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2007 Cadillac Escalade

More Power Than A Corvette, And More Room Too!

    Everyone expected the new Escalade to be good, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear us proclaim that, indeed, it is good. The bigger question we have to answer is this: is the new Cadillac $15k better than the fully loaded Tahoe we drove a few weeks before this stylish new ‘Slade showed up? That’s tougher to answer than you may think.
     On the surface, a 403 hp engine behind that now-iconic grille should be enough to earn a ringing endorsement from us. The problem is the entire lineup of new GM full-size SUVs is so good and they can be optioned so extensively that the distance between the seemingly plebeian Tahoe and King of the Hill Escalade is shorter than ever. Luxury goodies like BOSE stereos, DVD nav systems and backup cameras that are usually the domain of the Wreath and Crest division can now be fitted to the “everyman” Chevy, provided that one can swing the payments on the low $50k example we recently tested. We’d go so far as to say that much of the Escalade’s competition will come from within the GM stable.
     Certainly there are enough of the self-conscious or the Hollywood set or those who must have the “best” to keep Escalade selling well. But typical consumers looking for the best deal on a luxurious SUV have to find a lot of extras worth $15,000 in the new Escalade to justify passing up the superb Tahoe or Yukon. Will they? Did we mention it has 403 hp?
     The all-new Escalade sits on the same fully-boxed frame as its lesser siblings and benefits from the 49-percent increase in torsional stiffness. Driving down nearly any type of road is a pleasant experience thanks to the rock-solid chassis. We expected some harshness from the massive 22″ chrome wheels ($2,995) but the real-time damping front and five-link coil spring rear suspension did a commendable job of keeping the ride smooth. About the only harshness stems from frost heaves that seem to plague every road in Michigan, but the giant 285/45-series tires roll over other imperfections well enough. No doubt there are ride and cost benefits to sticking with the standard 18″ rims, but these suckers looks so good you’ll want them anyway.
      Aside from the choice of wheels the rest of the Cadillac is finished one way and one way only: blingy. There is chrome everywhere and we must admit it’s tastefully done. The look is considerably more upscale than the last-gen Escalade and looks downright glamorous in our sample’s White Diamond. We like how GM has been hiding the trailer hitch receiver with a snap-in section of rear bumper trim so everything looks finished for the 97 percent of the time you’re not towing, but the fog lights could look a little more upscale, maybe some stylish chrome surrounds would help.
      There’s no need for help in the engine compartment because the big 6.2-liter V8 moves the 5,665-pound Escalade with little regard for the laws of physics. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised—403 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque flowing through a modern transmission (finally!) tend to do that. That transmission features six gears and GM’s wonderful tow/haul switch. In addition, a rocker switch mounted on the lever allows for manual gear selection but it’s a little awkward to use. Steering wheel mounted paddle shifters might look out of place but they’d be far more user-friendly.
     All that power makes for, odd as this may sound, quick acceleration and the exhaust note is truly rewarding. The new automatic shifts smoothly and isn’t afraid to kick down when passing power is called on. Combined with the newfound directness in the steering linkage and the nature of the low-profile tires turn-in is crisp and handling isn’t bad either. With all of this power on hand there is no sign of lumbering and the slow reflexes of the previous Escalade are nowhere to be found. Brake pedal feel is greatly improved and that’s a welcome improvement we’ve been calling for since these things first appeared.
     The downside to the wondrous power is fuel economy numbers that didn’t improve as much as the Tahoe’s and Yukon’s did. The 6.2 doesn’t get GM’s Active Fuel Management system so all eight cylinders run all the time. That leads to ratings of 13/19 but we hear the system will migrate to the big V8 in a year or two.
     Cadillac had a lot of room for improvement inside and it looks like they did a fine job of differentiating the top-line Escalade from its brothers. The steering wheel is encircled with a wood inlay and can be heated. The doors have leather inserts and metallic-look trim spruces up the two-tone interior nicely. The large touch-screen nav system is easy to use but, thankfully, real buttons still operate the most often used features. Our car had a 5.1 Bose audio system that sounded terrific (but the Bose system in the Tahoe and Yukon sounds strong too) and we love the optional back-up camera. The power-flip forward second row seats help get passengers into the back but thanks to the live rear axle there’s no foot well and we’d recommend this space only for the kiddies.
     As good as the cabin is there are still areas in need of improvement. The steering wheel is still canted a bit, but worse than that, the wheel doesn’t telescope; never mind the fact that the tilt mechanism is manually operated. In a $65k luxury SUV, power tilt and telescope that’s tied to the memory seat function should be standard these days. We know Cadillac designers chose this analog clock for design purposes but we’ve seen automakers employ clocks that are pretty and functional. Now there’s a concept.
     We can nitpick about little things like the legibility o the clock but it feels pointless because, as a whole, the package is highly desirable. Cadillac has improved everything that was sub par in the last model and even with the threat of a refreshed Navigator debuting this fall, the folks at GM should sleep easy. Their big boy is good enough to take on all challengers. We’re not even sure $3-a-gallon gas will put much of a dent in Escalade sales since the well-to-do owners of such vehicles probably won’t blink at dropping an extra $20 at the pump when they paid $64,815 for their ride. And the question we raised earlier about internal competition from loaded up Tahoes is a little clearer after driving the newest Cadillac. We’re not sure if it’s the giant chrome Wreath and Crest on the grille or the growl of the 403-hp V8, but something about the Escalade makes it worth the premium. We’ll just have to keep test driving them until we figure out what it is.

The Good:
Style, power, luxury, AWD, exhaust note perfection.
The Bad:
19mpg is the best you can hope for, steering wheel doesn’t telescope, back seat is limited and doesn’t fold flat.
The Verdict:
Tell us again why this isn’t the perfect vehicle?
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