Boy, do I love big trucks and big cars! There are a few reasons as to why, and one of them is my shameless love for many things all-American. I have no use for something so large, but who cares?
The other, and it’s related, is that these are the final days for these rolling dinosaurs. Even if gas is relatively cheap right now, the mostly future-conscientious buyers and engineers will be seriously revising what makes these trucks tick. This is going to be a simple and difficult task. Simple because GM has the know-how, and difficult because the margins on these trucks is MASSIVE. The ‘Slade’s underpinnings are rudimentary at best, and all casts, tools and so on have long been paid for at the assembly plant.
Of GM’s three big SUVs, the Cadillac is the last one I’d buy; I’m more of a Suburban LTZ guy myself. “Go big and take up two parking spots” is how the saying goes, does it not?
If you sign on for an $83k+ Escalade, you are committing to something big in every sense of the word. Gone are the days where you drove by unnoticed. The Escalade has a reputation, and it will not soon go away. You can be a 90-year-old granny (the coolest granny), but if you drive a ‘Slade, first impressions will always be “gangsta,” “dope-dealer,” or that some kind of badass resides behind the real-wood steering wheel.
Grey, black or white, it makes no difference. The 20” wheels, the light-blade headlamps and taillamps, and the massive grille tell the story of street cred, social standing, and even a dose of “I don’t give a damn.” Move up to Platinum for a $20k supplement and nothing is missing, except perhaps subtlety given the newly added 22” wheels and unique grille.
The regular Cadillac Escalade can look slightly comical because of its wheelbase, huge wheels, and tall and square stature. To avoid this, check the ESV model for extra acreage.
Moving on and down the road
Nothing but the best for the big Caddy, so that means its huge bonnet harbours GM’s 6.2L V8 producing 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. The addition of an 8-speed automatic transmission a few years back brought the powertrain well into the 21st Century. In other words, fuel consumption went from 18-19L/100km to 15L, which is a vast improvement. It’s also helped quite a bit with driving pleasure.
There’s no doubt that, even in a 2,649kg (5,840lb) behemoth, the 6.2L can propel the Escalade to speed quickly. The transmission’s proper gearing allows for brisk stop-starts, and once the engine reaches 4,000 rpm, torque pushes hard the remainder of the way. At 100 km/h, the V8 settles at a tick over idle in 8th gear, making life on the road that much better.
Magnetic Ride Control dampers are standard on this Cadillac and can be manually adjusted thanks to the selectable Sport mode. In Normal, the big ute displays loads of pitch and roll that I find amusing. The chassis’ behaviour reminds you that this is NOT a performance anything. As well, the regular-wheelbase Escalade loves to understeer at the first sign of a wee amount of speed into a bend.
For cruising purposes, it is difficult to fault the truck. Despite a very mild vibration coming from a wheel (winter tire install, my guess…), the Caddy is smooth, comfortable, and solid. Sport mode stiffens up the ride by recalibrating the dampers ― I found this mode to be useful for highway driving, but I would not recommend it for the city.
The pizza dish-sized disc brakes do a lovely job of bringing the Cadillac Escalade to a stop. Repeated hard stopping did little to affect their performance. Moreover, pedal feel was decent. Steering is somewhat lazy, but the electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion is precise enough.
Once the optional power-retractable running board does its thing, climbing in the Escalade proves simple enough. The huge, leather-covered front perches turn out to be very firm, far more than expected. The driving position is good thanks to the countless power adjustments, and once set up, the occupants are faced with a busy but attractive dashboard.
Cadillac’s CUE takes centre stage and it remains user-friendly and intuitive. I do still have difficulty with some of the haptic controls that require a very firm stroke or tap to function. I don’t recall experiencing this issue in the CT6 ― perhaps it’s a newer generation.
Fit and finish in the 2016 Cadillac Escalade are excellent, and the materials are all genuine. The Platinum model gets a suede microfiber headliner that is truly luxurious, along with a cooled centre console. The middle bench is wide, perfect for three occupants, and the third row does its job. Access to the trunk can be difficult because of the high lift-over, but with the last row stowed, you’ll find a huge amount of cargo room.
Big bucks, lots of choices
The Escalade only has two real competitors: the Lincoln Navigator and Lexus LX 570. However, both pale in comparison in the panache and street-cred categories. Otherwise, the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 are very interesting alternatives. Newcomers like the Jaguar F-Pace and Maserati Levante could spark interest as well.
If you love big, over-the-top, body-on-frame luxury trucks, get one while you can. They won’t be around forever.