Since the revamped 2015 ChevroletSuburban and Tahoe, and GMC Yukon are out, it’s the Escalade’s turn to make a splash. GM positions this well-dressed behemoth as its flagship SUV, with pricing to start at $72,000. Our model stickered at $85,690, positioning it against such status machines because the Land Rover Range Rover or a Mercedes-Benz GL, and raising expectations.
The new ’Slade certainly looks the part, with chiseled exterior styling and a tastefully finished, leather-laden cabin. But also in some ways this flagship misses the boat, as it were.
Let’s begin with the engine: The 420-hp, 6.2-liter V8 also serves as the up-level option for the Yukon Denali. You’d think this powerplant ought to propel this coach smoothly, effortlessly and luxuriously, but it doesn’t. Power delivery from the V8 and its six-speed automatic is just ordinary. It does not rival the best competitors, though likewise, the transmission operates smoothly enough. Thankfully, an eight-speed arrives soon.
It’s not like GM doesn’t already have modern powertrains in the inventory. The Cadillac CTS Vsport has a terrifically potent 420-hp, 3.6-liter turbo V6 and eight-speed auto that could have place the Escalade on more modern footing. And, a supercharged V8 is also in the arsenal. We’ve discovered that forced induction in other competing vehicles does wonders in terms of low-end torque and midrange punch.
Just like its platform mates, the Escalade is truly quiet inside, having an ambience deserving of a high-end luxury car. Handling is commendable, too, with well-suppressed body lean and responsive steering. Still, the sheer size and majority of this tall ship is tough to ignore. Furthermore, the very high step-in makes getting in or out an ungracious exercise-without or with the power-retractable running boards, which we found noisy in the new Tahoe.
This Escalade, rented from the automaker for any fee, has GM’s magnetic ride system as standard equipment; it’s designed to proactively vary the damping level in each shock absorber. On some pavement types it works beautifully, quelling body motions and contributing to a reliable sail. Although the 22-inch tires tend to transmit rough, rubbery jiggles in the cab, especially on broken pavement.
The cabin looks sumptuous at first, and maybe at second glance, too, using its supple leather, abundance of matte-finish wood, and a modern wrap-around dash. Like the revamped Tahoe/Suburban, though, the Escalade uses a big old column shifter that literally brings all the grace and subtlety of a bumper jack. Other modern luxury SUVs employ more discrete shifters that are low effort and straightforward to reach. GM tells us they are looking into an even more elegant solution. At least the parking brake is electrically operated rather than using a clunky foot pedal like in the Suburban and Tahoe do.
Clearly, it wouldn’t be a modern Cadillac without having the CUE infotainment system. But also in the Escalade’s vast cabin, the fiddly touch screen is a far reach and a distant glance away, compounding the inherent ergonomic flaws of your system.
As attractive as Cadillac’s sculpted styling is and as gorgeous as the interior looks, we can’t help feeling that GM missed an opportunity to escalate this new flagship in to a world-beater. At this lofty price, bling alone won’t do. Before buying one, We’ll delay until the eight-speed automatic shows up. If a big, shiny Cadillac is in your shopping list., you should too