2015 Escalade ESV: Cadillac's Hulk

By Frank A. Aukofer, October 11th, 2014

In the automotive world, as elsewhere, America excels at BIG -- especially in pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles. No manufacturer outside the U.S. builds an SUV bigger than Cadillac. Case in point, the all-new 2015 Escalade ESV.

Manufacturer photo: Cadillac introduce the all-new 2015 Escalade, a sophisticated luxury SUV designed to establish new benchmarks for hand-tailored craftsmanship and technology
Manufacturer photo: Cadillac introduce the all-new 2015 Escalade, a sophisticated luxury SUV designed to establish new benchmarks for hand-tailored craftsmanship and technology

Its rivals are few and half of them come from parent company General Motors, which also delivers the GMC Yukon XL and the Chevrolet Suburban. The two others are from Ford: the Lincoln Navigator L and the Ford Expedition EL.

At nearly 19 feet long, the temptation is to refer to them as lumbering giants. But they are no longer clumsy. They're now competent hulks, although their sheer size makes them a challenge to drive in some circumstances.

The luxury Escalade is not the sales champion, a circumstance Cadillac hopes to alter with the 2015 model. But it does attract attention, especially from sports celebrities like professional basketball players and their fans.

To forestall any confusion, all of the big boys come in two versions: short and long, though the short version is still longer than many lesser vehicles. (The short Suburban is called the Chevrolet Tahoe).

Manufacturer photo: Cadillac introduce the all-new 2015 Escalade, a sophisticated luxury SUV designed to establish new benchmarks for hand-tailored craftsmanship and technology

With the Escalade, the shorty checks in at 17 feet long while the ESV tested here stretches to 18 feet 8 inches. The difference shows up in the cargo space behind the third-row seat: On the Escalade, it amounts to 15 cubic feet. On the ESV version, it is 39 cubic feet.

Should you need to haul more stuff and fewer than seven persons, the ESV can be opened up to 77 cu.-ft. behind the second row and 121 cu.-ft. if you fold both second and third rows. You could easily haul a refrigerator or china cabinet.

Second- and third-row seats fold flat with the touch of a button. This is, after all, a luxury vehicle so wrestling with manual seats is a no-no.

The 2015 Escalade continues with its instantly recognizable presence. It retains its massive grille but features sharper body lines and tall taillights.

The interior is as lavish as a Hollywood celebrity's home, with comfortable leather seating, woodgrain accents, and polished surfaces. No shortcuts are visible in either materials or workmanship. An optional 12.3-inch high-resolution screen dominates the center stack and displays navigation and other driver information.

Manufacturer photo: Cadillac introduce the all-new 2015 Escalade, a sophisticated luxury SUV designed to establish new benchmarks for hand-tailored craftsmanship and technology

Standard equipment on the tested Premium ESV is extensive. It comes with full safety equipment including blind spot and cross traffic alerts, 16-speaker Bose audio system, satellite radio, Bluetooth, automatic tri-zone climate control, a rear-seat entertainment system, sunroof, power liftgate, power adjustable pedals, and 22-inch alloy wheels. The base price is $86,790. With options, the tested ESV totaled $92,535.

Befitting its 3-ton weight, the Escalade arrives with a 420 horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 engine that makes 460 lb.-ft. of torque. Power is transferred to the rear or all four wheels through a strong six-speed automatic transmission. Cadillac says the ESV can accelerate to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds. Towing capability is rated at 7,900 pounds.

Fuel consumption is about what you might expect, from such a large vehicle. It works out to 14/20/16 mpg on the EPA's city/highway/combined cycles, with premium fuel recommended. It might be even worse if the engine did not have cylinder deactivation, which shuts down four of the eight cylinders under leisurely highway cruising. Range is enhanced by a 31-gallon fuel tank.

The chief drawback of the Escalade ESV is its size. Drivers must be careful going around corners to prevent banging the inside rear tire on a curb, and maneuvering into shopping center parking spaces can be a challenge. The turning circle curb-to-curb is 43 feet.

With a wheelbase of nearly 11 feet and GM's magnetic ride control, as well as variable assist power steering, the ESV delivers a decent ride and slow but accurate handling.

Manufacturer photo: Cadillac introduce the all-new 2015 Escalade, a sophisticated luxury SUV designed to establish new benchmarks for hand-tailored craftsmanship and technology

That said, there are not many more comfortable vehicles for long distance cruising on Interstate highways. In the hushed cabin, it's easy to set the cruise control, crank up the audio system, and settle in for a long day's drive.

Specifications

Base price $86,790 (as tested: $92,535)
Curb weight 6,040 lbs.
Displacement 6.2-liter
Engine type EcoTec3 V-8 w/DI
Epa mileage rating 14 mpg city, 20 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 31 gal.
Horsepower (net) 420 at 5600 rpm
Overall length 224.3 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 460 at 4100 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 7-passenger large 4WD SUV
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