Although the Cadillac Escalade wasn't the first luxury SUV sold in the U.S. market, it was the first light truck in the history of the Cadillac brand. Early versions drew plenty of criticism, but in retrospect, the Escalade deserves much credit for being the vehicle that transformed Cadillac's image from traditional and geriatric to youthful and flamboyant.
Much of the Cadillac Escalade's appeal is rooted in its over-the-top attitude. Generously proportioned inside and out, this sport-utility vehicle has a bold and angular face, exaggerated wreath-and-crest badging and chrome trim everywhere you look. There's no subtlety under the hood either, as the current truck's 6.2-liter V8 delivers an imposing exhaust rumble. Although quicker than many competitors, the Escalade often falls behind in refinement, from its handling dynamics to its build and materials quality. Cadillac has taken steps to address these shortcomings on the third-generation model, but there's no question the Escalade is primarily for buyers who like their SUVs large, brash and unapologetically American.
Current Cadillac Escalade
The Cadillac Escalade is a full-size SUV that seats seven people with standard second-row captain's chairs and eight with the optional second-row bench. The extended-length Escalade ESV, the quasi-pickup truck Escalade EXT and gasoline-electric Escalade Hybrid are reviewed separately.
Every regular Escalade comes standard with a 6.2-liter V8 that delivers 403 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque, providing relatively brisk acceleration in virtually any situation. A six-speed automatic transmission handles the gearchanges and even offers a manual-shift mode for those drivers willing to press a pair of buttons on the Escalade's old-fashioned column shifter. The transmission routes power to the rear wheels on two-wheel-drive models or all four on all-wheel-drive models.
Inside, the Escalade presents a much nicer environment than its mechanical near-twins from Chevrolet and GMC. There is an abundance of equipment even on the "base" model, with items like heated first- and second-row seats, navigation and a Bose surround-sound audio system included as standard. The Luxury, Premium and Platinum trims pile on the niceties even further, but most are styling and trim elements. Despite its features list, the aging Escalade doesn't have the same look and feel as other luxury SUVs. Construction and the materials used just aren't as nice, even if leather and wood trim is included.
In reviews, we've found that the Escalade certainly delivers the pomp and power one expects from this increasingly iconic nameplate. However, there are significant practical drawbacks. First of all, the third-row seat is cramped and uncomfortable for the middle passenger and must be physically removed should you need extra cargo space. The third-row seats of competing vehicles fold neatly into the floor. The Escalade is also unwieldy on tighter roads, suffers from lackluster brakes and is very thirsty. There's also its perennial placement atop the list of most-stolen vehicles. In light of all this, we'd consider one of the many other full-size luxury SUVs as well.
Read the most recent 2015 Cadillac Escalade review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Cadillac Escalade page.