The all new Cadillac Escalade has gotten bigger, badder, and more refined for 2007. Sporting 22-inch chrome rims and surprisingly tasteful chrome accents, the Escalade manages to look classy as well as brawny. A new flush-mounted grill and a blinding assembly of LEDs in back give the new Escalade a sparkly, futuristic look.
That look is backed up by an array of automated features. The coolest among them is the liftgate that opens or closes with one touch of a button. That motif continues throughout, with power folding mirrors and power retractable running boards (a $1,095 option). The hood must be manually unlatched, but springs upward quite softly.
There you’ll find Cadillac’s impressive new Vortec V8, a 6.2-litre unit that develops 403 hp at 5,700 rpm and 417 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. That’s just a silly amount of power, even exceeding the peak output of GM’s flagship sportscar – the Chevy Corvette. The new motor has an aluminum block, and is the first pushrod engine to use variable valve timing on both its intake and exhaust valves. I must mention emphatically that the Escalade’s new motor is intoxicating. It moves this near-3-ton all-wheel-drive truck with aplomb, and I found myself turning the stereo off just to hear the burbling and roaring of what is truly a world-class motor. The Escalade will reach 60mph in just 6.4 seconds (confirmed with our G-Tech), and the quarter-mile comes in 15.1 seconds with a trap speed of 95mph.
This is all well and good in the area of performance, but for fuel economy, well…our Escalade got about 12.5 mpg in the suburbs of Washington, DC. I think that GM’s now-excellent cylinder-deactivation feature would work well here, but I concede that folks buying a truck that costs almost 70 grand are probably not going to lose much sleep over fuel costs. As a small consolation, GM’s press site says that premium gas is “recommended but not required” for this behemoth.
The Escalade’s new transmission has six speeds, two more than last year’s truck and long overdue. First gear is very aggressive, yet the Escalade is content to putt around at just 1500 rpm while cruising at 60 mph. Towing capacity is good, at 7,500 lbs. AWD? You might now be asking yourself why the Escalade doesn’t come with a bona fide 4WD system with manual adjustability and locking center differentials. Well…the answer lies simply in the amount of Escalades that go off-road with any regularity. I’d bet less than 1%, but I doubt there will be any takers. The AWD system adds to confident driving in the dry while adding safety when the weather turns ugly. Often used as a family hauler AWD is a big plus for me.
I may not always agree with GM’s choices and styling (axing the Camaro/Firebird, producing the Aztek and the SSR), but where the Escalade is concerned they have my full support. They know just what Escalade owners will do (towing, hauling families or entourages) and won’t do (off-roading, wearing muddy shoes) with their trucks, and have planned accordingly.
One thing GM has certainly been doing is customizing their wheel and tire packages. The Escalade is a favored ride of rap stars and professional athletes, and it is perhaps for this reason alone that it has been head-and-shoulders above its competitors, both foreign and domestic. However, “up-sizing” your car’s wheels and tires can have seriously detrimental effects on both ride and handling. These problems are magnified considerably on SUVs and trucks, so for 2007 Cadillac wisely offers an optional set of 22-inch chrome rims, designed especially for the Escalade to minimize any degradation of handling or ride comfort. Our tester came so equipped, and it would be hard to imagine rolling around on anything less. It’s a pricey option at $2,995, but I think it’s worth it if you’re even thinking about taking your new Caddy to the local wheel shop.
Our Escalade also came with something Cadillac calls the “information package,” a $2,695 collection of useful items. Included is the DVD-based navigation system, which includes “two map disc upgrades.” I assume this means that the first and second time your navi DVDs get outdated, it’s on the house. That’s a pretty thoughtful gesture on Cadillac’s part, and one that I’d greatly appreciate if I actually owned this betty.
Also included in the info package is a rear view camera, which is fast becoming the standard in vehicles of this size. Unfortunately for Cadillac, that means that it’s no longer enough to just have one. The better systems’ displays have indicators for both path and distance, which the Escalade’s system lacks. However, it does have enough visual cues to avoid disaster, and there are lights in the D-pillar to indicate distance while one is backing up and looking out the rear of the truck.
Another “pricey-but-worth-it” option is the rear-seat entertainment system. Since the majority of Escalade buyers will have either a family or an entourage with them frequently, it may be well worth the $1,895 to keep them happy. It works very well combined with the front-seat system, or under its own control. I’m still waiting for a rear A/V system which is easy to setup. Getting rear headphones working independent of the main speakers while using different A/V sources is a feat no manufacturer has managed to accomplish.
The rest of the interior came in for rave reviews all around. Aside from minor complaints like “not enough front cupholders”, or “volume controls on the wrong side of the steering wheel”, the cabin of the Escalade is a very comfortable place to spend great lengths of time.
The color schemes are tasteful, which used to be an odd word in an article about an Escalade. But it’s true. There are two choices: Ebony throughout, or “Cocoa on Cashmere,” which is tan leather with darker brown accents throughout, on the steering wheel for example. They are both handsome and inviting, and I think this is a good time to mention that the Escalade’s interior is now virtually indistinguishable from that of a serious luxury car. This truck’s dashboard, door panels and seating surfaces are on par with any road car as far as look and feel.
The cabin also offers a neat array of seating options. The second and third rows can each be ordered with two captain’s chairs, or with a conventional three-place bench seat. Our tester came with two rows of captain’s chairs, which I suspect will be a popular configuration. Although it cuts overall seating capacity down to six (from a possible eight with bench seats), the all-captain setup allows for greater comfort and individuality for each passenger. It also allows for easy step-through access between rows two and three, which was most appreciated by our younger passengers.
You probably know that the Escalade rides on the same platform as the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon (and all of their variants), so I’ll spare you the technical details and simply say that Cadillac has done the same thing with the Escalade’s driving dynamics as it did with the car’s design – that is to give this luxo-barge its own identity. It handles exceptionally well considering it weighs three tons; the brakes are vastly improved compared with past Escalades; and the turning radius is fantastic. At 3 full turns lock-to-lock, it’s as easy to parallel-park as most sports cars. Well, provided the spot is big enough.
The first-generation Escalade was a GMC Yukon with a few extra square feet of leather, and the second-generation was a little better but not by much. This third Escalade is miles ahead of its predecessors, with an identity all its own. The silhouette of the Escalade is still “Big GM SUV,” but the face, engine, suspension tuning, and cabin are all unmistakably Cadillac.
Prices for the 2007 Escalade are about the only thing that hasn’t shot through the roof. Starting rather modestly at $56,405 for the standard AWD model, you can hit $70K pretty quickly if you take our advice on how to outfit the thing.
All in all, the newest Escalade is a tour de force. It will continue to rule the roost in its segment, which according to GM’s media site consists of the Lincoln Navigator, Lexus LX 470, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, and Infiniti QX56 – at least where GM’s target audience is concerned. However, for more ‘unconventional’ Escalade buyers – those with crews rather than families, and a yen to be noticed – this truck competes with just about everything under the sun. It’s not a truck; but an icon, a barometer of just how much the image of “rollin’ on dubs” has permeated America. A tech-oriented website called the Escalade “a bling fortress,” which is just about the best phrase I’ve yet seen to describe this megalith.