What's New for 2009
For 2009, the Cadillac Escalade ESV gets a few notable additions. The 6.2-liter V8 is now E85 "FlexFuel" capable, and Cadillac has added Bluetooth connectivity, an updated OnStar system, a power tilt steering wheel, an optional Side Blind Zone Alert system and Magnetic Ride Control suspension (on trim levels with 22-inch wheels) to the features list. The navigation system is now standard, and it includes real-time traffic updates.
For those who look at the nearly 17-foot-long Cadillac Escalade and think, "if only it were bigger," the 2009 Cadillac Escalade ESV won't disappoint. The ESV is the extended-wheelbase sibling of the Escalade, built on the same platform as the Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL, and it's more than 20 inches longer than the regular Escalade. Boasting a huge cabin and seating for eight, the ESV could easily transport the most discerning rap star, his entourage, a teetotaling chauffeur and enough Cristal to last through the weekend.
The 2009 Cadillac Escalade ESV is much more than a souped-up Chevy. In fact, it's tough to think of a more luxurious or capable full-size SUV on the market today. The current third-generation Escalade clearly stands apart from its more utilitarian Chevrolet and GMC brethren thanks to distinctive exterior styling, a sophisticated suspension, a unique interior layout and a more powerful, 403-horsepower 6.2-liter V8. And even though gas prices continue to rise, it's likely that a good portion of Escalade shoppers won't be deterred by the prospect of dropping the extra dough to get around -- after all, what's a few more dollars per trip when you've already plunked down anywhere from about $62,000 to $84,000 for the 'Slade itself?
In terms of styling and performance, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade ESV puts its main competitor, the Lincoln Navigator L, to shame. The Lincoln suffers from a lack of power, and stylistically it can't quite match the Escalade's "bling-worthiness," though it does have a fold-flat third-row seat -- something the Caddy doesn't have. The Infiniti QX56, while shorter than the ESV (but longer than the standard Escalade), is competent, but it still can't match the ESV's power rating or cargo capacity. The Mercedes-Benz GL450 is quicker, equally comfortable and generally more rewarding to drive, but its smaller dimensions make it better suited to compete against the standard Escalade. In short, the 2009 Cadillac ESV's combination of roominess, styling and handling is unmatched among SUVs of its size.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Cadillac Escalade ESV is a full-size luxury SUV that's available with either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Trim levels are identical for both drivetrains, consisting of either a base model or an upgraded "Platinum" trim. All are befittingly well-equipped. The base Escalade comes standard with 18-inch wheels, HID headlamps, a power liftgate, adaptive shock absorbers, rain-sensing front wipers with heated washer fluid and park assist. Inside, there's three-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, power-adjustable pedals, a power tilt steering wheel, steering-wheel-mounted controls, heated first- and second-row seats, remote starting, Bluetooth connectivity and a navigation system with an integrated rearview camera and satellite-based real-time traffic updates. OnStar (which can automatically download updates to the navigation system) and a 10-speaker Bose premium stereo system with satellite radio, MP3 playback and an in-dash six-CD/DVD changer are also standard.
The V8 Ultra Luxury Collection package adds 22-inch chromed aluminum wheels, adaptive headlamps, heated and cooled front seats, a sunroof, a heated steering wheel, power-release second-row seats, and the Magnetic Ride Control suspension system, which is more advanced than the base adaptive suspension and utilizes electronically controlled fluid-filled shocks to adjust damping continuously. Additional options include power-retractable running boards, a sunroof and a rear-seat entertainment system.
Much of the base model's optional equipment comes standard on the thoroughly pimped-out Escalade Platinum. Anteing up for this exclusive (and exclusively priced) trim level yields 22-inch chrome wheels, LED headlights, upgraded interior leather upholstery, a special rear-seat entertainment system with additional video monitors and even heated and cooled cupholders.
Powertrains and Performance
All 2009 Cadillac Escalades are equipped with a 6.2-liter V8 that makes 403 hp and 417 pound-feet of torque. It's paired to a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. All-wheel-drive versions use an electronic "always on" system. The towing capacity for the AWD model is 7,800 pounds. Fuel economy, though predictably lousy, is just about on par with other full-size luxury SUVs at 12 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined for the two-wheel-drive version.
Safety equipment for the 2009 Cadillac Escalade ESV includes stability control with a rollover sensor, antilock disc brakes, traction control, side curtain airbags and the OnStar telematics system. Also standard is a new Side Blind Zone Alert system that will alert the driver in case of a potentially dangerous lane change. In government testing, the Cadillac Escalade received a top five-star rating for front- and side-impact crashworthiness.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Escalade ESV sets itself apart from its more mundane GM platform-mates with a unique interior design and tasteful touches such as alloy trim, wood inlays and other high-quality materials that exude luxury. An optional third-row entertainment screen (in addition to the second-row, pull-down screen) guarantees backseat passengers all the comforts of home -- though drivers following behind may not appreciate the obligatory viewing.
The Escalade can accommodate six, seven or eight occupants, depending on the configuration of second- and third-row seats. A power fold-and-flip feature for the second-row seats is offered, enhancing access to the third row. Fold-flat third-row seating isn't available, and while removing the third-row seat's 50/50 sections boosts capacity, these sections are heavy and cumbersome to deal with. At a cavernous 137 cubic feet, cargo capacity is class-leading, and there are 46 cubes up for grabs behind the third row alone.
Though it's not meant for anything more than driving on pavement, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade ESV has plenty of power and torque on tap. And it handles surprisingly well, considering its massive size and weight (close to 3 tons). The adaptive suspension makes for a smooth ride, although the cushy feel is compromised somewhat by the optional 22-inch wheels. While the Escalade ESV boasts a relatively tight 39-foot turning circle, parallel parking and supermarket lot lanes -- even with the rearview camera system -- require an extra level of care.