Few vehicles have as much presence as the new Cadillac Escalade. Just one glimpse of you in this SUV will have passersby wondering whether you are a successful business person, or sports icon. Given the relatively short existence of the Escalade name (introduced in 1999), that level of respect and admiration is quite the achievement. I will admit I have not been a fan of any of the previous versions nor the GM products upon which they were based, as they were all massive and felt even bigger on the road. Speeds were best spoken of in knots rather than mph given the floaty ride inherent of such road going yachts. But the 2016 is much better some would even say it has been perfected.
Let’s start with the new look. In years past the Escalade looked so much like the Yukon, especially in Denali trim, few could quickly distinguish between the two, and even less would be willing to shell out the extra money for what amounted to little more than a Badge. But the new one makes a bold statement setting itself apart from the lesser SUV upon which it is based and even above the Germanic competition. The first asset you notice is the new brushed chrome grille, it envelopes the bulk of the fascia and is so large it would not look out of place on a train. Bookended by the gem-like stacked LED headlights and marker-lights the Caddy looks more a piece of art than a family transport. The rear uses thin and tall LED lighting to create a chiseled and cut figure, and at night the cool blue hew of the door handle and entry lighting appeals to the eye. The 22” rims look like an aftermarket enhancement until you notice the Cadillac emblem proudly positioned dead center (20” rims are standard). Though the silhouette still bears a near exact reflection to the Yukon, these not so small touches add so much to the sense of occasion, best yet no one will mistake your $100,000+ SUV for the generic little brother.
$101,720 was the listed base price for the 2016 Cadillac Escalade 4WD I drove for a week. The Platinum package brought the total price before taxes to $105,690. That would seem like a lot but after one drive and you stop questioning why so much and start asking how can I make the payments?
As you open the door you are greeted by a lavish and well assembled interior. Gone are the days when the fitment of panels and trim left gaps large enough to lose your keys in, no the 2016 has been refined and like the exterior has been tightened up, this is not your grandpas Caddy. In the Platinum edition both the driver and front passenger sit, well lounge is a better term, in the decadent comfort of the 18-way heated and cooled leather seats. But wait there is more; the seats will massage you. Yes the driver’s seat has 3 settings and the passenger has 2 that will press and roll away the stress of work, traffic or even in-laws. The only difference between the two seats is the anti-fatigue setting given to the driver to combat numb-bum on longer treks. The Escalade will seat 7, 4 of who will enjoy the ride and 3 of which (if they are adults) will be questioning what it is they have done to deserve such treatment. The rear most seats are peculiar and about the only complaint I can levy against this expensive SUV’s occupant experience. They are not comfortable, they offer virtually no legroom and they look out of place given the front and second row captain’s chairs are so decadent. Did I mention the second row chairs are also heated?
Cadillac has spared no expense in creating a luxurious and modern cabin.
To keep your passengers entertained in the Platinum trim there are three Blu-ray DVD screens; one will fold down from the roof and the other two reside in the front seat head rests. Also present are wireless headphones which will prevent the driver from having to endure their children’s favorite movie, yet again. The Cadillac features a mobile WiFi hotspot as well and for the driver an amazing Bose stereo with 16 speakers will have feeling like your are front row center listening to your favorite artist. Another function of this stereo is to counteract the noises the vehicle makes by producing an imperceptible sound. The result is a sense of complete isolation and serenity.
On the cutting edge of safety the new front-center airbag will protect passengers thrown to the center of the cabin, which can occur during a side impact accident, someone t-boning you while running a red light for instance. The optional radar and ultrasonic sensor based auto-braking system will warn you of approaching obstacles well before it applies the brakes autonomously as a last resort. These are both great additions to the adaptive cruise control, fore and aft cross traffic alert, blind zone alert, lane keeping assist and more. Overall the many safety technologies and the sense indestructability that comes from being in one of the largest vehicle on the road provide you with a definite feeling of safety.
Given the sheer size not to mention the overwhelming amount and weight of technology found here the Escalade requires an equally large and powerful engine. The 6.2L V8 tuned to produce 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque is more than capable. Unlike the previous models this one offers an exciting level of performance. Power is sent through an 8-speed automatic to either the rear wheels or all 4 if you should select it. Put it in Sport mode stand on the throttle and be alarmed as the heavy SUV leaps off the line and you are ushered along on a tidal-wave of torque. Do it again and you will be laughing in disbelief that something so large and seemingly cumbersome can move at such a pace. Even more surprising is what happens when the road eventually bends; rather than experience capsizing levels of roll and ending up in the ditch you simply lean ever so slightly as you are pressed into the seat bolsters and the Escalade tracks nicely round the bend. This does not mean the ride is ridiculously firm either; no thanks to the genius of the magnetic ride control the handling can be both sporty and comfortable. This sort of excitement does carry a hefty cost however. The V8 prefers 91 octane fuel, it will run on lesser grades but if you value performance you are not about to skimp here. The official figures are 16 L/100 km city and 11.2 L/100km highway. I managed to average 14.1 L/100km of mostly slow and smooth driving; thankfully the fuel prices at present are not that bad. The cylinder deactivation no doubt helps but this vehicle is large and you must accept the inevitability of an equally large fuel bill.
Cadillac has surprised me of late with their enticing V-series cars. The Escalade is not what I expected; in fact it is so good that it overcame some of my preconceived notions. If Cadillac keeps this up BMW and Mercedes are in for a serious wake up call. It appears the Cadillac of the past, the days when the brand stood for opulence, success and quality have returned. The latest Escalade will only further the popularity of the brand and its return to the forefront of the automotive landscape. It offers extreme comfort, space for the entire family, conveniences like power folding rear seating and powered steps, and perhaps most importantly it is fun to drive, making every excursion an event.
Photo credit: Robert Nichols
2016 Cadillac Escalade
- Lavishly comfortable interior
- The V8 makes a great noise when provoked
- That gorgeous front end
- Great utility and more than enough space
- Rides and handles like a much smaller, almost sporty vehicle
- Enjoys premium fuel
- Large size can make it difficult to maneuver in tight places
- Still looks too much like the Yukon from the side
- Third row seats look out of place and are uncomfortable
- Cue system will take a while to master