Cadillac can be credited with helping make the luxury SUV a thing back in late 1990s when it created the Escalade out of a workaday Chevy Tahoe. Everyone from haughty horse owners to rap stars rejoiced. Thing is, a bouncy, trucky Tahoe always lurked not to far beneath the Escalade’s shiny, chrome-drenched surface. And with competitive lux-u-vees like the Range Rover, BMW X5, and Volvo XC90 getting nicer and nicer these days, the redesigned-for-2015 Escalade really had to, as the kids say, bring it this time.
Well, consider it brung. The 2015 Cadillac Escalade is the real deal—a Ca-dil-lac!—with everything a Cadillac needs to earn the Technicolor crest on its gleaming grille. This starts, of course, with luxury. My Platinum-grade tester ($92,945 base price) arrived with a cabin full of spoils, from Cadillac’s softest leather to gorgeous open-pore wood, with a beverage cooler between the front seats and three entertainment screens in back. Craftsmanship is outstanding, and the ‘Slade features countless lovely design touches like stitched leather dash top and classy electronic gauges. I piled four guys into the thing for a weekend trip and exactly no one complained about a thing, which, if you knew these bitches, is quite remarkable. The only thing I’d change are the capacitive touch controls for the stereo and climate systems, which can be a bit fussy.
And being a Cadillac, it has gobs of power. A burly V-8 with 420 horsepower gives a massive shove when you go hard on the rightmost pedal, and the brakes are just as strong if you dip into the throttle a little too deep. Got a boat? It can tug more than four tons. Handling is quite mannerly for such a hulking (if well dressed) beast, with steering that actually feels alive and crisp feedback in the ride. At no point does the ride feel brittle—remember, this is a truck—even with the adjustable suspension in the firmer “Touring” mode. Indeed, if you regularly play chauffeur to your friends and you can’t afford a Rolls-Royce Phantom, you can’t do much better than this.
And of course, it looks the part. As a proper Cadillac, it’s not enough for the Escalade to be huge, it must also sport the biggest grille, feature the most extreme vertical LED head- and taillights—modern day tailfins!—and roll on the biggest, glitziest wheels of any SUV out there. Want to be subtle? Buy an Audi. But if you want to tell the world that you’ve arrived when you’ve arrived, here’s your sled.
2015 Cadillac Escalade
Base Price: $73,965
Power: 6.2-liter V-8 (420 hp, 460 lb-ft of torque)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Fuel Economy, city/hwy mpg (EPA est): 15/22
Or you could buy:
GMC Yukon Denali