2007 Cadillac Escalade Reviews and Ratings

Utility 4D AWD

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2007 Cadillac Escalade
Steve Siler

Luxury SUVs have gained widespread popularity in the United States, thanks in no small part to Cadillac's most conspicuous display of worldly opulence, the Escalade. The 2006 Escalade is all-new, more decadent than ever, with even more power, more luxury features and bolder styling than any American sport-utility vehicle in history. In addition to providing five-star comfort, it's goal is to be the ultimate symbol of power and achievement, a mansion on wheels. And in that respect, it succeeds.

The Escalade is offered in three distinct models; the standard Escalade is a full-size sport utility sharing the same architecture (and roughly the same dimensions) as the Chevy Tahoe. The Escalade ESV is the Suburban-sized model, sharing the latter's architecture. Finally, the Escalade EXT is a sport utility/pickup combination that quickly converts from a pickup with an enclosable eight-foot bed to a five-passenger luxury vehicle, basically, Cadillac's interpretation of the Chevy Avalanche. All three feature a high-performance, 403-hp 6.2-liter V8 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that includes manual shift control (a rarity in this class). The standard Escalade comes with rear-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive while the ESV and EXT come only with all-wheel drive.

Built on GM's robust new full-size truck platform, the Escalade, ESV and EXT make excellent tow vehicles. At the same time, they're roomy and luxuriously appointed, letting them haul family or friends or business associates in real comfort. The 6.2-liter V8 supplies serious power for surprisingly quick acceleration, along with strong torque for towing. On the road, all three Escalades are smooth and stable, nicer in ride than base Tahoe or Suburban models but taut and well-controlled (by full-size SUV standards) for surprisingly good handling. Model Lineup
The standard Cadillac Escalade is available with two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. The high-output 6.2-liter V8 engine comes standard on all models, including the rear-wheel drive Escalade (53,850) and the all-wheel drive Escalade ($56,405). They come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control, 18-inch alloy wheels, and the Autoride suspension.

Standard features include leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel with genuine wood trim, aluminum and faux wood interior trim, Bose 5.1 Digital Surround Sound audio with AM/FM/6CD/SAT, power adjustable pedals, power windows, power locks, fog lamps, remote vehicle starting, rear climate control, six-passenger seating configuration, third-row bench seat, heated first and second row seats, XM Satellite Radio, Ultrasonic rear park assist and heated windshield washer fluid.

Escalade ESV ($57,935) and Escalade EXT ($52,815) feature all of the above and come standard with the all-wheel drive. ESV features an additional 14 inches of wheelbase and 19.5 inches of additional length, greatly enhancing third-row seat legroom and rear cargo space. The Escalade EXT deletes the third-row seat in favor of a lined, lockable and enclosable pickup bed with manually folding midgate and removable rear window.

Options on Escalade models include the Climate Package ($625), which includes heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats; the Information Package ($2,495), which includes IntelliBeam automatic headlights, the navigation system with rearview camera; the rear-seat entertainment system ($1,295); a second-row bench seat (n/c); engine block heater ($50); power folding second-row bucket seats ($425); power sunroof ($995); 22-inch wheels ($2,995); 18-inch chrome wheels ($795); White Diamond exterior color ($995).

Safety features on all Escalade models include anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes and an electronic stability control system called Stabilitrak with rollover sensing. Passive safety features include front seat belts with pretensioners and load-limiters, dual front air bags and side curtain air bags that span all three rows of seats. Tire pressure monitors are also standard.

All models also come with the Generation 6 OnStar system (with a one-year Directions and Connections service plan). The system includes the General Motors Advanced Automatic Crash Notification system, making crash data available to emergency services to potentially dispatch the appropriate life-saving personnel and equipment to crash scenes faster. If the vehicle is in a crash that activates an air bag, the OnStar system automatically notifies an OnStar Advisor, who will check on the occupants or summon emergency help if necessary. OnStar also can assist authorities in locating a vehicle if it is reported stolen (though its ability to locate stolen vehicles varies with conditions). Walkaround
The front end of every Escalade is dominated by a bold, egg-crate grille that's dripping with chrome trim. The grille is flanked by three-element, vertical headlamps that tie the vehicle more closely than ever to the rest of Cadillac's lineup. Both of those elements are set into a one-piece fascia that eliminates the unsightly gap between the grille and the bumper, conveying a sense of integrity and quality.

Similarly, the side-view styling is smoothly contoured, with no clunky side cladding as found on other luxury SUVs. As with the front end, there is abundant chrome, including on the door handles, the huge exterior mirrors, the full-length metal roof rails (which provide anchor points for accessory crossbars for securing cargo on the roof) and "ventiports" above the front wheels that seem to be a clear response to the trendy elements found on Range Rover models and some Jaguars.

Another clear response to market trends are the optional 22-inch chrome wheels, which visually plant the vehicle, completely filling the Escalade's huge wheelwells and making the standard 18-inch wheels look positively puny by comparison.

Particularly appreciable in colder climates are the pull-type door handles that are easy to grasp, even with gloves on. They're also more comfortable, less likely to snap away from your fingers and less likely to break a fingernail.

The rear view features the nicest modern interpretation of Cadillac's classic skinny taillights, which recall the dramatic tailfins of Cadillacs of the '60s and '70s, but are now rendered in crisp LED strips. A high-mounted, horizontal brake light with LED illumination crosses the top. But the dominant feature of the Escalade's tail is the enormous badge set within a chunky block of chrome trim.

A surprisingly low bumper height both reduces the trucky look while providing easier access to the cargo area; from the ground to the cargo floor is a respectable 32.3 inches. The standard Class III tow hitch is covered by a trim panel that is removable when not need, and which easily can be refitted once a trailer is detached. Interior
The Escalade's interior was designed to provide luxury both in terms of space as well as features. Escalade comes standard with seven-passenger seating, with second-row bucket seats separated by a center console, with a three-passenger, third-row bench behind it. A second-row bench seat is available as a no-cost option. The third-row bench on the standard Escalade has marginal legroom, making it suitable for adults for short trips only; kids should be fine for longer trips.

Escalade ESV adds nearly 10 inches of additional legroom for the third row, making it a pleasant place even for six-footers. Also, getting into the third row is easier with ESV, its longer rear door providing a larger opening when the second-row seat is folded. The EXT pickup is only available with a three-across bench seat in the second row.

Though step-in is somewhat high, which is to be expected for a full-size SUV, the driving position is stellar. Escalade's streamlined, low dashboard is much more like a car-like than expected, providing easy access to controls without resorting to an imposing bank of buttons and switches. The result is a feeling of openness, with excellent outward vision to the front and side.

Interior trim is very high in quality. The mix of soft, padded materials, genuine aluminum trim, chrome details and relatively convincing faux wood trim combine with soft leather seats for an ambience on par with other luxury-brand SUVs in this price range. Two color schemes are offered: all black or cocoa-over-cashmere.

The Escalade's white-on-black, backlit gauges are clear and bright, featuring an information display that cycles through several menus via buttons on the steering wheel. The stalk controls for the turn signals and wipers have the supple, expensive feel worthy of the Cadillac name, as do the buttons and knobs on the radio and climate controls.

Escalade comes standard with a 10-speaker (eight-speaker on EXT) stereo that features a six-disc changer that plays both CDs and audio DVDs. Bose designed the speaker system, outfitting the vehicle with 5.1 surround sound, an eight-channel amplifier and a subwoofer. XM radio comes standard.

On vehicles without the navigation system, the head unit presents audio information clearly. On vehicles with the navigation system, which itself is about mid-pack in terms of clarity and simplicity within its competitive set, the radio features are incorporated into the touch screen-based interface. The latter takes a bit of familiarization to operate smoothly, but offers more functionality and fine-tuning capability once you're comfortable with it all. OnStar route guidance is also included, for those times when getting directions from a live person is preferred.

A rear-seat entertainment system is available, utilizing a flip-down 8-inch screen that folds down from overhead. The DVD driver itself is mounted in front, but does not play the movie in the front seats. Rear seat passengers can listen to the audio portion of their DVDs via all 10 speakers in the vehicle, only the rear speakers, or infrared wireless headsets.

The front bucket seats are quite nice: comfortable and supportive with power adjustment in many directions. Narrow-framed drivers may find the seats a touch wide, but all drivers should find plenty of elbow and shoulder room. Leather upholstery is standard on all models, which also covers the four-spoke steering wheel with redundant controls for the audio system and cruise control. The Escalade's huge cabin benefits from triple-zone automatic climate controls: one zone for each front passenger and another tending to the rear-seating area.

In back, full-size adults can enjoy plenty of space in the second-row buckets. We weren't able to test any models with the second-row bench, but have experienced adequate room for three adults in the bench seats on Escalade's sister vehicles, the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon. Escalade and ESV come with standard with heated front and second-row seats while EXT gets heated front seats only.

Interior storage space is abundant. The glove box is large, and the space under the armrest of the multi-level center console is absolutely huge. Additional storage is found in pockets in the doors. The Escalade has four 12-volt power points, including one near the tailgate (EXT gets just three) as well as cupholders galore.

Cargo space behind the 50/50 split third row is on par with other luxury SUVs with three rows of seats; in other words, hauling anything but groceries will likely require at least half of the third-row seat to be folded. And while some competitors have power third-row seats that fold into the floor, the Escalade's seats can be removed altogether, giving it an edge in overall space over any other luxury SUV once they're out. Fortunately, removing the seats is not difficult at all, and carrying them is facilitated by a handle (although they are somewhat bulky and heavy once removed).

Loading cargo into the Escalade isn't as bad as one might expect, thanks to its 32-inch liftover height and wide tailgate with separate opening glass. A power liftgate is standard on Escalade and ESV. Numerous tie-down hooks make securing cargo simple. Driving Impressions
On the road, the nimbleness of the Cadillac Escalade is a pleasant surprise. The steering is light and reasonably precise, a nice compromise between the weight of the BMW X5 or Audi Q7 and the vagueness of the Lincoln Navigator. In spite of having a live-axle suspension (as opposed to an independent suspension design, as found on some of the newest SUVs), the Escalade manages bumps beautifully, thanks to the road-sensing Autoride suspension.

The interior is also remarkably quiet, enhancing the ability to hold hushed conversation as well as hear the surround sound system without extraneous noise. Even more remarkable is the plush ride. The Escalade models we've driven were shod with the optional 22-inch wheels and low-profile tires, and we'd expected them to transfer more road vibration and harshness than they did. We haven't driven any of these vehicles with the 18-inch wheels, but expect them to offer even softer ride characteristics. Handling crispness and body control are also impressive, considering the Escalade's formidable mass.

All Escalades are powered by a monster of an engine: a huge 6.2-liter V8 that produces a whopping 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration is astonishing for such a tall, heavy vehicle. A pleasing growl is emitted when accelerating briskly; otherwise, the engine is virtually silent.

Certainly, there is plenty of power to pull a trailer with ease. The Escalade is rated to tow a 7500-pound trailer, a rating that is curiously lower than that of the Infiniti QX56 and Lincoln Navigator in spite of Escalade's significantly more powerful engine. Then again, tow ratings are not an exact science. Installing a trailer is made easier by the Escalade's rearview camera, which incorporates a camera in the liftgate to provide a view behind the vehicle when backing up projected onto the navigation screen. It's a very useful feature when parallel parking or whenever backing up close to another object.

All Escalades come with a six-speed automatic transmission that shifts imperceptibly except during full-throttle acceleration. A Tow/Haul mode holds gears longer, or the driver can select gears manually via a button on the shift lever. The multi-information display in the instrument cluster clearly displays the selected gear.

The Escalade comes with either rear-wheel drive or full-time all-wheel drive; EXT and ESV come only with AWD. The all-wheel drive system is on-road biased, with no low range for creeping through boulder fields.

As indicated, the Escalade's four-wheel disc brakes come standard with ABS and electronic brake force distribution (EBD). The powerful brakes proved to be quite responsive and more than up to the task of bringing the big truck to a halt with little drama and surprisingly little brake dive. The pedal feel was good, if not as pleasingly firm as its German competitors.

The Stabilitrak electronic stability control system manages wheel slip by applying the brakes at the slipping wheel without interrupting power deliver to the wheels with grip. Stabilitrak also helps maintain stability in corners by braking individual wheels when the vehicle's path doesn't match the driver's intentions.

Fuel economy for the Escalade is estimated at 13 miles per gallon city and 19 highway, which isn't exactly miserly but not as bad as it could be, considering the power and weight of the vehicle. And it's right in line with competitors such as the Infiniti QX56 (13/18 mpg) and the Mercedes-Benz ML500 (15/19 mpg). Summary
The all-new 2007 Cadillac Escalade is an impressive vehicle in more ways than looks. It drives like a much smaller vehicle while accommodating corn-fed adults in unbridled luxury. It offers the segment's most powerful V8, which will make it a great vehicle for drivers who tow or simply like the feeling of strong acceleration. As long as one has enough space in their driveway or garage for this big truck, and can afford its thirst for gasoline, we expect the new Escalade will make many drivers very comfortable and happy for the long haul.

New Car Test Drive contributor Steve Siler filed this report from San Diego, California.

Model as tested
Cadillac Escalade AWD ($56,405)
Basic Warranty
4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in
Arlington, Texas (Escalade); Silao, Mexico (ESV, EXT)
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
Climate Package ($625) includes heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats; Information Package ($625) includes IntelliBeam automatic headlights, navigation system, rearview camera system; rear entertainment system ($1,295); engine block heater ($50); power folding second-row bucket seats ($425); power sunroof ($995); 22-inch wheels ($2,995)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Cadillac Escalade 2WD ($53,850); Escalade AWD ($56,405); Escalade ESV ($57,935) and Escalade EXT ($52,815)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual front air bags, three-row side curtain air bags, three-position seat belts in all seating positions (with pretensioners and load-limiters on front seats), anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, Stabilitrak stability control with rollover mitigation, tire pressure monitors
Safety equipment (optional)
6.2-liter ohv 16-valve V8
6-speed automatic with manual shift control

Specifications as Tested
leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel with genuine wood trim, aluminum and faux wood interior trim, power windows, power locks, fog lamps, Bose 5.1 Digital Surround Sound audio system with AM/FM/6CD/SAT, power adjustable pedals, remote vehicle starting, rear climate control, six-passenger seating configuration, third-row bench seat, heated first and second row seats, XM Radio, Ultrasonic rear park assist and heated windshield washer fluid

Engine & Transmission
6.2-liter ohv 16-valve V8
Drivetrain type
all-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
403 @ 5700
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc with ABS, EBD, Brake Assist
Suspension, front
independent, upper and lower control arms, torsion bars, anti-roll bar, computer-controlled shock absorbers
Suspension, rear
live axle, upper and lower trailing links, coil springs, anti-roll bar, computer-controlled shock absorbers

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

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