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2007 Cadillac Escalade review:

2007 Cadillac Escalade

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Finally, the voice-recognition feature works well enough but is limited to about 40 known commands, none of which are for entering navigation destinations. Addresses entered with the screen can then be assigned voice keywords for later retrieval, but this is much less useful than the level of voice control allowed by other nav systems such as Honda's.

Any production engine churning out more than 400 horsepower is impressive, but the 2007 Cadillac Escalade takes a slight hit in our tech-skewed performance rating. Still using pushrods (although under another name) rather than overhead camshafts and relying on displacement over efficiency, the 6.2-liter engine in the Escalade is a step behind the V-8 engines in full-size Japanese SUVs such as the Infiniti QX56 in terms of modern design.

The engine, in a somewhat dubious industry first, use a variable valve-timing system on its overhead valves rather than on overhead cams, but this ultimately seems like more trouble than it's worth. In any case, it varies the intake and exhaust timing in only a constant ratio, as opposed to other variable valve-timed engines, which allow the different valves to adjust independently; this limits the engine's ability to adjust to different load demands and, thereby, to improve either its performance or its fuel economy. From a fuel-conservation standpoint, the Escalade would certainly benefit from the "displacement on demand" cylinder-deactivation technology available on other GM vehicles, but this feature is strangely absent.

2007 Cadillac Escalade
GM has favored displacement over efficiency with the Escalade's 6.2-liter engine.
All that said, with the tank full and the pedal down, the Escalade accelerates smartly with a tall first gear and cruises at very low RPM levels, thanks to the six-speed automatic's two overdrive cogs. Compared to some sleeker-looking SUVs, the Escalade has a surprisingly low coefficient of drag (0.36). Still, only on the freeway does fuel "economy" break into double-digit miles per gallon. Our car's trip computer, which thankfully included an estimated range calculation, reported between 9mpg and 10mpg in mixed city and urban-highway driving. These figures would quickly become expensive and don't match the EPA estimates of 13mpg in the city and 19mpg on the highway.

The transmission offers a manual gear selection mode, which amounts to a cutoff of the upper gears and which is out of place in this vehicle. More useful is the tow/haul mode, which alters shift patterns based on the extra weight of a trailer.

Ride and handling are enhanced by automatic rear level control and a semi-active version of active ride control that Cadillac calls Road Sensing System. This is essentially electronic suspension damping--in this case, a simple solution that works. The Escalade is by no means a spirited handler, but body roll is minimal, and even with the dubs, rough pavement is taken in stride.

From a safety standpoint, the 2007 Cadillac Escalade lives and dies with its height and girth. Frontal crash-test ratings from the NHTSA are five stars for both the driver and passenger, but the AWD Escalade gets only three stars for rollover protection. It is not yet rated for side impacts, according to the NHTSA Web site. The standard Stabilitrak stability control system includes special programming for rollover mitigation as part of its interaction with the four ABS brake sensors.

Air bag coverage is full, with dual-stage bags for the driver and front passenger (with occupant sensor) and roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for all three seating rows.

Rain-sensing windshield wipers are standard, although dry weather during our week with the Escalade precluded us from trying them out. The aforementioned park-assist and rearview monitor lack path markings but offer useful visual cues. You'll find location warnings on the screen and distance-indicating lights on the inside of the D-pillar, for visibility within the driver's line of sight while looking backward.

2007 Cadillac Escalade
Despite its lack of visual cues, the backup camera is a useful safety feature for a car this size.

A tire-pressure monitor is standard, as is OnStar, which includes a one-year subscription to the service's Directions and Connections program.

The 2007 Escalade is covered by a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty. Corrosion protection extends to six years or 100,000 miles.

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