Friday, November 9, 2001

If you like ‘em big, need seating for eight and an engine that is the largest and most powerful in its class, then you are a candidate for Cadillac’s latest version of its SUV, the Escalade. This is the second version of the Escalade and it is a major improvement over its predecessor in almost every regard.
It is based on the same architecture as the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon but doesn’t let that influence you. You might say they have the same parents, but no two children are the same. The Escalade offers many advantages that we’ll point out in this road test.
The test car was the all-wheel-drive model with the big engine. A two-wheel-drive version is offered with a smaller engine, a 5.3-liter V-8. There is a third model for the Middle East. We were unable to find out if this version comes with a navigation system for Afghanistan. The Escalade comes with a 345-horsepower Vortec 6000 V-6 engine that outdoes the competition, including the BMW X5, Lexus LX 470, Lincoln Navigator, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Range Rover and Toyota Land Cruiser. Those are tough competitors, but when it comes to horsepower the Escalade is the leader. The engine provides 380 foot-pounds of torque that should handle almost any towing job. Cadillac claims the Escalade can tow up to 8,000 pounds.
We found the engine, mated to a 4L60 E HD automatic transmission, to be extremely smooth. Shifts are hardly noticeable and the power is awesome. It makes the Escalade a perfect candidate to tow a large boat or trailer.
Its performance is sparkling. It can go from zero to 60 mph in a reported 8.7 seconds, not bad at all for a 7,000-pound vehicle. Fuel economy as to be expected is on the low side. The EPA says 12 mpg city and 16 mpg highway. The test car averaged 13.8 mpg in combined city/highway driving. The good news it uses regular 87 octane gasoline. Technology is another item that separates the Escalade from the competition. It features StabiliTrak, Cadillac’s name for its stability control system, ultrasonic rear parking assist, OnStar personal calling and Virtual Advisor service and Diversity Antenna System.
We have some misgivings about OnStar. We definitely like its ability to immediately bring help if an accident occurs, but some of the features can only distract the driver. The Escalade is offered with a smooth all-wheel-drive system but is available with a two-wheel drive. Even if you live in an area where the weather is perfect, all-wheel provides better handling. When the weather turns foul, it becomes invaluable. The SUV probably can handle dusty, muddy roads but don’t plan any true off-road driving. It is too big and was not made to climb rocks and only a fool would try. Ride and handling are excellent for a full-size SUV. It is almost sedanlike, though we detected some rock-and-rolling over rough roads.
The styling of the Escalade provides a glimpse of what Cadillac has planned for the future. It is claimed the exterior use of sheer, chiseled shapes and crisp, sharp, tailored lines achieve the new look An aggressive front-end is the vehicle’s most distinctive feature. It is a modified version of Cadillac’s signature, badge-shaped grille. The Evoq concept car inspires it. Observers believe Cadillac’s future will be decided on how the public accepts the new styling. It comes off well in the boxy SUV shape, but we have doubts how it will be accepted on sedans and sports cars.
We have no criticism of the interior. It is excellent in appearance, comfort and ergonomics. A new upscale instrument panel is handsome and is trimmed in aluminum halos. There is a complete set of analog gauges along with a new transmission temperature gauge that allows drivers to monitor transmission fluid temperature.
The console features two large cup holders that occupants will enjoy, though we’re not in favor of coffee drinking under way. It is another distraction. We did appreciate the two auxiliary power points. The top of the console incorporates a state-of-the-art Driver Information Center that has been designed to perform three exclusive tasks:
Recall the driver and/or passenger’s seat position at the tough of the remote keyless entry unlock button or when the key is inserted in the ignition.
Execute an automatic exit recall of the seat when the key is removed from the ignition
Automatically tilt the driver and/or passenger side exterior mirrors when the vehicle is shifted into reverse and restores them to normal when the vehicle is shifted out of reverse.
The system has numerous other capabilities. These include tracking fuel economy, personalizing the automatic lighting alarm and door locking.
As we said at the start, if you have a need for a full-sized SUV, then the Escalade is an excellent choice. In our book, it is the best of its type.

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