2003 Cadillac Escalade Reviews

2003 Escalade New Car Test Drive

The following review is for a 2002 Model Year. There may be minor changes to current model you are looking at.


Cadillac Escalade is all-new for 2002. This full-size luxury SUV makes a strong statement with sharp, chiseled styling. Built on GM's newest truck platform, the Escalade is available with a high-performance 6.0-liter V8, all-wheel drive, and GM's latest technology. While the 1999-2000 Escalade was essentially a warmed-over Denali, this new one offers unique engineering and features to go with its unique styling. The 2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT is a new model in a new market: the luxury sport utility truck (SUT) segment. It combines the stowage and hauling capabilities of a full-sized pick-up truck with the people-carrying capacity of an SUV, packaged with the creature comforts of a luxury car. 

Cadillac Escalade EXT is designed to give drivers an alternative to owning an SUV and a truck. It comes with full-time four-wheel drive, five-passenger seating, a spacious interior and the unmatched cargo space of a full pick-up bed. Thanks to GM's Midgate it can be quickly converted from a people hauler to a hay hauler. 

This new luxury SUT, as it is called, follows on the heels of Lincoln's Blackwood, which arrived in dealerships in June 2001. The Cadillac Escalade EXT is based on the Chevy Avalanche, which also features the Midgate. 

Cadillac's luxury sport-utility truck is, of course, designed for an upscale audience. Trucks are popular with this crowd, and Cadillac says nearly a fourth of all of its customers own a pickups. At the same time, an increasing number of SUV buyers are women - and that's particularly true of the Escalade SUV. Surely, some of these people would like Cadillac levels of luxury and technology combined with a pickup bed, so, voila! Escalade EXT. 

With aggressive styling and a powerful 345-horsepower V8 the new Escalade EXT is no pussycat. Park it next to your average SUV and it looks like it would eat it for lunch. All of this comes at a price. 


All-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive versions of the Escalade are available, using different engines and transmissions. 

2WD Escalades use GM's new Vortec 5300, a 5.3-liter overhead-valve V8 with an iron block and heads, producing 285 horsepower and 325 foot-pounds of torque, tied to a four-speed automatic transmission (code-named 4L60-E). 

AWD Escalades use a high-performance version of GM's 6.0-liter Vortec 6000. With special high-compression aluminum heads on the iron block, this engine produces 345 horsepower and 380 foot-pounds of torque. To handle all that power, it's connected to a heavy-duty version of the same automatic transmission (4L60-HD). 

Cadillac is GM's technology leader and the Escalade comes loaded with the latest. All Cadillacs come standard with the OnStar communications system and the Escalade's system includes Personal Calling, which allows drivers to make hands-free, voice-activated personal calls, and Virtual Advisor, which provides headlines, scores, weather, and personalized stock quotes. 

The list of standard equipment is as long as the Escalade itself (okay, not quite 199 inches). It includes Nuance leather seats with Zebrano wood interior trim, power heated 10-way adjustable front seats, Bose Acoustimass audio system with six-disc CD, rear seat audio controls with earphones, StabiliTrak electronic stability control, computer-controlled road-sensing suspension (RSS), Heavy Duty Trailering Package (the works), URPA (Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist, a warning beeper); removable lightweight third-row seats, and more. 

Conversely, the list of options is short, almost nonexistent: White Diamond paint ($995) and power glass sunroof ($1550). EXT starts at $49,990. Only one well-equipped model is available, which comes loaded with the Midgate storage system, GM's OnStar communications and navigation system, Stabilitrak traction control and road-sensing suspension, four-wheel ABS, front and side airbags, and Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist. 

There are two options only: a tinted-glass, power-assisted sunroof ($1550) and premium paint ($995). 

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