If you think bigger is better than the 2015 Cadillac Escalade is for made you. As for me, I’m not so sure.
Let me start by saying that big doesn’t bother me. For years our family vehicle of choice was a Chevy Suburban. It’s not the size of the Escalade that bothers me, it’s the technology.
More on that in a moment, for now let’s talk about the thing all your friends will notice. The grille. I have to give the Cadillac designers credit. They didn’t try to soften the styling to make the front end look less imposing. In fact, they went the other way. Three horizontal bars across the grille make the Escalade look like the younger, and more handsome sibling of a Freightliner semi-truck. New LED headlights flank the grill on either side and just makes the front even more imposing. Personally, I like it. It’s basically the same size as a Chevrolet Tahoe, but it just seems so much bigger.
The rest of the styling is pretty basic. While everyone else these days seems to be going curvy, Cadillac is sticking with angles and smooth sides. Not bad, just nothing particularly special from a styling perspective. This is the fourth generation of the Escalade and the styling refinements definitely make a difference.
Under the hood is a new 6.2 liter V8 with direct injection, variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation. According to Cadillac, it’s about 17 percent more efficient on the highway. That’s how it manages 14 MPG in the city and 21 MPG on the open road. But then you’re not buying the Escalade for the mileage. You’re buying it because that big V8 puts out 420 HP so the massive beast can get up and go. To be totally honest, I found it a bit tricky to feed the power from a dead stop. It’s like the car wanted a clear direction and I wasn’t giving enough information to the throttle. Very possibly user error, but it took some getting used to. My test car was also a four-wheel drive. Not critical for a town like Phoenix, but definitely worth it for cities where a nearly three-ton vehicle could start sliding.
Inside, the Escalade has plenty of luxury, and lots of room. Leather, chrome and wood looks great when it has such a large area to cover. I took some co-workers to lunch and one of them commented that they felt like a world leader riding in the center-row captains chairs knowing that everyone was looking as we drove by. If you need to haul tall people in style, the Escalade is definitely your choice. One thing you won’t lack are power outlets. USB, 12 volt and AC, there are plenty of them tucked into the Escalade. My test car also had a Driver Awareness Package includes Safety Alert Seat, Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning.
OK, time to talk technology. Cadillac spends a lot of time bragging about its Cadillac User Experience or CUE. Yes, it has seemingly endless gadget abilities. It just doesn’t seem to work that smoothly. The touch screen requires more pressure than I kept expecting. The buttons underneath required more pressure as well. I would imagine that the more you live with the CUE, the more you’ll adapt. I just didn’t connect right away. It also seemed less intuitive than some I’ve tested. I know Cadillac is trying to cram a lot into the system, but I found myself wanting less. As for the navigation system, it was just OK.
I did like the way you could change the instrument display for the driver. It has a 12.3-inch high-resolution driver information display that you can customize to your taste. The only negative was that I found it wasn’t bright enough. When I was driving around in the bright Phoenix sun with sunglasses on, I actually found it slightly hard to read. I searched, but couldn’t find any way to adjust the brightness (although you can adjust it while the lights are on to dim the display at night). The heads up display was also a little dim in daylight, but it worked well. It has several options for what you might want to see. One that didn’t impress me at first, but I grew to like was a setting that showed the radio station. That way you don’t have to look away from the road to see what is playing. Another option showed the speed limit. One other nice thing on the Cadillac is its Intellibeam headlights (I just love the name, sounds right out of the 50s). They automatically flicked on the brights when no one was coming and off when a car approached. It worked perfectly every time.
On the road it uses electric power steering and magnetic ride control to smooth out the bumps. Having said that, it’s still a truck at heart and doesn’t have a ride that you’ll call silky smooth. I had the chance to jump directly from the Escalade into an Acura MDX and there was a huge difference. The MDX is on a car chassis that is designed to give a better ride. With my years of Suburban experience I liked the way the Escalade rode, just don’t expect too much.
Base price for the 2015 Cadillac Escalade with four-wheel drive is $78,295. My car had no additional options so the delivered price was $79,290. You get a lot of car for that money, and a lot of technology. My recommendation is that you take a nice long test drive to make sure that you like its quirks. If you do, then bigger will be better.