2002 Cadillac Escalade Review

Pros & Cons

  • Vigorous powerplant, best-in-class towing capacity, handles well for a large SUV.
  • No optional entertainment system, awkward steering wheel design, must pay the premium for all-wheel drive to get the big engine.
List Price

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Edmunds' Expert Review

With a brash new style, class-leading V8 power and significantly improved driving dynamics, the all-new 2002 Cadillac Escalade has finally put itself in a position to compete in the tough field of big-buck SUVs.

Vehicle overview

Finally. The Escalade that Cadillac dealers have always wanted to sell is ready to tempt potential Navigator customers away from Lincoln showrooms. Certainly, Cadillac managed to sell the 1999 and 2000 Escalades, but reheated GMC Yukon Denalis (based on the aged C/K pickup series) weren't terribly appealing to the luxury SUV crowd or to discriminating automotive journalists.

As the first truck-based vehicle in Cadillac's 96-year history, the Escalade is an attempt to combine the best features of a luxury car with those of an all-terrain vehicle. And we think that this new generation will find its way into the garages of those who might not consider themselves "traditional Cadillac buyers." We had an opportunity to compare the new Escalade with its chief foes - a Lexus LX 470, a Mercedes-Benz ML 430 and a Navigator - and determined that the Cadillac is at least as good as any of its peers, perhaps better, save for the Lexus.

Escalade buyers can now choose between an ever-capable all-wheel-drive model and a less expensive two-wheel-drive model. You must spring for all-wheel drive to get the giant, Escalade-exclusive high-compression Vortec 6000 V8, which makes 345 horsepower and 380 ft-lbs. of torque. An enhanced version of the current 6.0-liter used in three-quarter- and 1-ton full-size Chevy and GMC trucks, this engine shares its basic architecture with the LS1 V8 found in the Corvette. Two-wheel-drive models have a 5.3-liter powerplant that pours out 285 horsepower and 325 ft-lbs. of twist. Both engines use a heavy-duty version of GM's top-notch 4L60-E four-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel-drive model can tow up to 8,500 pounds, while two-wheel-drive Escalades can lug up to 6,600. The Cadillac also handles well given its size, and we think it is at least as pleasant to drive as any other luxury SUV

Moving inside the cabin, you'll find the extensive redesign didn't stop with the unique exterior styling. Brimming with luxury all around, the Escalade's cabin has exclusive bits like an all-new gauge cluster and the standard OnStar communications system. This version of OnStar offers hands-free, voice-activated phone capability (without a separate cellular contract) and personalized news, sports, weather and financial information. Aside from these features and a few differences in decor, however, the Cadillac's interior is largely the same as the current Yukon Denali's. Both SUVs come with a standard 11-speaker, 250-watt Bose Acoustimass audio system with an in-dash, six-disc CD changer. The Escalade has the removable, 50/50 split-bench third-row seat common to all of GM's full-size SUVs -- each section of the bench weighs less than 40 pounds and can be lifted easily by the average person. Like the Denali, the Escalade has a self-leveling rear suspension that returns the vehicle to its normal ride height when carrying heavy loads. In addition, the Cadillac gets StabiliTrak, a brand-exclusive stability control system that maximizes handling and braking performance on slick roads or during emergency maneuvers through a combination of vehicle attitude and steering angle sensors, ABS and traction control. The sensors compare the vehicle's actual path with the intended path and then activate braking and/or traction control to maintain the intended heading. A fully automatic Road Sensing Suspension (RSS) system, also just for the Escalade, improves body stability, ride comfort, handling and towing performance.

If you're planning to buy a luxury SUV, we recommend that you investigate the Escalade, since Cadillac has assembled an attractive package of performance, upscale amenities and all-weather utility. In many ways, GMC has done the same with its Yukon Denali, but the Escalade bundles a more powerful V8, StabiliTrak, the RSS system and standard OnStar for about $3,000 more than the Denali's base MSRP.

2002 Highlights

No longer a mere Yukon Denali spin-off, the radiant 2002 Cadillac Escalade bursts onto the luxury SUV scene and attempts to maul its competitors with a monstrous 6.0-liter engine and enough technology to satisfy the target demographic.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2002 Cadillac Escalade.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

2002 Cadillac Escalade AWD
AWD 4dr SUV (6.0L 8cyl 4A)
I gave up my BMW 740is which is a great car, but my 2002 Cadillac Escalade AWD is a blast to drive, powerful, rugged, safe, and has great road vision. I'm impressed with the fuel mileage. Don't get me wrong, this is no Honda, but to think I can haul 7-8 people at 17-18 MPG on the freeway, which is not to bad.
Still Solid and Going Strong
AWD 4dr SUV (6.0L 8cyl 4A)
I purchased my '02 Escalade as a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle in 2003. This is the best "car" I've ever owned. It is still solid with minor wear and tear after 106,000 miles. It is an SUV with the handling and comfort of a "car". Even when hauling two horses in a trailer, this baby feels safe to me. I probably will drive it another 100,000 miles as I don't feel like I am taking a chance that the newer models can out do this one. Nice work on this 2002 model.
I love my Caddy
AWD 4dr SUV (6.0L 8cyl 4A)
I Love this vehicle! It's fun to drive! I drive 30,000 miles a year, my Escalade makes it enjoyable. It's a smooth drive and a beautiful SUV. I live in California and we're in the mountains in the winter (lot's of snow!) and desert (temperatures range in the 100's constantly) in the summer. My Cadillac always performs no matter where I'm at!
Outstand Lux SUV
mark cicacci,08/26/2004
AWD 4dr SUV (6.0L 8cyl 4A)
Gotta say this is one heckuva vehicle. Nothing beats the Escalade for moving the family around. Room for kids and dogs plus suitcases. Looks and drives outstanding!


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver3 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover3 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated

More about the 2002 Cadillac Escalade
More About This Model

Not too long ago, we had the chance to drive the new 2002 Cadillac Escalade. But at the time, we could only provide you with a look at the vehicle and its extensive list of features.

That Preview is a comprehensive examination of the Escalade and since this new SUV is such an amazing improvement over its predecessor, a quick review of the highlights seems appropriate.

One of the most notable features is the new engine. When introduced in 1999, the Chevy Tahoe-spinoff Escalade shared most of its mechanicals with other Chevy and GMC trucks and SUVs. No more. The new Caddy ute has its own 6.0-liter (364 cubic inch) version of GM's Gen III V8 that's not available in any other Chevy/GMC truck or SUV.

Even further exclusive to all-wheel-drive Escalades (two-wheel drivers get a 5.3-liter engine), the high-compression Vortec 6000 V8 makes 345 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and an impressive 380 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm.

Boasting the same basic architecture as the LS1 V8 found in the Corvette, this engine is an update of the current 6.0-liter used in three-quarter- and 1-ton full-size Chevy and GMC trucks. But those engines make only 300 horsepower. The Cadillac mill has special cylinder heads that produce a 10:1 compression ratio, a larger 75 mm throttle body, and a cam with more lift and duration to allow the engine to take full advantage of the increased air flow the cylinder heads provide. Behind the engine, a version of GM's top-notch 4L60-E four-speed automatic transmission, dubbed the 4L60-E HD, finds its way into the Escalade and is extensively modified for duty behind the big 6.0-liter motor.

The all-wheel-drive Escalade has a viscous coupling transfer case that continuously adjusts the torque to the wheels smoothly and imperceptibly, so the driver never feels wheel slip as traction is being maintained.

Moving inside the Escalade's cabin, you'll find the extensive redesign didn't stop with the unique exterior styling that no longer shares its front clip with the GMC Yukon Denali. Brimming with luxury all around, the Escalade's cabin has exclusive bits like an all-new gauge cluster. An integrated floor console, heated seats, an 11-speaker Bose stereo with a single-point loading six-disc CD changer, a new driver information center, and a lightweight third-row seat are also part of the mix.

As we noted in our First Look, we had the chance to drive the Escalade's main competition on the same day, including the Lexus LX 470, Mercedes ML 430 and Lincoln Navigator. Also on hand was a previous-generation Escalade that, as we've said, is not much more than a Cadillac-badged Chevy Tahoe.

Read the several stories we have posted about the first Escalades and it's plain to see that it was getting much too long in the tooth to stack up against the likes of an LX 470 or Navigator. After our brief drive in this new Caddy, we know this is no longer the case.

In short, the new Escalade drives like a dream — especially in comparison to the Chevy/GMC SUV-based first-generation version. While our seat time in the new Escalade consisted of only about 50 miles, it was enough to see how much better it is than the old version. One area where the difference is dramatic is in outright performance. The new version with the big 6.0-liter motor is quicker, faster and generally much more beefy than the older one. For example, we tested the earlier model against its luxury SUV competitors and it needed 9.5 seconds to get to 60 mph. Cadillac claims the new Escalade will get to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds. The old one needed 17.2 seconds to cover the quarter-mile and the new version does it in 16.6.

Of course, this dramatic increase in performance comes from an equally dramatic increase in power output. The old version with its Gen II small-block Chevy made 255 horsepower, which, for the time, was decent enough. But today, the new Gen III motor makes a whopping 90 more horsepower! With 345 ponies on tap it also covers the Navigator by a generous 45-horsepower margin.

But worrying if a luxury SUV goes fast or not is relatively pointless. However, the power means everything in the world for another type of activity — towing. While we didn't tow during our drive, it's worth noting the Escalade will haul up to 8,500 pounds with no sweat. Mighty impressive when you consider the 2000 version could tow only 6,600 pounds.

We also got the chance to try two new services that are now included with the standard OnStar communications system. First, there's the ability to make and receive hands-free, voice-activated phone calls without the need for an additional cellular contract. Second, the OnStar virtual advisor can deliver to the vehicle personalized, Internet-based information such as news headlines, sports scores, stock quotes and weather conditions. We were given the choice to pick a favorite sports team and a city for weather info. Once this information was programmed into the system, we were able to retrieve updates on our choices out on the road. It worked quite well and is a testament to GM's commitment to make OnStar more useful as time progresses.

For the most part, the new Escalade drives well enough that we actually didn't want to relinquish our position behind the wheel. High-speed cruising on the freeway is effortless and passing power when the transmission drops down to third gear is impressive. We also drove the Escalade on some rather small two-lane back roads in Central California. For something as big as this thing is, we were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was for us to make our way through tight curves and around hairpin turns. Of course, don't expect any big (Navigator, Escalade) to huge (Suburban, Excursion) SUV to handle like a sport sedan or even a regular sedan. But after driving the Cadillac and its competitors on similar roads all in one day, we can certainly say that the Escalade is at least as pleasant to drive as any other luxo-SUV on the market.

In fact, looking back it's fascinating to realize how well the Escalade would've done if this version was the one holding up the GM banner in our Luxury SUV Comparison Test. The players in that comparo were a Navigator, an LX 470, an ML 430, a Range Rover and the hopelessly outclassed previous-generation Escalade. While the LX 470 excels in many ways and today is still a tough customer to beat, we'd predict that this new Escalade would've likely wound up in second place among this group of five luxo SUVs, if not possibly winning the contest outright. Clearly the new Escalade opens the door for a possible rematch. The time has come for you to watch out, Lincoln, Lexus, Mercedes and Land Rover.

Used 2002 Cadillac Escalade Overview

The Used 2002 Cadillac Escalade is offered in the following submodels: Escalade SUV. Available styles include AWD 4dr SUV (6.0L 8cyl 4A), and 2WD 4dr SUV (5.3L 8cyl 4A). The Used 2002 Cadillac Escalade comes with all wheel drive, and rear wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 4-speed automatic. The Used 2002 Cadillac Escalade comes with a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. basic warranty, a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What's a good price on a Used 2002 Cadillac Escalade?

Price comparisons for Used 2002 Cadillac Escalade trim styles:

  • The Used 2002 Cadillac Escalade Base is priced between $4,500 and$4,500 with odometer readings between 171033 and171033 miles.

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Which used 2002 Cadillac Escalades are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2002 Cadillac Escalade for sale near. There are currently 1 used and CPO 2002 Escalades listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $4,500 and mileage as low as 171033 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2002 Cadillac Escalade.

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Find a used Cadillac Escalade for sale - 8 great deals out of 19 listings starting at $12,404.

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Should I lease or buy a 2002 Cadillac Escalade?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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