We take the Cadillac Escalade for a spin.
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