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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Escalade: Bigger and better

As long as there are big buyers, big loads and big families, Cadillac’s Escalade will always find a home. 

A big home.

For 23015, Cadillac’s large luxury SUV is redesigned inside and out. It’s bigger, stronger and quicker. Its cabin is quieter and its ride smoother. GM’s most advanced electronics and infotainment systems bring luxury-level amenities to its 5,100-pound frame. 

Longer than last year by 1.4 inches, wider by 1.5 inches and heavier by about 100 pounds, the 2015 Escalade (from $72,690, including destination) carries eight, tows up to 8,300 pounds and accelerates from zero to 60 in 6.1 seconds.

We tested the extended-length Escalade ESV ($75,690), whose wheelbase is 14 inches longer than the standard edition.Approximately 20 inches longer than standard, it maximizes third-row seating and space nearly doubles the cargo space behind the third-row seat. 

On the outside, the edges and angles of Cadillac’s Art and Science design language bring an assertive edge to its blocky lines. Inside, an army of digital interfaces nests comfortably among the high-grade, cut-and-sewn leathers, genuine wood trim and lush soft-touch surfaces.

New functionality — i.e., power-operated third-row seatbacks, hands-free liftgate, running boards that retract automatically — increase utility. A new 16-speaker Bose surround sound system makes rich, full noise and can be configured to suit occupants’ preferences.

Triple-sealed doors, acoustic laminate glass and Bose Active Noise Cancelation cut wind and road noise. The latest version of OnStar includes 4G LTE and built-in Wi-Fi.

A new four-wheel-drive system has an Auto mode that automatically engages the two-speed transfer case when road conditions grow iffy. There are separate, driver-activated modes for difficult (4 Hi ) and normal (2 Hi) conditions.

Despite the upscale flourishes, the Escalade is at heart a body-on-frame sport-utility vehicle — a truck — with all the attendant pluses and minuses. Its fully boxed frame liberally uses high-strength steel — it’s both lighter and stronger than the standard stuff —to produce a platform  sturdy enough to support lofty towing and payload (1,500 lb.) ratings.

A two-mode air suspension helps control the Escalade’s bulk but never really tames it. Roll stiffness dialed into the chassis reduces body lean during cornering but contributes to a ride that can grow brittle on rough surfaces, a tendency exacerbated by the optional 22-inch wheels.

Paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, the Escalade’s 420-horsepower V-8 returns EPA ratings of 17 mpg combined (15 city/21 highway); 4WD trims  are rated at 16 mpg combined (14 city/21 highway).

As noted, acceleration is swift and sure, even between 40 and 60 mph, when it’s needed for passing.

The electrically assisted power steering system is well weighted but numb on-center.

The new power-operated third-row seat folds flat into the cargo floor, replacing a seat that until this year had to be physically removed. The new setup raises the cargo floor 4 inches. 

New owners must resign themselves to an electronics learning curve. Cadillac’s Cadillac User Experience (CUE) is a touch-screen system that uses proximity sensors to detect the approach of a user’s hand and automatically serve up a context-based menu. It’s powerful and elegant in theory, but its voice-recognition function may be its saving grace.

Escalade sales declined sharply in the wake of the recession, but this year’s model has reversed that trend. Big buyers with big needs — and big garages — take note.

Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at
2015 Cadillac Escalade EXV AWD Premium
Vehicle base price: $71,695
Trim level base price: $85,795
As tested: $90,895
Optional equipment included Kona Brown interior with Jet Black accents; power retractable running boards; 22-inch dual 7-spoke ultra-bright finish aluminum wheels.
Towing capacity: 8,300 pounds
EPA ratings: 16 combined (14 city/20 highway)
Premium unleaded fuel recommended

Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.