Large families, NBA athletes, and reality TV stars have wanted the 2015 Cadillac Escalade for years. Now, with a newly redesigned model in showrooms, the Escalade is not only better looking on the outside, but it’s improved on the inside, too.
Is this massive SUV a smart choice for you? If you seek a big rig with luxury appointments and can budget at least $73,000 for your vehicle, I can easily find five reasons why the Escalade deserves a spot on your test-drive list.
Reason #1: Redesigned and Selling Well in 2015
The Escalade first appeared in 1999, essentially as a re-badged GMC Yukon Denali. An update in the early 2000s improved the look and made the Escalade more distinctive and the SUV remained a big seller through 2006 when the Escalade sold more than 39,000 units (55,000+ when you add the extended-wheelbase Escalade ESV to the mix — a huge number for such a large and expensive vehicle).
Sales numbers dropped steadily afterward and by the 2013 model year, Cadillac sold only a third as many Escalades.
GM debuted a new 2015 model in late 2013 and sales of the latest Escalade started in April 2014. Sales were brisk as buyers responded to the new design in droves, pushing the Escalade to nearly a 50-percent increase in sales in 2014.
What do buyers like so much? It’s a combination of things, including a blocky, impressive exterior and an improved interior in form and function. Put it all together, and it’s a combination that ensures the Escalade competes well against vehicles like the Lexus LX 570, Infiniti QX80, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class and even the GMC Yukon Denali.
Reason #2: Big and Even Bigger Versions
The Escalade seats seven if you choose the second-row captain’s chairs. If you have a huge family or loads of friends, you’ll want to choose the second-row bench that allows you to squeeze an eighth passenger in the center of the middle row. Though the third-row seats two passengers and the Escalade is large, that space is still best for young children since legroom isn’t exactly spacious.
If you need even more space, you’ll want to choose the 2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV that lengthens the vehicle by 14 inches and expands third-row legroom by 10 inches. That transforms that space into an adult-friendly zone. It also expands cargo space to 120 cubic feet, which you’ll need if you travel with eight passengers and all their assorted gear.
Importantly, the third row now folds flat to make storing suitcases, backpacks, musical instruments or boogie boards easier than ever before. In the old days, you had to physically remove the third-row seats to maximize space.
Think of the Escalade ESV as the Chevrolet Suburban version of this family vehicle and you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this big, luxurious rig.
Reason #3: Luxury Interior
Like the GMC Yukon I tested earlier this year for a weeklong road trip into Southeastern Utah, the Escalade is an excellent place to spend long hours as a driver or passenger. It all starts with the heated and cooled stitched leather seats in the front and heated in the second row. That makes July or January trips in hot and cold conditions equally inviting. Tri-zone climate controls are standard and allow everyone to find the right amount of heat or cool for their mood.
I quickly paired my iPhone to the Bluetooth system and streamed music that sounded fantastic thanks to the 16-speaker Bose surround sound system. Though my test vehicle didn’t include the rear-entertainment DVD center, it’s a valuable upgrade if you want to ensure miles of happy travelers, especially if you have young kids in the second and third rows.
An attractive mix of dark leather and light wood accents conveyed a luxury feel, which is exactly what you should expect in a vehicle that starts at $84,000 like my Escalade Premium model. Is it more luxurious than the Lexus LX 570 or Infiniti QX80? Not necessarily so. But it’s not less luxurious either. One difference is that the seats feel softer in the Lexus and Infiniti and decidedly firmer in the Escalade. No surprise there since firm seats are found across the Cadillac lineup.
Reason #4: Powerful V8 Engine Ensures You Move Quickly
The 2015 Cadillac Escalade offers a single powertrain: a 6.2-liter V8 that makes 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque and is mated to either a six-speed automatic on earlier 2015 models and an 8-speed unit on vehicles you’ll find in stores today. The six-speed auto was a dinosaur compared to the 8-speed units you’ll find in the Lexus LX 570 and Infiniti QX80, so it’s no surprise Cadillac offered this mid-year upgrade to ensure the Caddy remains competitive.
That V8 does get up and go and Cadillac estimates it motors from 0 to 60 in less than 6 seconds, which is awfully zippy for this nearly three-ton behemoth.
My four-wheel-drive test model was expected to return 15 mpg in city driving and 21 mpg on the highway for a combined 17 mpg. That’s not particularly good or bad and matches fuel-economy scores by many luxury sedans. I averaged 18 mpg during my week behind the wheel. Much of that driving was on the highway. By comparison, I averaged 15 mpg driving the Lexus LX 570 and a dismal 12 mpg in the Infiniti QX80 during my recent tests.
Reason #5: 2015 Cadillac Escalade is Quiet, Large and In Charge
Even if you drive a midsize SUV like a Chevy Traverse, Ford Explorer or Dodge Durango, the Escalade feels much larger. You’ll need a few days to get used to its oversized dimensions, especially if you choose the Escalade ESV. If you’re upgrading from a Chevy Suburban, you’ll feel right at home. If your last luxury SUV was the Lexus RX 350, give yourself some time to adjust.
Something else you’ll notice immediately is that the Escalade is quiet. Cadillac has done excellent work muting the sound through a combination of insulating materials, thick glass and noise-canceling technology.
Even though most SUVs have moved from truck-based to car-based platforms to improve and soften the ride, the Escalade remains firmly entrenched in its old-school truck roots. That means it handles and drives like a truck. A really nice truck. But the vehicle you’ll park in your garage (assuming it fits) is still a big, luxurious truck.
That means it can tow 8,100 pounds when properly equipped, which is good news if you’re planning to pull a big ski boat or large camper trailer. If you seek a soft, cushy ride, however, look elsewhere.
My test model also rode on 22-inch wheels. Though they look great, those larger wheels make the ride a touch rougher than, say, the standard 20-inchers. Then again, I’m not certain the Escalade would have the same level of swagger without those big wheels and ultra-bright aluminum rims.
Something else I liked: the power-retractable assist steps (think: running boards) that help you step up into this large and tall SUV. On a vehicle this tall I would consider them a must-add option for families that will add an extra $1,695 to the price.
Still a Luxury SUV Player
I’ve tested the Infiniti QX80, Lexus LX 570, GMC Yukon Denali and Cadillac Escalade over the last four months. Which one would I choose were it my money? Frankly, none of them since I don’t buy cars that can reach $90,000 if you overdose on the options menu.
After $4,295 in options and a $995 shipping and handling fee, my 2015 Cadillac Escalade Premium model topped $89,300. Hoo-boy, that’s expensive!
Let’s toss practicality aside for the time being. That’s no fun, after all.
If I regularly towed a boat, I would choose the Escalade or Yukon Denali. If I were shuttling lots of carpooling kids around town, I would choose the QX80. One thing is certain: if you show up in your neighborhood driving a black Escalade, people will notice, and, depending on your zip code, they’ll likely approve.