Mo­tor­ing

We take the Cadil­lac Es­calade for a spin.

Friday - - Friday Contents -

Y eah, yeah… Just show me the third-row seat,” said the cus­tomer. Cadil­lac Es­calade mar­ket­ing man Todd Brown had been breath­less about his lat­est prod­uct, gush­ing about a crafted in­te­rior, smooth per­for­mance, ef­fi­cient V8, lux­ury and tech­nol­ogy, LEDs and 22s, Mag­netic Ride Con­trol and adap­tive cruise.

The cus­tomer – on her sixth Es­calade, duly up­dat­ing ev­ery 18 months and shop­ping for a sev­enth – lis­tened pa­tiently but could only pre­tend to care so much. Brown had left out a key sell­ing point: the third-row seat. What do you know? There is a world be­yond mine. Not ev­ery­one wants steer­ing feel, front-end bite, over­steer, the in­side rear lift­ing, loud en­gines and slick ’boxes. Some people just want space.

For that 1 per cent (I don’t know, I’m just guess­ing here – could there be more of them?), with a swing of the driver’s foot and a press of a but­ton, the 2015 Cadil­lac Es­calade lifts its tail­gate and drops its third row, then the sec­ond, all fully flat, and says, “Wel­come to the ul­ti­mate lux­ury.”

If you have to ask how many cu­bic feet, it’s prob­a­bly too much for you.

Stars are lin­ing up once again for free Es­calades, as was al­ways the mar­ket­ing norm for the brand, and ap­par­ently the list is into the hun­dreds. Tiger Woods’ ex is prob­a­bly on it. Her old one has a dent.

But Cadil­lac is say­ing, “We’ll hap­pily give you a black-on-black Es­calade on chrome dub deuces, Mr Ten­ner $ee. In ex­change for some money.”

Sales might never reach the peak of the full-size-lux­ury-SUV craze of the mid-2000s, 60,000 cars a year, but Cadil­lac is con­fi­dent the Es­calade will

sell solely on its merit to people who want, more than any­thing, its big­gest as­set – space.

I know you don’t care about the Nav­i­ga­tor, and nei­ther did Cadil­lac’s Es­calade team. They bench­marked their lat­est against Merc’s GL and the new Range Rover. So in this com­pany the fourth-gen had to step it up with an en­tirely new de­sign, but with a lot of fa­mil­iar­ity. It looks like some kind of lux­ury-spec Mack truck comin’ atcha, with a mir­ror-shine grille and a Cadil­lac crest. It’s big­ger, with more head­room, lots more legroom and great cargo ver­sa­til­ity. Hey, in this seg­ment these days, that’s what counts.

To closer ri­val the Euro­peans, line-up in­clud­ing the truly great new ATS and CTS sa­loons – the for­mer be­ing one of my favourite rear-drive sa­loons on the mar­ket – it’s hard for a lad­der-chas­sis, body-on-frame truck, ba­si­cally, to stand out. But the new Es­calade does. It re­ally does. Cadil­lac might be on the cusp of, once again, stand­ing for some­thing. For a stan­dard.

The Es­calade is ut­terly, ut­terly log­i­cal. Oh my, some­thing weird’s hap­pen­ing to me… Log­i­cal? Yes, it just makes sense. The pres­ence is un­de­ni­able, in a dark colour with at­mo­spheric light throw­ing a halo around the car as you open the doors, and the mas­sively en­larged new door aper­tures ex­pos­ing a cabin of leather, real wood (it has to be clar­i­fied) and stur­di­ness, a thought­ful qual­ity to it. The minu­tiae are pol­ished and cleaned up, in­ner panel edges smoothed over and elec­tric seat switches de­tailed. The only thing the cabin shares with the lesser Chevro­let or GMC is the head­liner. Even Cadil­lac’s car­pet is thicker and fuller.

The build and fit tol­er­ances are no­tice­ably tighter than be­fore, and it’s qui­eter on the move with im­proved door seal­ing and sound damp­en­ing. Yup, quite im­pressed with the in­te­rior, es­pe­cially with mid-row cap­tain’s chairs and rich, earthy, tobacco brown leather.

On the move it’s the same story, com­posed and hushed, with a smooth

It looks like some kind of lux­ury-spec truck… with a mir­ror-shine grille and Cadil­lac crest

Cadil­lac then de­cided the 2015 Es­calade would carry all the op­tions, in­clud­ing for­ward col­li­sion alert, lane de­par­ture warn­ing sys­tem, vi­brat­ing safety alert seat, driver as­sist pack­age with full speed range adap­tive cruise con­trol, front and rear au­to­matic brak­ing, au­to­matic col­li­sion prepa­ra­tion, side blind zone alert, rear cross traf­fic alert and lane change alert. I think that’s about it but, un­der­stand­ably, I might’ve missed a few.

Then some­one had a brain­wave. “Hey guys, why don’t we make this Cadil­lac, you know, a Cadil­lac?” In a re­vi­talised V8 that im­per­cep­ti­bly and con­stantly switches be­tween four and eight cylin­ders. Down some coun­try roads around Ge­or­gia and South Carolina, the car hugs its lane and tracks dead ahead, weigh­ing down on the road and iron­ing it along the way. It’s got GM’s in­cred­i­bly adap­tive Mag­netic Ride Con­trol used in ev­ery­thing from su­per sport­cars to, well, trucks. This means the damp­ing is per­fect all the time.

As much as it can be, ac­tu­ally – there’s no get­ting away from those tell­tale slight vi­bra­tions of body and frame that you get with Cadil­lac’s pre­ferred con­struc­tion for the Es­calade.

Its ri­vals are uni­body but once again logic and the real world make a come­back – Es­calade own­ers ac­tu­ally tow stuff, go places and carry things. Any­way the build is still way bet­ter than be­fore, since you can hardly feel the vi­bra­tions through the steer­ing wheel now that it’s an elec­tric vari­able-as­sist power sys­tem. It’s tight in the cen­tre when you’re float­ing straight down the high­way and the work­load hardly in­creases through bends – you can drive the Es­calade like a true lux­ury car, with a lazy pinky. It re­laxes… both driver and pas­sen­gers. My col­league took a nap in the mid­dle row cap­tain’s chair on a long high­way stint.

That’ll work with kids too. Just light up the rear Blu-Ray DVD en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem. “Re­mem­ber chil­dren, who­ever talks first loses, OK?”

Loyal cus­tomers, like Mrs Showme-the-third-row-seat, need the Es­calade sim­ply to be an Es­calade, with ver­sa­til­ity, de­pend­abil­ity and, of course, space. I can hap­pily say that now they won’t be get­ting just an Es­calade, but for the first time in four gen­er­a­tions, a Cadil­lac too.

A cabin of real leather and wood is sturdy as well as lux­u­ri­ous

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