2015 Cadillac Escalade / Escalade ESV
When the Cadillac product team describes it as “the Escalade of Escalades,” you can surmise that this 2015 model-year redesign was not a rethinking of the brand’s three-row, body-on-frame SUV. The Escalade remains the Cadillac of GM’s new full-size truck platform, GMT K2, related to Chevrolet’s Tahoe and Suburban and the GMC Yukon brothers big and bigger. As before, there are actually twin Escalades, the 116-inch-wheelbase model and the Suburban-sized Escalade ESV, which gets a 14-inch stretch. Cadillac isn’t saying much about the third member of the family that disappeared after the 2013 model year, the flamboyant Escalade EXT pickup. Perhaps it ran off to Hollywood.
The remaining members of the family seem headed in the opposite direction, with sharper and more conservative styling to better blend in around upscale communities. The Escalade now seems apiece with the full-size XTS and the brand’s other sedans, mature in their decade-long evolution of Cadillac’s Art and Science design language. From a distance, the high beltline, rectilinear greenhouse, and forward-canted C-pillar manifest the look of a vintage Fleetwood station wagon. Of course such a thing never actually existed, at least not officially, and anyway, the illusion breaks once you get close enough to recognize the Escalade’s larger-than-life size.
Small has never been a Cadillac virtue, so even in our downsizing world the Escalade keeps growing. The new version is 1.4 inches longer, 1.5 inches wider, and weighs just a few pounds more than the outgoing model. A new, direct-injected 6.2-liter V-8 produces 17 more horses and 43 extra lb-ft of torque. Yet this 420-hp engine, shared with Denali-spec GMC Yukons, delivers better fuel economy. EPA estimates go up by 1 mpg in the city and 2–3 mpg on the highway, though even the highest-rated model, a short-wheelbase rear-driver, still only manages 17 combined.
The Cadillacs and GMCs share the rest of their mechanical packages as well, including a live rear axle, magnetorheological dampers, and a new electric power-steering system. The Escalades get an optional sport mode to stiffen up the shocks, but the ride is firm and controlled enough without engaging it. Weighty steering and a firm brake pedal accurately translate driver inputs, while offering excellent communication for such a big vehicle. If you steer this Titanic into an iceberg, you’ll have only yourself to blame.
Inside, the Escalade’s leather-wrapped interior looks like something fit for a super-sized CTS. There’s plenty of square footage for seven passengers (or eight if the second-row buckets are replaced with a bench) to dissociate with their smartphones. The driver even gets screen time, thanks to a 12.3-inch display that replaces the conventional gauges in the instrument panel. As with its platform mates, the Cadillac version offers a roomier front seat than before, the short-wheelbase model gets larger rear door openings to make climbing in and out easier, and a raised cargo floor allows the powered third row to fold flat.