Cadillac’s full-size Escalade, the favorite premium SUV of Texans, came to market in its newest generation for 2015, featuring more of what has always made it popular: luxury, versatility and styling.
But with the redesign, there’s more: it’s also more fuel-efficient.
A product of the General Motors Arlington plant along with its siblings, the Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban and GMC Yukon, the Escalade is helping drive GM’s sales gains this year. With gasoline prices down, more people are buying GM’s big SUVs and full-size pickups.
There are still two lengths for the Escalade, just like the Chevy and GMC versions – regular and extended. The ESV is the longer one, and is the same size as the Suburban and the Yukon XL. The ESV is 20 inches longer than the regular model, with a wheelbase that’s 14 inches longer. That gives it 60 percent more cargo space behind the third row of seats.
But absent from the lineup for 2015 are the Escalade EXT pickup and the Escalade Hybrid.
Prices begin at $72,970 (plus $995 freight) for the base two-wheel-drive model regular-length model, and range as high as $91,875. ESV versions begin at $75,970 and top out at $94,875.
As with the previous models, the new Escalade is available with either rear- or four-wheel drive.
Our test vehicle was the regular-length Luxury 4WD model (base price $82,570 plus freight). It had no options, so the total with freight was $83,565.
Among many changes and improvements, the new Escalade features a quieter cabin, smoother performance and more-efficient powertrain, GM says.
I can attest for the quietness. Even at interstate highway speeds, the interior is so quiet that a conversation can be carried on without anyone having to raise their voice. That’s made possible by a stronger body structure, new acoustic insulation, and Bose active noise cancellation.
In spite of numerous changes, the new model is clearly recognizable as an Escalade, although it’s slightly boxier than before, especially at the rear. It’s still big and bold, with seating for up to eight people. There are more changes inside than out.
Our vehicle had very comfortable dual captain’s chairs in the middle row, with a center pass-through to allow access to the third row. This cuts passenger capacity down to seven, but makes the middle row much more comfortable.
Outside, the Escalade has modern LED lighting, including high-beams, with four vertically stacked crystal lenses, and low beams with five crystal lenses. There also are vertical LED taillights, with the Cadillac wreath-and-crest insignia that lights up. LED-illuminated door handles are included on the high-end model.
Powering all versions of the new Escalade is a new 6.2-liter V-8 engine rated at 420 horsepower and 460 foot-pounds of torque, up from the previous 403 horsepower and 417 foot-pounds. It’s connected to a six-speed automatic transmission with Tap Shift control for manual shifting.
EPA fuel-economy estimates are 15 mpg city.21 highway with rear drive, and 14/21 with four-wheel drive. To help boost fuel economy, the engine has technologies such as direct fuel injection, cylinder deactivation during highway cruising, continuously variable valve timing and an advanced combustion system.
Among other mechanical features are a coil-over-shock front suspension, five-link/coil-spring rear suspension, a wider rear track, electric power steering, and a new 9.5-inch rear axle with standard automatic-locking rear differential.
Twenty-inch wheels are standard, but 22-inch wheels are available. Our tester, with a Dark Granite Metallic exterior and Jet Black leather interior, came with the 22-inch painted wheels.
Also included on all models is a four-wheel antilock disc-brake system featuring GM’s Duralife brake rotors, designed to last twice as long as conventional rotors.
Our Luxury model tester also featured Cadillac’s third-generation magnetic ride control damping system, designed to provide precise control of body motion while limiting roll in curves and turns.
New premium interior features included cut-and-sewn and wrapped leather upholstery and trim, with wood trim options. Up front, the seats are heated and cooled; in the second row, they’re heated.
For connectivity, the Escalade features Cadillac’s CUE (Cadillac User Experience) system, with voice recognition and touch controls. Our vehicle had the navigation system with an eight-inch color display, along with GM’s OnStar system.
Additional amenities included on our tester were a locking rear differential, trailering package, power-adjustable pedals, heated steering wheel, keyless entry and pushbutton start, heated and cooled front seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, power tilt/slide sunroof, a hands-free power liftgate, rain-sensing wipers, and front and rear parking assist,
The 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster had four selectable themes, and there was a head-up display that projected the vehicle’s speed and other information on the bottom of the windshield.
Escalade can be equipped with a Blu-Ray DVD rear entertainment system, which comes with a nine-inch, roof-mounted screen on the regular-length model, and two nine-inch screens on the ESV version. But the system was not included on our test vehicle.
We did have dual USB ports and a 12-volt power outlet in front, where there is a small open cubby perfect for portable devices. There were two more USB ports, an auxiliary input and another 12-volt outlet inside the center console, which also doubled as an armrest for the driver and front passenger.
In the center console are dual cupholders. Middle-row passengers had a cupholder and bottle holder in each door, while third-row passengers had two cupholders in the tops of the wheel arches.
There were seatback pockets on the front seats, accessible to the middle row, and there were also air conditioning controls, a 115-volt AC outlet, and a 12-volt outlet for the rear passengers.
There was plenty of power from the big V-8 engine, although we did not try pulling a trailer. Acceleration was smooth, as was shifting of the automatic gearbox.
Safety features include front and rear automatic braking, which uses radar and ultrasonic sensors to help avoid low-speed collisions; and the segment’s only Front Seat Center-Mounted air bag. Available are such features as Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, and GM’s Safety Alert Seat, which vibrates under the driver to warn about potential crash threats. A backup-camera system was included on our tester.
Included on Luxury and Premium models are the Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Alert systems.
Also available are Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Collision Preparation and Automatic Safety Belt Tightening.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.
2015 Cadillac Escalade
The package: Full-size, seven- or eight-passenger, five-door, rear- or four-wheel-drive, V-8 powered, premium sport utility vehicle.
Highlights: The Escalade, redesigned for 2015, is a premium family hauler with lots of power, a smooth ride, and a long list of available high-tech features.
Negatives: Can get quite pricey.
Engine: 6.2-liter V-8.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Power/torque: 420 HP./460 foot-pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Length: 203.9 inches (regular length); 224.3 inches (ESV).
Curb weight range: 5,594-6,040 pounds.
Cargo capacity: 16.5 cubic feet (behind third row).
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Side air bags: Front seat-mounted, three-row side curtain.
Towing capacity: 8,100 pounds.
EPA fuel economy: 15 mpg city/21 highway (2WD); 14/21 (4WD).
Fuel capacity/type: 26 gallons/premium recommended, but not required (regular length); 31 gallons (ESV).
Base price range: $72,970-$91,875 plus $995 freight (regular-length models); $75,970-$94,875 (ESV models).
Price as tested: $83,565 (4WD Luxury model, with freight, no options).
Major competitors: Lincoln Navigator, Lexus LX 570, Infiniti QX80, GMC Yukon Denali.
On the Road rating: 9.3 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.