An SUV Defines American Luxury | 2015 Cadillac Escalade

November 2014 View more

2015 Cadillac EscaladeInternationally renowned architect Shigeru Ban might have been talking about designing cars, not houses, when he said, “Power and money are invisible, so people hire architects to visualize their power and money by making monumental architecture.”

More specifically, he might have been talking about the completely redesigned 2015 Cadillac Escalade—a monumental bit of automotive architecture that speaks to power and prestige like few other American cars.

2015 Cadillac EscaladeThe Escalade has been around since 1999, and this version is a great example of a vehicle that retains the overall look of its predecessor, while dramatically improving on it. The Escalade is large and imposing and thoroughly of the moment. Sheet metal and glass are not the only design elements—light is big this year. Be sure not to miss the sweet light-up door handles or the artfully executed LED lights front and rear.

Inside, the cabin is a serene and luxurious blend of leather and wood. The big surprise is fewer seats, not more. In this, Cadillac is continuing a welcome trend among SUVs and large crossovers.

Many SUV buyers have only one or two rear-seat passengers, so they want those passengers to have lots of room, and they want an easily accessible third row. Minivan designers knew what they were doing when they devised that layout.

While a two-position rear seat does not work so well for sedans, having a full third row of seats means you can give the second row the royal treatment. In the Escalade, the second row passenger seats look like they were lifted from a private jet. Sculpted and svelte, with an arm’s length between them, they are supremely comfortable and plenty spacious for adult passengers, let alone children.

The standard Escalade offers a relatively slim cargo hold with the third row of seats in use. The extended ESV version, which is 14 inches longer between the wheels and 20 inches longer overall, expands both the cargo space and the third-row seating, making it much more practical for buyers who will regularly be carting more passengers. In either version, both rows can fold flat, and the third row will fold itself at the push of a button.

2015 Cadillac EscaladeThe Escalade’s 6.2-liter engine has enough thrust to pull an 8,300 pound trailer or to propel the big SUV to highway speeds in an extremely quick six seconds. The ride feels soft and controlled, and the steering is precise enough for confident maneuvering. In other words, the Escalade handles largely like a luxury sedan.

Nits? There are a few. The CUE touch-sensitive entertainment system can be maddeningly slow to respond. A simple old-school knob for volume control would be so much easier than this cutting-edge gimmick. And while the Escalade’s running boards are undeniably helpful for clambering in or sliding out of the tall vehicle, they would be even better if they were fixed, rather than automatically deploying or folding up as doors are opened or closed. They sound like landing gear folding up after takeoff—an unwelcome contrast to the otherwise cocoon-like silence created by the Escalade’s use of Bose noise-canceling technology.

The 2015 Cadillac Escalade has a $72,690 starting price for the base model, with rear-wheel drive. The longer ESV model starts at $75,690. Whichever version you pick, expect to pay more. Options abound, including four-wheel drive (add a reasonable $2,600) and your choice of Luxury or Premium trim. The higher-level trim packages add essentials such as blind spot detectors and nice-to-haves such as 22-inch wheels. At the top of the food chain, an ESV Premium edition starts at $84,190.

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