With a number of racers on staff always looking for a competent and comfortable tow rig and multitudes of road trips to be taken around the country, the SUVs in our long-term fleet tend to be as popular as Shania Twain in a bowling-alley karaoke lounge. We knew we had to spend some time with one of GM's new GMT900 full-size trucks and naturally selected the most powerful and flashy of them all, the cushy Cadillac Escalade.
We went full glut on the options sheet and ended up with middle-row buckets to match the fronts, a rear-seat DVD player, navigation, XM radio, a backup camera—and a sticker over $60,000. Decked out in Tuxedo Black with a light-tan leather interior—Cashmere, in Cadillac-speak—our Escalade is a formal beast.
Big on the Outside, but Less So on the Inside
Right away, logbook pages began to fill with complaints about space in the Brobdingnagian ute. Even in the front seats, our tallest staffers complained that the sunroof cut into their headroom. Meanwhile, those in the second row had to eat their knees, and we removed the third-row seats entirely—no small task in the Escalade.
Whereas almost every competitor in this segment offers flat-folding third-row seats, those in the Escalade (and in all GMT900 SUVs) fold down into two huge lumps that have to be taken out of the truck to maximize cargo space. They weigh enough that their removal is a job for strong backs only. But intact they offer so little passenger room—the same as in the much smaller Hyundai Santa Fe—and folded they leave such pathetic cargo space (just 17 cubic feet) that they had to go. Removing the third row leaves us a four-seater with plenty of cargo space—a popular long-hauler, but we really think we should be able to bring more friends.
Bring Gas Money. If You Want to Tow a Trailer, Bring a Bank. Maybe Two.
When that long haul involves a trailer, however, most complaints fade away; most complaints, that is, except for fuel economy. If we were paying for the gas in this gourmand, we'd be grinding our way through our fourth or fifth set of dentures right now. At 20,000 miles, we are averaging 9 mpg, a number hindered by the amount of towing we've asked our Escalade to do. During these stints, we've seen fuel-economy numbers as low as 5 mpg, with a few dips down to 4 mpg. At $3.80 for a gallon of premium, that's frighteningly close to a buck a mile.
The Escalade gets such poor fuel economy with a trailer behind it for the same reasons it performs so well at the same task. In tow-and-haul mode, the six-speed automatic delays upshifts to make the most of the power band and downshifts early to maximize engine braking. Although it guzzles fuel, the 6.2-liter V-8's 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque feel as if they could tug a welterweight Caterham or two on top of the Slade's 7700-pound tow rating. And the rearview camera negates the need for a spotter when backing up to a trailer, even at night.
Not Exactly Agile, but Pretty, and Pretty Good for a Lineman
The Escalade also seduces us with its siren-song exhaust note. It sounds like an idling offshore powerboat and whoops under full throttle like a muted Saturday-night dirt-tracker, yet the clamor fades to a distant murmur on the highway. When unencumbered by additional weight on the hitch, the Escalade moves surprisingly quickly--0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds--for a vehicle as big as it is, and that goes for lateral moves as well--0.74 g on the skidpad. One of the highlights of GM's current big trucks is their nimble--for their size--handling. Our Escalade benefits aesthetically from the optional 22-inch, seven-spoke chrome wheels, but they make for a harsher ride than that of other trucks on this chassis. The Escalade's ride is responsive and still tolerable.
Those wheels, along with the jumbo grille and the chrome trim on the fake fender vents, door handles, and mirrors, give the Escalade the sort of new-money curb appeal that would be greeted by huffs, scoffs, and turned backs at the finest garden parties but by envious stares from the masses.
Ultimately, it's going to be that social-climbing draw and its abilities as an upscale tow rig that keep the Escalade moving off Cadillac lots, because with its appetite for fuel and paltry interior space, it's not a vehicle anyone will buy as an engineering triumph.
Watch for our final, 40,000-mile verdict later this year.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 6-passenger, 5-door wagon
PRICE AS TESTED: $66,630 (base price: $58,125)
ENGINE TYPE: pushrod 16-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 376 cu in, 6162cc
Power (SAE net): 403 bhp @ 5700 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 417 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manumatic shifting
Wheelbase: 116.0 in Length: 202.5 in Width: 79.0 in Height: 74.3 in
Curb weight: 5676 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 6.5 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 17.8 sec
Street start, 5-60 mph: 6.7 sec
Standing ÃÂ¼-mile: 15.2 sec @ 94 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 107 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph: 200 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.74 g
EPA city/highway driving: 13/19 mpg
C/D-observed: 9 mpg
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2007 Cadillac Escalade review: 2007 Cadillac Escalade
In addition to its cosmetic overhaul, the Escalade rides on a new platform (the GMT 900, also found on Tahoe/Yukon models), which features standard stability control. While not as advanced as some of its overseas competitors, our all-wheel-drive Escalade rode and drove competently, considering its size.
The list of tech features and options is pretty comprehensive, as expected at this price level. The Escalade's touch-screen navigation and rear-seat entertainment systems are among the best we've tested, both in appearance and functionality. Other nice extras include a heated steering wheel and seats ($625), a large sunroof ($995), and the must-have jumbo chromed aluminum rims, our Escalade's most expensive option at $2,995. Excessive they most certainly are, but they fill up the wheel wells properly, and even on very low-profile tires--the aspect ratio of 45 is especially low for an SUV--the ride is never harsh.
The AWD Escalade has a base price of $56,405. Our nicely appointed version carried a hefty $8,830 in options, bringing the total sticker price to $66,110, including an $875 destination charge.
Buyers of the 2007 Cadillac Escalade are spending big to make a statement, and GM is relying on them to continue doing so. The bold exterior strikes the right note, and the interior is similarly successful, albeit more conventional in nature. The interior of the Escalade is enormous, with all three rows providing enough space for adult passengers to ride in comfort. Our cabin had the Ebony color scheme rather than the lighter Cocoa/Cashmere, and we liked the effect. The cabin's wood and brushed-aluminum accents produce an understated oasis inside the bling fortress, and the dark leather and carpets add to the convincingly classy interior.
Dark leather and wood accents bring refinement to the Escalade's cavernous interior.
The electronics are installed cleanly, and the main touch screen is within easy reach of either the driver or the passenger. A gripe with the dashboard layout is that the screen could be higher to take better advantage of the new Escalade's improved front visibility and lower dash. An ugly, barely readable analog clock instead takes pride of place, pushing everything else down.
The touch screen tilts vertically through four positions, allowing good viewing angles for differing passenger heights. Resolution is excellent, and onscreen buttons and fonts are crisply rounded--a step up from the simple blocks of the Honda/Acura system that we like so much. Touch sensitivity also seemed better than with the Honda's screen, requiring fewer second tries for missed letters when entering destinations. A simple tab-style menu across the top of the screen allows access to the relevant main menus (navigation, audio, information), and moving between full- and split-screen displays is intuitive.
The navigation system is part of the information package ($2,495), which also includes a very helpful rearview camera and Intellibeam auto high-beam control of the standard high-intensity discharge headlights. Our Escalade also came with the rear-seat entertainment system, a $1,295 option. The integration between the two was better than with other systems we've seen, with front-seat control possible but full rear-source separation also simple to set up.
The Escalade's touch-screen navigation is intuitive and renders maps with excellent resolution.
The rear-seat system comes with two sets of two-channel wireless headphones, either of which can listen to the front or rear source (but which don't work in the front seats), and a dedicated remote to control what's playing on the 8-inch, 16:9 tilt-down screen. Both screens also display track information from CDs playing from the main six-CD/DVD changer in the dash, but only the front shows full XM info.
Sound is full, with rich bass and good separation, thanks to the 10-speaker Bose 5.1 Dolby digital surround system. Center-point signal processing and eight-channel digital equalization allow extensive audio customization via the main screen, including simulated surround for stereo sources.
The lack of Bluetooth phone integration is a major issue that Cadillac should remedy for the next model year if not before. The standard rear park-assist feature is effective, but the optional rearview camera display does not include distance or pathway markings. One-touch windows should be a standard on a vehicle in this class. The power rear tailgate and separate glass control are handy, as is the remote start feature on the key fob.
Other complaints with the interior center around adjustability: the steering wheel doesn't telescope at all, and the tilt adjustment isn't fluid but clicks to set positions. The adjustable pedal-cluster compensates somewhat, but shorter drivers need the wheel closer. For taller drivers, the lack of a dead pedal is another oversight.
Finally, the voice-recognition feature works well enough but is limited to about 40 known commands, none of which are for entering navigation destinations. Addresses entered with the screen can then be assigned voice keywords for later retrieval, but this is much less useful than the level of voice control allowed by other nav systems such as Honda's.
Any production engine churning out more than 400 horsepower is impressive, but the 2007 Cadillac Escalade takes a slight hit in our tech-skewed performance rating. Still using pushrods (although under another name) rather than overhead camshafts and relying on displacement over efficiency, the 6.2-liter engine in the Escalade is a step behind the V-8 engines in full-size Japanese SUVs such as the Infiniti QX56 in terms of modern design.
The engine, in a somewhat dubious industry first, use a variable valve-timing system on its overhead valves rather than on overhead cams, but this ultimately seems like more trouble than it's worth. In any case, it varies the intake and exhaust timing in only a constant ratio, as opposed to other variable valve-timed engines, which allow the different valves to adjust independently; this limits the engine's ability to adjust to different load demands and, thereby, to improve either its performance or its fuel economy. From a fuel-conservation standpoint, the Escalade would certainly benefit from the "displacement on demand" cylinder-deactivation technology available on other GM vehicles, but this feature is strangely absent.
GM has favored displacement over efficiency with the Escalade's 6.2-liter engine.
All that said, with the tank full and the pedal down, the Escalade accelerates smartly with a tall first gear and cruises at very low RPM levels, thanks to the six-speed automatic's two overdrive cogs. Compared to some sleeker-looking SUVs, the Escalade has a surprisingly low coefficient of drag (0.36). Still, only on the freeway does fuel "economy" break into double-digit miles per gallon. Our car's trip computer, which thankfully included an estimated range calculation, reported between 9mpg and 10mpg in mixed city and urban-highway driving. These figures would quickly become expensive and don't match the EPA estimates of 13mpg in the city and 19mpg on the highway.
The transmission offers a manual gear selection mode, which amounts to a cutoff of the upper gears and which is out of place in this vehicle. More useful is the tow/haul mode, which alters shift patterns based on the extra weight of a trailer.
Ride and handling are enhanced by automatic rear level control and a semi-active version of active ride control that Cadillac calls Road Sensing System. This is essentially electronic suspension damping--in this case, a simple solution that works. The Escalade is by no means a spirited handler, but body roll is minimal, and even with the dubs, rough pavement is taken in stride.
From a safety standpoint, the 2007 Cadillac Escalade lives and dies with its height and girth. Frontal crash-test ratings from the NHTSA are five stars for both the driver and passenger, but the AWD Escalade gets only three stars for rollover protection. It is not yet rated for side impacts, according to the NHTSA Web site. The standard Stabilitrak stability control system includes special programming for rollover mitigation as part of its interaction with the four ABS brake sensors.
Air bag coverage is full, with dual-stage bags for the driver and front passenger (with occupant sensor) and roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for all three seating rows.
Rain-sensing windshield wipers are standard, although dry weather during our week with the Escalade precluded us from trying them out. The aforementioned park-assist and rearview monitor lack path markings but offer useful visual cues. You'll find location warnings on the screen and distance-indicating lights on the inside of the D-pillar, for visibility within the driver's line of sight while looking backward.
Despite its lack of visual cues, the backup camera is a useful safety feature for a car this size.
A tire-pressure monitor is standard, as is OnStar, which includes a one-year subscription to the service's Directions and Connections program.
The 2007 Escalade is covered by a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty. Corrosion protection extends to six years or 100,000 miles.
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2007 Cadillac Escalade AWD 4dr Features and Specs
Seats, front bucket with leather seating surfaces, driver and front passenger 14-way power seat adjusters, 4-way power lumbar control, independently heated driver and front passenger seat cushions and seatbacks (3 settings), 2-position driver memory, articulating outboard head restraints and fold-down inboard armrests
Seats, second row bucket with leather seating surfaces, reclining with heated seat cushions (3 settings) and fold-down armrests
Seats, third row 50/50 split-bench with leather-appointed seating, 3-passenger, can be folded, tumbled forward or totally removed, lightweight
Console, floor, with damped-door storage covers, large storage bin, analog clock, dual cup holders, rear seat audio and electronic climate controls and second row heated seat controls
Console, overhead deluxe, with reading lights and (UG1) Universal Home Remote (Includes sunroof controls when (CF5) power sunroof is ordered.)
Floor covering, color-keyed carpeting
Floor mats, color-keyed carpeted first and second row with cargo area mat
Steering wheel, color-keyed with wood and leather-wrapped rim
Steering wheel controls, mounted audio and Driver Information Center controls
Instrumentation, analog with speedometer, odometer, fuel level, engine temperature and tachometer
Driver Information Center, with programmable personalization features such as door locking and unlocking, a trip computer that contains trip odometer and individual tire pressure readouts, fuel information such as range, average mpg, gallons used and oil life and a message center that displays dozens of system messages such as low fuel, door ajar, security, seat belt reminder, low coolant and oil pressure low
Tire Pressure Monitor (does not apply to spare tire)
Windows, power with driver and front passenger Express-Down and lockout features
Door locks, power programmable with lockout protection and power lock for liftgate
Tow/haul mode selector, button located at end of shift lever
Cruise control, electronic with set and resume speed
Theft-deterrent system, vehicle, PASS-Key III+
Remote Keyless Entry, with 2 transmitters, panic button and content theft alarm
Remote vehicle start
Rear Parking Assist, Ultrasonic with rearview LED display, audible warning and instrument panel-mounted shutoff switch
OnStar, 1-year of Directions and Connections plan. Includes Automatic Notification of Air Bag Deployment, Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance, Emergency Services, Roadside Assistance, Remote Door Unlock, OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics, Hands-Free Calling, AccidentAssist, Remote Horn and Lights, Information and Convenience Services and Driving Directions. (OnStar services require vehicle electrical system (including battery), wireless service and GPS satellite signals to be available and operating for features to function properly. OnStar acts as a link to existing emergency service providers. OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics available on most 2004 MY and newer GM vehicles. Diagnostic capability varies by model. Visit onstar.com for system limitations and details.)
Universal Home Remote, includes garage door opener, 3-channel programmable
Climate control, tri-zone automatic with individual climate settings for driver, right-front passenger and rear passengers
Climate control, rear air conditioning
Climate control, rear heat
Defogger, rear-window electric
Audio system, AM/FM/XM stereo with CD/DVD/MP3 player, seek-and-scan, digital clock, auto-tone control, Radio Data System (RDS), Digital Signal Processing and 2 slots, top slot for DVD audio/video and CD audio, bottom slot for 6-disc CD changer and MP3 player
Audio system feature, Bose 5.1 Studio Surround Sound system with 10 speakers
Audio system controls, rear with 2 headphone jacks (headphones not included) and controls for volume, station selection and media
XM Satellite Radio. With a wide variety of programming, XM has something to excite any driver. Whether you want to be entertained or informed, to laugh, think, or sing, XM has the perfect channel for you - coast-to-coast, and in digital-quality sound. 3 trial months - no obligation. (Available in the 48 contiguous United States. Required $12.95 monthly subscription sold separately. All fees and programming subject to change. Subscription subject to customer agreement. For more information, visit gm.xmradio.com.)
Cup holders, quad front, dual second row and single third row
Mirror, inside rearview auto-dimming with 8-point compass and outside temperature display
Visors, driver and front passenger illuminated vanity mirrors with extenders
Lighting, interior courtesy with theater dimming
Pedals, power-adjustable for accelerator and brake
Cargo shade, rear
Escalade Sport Package
Includes body color grille, 22" wheels and tires and stainless steel exhaust tip,
2nd Row Bench Seat
Includes 2nd row 40/20/40 split-folding bench seat with outboard heated seat cushions and center armrest.
Power Glass Sunroof
Includes power tilt and sliding glass sunroof with express-open and wind deflector.
22" Chrome Aluminum Wheels
Includes 22" x 9" 7-spoke chromed aluminum wheels and P285/45R22 all-season tires.
Includes heated and cooled front seats and heated steering wheel.
Includes AM/FM radio with 6-disc CD/DVD/MP3 changer, XM satellite radio, full featured touch screen DVD-integrated navigation system, seek-and-scan, digital clock, auto-tone control, Radio Data System (RDS), Digital Signal Processing, voice recognition microphone, Points of Interest, rearview camera system and IntelliBeam headlamps.
Rear Seat Entertainment
Includes in-dash DVD player with remote control, overhead 8" display, 2 (2-channel) wireless infrared headphones, auxiliary audio/video jacks on rear of center console. sound compression, CD-R and CD-RW capability. LED back lighting display and MP3 capability.
Cadillac escalade 2007
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