Test Drive: 2007 Cadillac Escalade ESV
Summary: 2007 Cadillac Escalade ESV
PROS: 6.2L V8 engine with 403 HP; throaty engine rumble; massive cargo area behind 3rd row; HID headlights; LED tail lights; chrome grille; 22" wheels; rear entertainment system with TWO roof-mounted LCD screens; it's an Escalade!
CONS: Massive length; no fancy gadgets; interior not as luxurious as expected; it's an Escalade! (possibly attracting unwanted attention?)
GM Canada is offering huge incentives on new 2008 Cadillac Escalades right now which include $16,000 back and a discount gas card on 2500 L (over 650 gallons) of fuel for cash purchases. At the same time, I know from looking through the classifieds that....
...there are a lot of used Escalades on the market for significantly reduced prices. That's why I decided to take a look at them. They were redesigned in 2007 and according to the reviews I've read there were a lot of improvements in handling as well as some subtle visual changes.
Last Friday we went back to the dealership to take a second look and test drove a used 2007 Escalade ESV that had been imported from the US. In fact, all the used Escalades on the GM dealer's lot were imported. It goes to show how the strength of the Canadian dollar has made US imports so attractive even for the dealers. The ESV is the extended version of the Escalade that makes it about the same size of the Chevrolet Suburban. When we looked at the regular Escalade, we could see that the cargo space was not usuable (about on par with the Land Rover LR3). The ESV/Suburban offers the most space behind the 3rd row out of all the vehicles we've looked at.
One of the first things the salesperson showed us on the Escalade was the standard remote start. He pressed a button on the key fob and the engine roared to life. And boy, what a roar it was. The 403 HP V8 has such a pleasurable low rumble that it encourages you to turn off the stereo so that you can hear the music coming from the exhaust pipes.
Getting inside the Escalade we could see that it was much more luxurious than its cheaper Suburban/Yukon siblings. The wood-trimmed steering wheel felt very nice and the leather seats were supple. The trim on the dash and the appearance of the gauges gave you a sense that you were sitting in a different class of vehicle. Third row seating is not as well designed and functional as other vehicles we've looked at and would only be for children. Unfortunately, the buttons and switches and overall layout of the controls, the storage areas, arm rests and just about everything else, showed GM DNA through and through and never let me forget that I was in a domestic vehicle. It was disappointing looking at the interior and seeing all the things it had in common with the lowly Suburban:
Another thing I was disappointed with is that the Escalade doesn't seem to have any fancy feature to show-off about. There's no gadget that reminds you that you're not in any ordinary vehicle. James Bond never drove an ordinary vehicle. Neither did Batman. If I'm buying the luxury SUV that rappers sing about, I want to have some kind of special Bat-gadget more than just a second LCD screen. The Land Rover LR3 has a refrigerated cooler box and automatically rises and lowers 2" to make it easier to get in and out. The Mercedes GL450 has a "Tunnel mode" which closes all windows and the sunroof if the recirculation button is pressed when entering an underground parkade or tunnel. Earlier models of the Escalade had heated and cooled cup-holders, but it was removed in 2007. I want a Bat-gadget!
On the road the Escalade handled quite well for its size, although it was definitely truck-like. It doesn't look as massive as the Toyota Sequoia because unlike the Sequoia which looks like it bulked up on steroids, the Escalade has flat and smooth body panels that hide its width. It's not until you get up next to it and look at how long it is do you realize that the ESV would probably do fine sitting on train tracks behind some locomotives. The 6.2 L engine hauled the Escalade quite easily and with a heavy foot pulls away from other traffic to make them disappear in your rear view mirror with great satisfaction.
One thing disappointed me when I tested the Escalade in a quick left turn. I trail-braked into the turn and just past the apex I pressed the throttle to accelerate only to find that the traction control cut power to the engine mid-turn. I expected the AWD to pull me out of the turn, not leave the gas pedal lifeless. I guess it's no Subaru! On second thought, unlike Canadian-spec Escalades that come with AWD standard, since this was a US-spec vehicle, maybe it was only RWD and that's why the fun-spoiler kicked in so quickly.
The question is whether the Escalade's gorgeous looks and charismatic presence can overcome the fact that it's shallow and empty on the inside. One night stand or long-term relationship?