Used 2002 Cadillac Escalade Review

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.

What's new for 2002

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.

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.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.