The 2015 Cadillac Escalade is a mixed bag. It makes terrific power, looks like nothing else on the road and is a step-up from the previous model. But at over $80,000, the Escalade doesn't offer the same level of luxury, ride quality or ease-of-use as the class leaders.
PerformanceThe 6.2-liter V8, with its 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, is the star of this show. Paired with the six-speed automatic, the Escalade has power to spare.
With its big, 420-hp V8 and tons of torque, the Escalade gets out of its own way. 0-60 takes 6.4 seconds and the truck makes a great noise while getting there. Easy, effortless acceleration.
Our panic-stop from 60 mph took 131 feet, which is about what we'd expect from a truck this size and weight. Pedal travel is long, soft and predictable. Noticable dive when braking hard.
It is surprisingly easy to place the big Cadillac exactly where you want, though the wheel does require more turning than most drivers are used to. Very, very heavy effort. Almost to a fault.
There's a surprising amount of response and confidence, but because of sheer size and weight, the Escalade's limits are quite low. Seat bolstering isn't up to the task of twisty roads or quick freeway exits, either.
Despite its size, the Cadillac Escalade is exceptionally easy to drive. The 6-speed transmission and 6.2-liter V8 make a good pairing, and the throttle and brake lag we experienced on the related Chevy Tahoe are mostly non-existant here.
With a standard tow capacity of 8,100 pounds in 4WD trim, the Escalade is very competent straight out of the box, no options required.
22-inch wheels hurt any pretense of off-roading, but the Escalade does have retractable steps, selectable four-wheel drive and 8 inches of ground clearance. It won't get you through the Rubicon, but should get you to the cabin.
ComfortIn a category that should be a slam-dunk for Cadillac, the 2015 Escalde is less than perfect. Things start off as expected with an admirably quiet interior, but the busy ride, so-so seat comfort and nearly unusable third-row seat take their toll.
For a luxury vehicle, the seats are a surprising low point. Stiff, wide and featureless, they simply don't provide enough support or comfort for long drives. Taller drivers will wish for more thigh support.
Magnetic ride control suspension helps the Escalade manage the heavy 22-inch rims. This does not, however, mean the ride is polished and well-isolated. Expect truckish behavior on anything less than a glass-smooth surface.
As you'd expect from Cadillac, the Escalade has a pleasantly quiet ride. At times there's a touch of wind noise from the side-view mirrors. Road noise is well managed apart from the occasional tire thunk over pavement cracks.
InteriorThe 2015 Cadillac Escalade is a huge step up from the previous Escalade which doesn't put it into the same league as the class leaders, but finally into the conversation.
Major controls like the gear selector, headlights and wipers are very good. The instrument panel is crisp and clear. But the touch-based CUE system is slow and hard to use. Oft-used radio and climate controls suffer greatly as a result.
Optional power-retractable step aids access without getting in the way. Shorter (sub 5'5") passengers wished it was lower still, though. Revised door pillar makes rear seat easy to enter/exit. Tumble feature makes third row access a snap.
Headroom and legroom are exceptional in the first and second rows. The third row of a standard-length Escalade is very tight, however, and is only reccommended for kids or short trips. Oddly, all three rows feel narrow at the shoulders.
You'd think that driving an Escalade would require the use of the blind-spot-monitors, parking sensors and backup camera. It doesn't: good visibility all around. Impressively easy to park. That said, the camera is useful in close quarters.
Like other new GM SUVs, the Cadillac's third-row seats now fold flat. But the floor was merely raised to manage this, resulting in reduced overall cargo capacity and a higher load floor. Solid cupholders and a giant center console, though.
ValueLike other luxury SUVS, the 2015 Escalade costs a pretty penny. But the underwhelming interior and unsophisticated ride compared to the class leaders will stand out to discerning shoppers. Those moving up from a current Escalade will be impressed.
Build Quality (vs. $)
The 2015 Escalade generally looks and feels significantly improved from what it replaces. Much of the competition, however, feels more substantial and more precisely tailored. Our tester had a rocking driver seat and squeaky second row.
The Escalade ticks the expected luxury boxes: heated and vented seats; adaptive cruise control; lane-departure warning; leather; wood; digital instrument panel; LED headlights; BluRay player; forward collision alert; 8-inch touchscreen.
This 2015 Cadillac Escalade starts expensive and goes up from there. With an as-tested price of nearly $90,000 shoppers not blinded by the awesome grille will be underwhelmed by the level of luxury. Even the optional ($2,000) leather.
The 2015 Escalade is rated by the EPA at 16 mpg Combined (14 City/21 Highway). We averaged 13.9 mpg overall in mixed driving and an underwhelming 14.9 mpg on the Edmunds evaluation loop. Nobody buys this for the fuel economy.
The Escalade has a 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 5-year/70,000-mile warranty on the powertrain. Oddly, the related Chevy Tahoe offers a 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Roadside assistance is provided for 6-years/70,000-miles, as is "Courtesy Transportation" which includes transportation options or reimbursement from the service center.
Fun To DriveWith the bulk of Escalades around these parts draped with livery plates, it's hard not to feel like a limo driver behind the wheel. Still, the big Caddy's got style and an absolutely dominating seating position.
It may have a fancy wreath-and-crest badge, but this thing's still one-hundred percent truck and feels like it. Ultra-high seating position, tons of torque, compromised ride.
With this new redesign, the Escalade looks more like a locomotive with a cow-catcher than ever before. Perhaps the most intimidating thing on the road that doesn't require a commercial licence.