GM has been steadily updating its full-size pickup truck and SUV lineup over the past year, and the capstone is its 2015 Cadillac Escalade SUV, the most expensive and luxurious one of all. Offered in regular- and extended-wheelbase ESV form, the redesigned Escalade has a bold new face punctuated by distinctive headlights, a revamped interior with a focus on premium materials, more entertainment and safety technology, and a new V-8 drivetrain. Hybrid and EXT pickup truck versions are no longer offered. The SUV hits dealerships in spring 2014.
Like its Chevrolet and GMC siblings, the redesigned Escalade has a more angular, chiseled shape than before. There’s a clear connection to the prior SUV in its front-end design, but the look is amplified by a giant three-bar grille and LED headlights with vertical accent lighting. Lighting also plays a role in the SUV’s rear styling, which features tall LED taillights with an illuminated Cadillac wreath-and-crest logo.
The Escalade has an aluminum hood and liftgate to save weight, but at 5,603 pounds in base form, it isn’t exactly light. The liftgate includes hands-free operation and programmable opening heights. Naturally, 20-inch aluminum wheels are standard with 22-inch rims available.
The all-new interior is reminiscent of the one in Cadillac’s XTS full-size sedan with its focus on premium materials like real wood and integrated technology. The Escalade comes standard with the Cadillac User Experience multimedia system, which consists of an 8-inch touch-screen and touch-sensitive controls. There’s also a 12.3-inch screen in place of traditional analog instrumentation. A full-color head-up display that projects vehicle information at the base of the windshield is available, as is a Blu-ray-compatible rear entertainment system that has one 9-inch screen in the Escalade and two 9-inch screens in the ESV.
The front bucket seats should be more accommodating as the Escalade gains four inches of legroom and nearly two inches of extra headroom. Heated and cooling functions for the front seats are standard.
The extended-wheelbase version of the Escalade provides more headroom and legroom in the second and third rows, with third-row legroom benefiting the most as passengers gain nearly 10 inches extra. Cargo room behind the third row jumps considerably, too, from 15.3 cubic feet to 38.7 cubic feet in the ESV.
The Escalade now has a fold-flat third-row seat, which makes it easier to go from hauling people to cargo compared to the prior generation’s removable third row, but maximum cargo volume for the regular Escalade (94.2 cubic feet) and ESV (120.5) is about 15 cubic feet less than before.
The Escalade’s 6.2-liter V-8 engine has been overhauled and now makes more power at 420 horsepower and torque at 460 pounds-feet. The engine features direct injection, variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation for improved performance and efficiency (official fuel-economy estimates haven’t been released as of this writing). There are also active shutters in front of the radiator that close at highway speeds for better aerodynamics.
Rear- and four-wheel-drive models are offered, and power is channeled through a six-speed automatic transmission. Maximum towing capacity is 8,200 pounds for the rear-wheel-drive regular-length Escalade and 8,000 pounds for the four-wheel-drive version.
The Escalade still uses an independent front suspension and a solid rear axle, but GM’s Magnetic Ride Control adaptive damping system is now standard. Magnetic Ride Control varies suspension firmness by charging iron-particle-infused shock absorber fluid. It also includes two driver-selectable modes: Tour and Sport.
Though the Escalade’s popularity with thieves has waned a little recently, it’s still a prime target. The 2015 version has a number of technology features designed to make it harder to steal, including an intrusion sensor, inclination sensor, and sensors that monitor if a window has been smashed. It also has a stolen vehicle tracking feature through GM’s OnStar emergency communication system.
Safety features designed to protect people inside and outside the SUV include front and rear automatic braking, which issues alerts and can autonomously apply the brakes to avoid a low-speed collision. The Escalade also offers a center-mounted side airbag between the front seats.
Additional available safety features include forward collision warning, lane departure warning, a safety alert seat that warns the driver by vibrating sections of the cushion, a blind spot warning system and rear cross-traffic alert.
Competes with: Lincoln Navigator, Lexus LX 570, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class