2015 Cadillac Escalade

Escalating to new heights

"Escalade is a luxury full-size sport utility vehicle that has been around since 1999"

"'Escalade' refers to a siege warfare tactic of scaling defensive walls or ramparts with the aid of ladders or siege towers"

"The Escalade sold more than 430,000 units over the last 12 years"

"The Escalade started laying down the rules by which the others have to play," said Nabil 

 

From its introduction in 1999, the Escalade quickly became the standard among luxury SUVs, with a formula of bold design, powerful capability and luxurious accommodations. The all new 2015 Escalade, which we sampled recently in Atlanta, Georgia, takes all what we know of this car and makes it better, more luxurious, more beautiful, more capable and a much better driving car. 

Escalade is a luxury full-size sport utility vehicle that has been around since 1999. So far, there's been four generations of this fancy behemoth; the first introduced between 1999 and 2000, the second between 2002 and 2006, the third between 2007 and 2014, and the fourth takers off as a 2015 model year. 

Merriam Webster dictionary explains that the sword 'Escalade' refers to a siege warfare tactic of scaling defensive walls or ramparts with the aid of ladders or siege towers. Or it is an act of scaling especially the walls of a fortification. And whatever, the new Escalade really escalates to new heights in all categories. 

The Escalade is also Cadillac's bestselling vehicle since its debut, grossing more than 430,000 units over the last 12 years, which accounts for more than half of Cadillac's overall sales during that period. The Escalade is a multi-award winner having received many awards as well the coveted J.D. Power's Initial Quality Survey for its segment for the last four years and captured J.D's Dependability Award for 2014. 

ESV and no more EXT
With the standard model, Cadillac recently launched the long wheel base ESV model, which is perfect for anyone who needs more space for people and their gear. But the EscaladeEXT sport utility truck is no more as it was discontinued after the 2013 model year along with its twin, the Chevrolet Avalanche. Cadillac took the decision to cancel the EXT due to its very low sales, which amounted to just 1,972 units in 2013. 

All new
GM stresses the fact that the Escalade is a brand new vehicle, sharing little with its predecessor, though it shares its platform and some other components with the all new 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban (ESV) and the GMC Yukonfamily of SUVs. 

Stunning design
The new Escalade has an entirely new exterior yet is instantly recognizable. The most prominent piece of design is the front end with a highly detailed 'Galvano' chrome grille that has a unique, almost brushed appearance. It is accented by full LEDs in the front and rear that creates unique, razor-like vertical light signatures. 

One of the new and hi-tech features in the car is the industry's first 'Total Internal Reflection' LED high-beam function, which consists of four vertically stacked crystal lenses and LEDs. The low beam consists of five crystal lenses and LEDs that create the light pattern. The Cadillac script is branded in the headlamp bezel. Tall, thin vertical LED tail-lamps reach to the top of the Escalade and feature the brand's wreath-and-crest insignia, which illuminates in the dark. 

Small has never been a Cadillac virtue, so even in our downsizing world, the Escalade keeps growing. The new version is longer, wider but retains the previous wheelbase. The new car is 53 kg heavier than the outgoing model, even with the use of aluminum hood and lift-gate panels. And the car gets standard 20" wheels, or optional 22". 

It's all in the interior
Inside, craftsmanship defines the 2015 Escalade, which is really designed to be one of the industry's most authentic and luxurious cabins. Here, Cadillac creative designers went all the way and made the cabin a real luxurious one with real wood combined with premium cut-and-sewn materials and suede accents and metal effects mixing old-world luxury with latest technology touches. 

The dash is dominated by CUE system that consists of a 12.3 inch display that replaces the conventional gauges in the instrument panel, and an eight-inch touchscreen in the center of the dash, both which can be changed and shuffled in many ways to please the user. I can't deny the merits of the CUE system nor the beauty of the digital gauges that are the best looking in the industry, but I am not a big fan of it. Every time I try to work it out, the touch buttons on the center control refuse to work from the first time (or even from the third time), distracting the driver. Also, I think that Escalade - being GM's flag ship and Cadillac's crown jewel and its bestseller- deserves a bespoke one-off interior without the CUE system and more focus on luxury detailing, materials and furnishings. 

The Escalade is still a three-row seat SUV and its cabin can hold seven passengers (or eight if the second-row buckets are replaced with a bench). Space is grand in every row and the powered third row seats can be dropped with the push of a button, and the second row seats can be released to drop and tumble with buttons that actuates a manual release mechanism. 

Cargo space is also big behind first, second or even the third row and the power-programmable lift-gate can be opened hands-free by moving a leg under the car's rear end or by buttons inside and on the remote.

Drivers who like a lot of gizmos in their cars will be delighted as the new Escalade brings the latest such as with keyless entry and push-button start, electric telescoping/tilting and heated steering, tri-zone climate control, power heated and cooled front seats, second row- heated seats (captains' chairs only), a surround Bose audio with 16 speakers and a Blu-Ray DVD rear entertainment system with a nine inch, roof-mounted screen, along with built-in USB, SD car and RCA ports. 

Safety is also paramount in the new Escalade with front and rear automatic braking, the segment's only front center air bag, a driver awareness package includes forward collision alert, lane departure warning system, and the patented safety alert seat. There's also full speed range adaptive cruise control, automatic collision preparation, side blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert and lane change alert. 

Driving Impressions
Escalade gets GM's all new 6.2 liter V8 that is loaded with hi-tech gizmos such as direct injection, continuously variable valve timing and active fuel management, a sort of cylinder deactivation that runs the engine on 4-cylinders when the sail is smooth to cut on fuel consumption and then turn to all eights when the driver accelerates again. 

The V8 produces 420 hp and 623 Nm of torque - a nearly 5 percent increase in horsepower and 10 percent more torque. And thanks to its cylinder deactivation, it delivers 17 percent greater fuel efficiency on the highway than previous models, and also about 17 percent greater efficiency than Mercedes GL500 and nearly 24 percent greater than Lexus LX 570 as Cadillac claims. 

Drive for the GCC is AWD only, and the transmission is a much improved GM's Hydra-Matic six speed automatic transmission with tap-shift control.

On the long highways of Atlanta, the Escalade surprised us with its quick response and fast take-off, Cadillac claims that its vehicle can zoom to 100 km in just six seconds, and cross the quarter mile flag at 14.5 seconds, really respectable figures for a 2.6 ton American full-size cruiser. Hit the throttle hard and the Escalade launches itself forward with real gusto that will make any driver in complete awe. The V8 is strong and willing from 1500 rpm all the way to its red line, though you will never have to take it this far as its sweet spots are in the low to mid range. I could have wished that the car got GM's new eight-speed transmission, but the six-speed is a sweetheart, shifting in the right time with the right ratio, and it works very well with kick-down pulling two or even three ratios down to prepare the car for its next take-off. 

As luxury cars go, the Escalade is up there with the best. On the road, the cabin was super quiet, thanks to new inlaid doors that fit into the body side openings instead of over the top of the body, significantly improving the quietness of the interior and contributing to improved aerodynamics. The car also features a multitude of noise-attenuating materials and processes, including triple-sealed doors and acoustic-laminate glass and Bose active noise cancelation technology. 

But what really sets the Escalade apart was its amazing comfy and serene ride, thanks here to Cadillac's latest version of magnetic ride control, the world's fastest-reacting suspension system with its magneto rheological dampers that can change their rates in a fraction of a millisecond and make the ride soft or hard as necessary, and you always find yourself in the right and perfect setup. 

The electric steering is all new and it was rather good with decent weight and feel but was a bit soft for my taste, and the firm brake pedal accurately translate driver inputs, while offering excellent communication for such a big vehicle. 

Cadillac greatly improved its car's cornering abilities with a wider rear track that contributes to a more planted stance. So the car doesn't wander anymore in the middle of a corner, but cuts through it with newfound precision. And the new tires play here an additional role in those new levels of stability. 

Verdict
By far, this is the best driving Escalade I ever experienced and can run with the best in the class. The 2015 Escalade can at last rest the minds of skeptics once and for all that Cadillac is back in the game and it started laying down the rules by which the others have to play.

Pros: stunning design, luxurious cabin, takes 8 people and 2667 liters of cargo, powerful, economical V8, super comfortable
Cons: needs a bespoke interior
Rivals: Infiniti QX80, Lexus LX, Lincoln Navigator, Mercedes GL-Class

Specs

Engine: 6.2 liter, V8, 420 hp, 623 Nm
Transmission: AWD, 6-speed auto transmission with manual shifting
Performance: 0-100 km (6.0 seconds), top speed (180 km)
Economy: 7.4 liters/100 km
Weight: 2651 kg
4.5 stars
One word: Heights

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