The Cadillac Escalade is ridiculous – but then, so is my orange 1976 Trans Am.
Both are over-engined, exuberant, garish – and so, glorious.
Both also annoy the right people. Rev engine at the Prius in the next lane. Watch the Elizabeth Warren within wilt.
You can’t put a price tag on that.
The Escalade is the end product of giving Cadillac designers a Chevy Tahoe – and a blank check.
To be signed by you.
There is also Corvette kinship.
Pop the hood. Behold. You will find not the Tahoe’s 5.3 liter V8. You will find a 6.2 liter V8 – the same basic V8 as found in the Corvette, detuned just a little bit to 420 hp vs. the 460 hp in the Corvette.
It’s still a lot of horsepower.
And you get a lot of acceleration.
Zero to 60 in less than six seconds. A Corvette achieves that speed in half that time, but it weighs half as much – and only seats two. The Escalade can take your whole crew.
Base price for the RWD Escalade is $73,995. Add 4WD and the price ticks up to $76,995. Luxury, Premium and Platinum trim packages are available from there, with the latter topping out at $96,095 for a 4WD-equipped Platinum trim.
Cadillac also sells a longer wheelbase version called the ESV. It’s the result of taking a Chevy Suburban and giving Cadillac designers a blank check. Prices start at $76,995 for the rear-drive base trim and crest at $99,095 for the top-of-the line Platinum trim with 4WD.
The Caddy’s traditional rival is the Lincoln Navigator – which just got a major makeover. It’s similar in some ways (size, power) but very different in others (turbo V6 vs. huge V8).
Prices start at $72,055 for the base trim with rear drive; a top-of-the-line Black Label stickers for $93,705 – about $6k less than the equivalent Escalade.
All Escalade trims get a new ten-speed automatic transmission in place of the eight-speed automatic used last year. Interestingly, this is the same transmission used in the Escalade’s primary rival, the Lincoln Navigator.
The transmission was jointly developed to lower R&D costs – and because both brands are under the same pressure to squeeze even fractional improvements in fuel efficiency out of these luxury busses.
Not because the buyers of these busses are sweating how much gas they use. But because government bureaucrats are annoyed that people still buy these things and are using fuel efficiency mandates to try to squeeze them out of existence.
The heartbeat of a Corvette.
The most – of everything.
And not ashamed of it.
Huge – and yuge.
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
V6 in Navigator makes even more hp and can pull more than V8 Cadillac.
Not as plush – or as roomy – as the new Navigator.
Better have a big garage.
All Escalades come standard with V8 power.
A big V8.
Almost as big as my Trans-Am’s V8.
6.2 liters (vs. 7.4 in the old Poncho).
Sourced from the Corvette, the Escalade’s V8 makes 420 hp and 460 ft.-lbs. of torque. Put that engine in something that weighs a couple thousand pounds less (like a Corvette) and you’d have a supercar.
Like a Corvette.
Tasked with pulling what amounts to two Corvettes, the 6.2 V8 delivers super truck acceleration: Zero to 60 in 5.6 seconds for the RWD Escalade; a few tenths more for slightly heavier 4WD versions.
How awesome is it that the Escalade – weighing in at six thousand pounds, as tall as an NBA forward and with the aerodynamics of a pinball machine – is only about a second less quick than a new Camaro SS (which also has the 6.2 V8 under its hood)?
And the Camaro can’t pull 8,100 pounds – or carry seven passengers along for the ride.
The 6.2 V8 is paired with a new ten-speed automatic, with all that gearing designed to leverage the V8s power to accelerate while lowering its appetite for fuel.
The ’18 Escalade’s EPA numbers – 14 city, 23 highway with RWD and 14 city, 21 highway with the 4WD system – are only negligibly better than last year’s Escalade with the same V8 but paired with an eight-speed automatic, which scored 15 city and 20 highway.
If it seems like a lot of bother (end expense) for not much gain, you’d be right – as far as you, the buyer are concerned. But Cadillac has to be concerned about its CAFE numbers – the acronym standing for Corporate Average Fuel Economy, which numbers are factored by averaging the mileage of everything Cadillac sells. A 1-2 MPG increase doesn’t add up to much on an individual, car vs. car basis. But when multiplied over tens of thousands of vehicles, it adds up.
Which is why the new ten-speed automatic – and not just for the Caddy.
Big whoop. But who – except for the mean-spirited bureaucrats gunning for these busses – cares? The buyers buy these busses because they are busses – and because they can do things like get to 60 in under 6 seconds while carrying seven people and pulling 8,000–plus pounds, too.
Speaking of that.
The Caddy has the lowest max tow rating – 8,3000 lbs. vs. 8,700 for the Lincoln. But that’s still about three times what most crossover SUVs can deal with, either way.
ON THE ROAD
The Escalade is kind of like Mr. T in Rocky III. Mean and surly.
Its Corvette-sourced 6.2 liter V8 is urge overkill. You could probably pull a spark plug wire, run the thing on seven cylinders and still outrun most cars.
On the highway, thanks to the ten-speed automatic’s deep overdrive gearing, the revs at 75 are just over 2,000. This makes it feasible to travel almost 550 miles on 26 gallons of fuel – despite the rate at which fuel is consumed.
That’s about as far as a Prius will go on a full tank, by the way.
And the Escalade’s passing power at 100 is much superior to that of the Prius.
The Navigator is also quick, but it lacks the V8 bellow you get with the Corvette – er, Escalade. This isn’t bad or good – just different. The new Navigator is less Luca Brasi, which you are either into – you’re not.
The Escalade’s ride is another point of departure – especially Limited (and up) models with the 22 inch wheel/tire package. It is firm, bordering on stiff. Which is to be expected, because there’s just not much give or cushion available when your tires’ sidewalls are only about two inches high. These rims – as they are styled among the Ghetto Set – are the vehicular equivalent of holding a Glock sideways. Maybe it’s stylish in certain hoods – but it’s functionally as ridiculous as pants three sizes too big that show your ass crack and trip you up when you’re running away from The Man.
The ree-uhms also increase rolling resistance. With 17s or even 18s, the Escalade would be even quicker than it is and – not that anyone cares at this price point – probably get better gas mileage, too.
The Escalade doesn’t feel its size – once you’re inside – in part because of this and also because it has a tighter turning circle (39 feet) than either the Navigator (43.9 feet) or the QX80 (41.6 feet).
This makes it noticeably easier to maneuver in tight confines such as the car-crowded parking lot where the spots are small and designed for cars, not land yachts.
The Caddy also sits lower than either of its two competitors: 74.4 inches for the Escalade vs. 76.3 for the Lincoln and 75.8 for the Infiniti. This makes it less awkward to deal with drive-throughs (as at banks) and low-ceilinged parking garages. The Escalade’s lower-in-the-weeds stance also enhances its stability at higher speeds.
The main instrument cluster is driver-configurable and entirely flat-screen. This is the trend in high-end cars, for two main reasons. First, it looks slick. We live in an iPad Age.
Second – and more important – they’re configurable. More information can be displayed – and called up at will by scrolling through the various menus. With analog gauges, you can only fit so many gauges – and so much information – in the limited space available.
The flat-screen theme continues to the right of the main gauge cluster, where there is a secondary eight-inch LCD screen via which you access/operate the audio system, GPS and various apps. Cadillac styles this the CUE – Cadillac User Interface. If you like iPads, you will like the CUE. It works pretty much the same way. It has text-to-voice and Siri Eyes Free capability, too.
Below this are the controls for the AC/heater. They are not flat screen. They are haptic – GM’s term for finger-swipe (and tap) control inputs. My only beef with it is that sometimes you get too much (or not enough) of what you want, such as more or less fan – because it’s fairly easy to swipe too far – or not far enough – especially with the vehicle in motion.
The Escalade is big – but it’s not the biggest.
At 203.9 inches long, it’s almost compact . . . compared with the new Navigator, which is 210 inches long and that’s the regular wheelbase version. The long wheelbase L version is 221 inches long – which is almost as long as a 1970 Buick Electra 225 and that was a land yacht.
But length isn’t everything – if you like to close your garage door, for instance.
The Caddy – standard wheelbase – has a bit less capacity behind its third row (15.2 cubic feet) and with all its rows folded flat (94.2 cubic feet) than the new Navigator, which has 19.3 cubic feet behind its third row and 103.4 cubic feet with the second and third row folded down.
The Caddy swings back with more legroom for the driver and front seat passenger – 45.3 inches vs. 43.7 for the Lincoln. But the Lincoln counters with more second row legroom – 41.5 inches vs. 39 inches for the Escalade.
The third rows in all both of these rollers are compromised because they sit on top of the rear axle, which means the floorpans have to be higher in the third row than in the second row. This is the chief deficit of the RWD-based layout – and why FWD-based crossover SUVs are more space-efficient inside. But, though you sit with your legs tucked up a bit, there is decent room for your legs – and the third row is thus usable by most adults and absolutely fine for young kids and teens.
Per the Mad Men meme, Cadillac has been dialing up some classic-era Cadillac themes. These include very tall – and very thin – taillights whose shape evokes the classic look of Caddys from the late ’50s and early ’60s. Up front, a massive chrome grille is set off on either side by inverted L-shaped headlights with five stacked individual LED projector bulbs.
If they ever reboot Mad Men – fast-forward it to our time – this is what a latter-day Don Draper would be driving.
Base trims come standard with a heated steering wheel (and heated seats), three-zone climate control, power adjustable pedals, Bose 16-speaker audio, five USB ports and a driver-adjustable, magnetic ride controlled suspension. Platinum trims add massaging front seats, “semi-aniline Nappa Leather,” electrically chilled cupholders and a chilled cooler box in the center console.
Plus twin Blue-Ray DVD players for the second row.
WiFi hot spot take-it-with-you Internet access is also on the menu – and the Escalade will even send you text messages when it needs servicing.
Cadillac is a curious backwater of GM that hasn’t – yet – caved to the new politically correct orthodoxies. If the “patriarchy” needed wheels, this is it. Hello ‘Frisco, CIS and “diversity,” this isn’t.
And this is a very large part of the Escalade’s appeal. Of Cadillac’s appeal. It is not for people who are ashamed of what they make – or how much gas they use.
Probably the only reason it hasn’t been excommunicated from GM’s lineup is that it remains a money maker – unlike politically correct New GM models such as the Spark and Bolt, which GM gives away at a loss.
THE BOTTOM LINE
All it needs, really, is a shaker hood scoop.
And maybe a Carousel Red paint option.
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