Few vehicles have as much presence as the new Cadillac Escalade. Just one glimpse of you in this SUV will have passersby wondering whether you are a successful business person, or sports icon.
I will admit I have not been a fan of any of the previous versions nor the GM products upon which they were based, as they were all massive and felt even bigger on the road.
Speeds were best spoken of in knots rather than mph given the floaty ride inherent of such road going yachts.
But the 2016 is much better some would even say it has been perfected.
Let’s start with the new look.
The first asset you notice is the new brushed chrome grille, it envelopes the bulk of the fascia and is so large it would not look out of place on a train. Bookended by the gemlike stacked LED headlights and marker-lights the Caddy looks more a piece of art than a family transport.
The rear uses thin and tall LED lighting to create a chiselled and cut figure, and at night the cool blue hew of the door handle and entry lighting appeals to the eye.
The 22” rims look like an aftermarket enhancement until you notice the Cadillac emblem proudly positioned dead center (20” rims are standard).
While it does share the outline of the lesser Yukon these not so small touches add so much to the sense of occasion, best yet no one will mistake your $100,000+ SUV for the generic little brother.
$76,565 was the listed base price for the 2016 Cadillac Escalade 4WD I drove for a week. The Platinum package and power retracting entry steps brought the total price before taxes to $94,975. That would seem like a lot but after one drive and you stop questioning why so much and start asking how can I make the payments?
As you open the door you are greeted by a lavish and well assembled interior. In the Platinum edition both the driver and front passenger sit, well lounge is a better term, in the decadent comfort of the 18-way heated and cooled leather massage seats.
The Escalade will seat 7, 4 of who will enjoy the ride and 3 of which (if they are adults) will be questioning what it is they have done to deserve such treatment.
The rear most seats are peculiar and about the only complaint I can levy against this expensive SUV’s occupant experience. They are not comfortable, they offer virtually no legroom and they look out of place given the front and second row captain’s chairs are so decadent. Did I mention the second row chairs are also heated?
Cadillac has spared no expense in creating a luxurious and modern cabin. As you look around you will see real wood trim, actual and abundantly used suede, even the roof liner is made of a suede microfiber, and the highest quality leathers.
The driver’s instrument cluster is all digital and totally reconfigurable; the navigation, heating/cooling and entertainment controls are catered to by the CUE system that is accessed via an 8” colour touchscreen that features capacitive touch and swipe functionality and has the best voice recognition software I have ever come across.
There is a lot to learn and the system is not the easiest to navigate initially, but time will solve this. The redundant controls are set below the screen but in place of real buttons there is a flat plastic panel with haptic feedback.
I liked the reconfigurable heads up display that shows you directions, speed limits and even what song you are listening to in front of the driver’s eyes hovering just above the hood meaning you rarely ever need to take your eyes of the road.
To keep your passengers entertained in the Platinum trim there are three Blu-ray DVD screens; one will fold down from the roof and the other two reside in the front seat head rests.
Also present are wireless headphones which will prevent the driver from having to endure their children’s favorite movie, yet again.
The Cadillac features a mobile WiFi hotspot as well and for the driver an amazing Bose stereo with 16 speakers will have feeling like your are front row center listening to your favorite artist. Another function of this stereo is to counteract the noises the vehicle makes by producing an imperceptible sound. The result is a sense of complete isolation and serenity.
On the cutting edge of safety the new front-center airbag will protect passengers thrown to the center of the cabin, which can occur during a side impact accident, someone t-boning you while running a red light for instance.
The optional radar and ultrasonic sensor based auto-braking system will warn you of approaching obstacles well before it applies the brakes autonomously as a last resort.
These are both great additions to the adaptive cruise control, fore and aft cross traffic alert, blind zone alert, lane keeping assist and more.
Overall the many safety technologies and the sense indestructibility that comes from being in one of the largest vehicle on the road provide you with a definite feeling of safety.
Given the sheer size not to mention the overwhelming amount and weight of technology found here the Escalade requires an equally large and powerful engine. The 6.2L V8 tuned to produce 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque is more than capable.
Unlike the previous models this one offers an exciting level of performance. There are two different transmissions a 6-speed automatic for the United States and the 8-speed automatic in my Canadian tester.
I expect both will perform smoothly and will send power either to the rear wheels or all 4 if you should select it. The 4wd can operate autonomously if you prefer.
Put it in Sport mode stand on the throttle and be alarmed as the heavy SUV leaps off the line and you are ushered along on a tidal-wave of torque.
Do it again and you will be laughing in disbelief that something so large and seemingly cumbersome can move at such a pace.
Even more surprising is what happens when the road eventually bends; rather than experience capsizing levels of roll and ending up in the ditch you simply lean ever so slightly as you are pressed into the seat bolsters and the Escalade tracks nicely round the bend.
This does not mean the ride is ridiculously firm either; no thanks to the genius of the magnetic ride control the handling can be both sporty and comfortable.
This sort of excitement does carry a hefty cost however. The V8 prefers 91 octane fuel, it will run on lesser grades but if you value performance you are not about to skimp here. The official figures are26 mpg city and 36 mpg highway.
I managed to average 16.7 mpg of mostly slow and smooth driving; thankfully the fuel prices at present are not that bad. The cylinder deactivation no doubt helps but this vehicle is large and you must accept the inevitability of an equally large fuel bill.
Cadillac has surprised me it offers extreme comfort, space for the entire family, conveniences like power folding rear seating and powered steps, and perhaps most importantly it is fun to drive, making every excursion an event.