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2005 Cadillac Escalade

Crusin’ In The King Of Cool

    For some people, making an entrance is what it’s all about. After all, you only have one chance to make a first impression and how you arrive on the scene says a lot about you. Underwhelming the audience is not an option. Perhaps that is why so many people rely on the Cadillac Escalade’s confidently exaggerated design to announce their arrival. With a chrome grille the size of a Miata and Cadillac badges visible at 200 yards, it’s near impossible to miss someone exiting a ‘Sclade. Add in the newly optional 20” chrome wheels and there’s a money-back guarantee you’ll be hippest thing in the parking lot. Not even Bermuda shorts and flip-flops could damage your street cred.
     Cadillac designers must have used “Bigger is Better” as their motto because everything on our Black Beauty seemed twice as big as it needed to be. From the abovementioned grille and badges, to the headlights and wheels, subtlety is not the Escalade’s forte. Commanding attention is. The somewhat angular, squared off look is inline with the division’s Art & Science theme and it succeeds at ensuring uniqueness among the super sized ‘utes. It also manages to look expensive, which is fitting given the all-wheel drive model starts north of $56,000. We would argue the tow hooks in the front bumper are probably unnecessary. The urban jungle is a scary place, but it is mostly asphalt. In profile the integrated running boards look good thanks to chrome accenting, also found on the roof rack and door pulls. The rear is dominated by a giant CHMSL and Wreath and Crest badge. A complaint heard often was the brake lights look too generic—something we hope is rectified in the upcoming ’07 model.
     Another area we hope Cadillac concentrates on is the interior. No amount of wood and leather can disguise the fact that this instrument panel is shared with models that cost $30k less. In fact, with a few exceptions like the analog clock, chrome-trimmed gauges and wood trim, almost every luxury feature in the Escalade is optionally available in a Tahoe. With that observation made we can say any time spent behind the wheel will be among the most comfortable of your day. The seats are finished in rich Nuance leather, burled walnut trim adorns the center console and the front seats are heated and move 14-ways. The Bose 6-disc CD changer audio system is decent. XM satellite radio is standard equipment and includes the first 3-months of service. The second row seats are heated and those passengers have access to separate audio and climate controls. Unlike the Lincoln Navigator, the Escalade’s third-row seat does not fold flat into the floor. It must be removed manually and stored elsewhere. Our test truck had an integrated navigation system and radio. It was a decent system, though we’ve used better. The screen is larger on the ’05 model—a nice improvement. Overall, the materials are a couple notches below 60-grand levels. The interior door pulls, for example, are actually plastic pieces spray-painted silver to simulate chrome. We weren’t fooled and we suspect nobody else is either. We’re confident there will be more differentiation in the interior of the 2007 GM SUVs.
     An improved cooling system with a more powerful alternator allows for improved A/C performance in the 2005 Escalade but besides that there’s nothing new to report on the mechanical front. The all-wheel drive model still gets its motivation from the High Output 6.0-liter Vortec V8. Power is still rated at 345hp and 380lb-ft of torque. We don’t know what GM plans for the next Escalade but this motor is still a fine piece with strong output and a satisfying growl. Although, we are keeping our fingers crossed that the 4-speed Hydra-Matic transmission dies with this generation. It does what it is supposed to do but five or six speeds would improve performance as well as fuel economy and the competition is already using more modern trannys. Even with the less-than-ideal transmission our Escalade accelerated better than expected. Of course, full-throttle starts do nothing to improve the already lackluster 13mpg city/17mpg highway fuel economy. Steering and brake feel was typical GM truck, which translates to not great. There’s no feedback through the steering, and the brakes, though not as bad as the Hummer H2, are still too soft to instill confidence. On the other hand, the Escalade does ride smoothly despite the heavier and lower-profile 20” tires. And while we are on the subject of the optional wheels let us say it’s about time. The boring design of the standard 17” wheels has long outlasted its expiration date. These dubs look great and they raise the bling factor off the charts. GM should have been offering these from the beginning instead of watching all that money go into the aftermarket’s pocket.
     It won’t be cheap to cruise in the darling of the hip-hop crowd. The $2,200 wheel upgrade combined with the $4,340 Select Edition Package pushed our as-tested price to $62,445. But when making an underwhelming entrance is not an option there are few vehicles that will make you and six members of your posse look so cool.


The Good:
345hp, 20” rolling stock, comfortable seats, instant street cred.
The Bad:
Some poor materials, IP out of a Tahoe, Official Vehicle of OPEC.
The Verdict:
Worth every penny to some and not a dime to others. We’re somewhere in between.


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