Edmunds Expert Review of the 2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV SUV
The redesigned 2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV is one of the few vehicles available that can luxuriously haul up to eight people and their stuff or tow something substantial. But these capabilities come with a cost.
The Cadillac Escalade ESV has been redesigned for 2015.
Sometimes you might have to transport as many as eight people and have their luggage come along as well. Sometimes you might have to tow something, be it a boat up to the lake or some dirt bikes up to a trail. However, sometimes you just want to be pampered by a plush cabin with all the high-tech bells and leather-lined whistles. A minivan is definitely not the answer. The fully redesigned 2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV just might be.
This is the biggest and boldest SUV in Cadillac's lineup and is related to the similarly redesigned Chevrolet Suburban. With 14 inches more between the front and rear wheels compared to the regular Escalade, third row legroom increases a significant 10 inches and cargo capacity behind those seats more than doubles. Prepped for maximum cargo, the ESV can hold a significant 120 cubic feet of stuff. It's also much easier to do that this year thanks to a new power-operated third-row seat that now folds flat into the floor like those of competitors.
As with the regular Escalade, Cadillac's gone with blockier styling and even more conspicuous flourishes for 2015 -- get your ESV in black and it could very well be reminiscent of the Presidential limousine affectionately known as "The Beast." Inside, there's a sleeker and more modern look highlighted by Cadillac's latest "CUE" touch-operated infotainment system. New safety features are also part of the 2015 Escalade ESV's repertoire and include a new center front seat airbag and automatic braking for collision mitigation.
Unfortunately, there are some (perhaps understandable) trade-offs that come along with the Escalade ESV's capabilities. It's cumbersome to maneuver in tight parking lots and its truck-based underpinnings can make this SUV ride uncomfortably over ruts and sharp bumps at times. And while that new fold-flat third-row seat is nice, it forced Cadillac's engineers to raise the Escalade's already lofty cargo area load floor by an additional 4 inches. Loading bulky or heavy items could be problematic, particularly for people of smaller stature.
Given these drawbacks, you could be happier with smaller (but still large) luxury crossover SUVs such as the 2015 Infiniti QX80 or 2015 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. They won't haul as much but they're generally nicer to drive. It's also worth checking out the updated 2015 Lincoln Navigator L, which is the ESV's closest big SUV competitor. Overall, though, the 2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV is well qualified to satisfy shoppers desiring a large luxury SUV that can do a lot of everything.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
Classified as a full-size luxury SUV, the 2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV can accommodate seven passengers with the standard second-row captain's chairs and eight if optioned with the second-row bench seat. The standard Escalade with a smaller wheelbase is covered in a separate review.
The base Escalade ESV is generously appointed with 20-inch chrome wheels, magnetic ride control with Sport and Comfort modes, automatic LED headlights, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, running boards, a hands-free power liftgate, power-folding and driver-side auto-dimming mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, remote start, tri-zone automatic climate control, a heated power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated eight-way power front seats with four-way lumbar and driver memory functions, heated rear seats and split power-folding third-row seats. Standard electronic features include Cadillac's CUE touch-operated infotainment interface; a customizable instrument panel; a navigation system; real-time traffic; and a Bose 16-speaker audio system with active noise-cancelling, satellite and HD radio, five USB ports, a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack..
Stepping up to the Luxury trim adds 22-inch wheels (optional on base), a sunroof, automatic high beams, power-folding second-row seats, a head-up display, a blind-spot monitoring system, a lane-departure warning system, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision alert and a safety alert driver seat that buzzes to warn of potential hazards and additional security features.
To this, the Premium trim adds cornering lights, a rear entertainment system with a Blu-ray player, adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation with automatic braking.
The top-of-the-line Platinum trim adds a few more items including specialized door sills, heated and ventilated 14-way power front seats (with four-way lumbar adjustment), massaging front seats, upgraded leather upholstery, a simulated suede headliner, a cooled front-seat center console and dual rear-seat DVD screens. Power-retracting side steps with approach lighting are optional on the Premium and Platinum trim levels.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV is a 6.2-liter V8 that produces 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. Early 2015 Escalade ESVs come with a six-speed automatic transmission, while models built after October 2014 come with an eight-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive is standard, while four-wheel drive is optional.
The EPA estimates that a rear-wheel-drive Escalade ESV with the six-speed transmission will return 17 mpg combined (15 city/21 highway), while the four-wheel-drive model is rated at 16 mpg combined (14/20). Paired with the eight-speed automatic transmission, the two-wheel-drive Escalade gets a 1 mpg highway fuel economy increase, while the four-wheel-drive model stays exactly the same. These figures are marginally better than those for competing gasoline-powered rivals.
In Edmunds testing, a regular Escalade with four-wheel drive and the six-speed transmission accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, which is quick for a large SUV. Expect the bigger ESV to be a few tenths slower. Properly equipped, an Escalade ESV can tow up to 8,100 pounds.
Standard safety features on all 2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV models include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, and an airbag located between the front seats that aids in side-impact crashes. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking, stolen vehicle assistance and turn-by-turn navigation.
The Luxury trim adds automatic high-beam control, a blind-spot monitoring system, a lane-departure warning system, a rear cross-traffic alert system, a forward-collision alert system and a safety seat alert system that buzzes the left, right or both sides of the driver seat depending on where attention is needed. The range-topping Premium and Platinum trims add forward and reverse collision mitigation with automatic braking.
In Edmunds testing, a regular Escalade with four-wheel drive came to a stop from 60 mph in 131. This is long, but consistent with truck-based vehicles. Expect similar performance from the ESV.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2015 Escalade ESV's redesigned cabin features an abundance of premium materials and an attractive interior design that brings it up to date with the rest of the Cadillac lineup. As expected from an SUV of this size, passenger space is also generous. Full-size adults can fit in the front and middle rows comfortably, even for extended road trips. Unlike the standard Escalade, the ESV's third row offers sufficient legroom and only the tallest of passengers would likely complain.
One of the centerpieces of the new Escalade's interior is the CUE infotainment interface, set in a beveled pod in the middle of the dashboard. While we find it visually pleasing, operation of the system is a constant source of frustration. Reactions to inputs via the touchscreen or physical buttons are slow or sometimes ignored altogether. Compounding matters is the complicated menu structure that is as unintuitive as these systems get.
In terms of cargo capacity, the Escalade ESV easily trumps other luxury SUVs, with a truly impressive 39.3 cubic feet of storage behind the third row, 76.7 cubes behind the second row and 120.9 cubic feet available with the second and third rows stowed. The rearmost seats fold away at the touch of a trunk-mounted button in a matter of seconds. On all but the base trim, the second row flips forward with another set of adjacent switches.
Accessing the cargo area is convenient thanks to a hands-free liftgate that is actuated when you sweep your foot under the rear bumper, as long as the key is within 3 feet of the vehicle. The Escalade's high cargo floor, however, can make it difficult to load bigger, heavier items.
It wouldn't be an Escalade if it didn't have a brawny V8 under its hood, and the 2015 Escalade ESV proudly lives up to its heritage. Mash the gas pedal and this big SUV easily accelerates up to highway speeds. That heritage also means that you'll be dealing with a massive vehicle, which can be stressful in tight parking situations, but at least the steering effort is light at low speeds.
Regardless of speed or road surfaces, the cabin remains blissfully quiet. Wind, road and engine noises are admirably quieted to premium luxury sedan standards, allowing for whisper-level conversations. Surprisingly, though, the adaptive suspension also does not produce a comfortable ride even in its default Tour mode. Perhaps it is the unforgiving nature of the available 22-inch wheels, but going over bumps results in tiresome impact harshness. The consequent jiggles and shakes that result from the Escalade's truck underpinnings certainly don't help the situation.
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