are attractive, but are less dynamic than the rest of the styling.
Somehow the sheer size of the Escalade ESV makes it look less intimidating than the Escalade. Perhaps that's because it's essentially a Suburban with the Escalade's bold styling and more standard luxuries (including the big 6.0-liter V8 and all-wheel drive). There's something familiar and friendly about a Suburban. But there's still no doubt that the Escalade ESV represents the ultimate in SUV excess. Pulling up in one of these makes a strong statement.
Buyers who want to make an even stronger statement can opt for 20-inch rims, with P275/55R20 tires, though we don't recommend such low-profile tires on a truck. For ultimate eye-popping power, choose the ESV Platinum Edition, which rides about an inch lower than the standard ESV. A chrome grille and chromed 20-inch wheels add to the flash, along with Platinum lettering on the liftgate.
The EXT is the most unusual of the line, with its open pickup bed. In its standard configuration, the EXT offers a roomy, luxurious, comfortable five-passenger cab and a 5-foot, 3-inch long open cargo box. When more cargo room is needed, the driver can easily extend the bed to 8 feet. To accomplish this, the rear seats and Midgate fold into the interior of the cab to create a 4-by-8-foot cargo area. Items can be protected from the elements and theft with a well-designed three-piece cargo cover and lockable tailgate, both of which come standard. The sides of the cargo box, along with the Midgate and tailgate, are constructed of Pro-Tec, an extremely strong composite material. The rear window is removable to allow for additional cargo space or for added air circulation. The window is easily stowed on board and works in conjunction with the Midgate. It's an innovative and brilliantly executed solution to the problem of needing both passenger and cargo space at different times. In the morning it's a full-size work truck, in the afternoon it's a luxury crew cab. The system can be configur.
The seats are great, because they not only provide adjustable lumbar support, but another adjustment that nicely squeezes you at the sides. The 14-way power driver's seat comes with a memory feature. His and hers key fobs allow each driver to program their own seat position; unlock the doors with your personal remote entry fob, and the seat slides to your position. This doesn't work when borrowing your spouse's keys, but you'll still be able to press a button near the armrest to get your seating position back. Buttons for the seat heaters are conveniently located here as well.
Front-row roominess and accommodations are essentially the same for the Escalade, ESV, and EXT. A big center console serves as a front armrest and opens in a couple of different ways to reveal storage areas. Two large cup holders, a CD rack and coin holder are all in there. A power outlet inside the center console is handy for plugging in and storing cell phones and other accessories.
The dashboard is squarish, like a big flat tray. A leather-wrapped handgrip runs across the top of the dash on the passenger side, with big stitching that faces out. Walnut burl wood trim adds warmth. Chrome trim and detailed graphics on the instruments emphasizes their stylish, retro-tech look. A transmission temperature gauge is included, reassuring when towing.
The optional navigation system ($2,145) was upgraded last year, with touch-screen technology replacing the joystick used previously. At the same time, the screen itself expanded from 5.8 to 6.5 inches.
The Platinum Edition ESV gets premium interior features and materials, including an ebony and shale dash, shale leather seating surfaces and pleated door-panel bolsters. Seats are both heated and cooled in the first and second rows; even the cup holders are heated and cooled. Walnut burl accents appear on the steering wheel, console, door pulls, window switch bezels and dashboard trim. Chrome trim highlights the steering wheel, speaker covers and gauge cluster. Satellite navigation is standard, along with a DVD entertainment system with separate 7-inch screens for the second and third rows.
On all Escalades, a message center provides status reports including total hours on the engine and miles driven during each of the previous seven days. (Good for checking up on teens, it even reports the top speed reached.) A computer in the center dash allows the driver to program such things as whether the locks operate automatically, how locking with the key fob is confirmed (horn, lights), whether the mirrors tilt when backing up, length of headlamp delay, etc. The steering-wheel audio controls are set into the center of the butterfly four-spoke burl wood trim wheel (so they can't be reached with your thumb).
The climate controls work very well. They are easy to understand and operate, yet quite sophisticated, and allow fine-tuning of everyone's temperature. Likewise, the audio system works very well and the XM Satellite Radio is easy to operate. A six-disc CD changer mounted at the bottom of the center stack is convenient and easy to operate. New Gen 6 OnStar is standard.
Second-row passengers have luxurious accommodations, regardless of model. Captain's chairs are standard on Escalade and ESV; they give second-row passengers front-row comfort. EXT comes with a 60/40 split bench, which is available at no charge on the other two models. The center of the bench seat folds to reveal a virtual fold-down table. Lift the vinyl top and there's a black felt compartment with little round recesses designed for the headphones.
Second-row passengers enjoy their own climate controls, seat heaters, audio system controls, map lights, and adjustable vents. Second-row accommodations for the three models are nearly the same, all within an inch. There's less legroom than you might expect in a vehicle this large, particularly if the front seats are moved all the way back. Big hangi.
Powered by the big 6.0-liter Vortec V8 engine, the Escalade, ESV, and EXT offer strong acceleration performance with deep torque for pulling trailers. Punch it and the Vortec's 345 horsepower provides terrific response for passing on two-lane roads. Ease the pedal down on long grades and 380 pound-feet of torque propel the Escalade with authority. These big Cadillacs are easily among the most powerful of all the full-size trucks on the road, and among the quickest SUVs. They accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than 8.5 seconds, according to Cadillac. The engine delivers good throttle response, making it easy to control speed when tooling around town.
The four-speed transmission shifts smoothly, particularly around town. Like other full-size SUVs from GM, the Escalade is equipped with a Tow/Haul mode. Press a button on the end of the shift lever, and the Tow/Haul function reduces hunting between gears by delaying upshifts and downshifts. The shifting is also harder and more abrupt. This saves wear by reducing heat buildup in the transmission.
The Escalade, ESV and EXT are all superb choices for towing. The Escalade AWD offers a towing capacity of 8100 pounds. The big ESV is rated to pull 7700 pounds, while the EXT can pull 7300 pounds.
All-wheel drive increases stability and performance in slippery conditions. The computer-controlled system directs engine power where it's needed and compensates whenever and wherever wheel spin occurs. In dry conditions, the front wheels get 38 percent of the driving torque, and the rear wheels get 62 percent. Whenever a wheel slips, the power is transferred forward or rearward, depending on where grip is best, until traction can be restored to regain that 38/62 optimum split.
The computer-controlled self-leveling suspension, with extra-large high-tech Bilstein shock absorbers, sounds impressive on paper, but we found the Escalade a bit floaty. In the Columbia River valley where wind reigns supreme, the Escalade did not feel as stable as it should have. And you can feel the patches on the freeway more than you might like to. On two-lanes with curves, Escalade doesn't feel as agile as a BMW X5 or even a Ford Expedition. That said, the Escalade feels stable on on-ramps and off-ramps. It doesn't suffer from a lot of body roll. And it'll haul a lot of stuff.
Likewise, the Escalade ESV feels stable on the highway at high speeds, but it feels a little softer than a Suburban, and it conveys a distinct impression of being in control of considerable mass. Perhaps that's because the ESV weighs 5,800 pounds, about 600 pounds more than a Suburban 1500 with 4WD.
Brakes are four-wheel discs with ABS, 12-inch diameter front, 13-inch rear, not ventilated. That doesn't sound impressive for such as big vehicle, particularly if it's headed downhill with a trailer at maximum towing capacity. But the Escalade's brakes felt good in hard use on winding roads and delivered stable performance when pressed hard.
Rear Park Assist makes parking these rigs, particularly the ESV and EXT, much easier. By watching a small row of lights at the rear of the headliner, and listening for an audio tone that varies in frequency, the driver can accurately judge how much room is left behind the rear bumper. We found the system often warned us when someone stepped behind the vehicle while backing up in a crowded parking lot.
The Cadillac Escalade is one of the most luxurious SUVs available. Escalade, ESV and EXT are big, distinctive vehicles with flashy styling. With their standard 6.0-liter V8, they boast lots of horsepower, though they also have lots of weight to move. These vehicles feel stable on the road and have a relatively soft ride. They are highly capable tow vehicles.
Escalade and ESV come with three rows of seats and are rated to carry up to eight people, but those who intend to carry this many people often are better served by the Suburban-sized ESV. When set up for four people, either Escalade or ESV can carry a mountain of cargo. EXT offers the innovative Midgate system popularized by the Chevy Avalanche, and is a clever and well-executed solution for someone who alternately needs a pickup truck and a luxury passenger vehicle.
Sam Moses reported from the Columbia Gorge, with Mitch McCullough reporting from Los Angeles.
Cadillac Escalade 2WD ($53,850); Escalade AWD ($56,405); Escalade EXT ($53,335); Escalade ESV ($58,805);.
Arlington, Texas; Silao, Mexico.
Options As Tested
rear-seat DVD entertainment ($1,295); 17-inch chrome wheels ($795).
Cadillac Escalade ESV ($58,805).
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