- The Washington Times - Friday, May 4, 2001

When Cadillac makes a statement, it doesn't mince words. Its latest words: 2002 Escalade. The large, sport utility vehicle has a strong engine and numerous technological innovations.

This is the second edition of the Escalade. Although the previous model had smoother lines, the designers of the 2002 edition put emphasis on a crisp, chiseled shape, making the Escalade distinctive from the mass of other SUVs on the road. But the appearance is only the beginning of uniqueness.

The massive front end is almost scary with exceptionally large halogen headlamps that include the parking lamps and turn signals. Because the lights are controlled by a twilight sentinel system including daytime running lamps, I didn't have to touch a thing.

A running board, which is necessary to climb aboard, is exposed by opening the door. The Escalade stands very high, so once in the driver's seat, I had a commanding view of the road. One reason for the height is the seven-spoke, 17-inch cast aluminum wheels wrapped with Goodyear all-season tires that are both quiet and comfortable.

There was no doubt in my mind that I was in a Cadillac. The complete set of analog instruments is upscale in appearance, and each instrument is trimmed with an aluminum halo. Of course, the seats are covered with a rich leather, and the trim is accented with Zebrano wood. Even the steering wheel is trimmed with wood. Clearly, this Escalade is Cadillac through and through.

Typical of Cadillac, this $50,000 vehicle is loaded with luxurious conveniences. For example, the accessible cup holders are hidden below a dampened, spring-loaded lid. There are compartments for maps, cell phones, rear-seat audio controls, heated seats. Also very convenient is the OnStar button. One touch and, "Yes, Mr. Keane, may I help you?" A personal concierge to assist me as I drive. That's class.

The Escalade features a Bose Acoustimass Audio System that is acoustically tailored and equalized for the vehicle's interior design. This system was so delightful I found myself cranking the volume up a few notches just to get extra enjoyment out of some favorite CDs. The radio reception is also topnotch. Incidentally, rear-seat passengers can use earphones to listen to the audio system.

The seats are both soft and supportive. The front bucket seats have six-way power adjustments, plus fold-down inboard armrests. The second row is a 60/40 split folding bench seat. Although the third row is a bit difficult to get to, the seats are comfortable, and there is decent head- and legroom.

Under the hood is a powerful 6-liter V-8 engine. Other than the fact that it only gets 12 miles per gallon city and 15 mpg highway, you couldn't want for more power. This engine uses an advanced Electronic Throttle Control system to improve its driveability.

The Escalade has a new Hydra-Matic electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. Best of all is the all-wheel-drive feature. That meant I didn't have to predetermine whether to put the vehicle in two- or four-wheel drive or determine if the road was slippery. All that was done for me with AWD.

In addition, Cadillac offers its sophisticated StabiliTrak. Had I zigged when I should have zagged and begun to lose control, this system would have brought me back on course before I could blink an eye.

However, I'll just take Cadillac's word that the system works. And why not? This manufacturer is right on target with everything else.


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