2015 Cadillac Escalade 4WDPosted on September 11th, 2014
Full-sized SUV combines beauty and brawn
By Nina Russin
It would not have been my choice to drive an eighty thousand dollar Cadillac Escalade on the day that Phoenix, Arizona was hit with a hundred-year record rainfall. After four-and-a-half inches of rain, the flooding made national news.
But the Escalade was what I had and that is what I drove. In retrospect, it was kismet, since I learned that the Escalade is a much more serious performer than I imagined it could be.
Perhaps it was the car’s large chrome grille and 22-inch wheels that made me write the Escalade off as another pretty face, or the fact that it’s old school luxury. While other automakers are phasing out large engines in favor of small, more fuel efficient ones, the Escalade continues to sport a 6.2-liter V-8 with a rip roaring 460 foot-pounds of torque. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is less than six seconds. Although fuel economy isn’t great, the rear-wheel drive version can tow an 8,500-pound trailer.
Imagine combining the power of a Corvette with the utility of a light duty truck and luxury interior. On dry smooth roads, the Escalade floats along like the QE2 on placid water. But when the going gets tough, the Escalade transforms itself into the kind of warrior Beowulf would have been proud of.
The 2015 model I tested is the fourth generation of the vehicle first launched in 1999. Its three rows of seating can hold up to seven passengers. The V-8 engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, with an all-wheel drive system that automatically transfers engine power to the wheels with the best traction.
Magnetic ride control, a technology first introduced on the 2002 Cadillac Seville and on subsequent generations of Corvettes, uses a rheological fluid to automatically adjust suspension settings according to driving conditions. A locking rear differential works with the all-wheel drive system to maintain traction.
The Luxury edition comes fully-loaded with convenience features including a Bose sound system, Cadillac’s Cue infotainment system, Bluetooth, heated and cooled seats, keyless entry and start, tri-zone automatic climate control and more. Final MSRP, including the $995 destination charge is $79,290.
A day unlike any other day
The rain began around 2 am and didn’t let up till late morning. During the late summer monsoons, it’s not unusual for short, torrential outbursts. What made this rain unusual was the amount of time the storm stuck around.
I was sitting at the coffee shop around 8:30 when the skies appeared to lighten, which I mistakenly assumed meant the storm was passing through. I headed off for my meeting in the east valley expecting some standing water and mud: neither particularly dangerous.
By the time I exited the ramp onto the 202 freeway headed east the combination of lightning, thunder and another torrential outburst made the surroundings look like Armageddon. In addition to several inches of standing water across all lanes of traffic, more had begun to cascade down exit ramps onto the shoulder.
These cascades created surges on the road: envision high tide at the beach. While other cars hydroplaned out of control, the Escalade ploughed forward solid as a rock, as the all-wheel drive system and locking differential maintained directional control. It was amazing.
Granted, I didn’t do some of the stupid things that left other drivers stranded, such as trying to wade through several feet of standing water. When water enters the engine it causes hydraulic lock: a condition that’s usually fatal. But at the end of the day, the Cadillac was one of a handful of cars motoring resolutely through what had become an unending series of flooded thoroughfares.
The friction brake linings never failed, nor did the stability or traction control. Electric power steering maintained good response at all speeds. I had to make a couple of tight U-turns to double back on flooded roads. The Escalade’s 39-inch turning circle is exceptionally good for a car of this size.
Power to the ground
On dry ground, the Escalade delivers handling and performance on par with a sport sedan. Despite its large dimensions, it is surprisingly nimble.
Engineers cognizant of increasing urban congestion added some important safety features, including a rearview camera with haptic feedback and blind spot monitoring that illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when cars in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots.
If the rearview camera detects an obstacle behind the car and the driver fails to acknowledge it, haptic feedback sends an alert and a red icon appears on the center stack screen.
The suspension consists of an independent front axle with coil over shocks and solid rear axle that makes the car better for towing. Solid axles on big trucks can feel clunky, but the magnetic ride control on the Escalade prevents that from happening.
The Escalade’s spacious interior is packed with the types of amenities buyers in the high luxury segment expect. Keyless access and start saves the driver from fumbling for the key fob. Running boards make it easier for small passengers to get into the vehicle.
I found the 12-way power driver’s seat with memory settings easy to adjust. It offers ample lower lumbar support for longer drives. Power folding third-row bench seats can disappear into the floor to extend the cargo bay for longer items.
A 110-volt power outlet enables rear passengers to plug in games or a computer.
The Cue system is fairly intuitive, with redundant steering wheel controls to minimize driver distraction. A heads-up display keeps important information in the lower windshield so the driver can keep his eyes on the road.
The Cadillac Escalade comes with seven standard airbags, stability control, traction control, tire pressure monitoring, a rear vision camera with cross traffic alert and OnStar that automatically monitors police and emergency medical personnel if the vehicle is involved in a serious collision.
The factory warranty includes up to six years or 70,000 miles of complimentary roadside assistance.
Cadillac builds the Escalade at its Arlington, Texas assembly plant.
Like: A powerful, versatile full-sized luxury sport-utility with serious towing capability and all-wheel drive.
Dislike: Poor fuel economy
Model: Escalade 4WD Luxury
Base price: $78,295
As tested: $79,290
Horsepower: 420 Hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 460 lbs.-ft. @ 4100 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 5.96 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy*: 14/21 mpg city/highway
Comment: *The manufacturer recommends but does not require premium unleaded gasoline.2015, Luxury 2015, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Cadillac, performance, pricing, standard safety
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