2015 Cadillac Escalade First Drive

The 2015 Cadillac Escalade modernizes Caddy's most recognized nameplate.

What It Is
The Escalade is a luxury full-size SUV with three-row seating, and an extended version for even more room.
Best Thing
A beautifully crafted interior makes the Escalade modern and fresh.
Worst Thing
Like other full-size SUVs, the Escalade's fuel economy is nothing to write home about.
Snap Judgment
The 2015 Cadillac Escalade has been modernized, and is more luxurious than ever. If you're looking for a full-size luxury SUV, the Escalade is a must consider.


The 2015 Cadillac Escalade has been redone, and looks to recapture the allure it has long held. It's been quite a few years now that Cadillac had ditched the bingo halls for board rooms, and starting it all was the Cadillac Escalade SUV. Most recently, the newest wave was spurred by the Cadillac XTS, ATS, and most recently the CTS. As you can tell, the luxe American automaker has also adopted new three-letter nomenclature for its lineup, save for the Escalade because the name is so widely recognized. For many years Caddy's full-size SUV was in a two-dog race with the Lincoln Navigator, but in recent years, the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class has won over families looking for more luxury and utility. Add to that a good offering in the Infiniti QX70 and QX80, and even in the smaller Audi Q7, and you can see how the segment has gotten crowded. But Caddy execs will be the first to admit the current generation--in the eighth year of its cycle--has grown tired.

The remedy? Give it the same polish, technology, and attention to detail that has made the latest crop of Cadillacs world-class. It doesn't hurt that Caddy made its 6.2-liter V-8--paired to a six-speed automatic transmission--more powerful, now boasting 420 hp, an increase of 17 horses. Full-LED lights also come standard, while on the Mercedes GL-Class, you have the all-LED headlights as an option. The interior has been reworked to include richer materials, the latest CUE infotainment system, and new safety tech and options such as a 9-inch rear media screen, which is sure to be a hit on road trips

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The ride is smoother than ever with Cadillac's standard Magnetic Ride Control, and the sales guys will have an easy time with only three trims on offer. The "collections" as Caddy calls them, begin with the entry-level Escalade starting at $72,690, which boasts 20-inch wheels and standard LEDs front and back. The Luxury Collection ups the starting price to $76,690, and adds 22-inch wheels, a sunroof, a color head-up display (HUD), a driver awareness safety package, and a security package meant to prevent theft. The Escalade is routinely one of the most stolen and broken into vehicles in America, and Cadillac is hoping new features--like a SlimJim blocker and intrusion sensor--will help deter would-be thieves. The Premium Collection is the top model, and starting at $81,190, adds a driver assist package among other features. 4WD is an option on every trim.

Walkaround

The 2015 Cadillac Escalade is instantly recognizable, but it will take more than a casual glance to tell this isn't the 2014 model. Admittedly, there's only so much you can do to a vehicle with the dimensions and space requirements of a full-size SUV; But the prominent shield grille, LED headlights, and vertical LED taillights are all familiar, attractive Cadillac cues. There's no shortage of presence, and the exactness of the sharp lines is in direct contrast to the competition from Infiniti and Lincoln, which are rounder and more bulbous.

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Sitting Down

Where Caddy's full size SUV really earns its keep is on the inside. Using the "Cut and Sew" mantra, the American luxury automaker is attempting to communicate the level of care that has gone into crafting the interior. And within seconds, you notice just how rich the materials are. Authentic wood, high-quality leather, real metal and piano-black accents all elevate the cabin for the fourth-gen Escalade. Engineers focused on noise as well, and say the cabin is much quieter, thanks in part to Bose Active Noise Cancellation, but also new acoustic materials. The seats are comfy, front passengers get heat and cooling options standard, and rear passengers can watch Blue-Ray DVDs on a nine-inch screen in the rear. The third row appears to have enough room to shuttle a couple friends, but if you have to have taller adults in the last row regularly, you may want to think about the extended Cadillac Escalade ESV.

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Driving

For a vehicle as large as the 2015 Escalade, you'll be surprised at how nimble it is. Its 420 horses deliver strong performance, unless you're getting pricier versions of the Mercedes GL-Class, though even the GL450 edges the Cadillac in sportiness. But if it's a smooth, quiet ride you're after, the Escalade doesn't disappoint. It even boasts an impressive 0-60 mph time, at a hair under 6.0 seconds. The Magnetic Ride Control absorbs road imperfections beautifully, and the 2015 Escalade's architecture has been developed to impart a feeling of solidity. Power is delivered evenly and as needed, despite employing a six-speed automatic transmission, whereas the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class and Infiniti QX feature seven-speed transmissions.

While the current six-speed auto transmission is capable, it's likely that GM will roll out a newer one soon, possibly for the next model year. And with the delivery of all that power, you'll want ample braking power. The brakes confidently bring the more than 5,000 pound Escalade to an abrupt stop, and the available automatic front braking that comes as part of the driver assist package can further help mitigate the effects and severity of an accident.

Summary

After eight long years, the 2015 Cadillac Escalade has received the automaker's full complement of polish and technology, easily making this the best, most advanced Escalade yet. The interior has been designed to impress, with beautiful authentic wood options, real metal, and fine leather. The fit and finish and overall feeling of quality and luxury once again renew the Escalade nameplate. The 6.2-liter V-8 has been tuned to offer more power at 420 horsepower, and new engine tech such as cylinder deactivation to ensure that fuel economy is now what you would expect from a vehicle this large. If you're shopping the full-size SUV market, the Escalade is once again a must-consider.

Basic Specs

6.2-liter V-8 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive, 4WD available, 420-hp, starts $72,690, $83,790 as tested, 15 mpg city/21 mpg hwy

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