- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Cadillac sought to establish a meaningful presence in the luxury SUV market with the first Escalade introduced in 1998 as a 1999 model. In reality, it was primarily a rebadged GMC Denali. Escalade genuinely became Cadillac with the 2002, bowing in in 2001. Later in 2002 came the Escalade EXT, a five-passenger sport utility truck with a reconfigurable midgate on the same order as Chevrolet’s Avalanche. And now … for 2003 comes the Escalade ESV which is positioned to reign as the ultimate in full-size luxury utility vehicles.

The ESV Escalade is the largest full-size luxury SUV available in today’s marketplace. The largest Cadillac ever produced, it is some 22 inches longer than its older sibling Escalade, yielding more than 20 inches of interior length. It shares essentially the same exterior dimensions as GM’s Suburban, which has been around for nearly 70 years, reigning supreme as the “King of full-size SUVs” — a title sure to be transferred to the more regal Escalade ESV.

The Escalade ESV might well even become the new state truck of Texas.

Power comes from a high-output 6.0-liter Vortec 6000 OHV V-8 that produces 345 horsepower and an impressive 380 foot-pounds of torque, which is coupled to a heavy- duty four-speed automatic transmission — perfect for towing one’s yacht, horse trailer or fifth-wheel second home. The towing capacity is up to 8,000 pounds.

OK, you’re saying to yourself — a truck should be able to deliver in the work department. This is no ordinary truck however. I prefer to think of it more on the order of a luxury utility vehicle.

Escalade was the first new Cadillac to prominently display the newer, more modernistic, revision of the “Wreath and Crest” logo. Where once the Allante was considered the technology showcase for Cadillac, it seems safe to say that the Escalade has inherited that benchmark position.

State-of-the-art technological features abound in the Escalade with improvements for the 2003 model year that include: Stabilitrak upgrading to a four-channel stability enhancement system; improved braking capability that is also quieter; power adjustable brake and accelerator pedals with memory sets; and HID headlamps.

Options offered are: GM’s OnStar communications system; XM satellite radio with 100 digital coast-to-coast programming; chrome wheels; and second-row bucket seats. The Escalade ESV is truly a plush transportation form with plenty of room for people and their activity or travel gear.

The test 2003 Escalade ESV was finished in sable black with a shale-toned leather interior. The base price was set at $55,370 while the rear-seat DVD entertainment system, chrome wheels, XM satellite radio, trailer package and destination charges elevated the final tally to $58,765. The massive luxury utility vehicle is loaded with standard features and amenities.

The Cadillac Escalade ESV is most impressive. Steering is responsive with an on-center feel. Acceleration is brisk and is delivered on demand. Braking is also admirable, bringing the vehicle to a rapid halt. It is quite agile and well-balanced despite its mass.

The ESV poses an ominous presence in any color (but particularly in black), riding on its 17-inch, eight-spoke chrome, cast-aluminum wheels. The interior is sumptuous with its Nuance leather surfaces and polished wood accents mixed tastefully with metallic textures. Creature comforts and convenience features rule the interior — reflecting everything that one would expect from Cadillac — and more.

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