For 2007, the Cadillac Escalade gets its second redesign since the model debuted in 1999 with an ungainly flat face and styling barely distinguishable from that of the GMC Yukon Denali. Now fully embracing its role as an unabashed symbol of excess, the Escalade wears a distinctive headlight and grille arrangement and offers 22-inch wheels as a factory option.
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.
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 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.